Why Does My Toddler Give Me Football Tackle Hugs? And What is Proprioception?

From the moment my son Vman could walk, he would slam himself into me to give me hugs. While kids may run at you because they’re excited to see you, this was more… and it’s name was proprioception.

Be sure to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder and my parenting tips on how to support your child with sensory challenges.

What is Proprioception and Sensory Processing Disorder? | Mommy Evolution

When Vman became an agile toddler, he would run at me full force and (rather than jump into my arms) he would slam his body into me at top speed.

Although he was a toddler, he packed such a punch that it often felt like I had been slammed by an adult.

Some days Vman would literally tuck his head down and slam into my legs.

There were many weeks where I had bruises exactly at the height of his head where he had slammed himself into me.

As self defense, I started turning my body trying to distribute the blow among my body.

Even picking him up from preschool, he would run across the room to me picking up such speed (and not slowing down) that he could actually knock me off of my feet despite me bracing for impact.

I felt like I was living with a professional football defensive tackle.

“Hugging” wasn’t the only place Vman was tough. He never seemed to have a soft switch.

He was always full force physically, from running to playing to roughhousing.

It just didn’t stop.

When we brought his little brother home, I wasn’t sure Vman was ever going to understand the meaning of “soft.”

Once we figured out Vman had Sensory Processing Disorder, we began to learn about proprioception and the fact that he was hypo-sensitive to the cues his body was sending him.

What Is Proprioception?

Proprioception has to do with the body’s muscles and controlling them.

For example, if I swing my arm, I’m able to tell how fast I am moving it and the force I’m putting behind it.

A child who is hypo-sensitive doesn’t register the force behind their movements.

So if my son went to tap my arm, he would actually slap it because his body didn’t register the amount of force behind his movements.

When Vman went to hug me, his body didn’t actually register that he was body slamming me.

From his perspective, he was using just the right amount of force to reach me and connect with me.

Here is a video I love that helps explain what the proprioceptive system does:

Join our inclusive community at The Sensory Spectrum.


  1. oh wow! I never thought that there could be a physiological reason for this! Good info!

  2. Great post! My youngest fellow has Sensory Processing Disorder (along with FASD) and although he’s hyper-sensitive he’s been known to be oblivious to his own strength. I’m rarely without some type of “boy induced injury” these days 🙂

    1. It does get better — we worked hard on getting Vman to understand his own strength and that what he perceives as “soft” isn’t necessarily so. And did you know you can have a kiddo that is hyper to some things and hypo to others? My son is hypersensitive tactile/ hyposensitive proprioceptive.

  3. Frances Fisher says:

    I have never heard of this, but this sounds Exactly like my 8 year grandson who my husband and I are raising. He often seems unaware of where his body ends and mine begins or any other object. I’ve described his tendency to hug (hard) Anyone (multiple times) and his utter disregard for personal space (he seems to need none) as “someone who believes everyone belongs to him and he belongs to everyone”. He also sometimes seems clumsy. I am sure this is contributing to his struggles in school, which are becoming worse as he gets older. I know there are probably several contributing factors, of which we have been unaware. And though this makes me feel a little hopeful it also saddens me to know that he has not been getting the help he needs at all. Thanks for posting.

    1. There’s no time like the present to see what you can do for him. I would start with a pediatric occupational therapist that works with kids on the spectrum… they are more aware of sensory issues and how to help kiddos. They can do an evaluation to find out what his specific sensory challenges are and come up with a game plan to help him. And I highly encourage you to join our sensory community on The Sensory Spectrum.

  4. Thank you so much for this. That video totally put my sons SPD into perspective for me. I’ve recently realised what it was, but couldn’t understand why he did these things (he’s just turned 4). Now I need to find ways to help him. X

  5. Wow just amazed watching video. My 7 year old grandson is typical of these actions displayed. School want to exclude him hi as they can’t cope with his behaviour . Very distressing for whole family.where do you turn to for help?

  6. Marita Monterola says:

    You are providing so much valuable information for parents who have kids with proprioception disorder. Even for parents like me who have normal kids, this is eye opening if we see kids with such behavior.



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