Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism
Last Updated on February 19, 2021
Weighted blankets for children with autism have long been recognized for their therapy properties by medical professionals. With the pressure of the blanket it provides sensory input that works to calm the autistic child.
As the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is more widely understood and recognized more children, as well as adults, are being diagnosed with some form of autism. It is now estimated by the CDC that one in 68 children are born with a type of autism.
These children and individual may show overt signs, or have milder forms of autism, that are seen in a struggle to communicate and the action of an ongoing repeating of a behavior or behaviors. A simple change of routine can be very upsetting causing tantrums, and those with autism may experience an uneasiness when in social happenings.
With no cure found for ASD, the weighted blanket provides a natural alternative, or addition, to treat behaviors of autism.
What is a Weighted Blanket for Autism
Weighted blankets appear like a quilt with an even pattern of geometric pockets that hold inside the lining weighted pellets commonly made from glass or polypropylene. The blankets are made to be approximately 10-percent of one’s weight so to provide just enough pressure to the entire body, and the autistic child’s sensory receptors, in order to calm.
The deep pressure therapy, or deep touch pressure stimulation, that the weighted blanket for autism provides allows for the same outcome produced by therapists. A therapist will generally apply deep touch pressure on points of the body, with tools and weights, to giving the autistic afflicted the feeling of pressure that a hug produces. This hugging sensation calms and relaxes to reduce anxiety for those with autism.
Weighted blankets for children with autism work to calm the nervous system by inciting a boost in serotonin and dopamine. These are the chemicals in the body that are known to pick up mood 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 a better, more restful, sleep.
With the calming effect of the entire body being hugged, the weighted blanket for autism 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 blanket that is weighted works to boost serotonin to help improve mood and reduce stress. This results in reducing meltdowns and better school performance.
Achieve Better Sleep
Deep pressure therapy is seen to increase the production of the body’s serotonin chemical which works to calm the nervous system and boost mood. When the weighted blanket is applied to the child he or she can be soothed to help rid anxiety and entice sleep. The serotonin helps in the production of the melatonin hormone which is the body’s hormone that promotes deeper and more restful sleep.
As the child is treated he or she may be diagnosed with another disorder to add to their autism diagnosis. All of these issues lead to anxiety not only as a result of ASD, but also due to worry as to why one is afflicted with these diagnoses. The weighted blanket provides a similar soothing effect that swaddling a baby does. The pressure felt from the weighted blanket allows for a soothing hugging feeling that works to decrease anxiety.
Improve Focus and Classroom Performance
Of course, with the improved sleep that the weighted blanket affords so will improvement with the next day’s activities and classroom performance. Beyond the sleep aid, a weighted blanket can improve focus and classroom performance with its deep touch pressure therapy.
A weighted blanket draped over a child’s shoulders, or over his or her legs, has been shown to calm behavior allowing for the child to focus better and compete tasks. The blanket sooths the child so he or she can feel a sense of comfort provided by the blanket’s ability of applying deep tissue input, therefore, affording better concentration.
The self-stimulatory fidgeting behavior, that many with autism show as a block to focusing, has also been seen to diminish with the aid of a weighted blanket.
Calm Meltdown Frequency
Though it may appear as just a normal temper tantrum, those who are autistic often have meltdowns because of stimuli around them that may be normal to others, but is overwhelming to one with ASD. Sensory overload from lights, sounds, noises, people and places can all incite a meltdown – or what others perceive as bad behavior. When a caregiver sees one with autism approaching a meltdown applying a weighted blanket can help provide the deep pressure therapy needed to calm and get the autistic child through the storm before full-blown tantrum type behavior occurs.
How to Choose Best Weighted Blanket for Autism
Not only do weighted blankets work well for autism but they have gone mainstream with people and medical professionals realizing its many benefits. The blankets work well for all ages to sooth anxiety, depression, attention disorders, sleep problems and health concerns.
When choosing the best weighted blanket for autism and other issues it is important to get a blanket with the right weight for the individual who will be using it. The number of pounds that the blanket weighs depends on the weight of the user.
A proper weight is approximately 10-percent of an adult-users body weight. For children, the weighted blanket should be 10-percent plus one to two-pounds of what the child weighs. This calculation falls within the expert opinion that weighted blankets need to be between seven and 12-percent of a person’s weight. It is important to consult a medical professional to determine the proper weight of a blanket to purchase to use for someone with ASD or other health problems.
FAQ for Weighted Blankets for Autism
The hug-type pressure of a weighted blanket can help solve many questions one may have when attempting to calm a child with ASD.
Can weighted blanket help ease an autistic child to transition from one activity to another?
As a result of sensory overload, children with autism can find it difficult to transition from one activity to another especially in the busy school setting, or going from school to home, or from play to bedtime. The deep pressure therapy that the blanket provides helps to calm anxiety and mood to help the child calm as he or she transitions to a new activity.
Will a weighted blanket help calm autistic with sensory processing disorder?
Although not all who have ASD have sensory processing disorder, for those who do this can create a troublesome stress. Those with sensory processing disorder have difficulty with the brain understanding normal stimuli making sufferers oversensitive to things such as everyday sounds and smells. The weighted blanket will work as a hug to calm as a sensory input with the added weight.
Can a weighted blanket supplement existing treatment plans?
A weighted blanket is the perfect drug-free answer to calming one with autism either by itself for those who are high functioning or as a supplement to other treatment plans being used.
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