Unlocking the Power of Heavy Work: Sensory Regulation

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Unlocking the Power of Heavy Work: Sensory Regulation

Do you ever wonder why your child's occupational therapist keeps mentioning something called "heavy work?" Well, we're here to give you the lowdown on this interesting approach that can work wonders for your autistic child's sensory regulation.

What exactly is "heavy work?"
Heavy work refers to a set of activities that help regulate proprioception, which is one of our body-centered sensory systems. Think of it as a way to give your child's body a gentle nudge in the right direction, helping them find balance and stay focused.

Heavy work is something we all do naturally. Have you ever caught yourself absentmindedly tapping your foot or shaking your leg under the table during an important meeting or while studying? That's a form of heavy work! It's your body's way of finding that sweet spot of concentration. Or perhaps you've noticed yourself fidgeting with your hands when you're about to have a tough conversation with your boss. That's another example of heavy work in action.

But how does heavy work benefit autistic children specifically? Many autistic children have sensory differences. For this reason, many autistic children need proprioception to maintain appropriate arousal levels. Proprioception can be used to calm a high state of arousal. That is when your autistic child is in constant movement or crashing their body into objects. It might be when your child is avoiding sensory situations or when they are having difficulty focusing. These are situations in which heavy work activities can help!

Alexandra M. Himes, MOT, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with eight years of pediatric experience working with children who have developmental, neurological, learning, and intellectual disabilities. In an article she wrote for Autism Advocate Parenting Magazine, she suggests these heavy work activities for autistic children:
- carrying in heavy bags of groceries
- digging a hole
- pulling a wagon with a friend or sibling in it
- using a body sock (https://harkla.co/products/sensory-body-sock)
- shoveling snow

The best part about heavy work activities is you don't have to venture outside your home to incorporate heavy work into your child's routine.

Are you ready to dive into the world of heavy work and unlock its benefits for your child? Learn more about heavy work for your autistic child in Alexandra's article.

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