Teaching SKILLZ: Whole Brain Physical Support – week 4 of 4

“It’s here, it’s here! The day is FINALLY HERE!!!”

Stumbling out of his bedroom at full speed ahead, my youngest son burst into my bedroom to announce that packing day for our big road trip adventure had finally arrived! 

The patience of my spirited six-year-old had been wearing thin for days as the anticipation of this moment drew near. Just the morning prior, he made clear to me that his brain had already left for vacation and now I needed to get his body in the car to go find it so they could be reunited at our final destination!

Dropping my pile of clean clothes about to make their way into our suitcase, I took a moment to hold space with my excited boy, dancing our happy dance with laughter and giggles of absolute joy for the adventure ahead! Post tackling of some essential packing, it was time to head to the store! And if there ever was a day for whole-brain parenting with purpose, this was it! 

Not 5 minutes into the car ride to the grocery store, I could hear the escalation of excitement in my boys’ voices. Their eyes were wide with thrill and ideas of all the great things we could experience over the coming days. Attuning to their level of emotion, my husband and I shared a sideways glance, knowing in that moment that he would be in charge of our youngest while I would have our oldest in the store. Time to implement the “Heavy Work Protocol!”

What is Heavy Work?

Heavy work is intentional movement or activities that typically involve lifting, pushing or pulling of heavy objects and even stretching in order to support the sense of proprioception. 

What is proprioception?

Proprioception is one of our bodies “secret senses.” 

You are likely familiar with sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing. But there are actually two other secret senses within the body; the proprioceptive and vestibular senses.

The proprioceptive sense helps us to know where our body is in space without directly looking at our limbs. This sensory system is located within our muscles and tendons, constantly monitoring, detecting and controlling the amount of force and pressure we are using in response to a sensory stimuli.

Check out this great short video about proprioception: “Sensory Minis – Proprioception”

What is the “Heavy Work Protocol?”

For our family, the “Heavy Work Protocol” is one we call into action when we see our kiddos needing support in being able to come back to their body in a time of much excitement and/or emotional elevation.

While heavy work supports many neurodiverse children with diagnoses like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD, ADHD and more, it also helps to support neurotypical children and adults as well!

When our bodies receive proprioceptive input through heavy work activities like jumping, pushing, pulling, hugging, climbing, crashing, lifting, running or even stretching, our mind, body and spirit in turn begin to calm down; refocus, recenter and relax.

Dividing up the list of necessities, my husband and youngest grabbed one cart and went to cover half of our master list while I took my oldest with another cart to cover the other half. As items were added to the cart, more and more weight was accumulated to be able to push and pull through the aisles. Every so often in different sections of the store, my husband and I would also stop with our children for a mini “Push War” we would place our hands on one end of the cart while our sons hands were on the other end for a 10 second push-push-push war; holding the push, resistance against each other in order to come back to body, breath and center. 

Did this heavy work take up extra time in the store? Absolutely! But for the mental, emotional and physical support of not just our kids but my husband and myself as well during this exciting time, it was necessary for us to step back and step into being the parent our kids needed us to be!

Times of excitement and moments of being overcome with emotion happen! It is a part of life for not only our kids but for us as adults too. How we choose to respond, support, guide and nurture ourselves as well as our kids is up to us. Implementing strategies like heavy work is a great way to connect with your child, being attuned to their needs in the moment and supporting them through it all as the nurturers we are called to be.

For more tips on heavy work activities, check out this great article from yourkidstable.com for more awesome ideas: “Incredible Heavy Work Activities to Regulate Kids”

About the Author

Meg Klettke is the proud owner alongside her husband, Alex of Family Strong Sussex, a SKILLZ Lifetime Gold studio in Southeastern Wisconsin. With a background in traditional and alternative therapeutics, Meg is an active advocate for today’s youth. Her passion for supporting and nurturing the whole child resonates through all she does as a Proud Ninja Mom of two boys with special needs, Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist and Content Creator for SKILLZ Worldwide.

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