Monday, June 27, 2011

Sensory: Heavy Work

Gross Motor: Heavy Work

Ever since Ellie's diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder [SPD], we add new activities to her "Sensory Diet".

What do you mean by "diet"?  The Bear Bear says no diet.  Feed me cupcakes!

Sensory Diet:
For some, this involves food.  People place there children on a dairy and gluten free diet.  I have not been able to find many good studies (ie control group, large number of subjects, proper measuring tools) that document the benefits of this diet.  However, I do know that many parents firmly believe it works.  That is fabulous for them and their kiddos.  For us, it did not work nor will I restart this type of diet.  How do I know?  Well, for the longest time, Ellie was on a dairy-free, mostly gluten-free diet.  Not for sensory purposes, but rather due to her random, but severe oat allergy  (we couldn't give her ANYTHING that may have been processed with oats--that included most wheat and barley products-cross contamination) and her dairy intolerance.  She is still mostly dairy free (except for live culture yogurt), but since she passed an oat food tolerance test, this Bear-Bear gets grains.

Our Sensory Diet can be compared to a schedule.  The diet is a list of activities or therapies that are incorporated into the day.  For instance in this recent POST I discussed how to satisfy Ellie's oral sensory cravings.  This is a part of her diet.  Chewy Chewy Chewy.  

We now can add Heavy Work to her diet.  

What is heavy work, you ask?

Excellent question!  

It is similar to making Ellie lift weights.  Okay, not exactly, yet it is a form of toddler boot camp.  Remember my daughter is a sensory SEEKER.  She craves stimuli and needs to feel more pressure than most kids to get that sensory kick.  

Heavy work items:

1. Weighted bag for Ellie to pull of push around.  In this case, I placed pliable weighted balls (1 lb each) into a tote bag.  Ellie drags it around the house and at times will even carry it.

Super Strong Ellie Bear

2. Weighted backpack.  In this instance you start off slow and build up to 10% of her body weight.  That is correct, I make my daughter wear a heavy backpack.

3. Weighted push-pull toys.  Canned goods are recommended because they are heavy and you can easily adjust the weight.  My daughter is strong would LOVE to empty the carts.  I have a healthy fear of my daughter dropping the cans on her tiny feet, therefore, I used the weighted bag .

It sounds like torture, right?  No!  This sensory seeking kiddo loves it.  She searches for the weighted bag on her own.  I just leave it wherever and she retrieves it from wherever.  The same goes for the cart.  She cried when I removed her backpack.  Nope, this little Bear-Bear loves her heavy work.

When does Ellie do her heavy work?
This is a part of her "diet".  Heavy work is incorporated into our schedule 10 minutes before any activity that requires her to sit or focus.  This includes going to a restaurant, attending speech therapy, a doctor's appointment, or working on an organized play task (ie the busy box, or shape sorter).

For older kids, a cyber buddy recommended a trampoline.  Chicka-boom is still too young and needs her cervical spine clearance.  However, I have a feeling a trampoline will be in our future.  As will a weighted blanket (more on that later).

It should be noted that Ellie actually does relatively well in our house.  She is a busy Queen bee, but she will sit and play.  However, at the above mentioned places, she is a wild child.  I still believe some of this is typical behavior.  Toddlers LOVE to explore new environments and new toys. 



  1. I was laughing when I read this because I had just put a weighted backpack on my 11-year-old and sent him out to walk around the block. My 8-year-old is currently trying to sort through his 14.5 lb backpack to get it down to a more manageable size. I need to make sure they can handle their own packs on our long travels.

    BTW, my friend's daughter who has SID loved to be pushed on a swing. It really calmed her. With her initial symptoms, the doctors thought she had MS. After much testing, they settled on SID, much to the relief of her parents.

  2. I have been skimming your sensory posts! Wow. I cannot imagine all this work. I need to re-read it all but also want to say thanks for it because it is helpful to so many who need it.

    The whole diet thing is a challenge. As you know, I am cutting dairy for Calvin. Gluten's just tagging along, BUT, to be truly gluten free is a real challenge. As you say, oats are so cross-contaminated...but you can get gluten free certified ones...

    Well, thanks for all your support! It means a lot.

  3. I know Claire has some sensory issues too (she loves to swing high, or other spin-y activities) and I was thinking about getting her a weighted blanket. I think it might help her restless, jumpy sleep. She did better swaddled when she was a baby, but then started getting out of them. There is a post I keep meaning to share with you on sensory stuff. I need to get it to you!


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