What is a sensory processing disorder?
Children with sensory processing disorder have difficulty processing information from their senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision and hearing) and responding appropriately. These children typically have one or more senses that either over, or under react to stimulation. Sensory processing disorder can cause problems with a child’s development and behaviour.
How is a sensory processing disorder treated?
Sensory integration therapy, usually conducted by an occupational or physical therapist, is often recommended for children who have sensory processing disorder. It focuses on activities that challenge the child with sensory input. The therapist then helps the child respond appropriately to this sensory stimulus.
Therapy might include applying deep touch pressure to a child’s skin with the goal of allowing him or her to become more used to and process being touched. Also, play such as tug-of-war or with heavy objects, such as a medicine ball, can help increase a child’s awareness of her or his own body in space and how it relates to other people.
Although it has not been widely studied, many therapists have found that sensory integration therapy improves problem behaviors.
Heavy Work and sensory processing issues
A child may get a number of therapies to help with his or her sensory processing issues. Specialists who work in this area may recommend some therapies that you have not heard of. Using weighted sensory products is sometimes called “heavy work”. Occupational therapists use weighted blankets, weighted vests and other weighted items to help children who desire or reject certain kinds of sensory input.
Proprioception and Heavy Work
We typically think of five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. There are two other senses that can affect motor skills. One controls balance and movement and is called the vestibular sense, the other controls body awareness and is called proprioception or the proprioceptive sense.
If the receptors in a child’s muscles and joints are not communicating effectively with their brain it may affect their ability to do certain tasks. A child may write too lightly with their pencil or slam a door because they’re not aware of their own strength. When children struggle with this sense, weighted products help them know where their body is and what it should be doing. This type of therapy is also called heavy work.
How Heavy Work Can Help Kids With Sensory Processing Issues
Some children with sensory processing issues may need extra help with the the systems that control balance, movement and body awareness. That’s where heavy work can help.
Heavy work is any type of therapy that encourages pushing or pulling against the body. Swimming or vacuuming could be considered as heavy work. Trampolining or hanging from bars could also be considered heavy work as the child is using their own weight.
Children with sensory processing issues often seek out or avoid sensory input. A child who is seeking input is looking for proprioceptive input. That’s because it can help calm her body and make her feel more oriented in space. Without heavy work therapeutic activities, the child may seek input by running into or bouncing off things in unsafe manner.
Heavy work is designed to provide the required sensory stimulous in safer, more controlled way. The most effective heavy work therapies use lots of different muscles and joints at the same time, for a short periods of time. This makes some heavy work activities swimming more effective than others.