Heavy Work: WHAT it is and WHY Your Students Need It

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?

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


Is the student UNDER-responsive?

Seeks intense input to help register information

-Stomps when walking

-Pushes against objects and people

-Crashes/bumps into things

-Runs, spins, swings, jumps


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 classroom and instructional kitchen.


Heavy Work in the Classroom

In our classroom, our heavy work routine still lets the kiddos work on some basic skills (sorting by color, matching numbers, etc.), while allowing them to do an activity that can calm them. The set up is simple. I covered old dictionaries with construction paper, and added numbers to some boxes I had. I filled the boxes up with some old wooden blocks I found that aren’t used for play anymore. I put the corresponding colors/numbers on some empty shelves nearby for students to match up with.



Heavy Work in the Instructional Kitchen

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). 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!

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

I also love weighted backpacks (just fill a backpack up with some dictionaries and let a student wear it, blankets, and lap animals to help our friends stay nice and calm throughout the day!
What type of heavy work do you do in your classrooms? I’m always looking for new ideas!
heavy work stations

heavy work stations in the classroom

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.