Proprioceptive input, or “heavy work“, happens when we perform tasks that involve heavy resistance for the muscles and joints. It is absolutely essential for assimilating and processing both movement and touch information.
Heavy work is generally broken down into three types: whole body, oral, and hands. Whole body heavy work includes pushing and pulling (doors, shopping carts, etc), walking, and playing. Oral heavy work includes sucking, chewing, talking, and other similar actions. Hand heavy work includes activities like gripping, squeezing, or fidgeting.
Now that we have the definition of heavy work out of the way, it is important to consider how heavy work helps children (and adults) with SPD. As you already know, SPD is a disorder in which the affected have trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.
Heavy work helps children with SPD get to a “normal” sensory level in many ways. It is important to recognize that there are two main attributes of SPD: receiving and responding to information that the brain sends it. Heavy work gets their bodies and senses used to certain movements, cadences, and levels of exertion so they are able to perform at a better level in the future.
Experts in NYC like to think of heavy work as a training regimen for your children, or a way to gauge how their body responds to different forces. Children with SPD generally have issues responding to the environment around them in the correct way, whether it is closing doors too hard or not chewing food hard enough. By getting them used to activities every day, you will train their bodies to be used to the levels of stress they will encounter daily.
For example, it might be frustrating that your child always breaks the tip of their pencil when they write. Instead of giving them a keyboard to type, it is better to give them different hand heavy works to develop their skills. Once their hands are accustomed to how to respond to all different type of products (pens, markers, etc.), then they will have an easier time with pencils.
This concept applies to children with SPD, as their entire concept of their sensory perception needs to be constantly worked on. Simple tasks like pushing shopping carts or playing with a fidget spinner can help them learn how to interact with their environment properly and without doing any harm to themselves.
Heavy work is the “teach a man to fish” of the SPD world. By letting children do heavy work during the day, you are letting them get more and more accustomed to the world around them and how they perceive it. Instead of coddling them and protecting them from their environment, it is of the utmost importance that you teach them how to do as much as they can.
If you would like to learn more about heavy work, please check out the video below. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions about SPD or how you would introduce a heavy work regimen to your child.