Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five senses (vision, auditory, touch, olfaction, and taste), the sense of movement (vestibular system), and/or the positional sense (proprioception).
A child with SPD can frequently seem “off balance,” need excessive and constant movement, walk on their toes a lot, and “crash and bang” excessively and purposely into objects and walls.
Many of these traits are symptoms of their need for the kind of input that the rest of us take for granted. For instance, their underdeveloped nervous systems aren’t receiving enough information about their “place in the world” from their joints and nerve endings. So they seek out more and more input.
“Heavy work” of the proprioceptive system is one way to help them get this input. According to “Children in Motion,” a publication of Tallahassee Memorial Rehab Services, “Proprioception is the unconscious sensation we get from our muscles, joints and ligaments about where our body is in space. Deep pressure and resistive work (hard muscle work) provide intense input and facilitate the registration of information to the central nervous system.”
TMH recommends these examples of heavy work:
- Pushing and pulling objects such as wagons, chairs and people
- Carrying laundry baskets full of books or clothes
- Running and crawling in sand or water
- Playing tug of war
- Playing volleyball with a balloon, keeping arms up as much as possible
- Crawling under chairs and tables, tunnels, home made tents, making obstacle courses using feet as well as knees and hands
- Wrestling or pushing game on the bed. Start and stop often.
- Lawn work
- House cleaning: washing table, windows, vacuuming or sweeping
- Playing with Play Dough
- Digging with fingers in wet sand
- Using turkey baster in bathtub to suck up and squirt water
- Drawing with side walk chalk
- Baking: pouring, stirring, rolling and spooning
- Hide small beads in putty
- Weaving using paper, fabric and yarn
- Knot tying
- Writing on vertical surface whenever possible
Ideally, a parent, therapist or teacher will work as many of these activities as possible into the day, the goals being frequency and consistency.