Is Weighted Therapy Right for My Autistic Child?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects each individual differently. One child might be affected by autism verbally while another might have sensory issues. Once the diagnosis has been made the next step in dealing with ASD is creating a therapy tailored to that child’s needs. The earlier the intervention, the greater the chance of success for behavior modification. Most therapies are designed by your occupational therapist with the consultation of your doctor. Depending on your child’s specific needs, weighted therapy might be an option to help your child.

What Is Weighted Therapy?

For children affected by ASD the use of weighted therapy can have a calming effect on the child. According to additudemag.com, the weight is intended to provide proprioceptive input to the brain. This has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Occupational therapists may introduce weighted blankets, vests, or belts to help children calm down or sleep (since children with autism tend to sleep less and more restlessly). The use of weighted therapy items can help the child release serotonin and endorphins which our body converts to melatonin, our natural sleep aid.

Weighted Blankets

A weighted blanket is used for therapeutic purposes. Healthguideinfo.com recommends that the other blankets in 1/10th of the child’s weight and then add 1 pound. Your occupational therapist should be able to help you decide the correct weight for your child. These blankets are evenly filled with rice, sand, or plastic pellets to create a sense of pressure and comfort. Many children often even enjoy a colorful pattern. For instance, the Tumble Forms 2 Weighted Blanket provides a sense of security and calmness, almost like a big hug, and comes in a pleasing pattern. It comes with Velcro closures so you can adjust the amount of weight that the blanket provides. Another great option is the Fun and Function Calm Me Weighted Blanket which offers an affordable blanket with 5 pounds of evenly distributed weight in a soothing blue with green trim. It’s appropriate for children over three years of age. Fun and Function even manufactures a weighted sleeping bag. The Fun and Function Heavy Sleeper Weighted Sleeping Bag is perfect for home, rest time, and sleepovers. It has a fun graphic pattern and its mesh fabric keeps children cool and the weights are evenly distributed. It even opens up all the way to be used as a blanket!! Weight can be added and subtracted in these blankets to customize them to your children’s personal needs. Weights for weighted blankets can be added ranging from 0.5 pounds to 1.5 pounds.

Weighted Vests

Much like weighted blankets, a weighted vest can provide a calming sensation for children affected by autism. But unlike a large blanket, these vests can be worn while the child is awake and active. In an article written by Sandra Ketchum for autism.lovetoknow.com (an autism advice website), she states that the wearing of a weighted vest can alter the way a child’s body perceives and interprets incoming sensory information. The article points to a study in 2001 published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy that stated that children with PDD showed improvement in attention and a decrease in self-stimulatory behaviors. Fun and Function offers several weighted vests. The Fun and Function Weighted Compression Vest with Graphic provides calming and steady proprioceptive input such as a reassuring hug. It’s made of neoprene with mesh on the sides and is designed for comfort and airflow. They also offer the Fun and Function Weighted Compression Vest in plain black without the graphics. Patterson Medical manufactures the Tumble Forms 2 Weighted Vest which are designed for children with SID and ADHD. They are made from a stain resistant, flame retardant brushed nylon outer shell with a print pattern. They are designed to calm children and have some pockets so that weight can be added or subtracted as needed.

Weighted Lap Pads

The use of a weighted lap pad can help provide sensory input to children affected by autism while they are seated. They provide deep pressure to make the child feel grounded and help children stay focused and reduce fidgeting. Many of these lap pads are available in colorful themes such as the Fun and Function Animal Lap Pads. It’s available in three different animals (monkey, zebra, dinosaur) with uniquely different textures for each animal. The Fun and Function Find Me Lap Pads is available in three different scenes (farm, zoo, dino land) and is perfect for long car rides and homework breaks. One side shows animals and objects that must be found from scenes on the other side. Skil Care Weighted Lap Pads for Children are covered in a clear vinyl that is easy to clean and have a water-based gel filling for a calming tactile sensory input. Fun and Function even provides Lap Pad Slipcovers for their weighted lap pads so children can use their fingers for further sensory input.

Other Weighted Accessories

If you decide weighted therapy is right for your child, there are other fun accessories you can choose from. The Fun and Function Weighted Compression Hat provides just the right amount of input through the head to keep the child focused. Also available is the Weighted Shoulder Lizard which can be a fun way to provide sensory input that can be used at school or at home. The Tumble Forms 2 Weighted Critters are a fun way for children with ASD to remain still and focused on the task at hand. They can be worn on the lap or the shoulders and provides pressure touch and proprioceptive input.

 

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