Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism
Last Updated on March 15, 2023
by Marc Werner, Founder - GhostBed
Weighted blankets have been used as part of therapy for those with an autism spectrum disorder by occupational therapists for a while now and more and more individuals are bringing these blankets into their homes thanks to their soothing benefits.
Learn more about some of the benefits of weighted blankets for autism, as well as some considerations when adding a weighted blanket into your family's therapy routine.
Overview: Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism
Weighted blankets have a number of benefits for individuals, including those with an autism spectrum disorder. Weighted blankets may help provide calming support for people with ASD and work by slowing down the nervous system.
Weighted blankets may:
- Improve focus and mood
- Decrease anxiety
- Aid in deeper, more restful sleep
- Calm meltdown frequency
As Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is more widely understood, scientists and therapists are working hard to provide different treatment options for children and adults on the spectrum. While there's no cure for ASD, there are a number of things experts recommend considering to treat the severity of symptoms. One of those treatments is using a weighted blanket at home.
Let's look at what weighted blankets are and how they may help those with autism.
What is a Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are blankets that are weighed down by small glass or plastic beads. Often, they have quilt-like patterns, allowing the weight to be distributed evenly between the quilted sections.
Weighted blankets are a form of deep pressure therapy, which may provide a sense of calm for autistic patients. A therapist will generally apply deep touch pressure on points of the body to calm or relax a patient.
Weighted blankets for children with autism work to calm the nervous system by inciting a boost of serotonin and dopamine. These are the chemicals in the body that are known to boost moods and allow the autistic child's brain to manage sensory input so he or she may focus better. The increase in serotonin also boosts melatonin, which is the hormone that encourages more restful sleep.
Because of its calming effect, a weighted blanket is a wonderful drug-free addition for the treatment of ASD.
How Does a Weighted Blanket Work for Autism?
The answer to “do weighted blankets work for autism?” is certainly a “yes, they do.” A weighted blanket can help a child with ASD in several ways. From achieving better sleep and focus to helping calm anxiety and meltdowns, a weighted blanket works to boost serotonin to help improve mood and reduce stress. This results in fewer meltdowns and better school performance.
Achieve Better Sleep
Deep pressure therapy may increase serotonin in the body, which works to calm the nervous system and boost mood. Not only is a weighted blanket calming and may reduce anxiety, but it may also promote a deeper and more restful sleep as levels of melatonin increase, as well.
Many children and adults with ASD may also struggle with anxiety, either as a result of their condition or as a result of their diagnosis as they move about their day. A weighted blanket can provide a soothing feeling of being swaddled, which may decrease anxiety.
Improve Focus in the Classroom & at Work
Of course, with improved sleep comes improvement in the next day's activities and classroom performance. Beyond the sleep aid, a weighted blanket can improve focus and classroom or work performance with its deep touch pressure therapy.
Some patients with ASD may find that they can focus and complete tasks better with a weighted blanket draped over them. The self-stimulatory fidgeting behavior that many people with autism have as a block to focusing may also diminish with the help of a weighted blanket.
Calm Meltdown Frequency
Though it may appear as just a normal temper tantrum, those with ASD often have meltdowns because of stimuli around them that may be normal to others, but is overwhelming to them. Sensory overload from lights, sounds, noises, people and places can all incite a meltdown.
Applying a weighted blanket before a meltdown may help provide the deep pressure therapy needed to calm the individual and get them through the storm before a full-blown tantrum occurs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Weighted Blankets for Autism
Are you considering adding a weighted blanket into your ASD therapy or into a loved one's treatment? Here are a few more things to know and some frequently asked questions about the benefits of weighted blankets for autism.
Can a weighted blanket help a person with autism transition from one activity to another?
As a result of sensory overload, people with autism can find it difficult to transition from one activity to another, especially in a busy school or work setting. The deep pressure therapy that a weighted blanket provides may help calm anxiety as a person with ASD transitions to a new activity.
Will a weighted blanket help calm autistic with sensory processing disorder?
Although not everyone who has ASD has a sensory processing disorder and vice versa, some patients have both. Those with sensory processing disorder have difficulty understanding normal stimuli, making them oversensitive to things such as everyday sounds and smells. A weighted blanket may help calm this overstimulation by putting the body into “rest” mode.
Can a weighted blanket supplement existing treatment plans?
A weighted blanket is the perfect drug-free answer to calming someone with autism and can be used on its own or as part of a larger treatment program.
Weighted blankets are fantastic for anyone looking for relaxation and health benefits. We designed ours with a 100% TENCEL™ cover that stays cool, despite the added weight. Consider it like a “GhostHug” from us to you.
Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More
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