Engaging tasks that require physical exertion, heavy work encompasses a fascinating concept. How does it relate to students? Numerous Occupational Therapists incorporate heavy work into their sessions to assist students who struggle with sensory processing issues or disorders in finding a sense of balance. Sensory processing issues refer to difficulties in organizing and responding to information received through the senses. These challenges can manifest as oversensitivity, undersensitivity, or a combination of both. Consequently, students with sensory processing issues struggle to regulate the sensory input they receive.
Sensory processing issues are frequently observed in individuals with autism, but they can also affect students without autism. There are several indicators that can help identify if a student may be experiencing these challenges, such as:
– Difficulty processing sensory information, such as being sensitive to loud noises, sounds emanating from lights, flickering lights, movement, textures, scratchy clothing, smells, and tastes.
– Poor gross motor skills, resulting in a clumsy gait or frequent tripping.
When students encounter these sensory challenges, they may feel overwhelmed and distressed. In such situations, implementing a sensory diet can be beneficial. A sensory diet refers to a schedule integrated into the student’s day that includes various activities aimed at enhancing attention and adaptive responses. These activities primarily focus on proprioception, which pertains to body awareness. By engaging the senses associated with proprioception, a sensory diet helps students focus and regain a sense of centeredness. The ultimate goal is to positively impact the student’s well-being.
Many of the activities incorporated into a sensory diet are referred to as heavy work activities. To determine which activities will best suit your students, it is advisable to consult with the occupational therapist at your school. They possess the expertise to provide valuable assistance in helping your students. Here are some examples of heavy work activities that focus on proprioception and can be employed within the classroom setting to aid students:
– Pushing and pulling objects against the body.
By integrating these types of activities into the students’ routine, you can foster a more conducive learning environment and support their overall development.
Here is a list of heavy work activities that can be done at school:
- Sharpen pencils with a manual pencil sharpener
- Stack Chairs
- Move and rearrange desk or furniture
- Move packs of paper for the printer/photocopier
- Take down chairs at the beginning of the day
- Place chairs on desks at the end of the day
- Erase chalkboards or white boards
- Ride scooter board down the hallways
- Carry laundry basket to pick up laundry from around the campus to wash
- Help the janitor empty garbage cans, seeping, mopping etc…
- Raking leaves around the campus
- Pulling a wagon around the campus
- Crushing cans with feet to recycle
- Open and hold doors for people
- Carry books with both hands and hugging books tight to chest.
- Climbing on playground equipment
- Pushing a coffee cart
- Gardening (digging and pushing the dirt into place)
- Carrying weighted sensory bottles
- Wearing a weighted vest (You usually get one from an occupational therapist)
- Play with a body sock
- Go to a sensory room
- Wear a weighted backpack from classroom to classroom
- Tie a TheraBand around the front legs of a chair that a child can kick his/her legs into
- Push the lunch cart or carry lunch bin to the cafeteria
- Run around the track at school
- Staple paper onto bulletin boards
- Wash desks or chalkboard/dry erase board
- Have child pass out papers/objects to class
- Push against a wall
- Jump Rope
These are a few examples of physically demanding tasks that can be carried out within the classroom or school premises. Remember to consult your occupational therapist for additional suggestions tailored to your student’s needs.