A DAY IN AU: Kitchen Work {PLUS day ONE of the 7-day Autism Awareness Giveaway!!!!}

After posting the photo below on Instagram (@teachingspecialthinkers), I had a TON of questions about how I set up our kitchen work system.

We are SO lucky to have an instructional kitchen attached to our classroom! Not only can we do fun cooking lessons, we can also teach our kiddos some essential functional life skills!

Another GREAT thing about our kitchen, is that we can do “heavy work.”

What is heavy work?

In you special needs class, do you have any behavior issues? Any kids that are over-responsive or just the opposite, under-responsive? YOU.NEED.HEAVY.WORK. I cannot stress enough how much of a DRASTIC change we saw in some of our special thinkers when we began implementing this work system into their daily routine.

Here’s some info on the technical terms:

Is the student OVER-responsive?
Seeks intense input to help register information 
-Stomps when walking

-Pushes against objects and people
-Crashes/bumps into things
-Runs, spins, swings, jumps


Is the student UNDER-responsive? 
Responds defensively to sensory stimuli and feel the need to control their
-Hesitant to climb, jump, ride or swing
-Dislikes touch, may cry if bumped, many not get messy with food or when playing

-Cautious about interactions except with those who are familiar 

Here’s a nifty little chart for your reference 🙂

SO…. what is HEAVY WORK?

Basically “heavy work” is an easy way to say proprioceptive activities.. because obviously you can’t tell a kid they are about to go do their proprioceptive activities in the kitchen.. it’s a bit of a mouthful to say on the fly and too long to spell out on their schedule cards. It is a term used to describe the types of activities which we
receive proprioceptive input, these types of activities provide “heavy
work” for our muscles and joints. Heavy work CALMS our under-responsive kids and stimulates our over-responsive kids.

We provide heavy work consistently throughout the day, especially during our morning outdoor sensory break on the playground and our recess time in the gym/on the playground, as well as through heavy work.

In the instructional kitchen – our students go through a work system of daily living tasks. We numbered the tasks so they know which order to go in, or we just hand younger kids an object to move onto the next task (i.e. a spoon for sorting silverware).  Since I’ve already been a little wordy in this post, I’m just going to show you our work system in pictures. I might still sneak in a few words. Make sure you scroll all the way to the end though…. there’s a SURPRISE!!!!

Heavy Work/Sorting Task: Sorting groceries onto shelves. Students unpack “weighted” groceries from bags and put them away on labeled shelves.

Heavy Work Task: Students pick up taped together phonebooks and put them away on shelves.

Sorting Task: Recycling cardboard and plastic

Heavy Work Tasks: Students pick up rice filled containers and place them on the cart. When all the containers are on the cart, the students push it up and back the hallway a few times.
Counting Tasks: Students pack chips into numbered bags.
Folding dishrags

Sorting plastic silverware

Sorting/stacking plates and cups
Although some of the activities aren’t
weighted, they provide the students with quick breaks in between, as well as
several functional skills they will use daily – putting away groceries, sorting
silverware, packing snacks, recycling, and more!
Now… if you made it to the end of this
post – BRAVO! Today is the first day of our Autism Awareness Giveaway! The
first thing we are giving away is one of these cute personalized autism awareness tumblers from. 

Enter the rafflecopter below. 🙂

TOMORROW – we will be giving one of these
badge from Sloan Hall on etsy reels away!!! SO CUTE!

Also – I just posted my Spring Basic Skills Activity Pack & I’m giving a copy away – head over to my Facebook to enter!
Keep checking back for daily Autism
Awareness giveaways!


  1. Rae on March 20, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time! As a special educator, I can't stress enough how important heavy work is for many of my kiddos. However, not a lot of my colleagues realize its benefits, nor understand what it is! I am pinning this AND sending this post to others in my building. Thanks so much.

    Mindful Rambles

    • Mrs. Dixon on March 21, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      Thanks for the love, Rae!!! 🙂 I can't stress enough how vital this is to our days. My kids love it and it helps sooooo much!! 🙂

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