Are you a BCBA or an RBT? Join The New Golden Steps ABA Fellowship Program
See Open Roles
We do not have a commercial relationship with any of these companies and have not otherwise been endorsed by, are not affiliated with, and do not intend to suggest a connection to, any of the companies listed on the page.

Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism

Discover the calming effects of weighted blanket autism therapy and find the right blanket for serenity.

Understanding Weighted Blankets

In the world of therapeutic tools, weighted blankets have recently gained significant attention, particularly for their potential benefits in managing conditions like autism. But what exactly are these blankets, and how do they work?

What Are Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets, as the name suggests, are blankets that are heavier than the typical bedding. The additional weight is usually achieved through the insertion of materials such as plastic pellets or glass beads. These blankets are part of a strategy known as deep touch pressure therapy, used for managing sensory processing challenges often associated with autism. The calming and organizing effect of weighted blankets can help individuals with autism feel more secure and relaxed.

Available in various weights, typically ranging from 5 to 30 pounds, the recommended weight for a weighted blanket is about 10% of the individual's body weight. However, preferences may vary, and it's always best to consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist before making a selection.

How Do Weighted Blankets Work?

Weighted blankets function under the concept of deep pressure stimulation. This type of therapy uses firm pressure to improve body awareness, body responsiveness, and coordination. In essence, the weight from the blanket creates a sensation similar to a firm hug, which can calm the nervous system and help regulate sensory processing.

This firm yet gentle pressure can spark a chain reaction in the body, leading to the production of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and bonding. The increase in oxytocin contributes to the calming effects of the blankets and can potentially improve focus in individuals with autism.

Therefore, weighted blankets can be a valuable tool in managing anxiety and improving sleep quality for individuals with autism. Of course, like any therapeutic tool, it's essential to consider individual needs, medical conditions, and sensory sensitivities before introducing a weighted blanket into a person's routine. Always seek professional advice when considering a weighted blanket for therapeutic use.

Weighted Blankets and Autism

The use of weighted blankets for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been gaining attention for its potential benefits. Let's explore the theory behind it and its impact.

The Theory Behind Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are a type of sensory aid that might be used for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They provide a sense of calm and security by applying deep pressure touch, which is a type of therapy that uses firm pressure to improve body awareness, body responsiveness, and coordination.

The pressure from weighted blankets is believed to stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, while inhibiting the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Moreover, weighted blankets target pressure points on the body, stimulating the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which can help regulate mood and improve sleep quality [2].

Impact of Weighted Blankets on Autism

Anecdotal evidence suggests that weighted blankets could help individuals with ASD by improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety, and promoting relaxation. Occupational therapists often recommend the use of weighted blankets as part of a sensory diet to help individuals with autism manage sensory processing challenges and anxiety [2].

Research studies have shown that the use of weighted blankets can lead to improved focus, attention, and calmness in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, weighted blankets can be effective in reducing anxiety levels and improving sleep quality in children with ASD. They have been found to increase the production of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and bonding, contributing to the calming effects of the blankets [1].

Weighted blankets are known for their calming effects and are used in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and homes. They have shown promising results in helping individuals with autism manage their symptoms.

In conclusion, weighted blankets for autism provide a non-invasive and therapeutic option to support individuals with ASD. However, it's important to remember that results may vary, and it's always best to consult with a health professional to determine whether a weighted blanket is a suitable option.

The Science Behind Weighted Blankets

Scientific evidence has increasingly supported the benefits of weighted blankets, particularly for individuals with autism. The mechanisms behind these benefits involve neurochemical interactions and the application of deep touch pressure therapy.

Neurochemical Effects of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. At the same time, they inhibit the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.

Furthermore, the deep pressure touch stimulation provided by weighted blankets, similar to a hug or massage, can soothe the nervous system. This helps individuals with autism relax, reduces anxiety, and improves sleep quality.

Scientific Studies on Weighted Blankets

Scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of weighted blankets for individuals with autism. These benefits include improved focus, attention, and calmness.

A study published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering found that the use of weighted blankets resulted in a significant decrease in the time it took participants to fall asleep. There was also a decrease in movements once asleep.

Moreover, weighted blankets have been found to reduce self-stimulatory behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking, in individuals with autism. They can also improve sleep quality and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep [4].

Benefit Study Source
Improved focus, attention, and calmness Autism Parenting Magazine
Decreased time to fall asleep Psych Central
Reduction in self-stimulatory behaviors Bridge Care ABA

It's worth noting that while these findings are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the impact of weighted blankets on autism. However, the current evidence suggests that weighted blankets can be a valuable tool for individuals with autism.

Choosing a Weighted Blanket

When considering the use of a weighted blanket for autism, two of the most important factors to consider are the weight of the blanket and the sensory preferences of the individual who will be using it.

Picking the Right Weight

Weighted blankets are available in various weights, typically ranging from 5 to 30 pounds. The recommended weight for a weighted blanket is about 10% of the individual's body weight.

To ensure optimal therapeutic benefits, it's crucial to choose a weighted blanket that is approximately 10% of the individual's body weight, plus one or two pounds. This weight ensures the right amount of pressure is applied, which is believed to contribute to the calming and soothing effects of weighted blankets.

Body Weight Recommended Blanket Weight
50 lbs 5 - 7 lbs
60 lbs 6 - 8 lbs
70 lbs 7 - 9 lbs
80 lbs 8 - 10 lbs
90 lbs 9 - 11 lbs
100 lbs 10 - 12 lbs

Considering Sensory Preferences

In addition to weight, the fabric of the blanket should also be chosen based on the individual's sensory preferences. For individuals with autism, certain textures or materials may be more comforting or enjoyable than others.

For example, some individuals may prefer the soft, plush feel of a fleece or minky fabric, while others may prefer the smooth, cool feel of a cotton or bamboo fabric. Some weighted blankets also come with a removable cover, which can be helpful for adjusting to different temperatures or for easy washing.

When selecting a weighted blanket for an individual with autism, it can be beneficial to involve them in the process. Allowing them to touch and feel different fabric options can help determine which material they find most comforting.

Choosing a weighted blanket for autism involves careful consideration of both the weight and sensory preferences. By selecting the appropriate weight and fabric, a weighted blanket can provide a valuable tool for managing symptoms of autism and promoting relaxation and calm.

Practical Insights on Weighted Blankets

Understanding the practical implications of weighted blankets is crucial when considering its use, especially for those with autism. In this context, we'll explore both the benefits and precautions associated with the use of weighted blankets.

Benefits of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are known for their calming effects and have shown promising results in helping individuals with autism manage their symptoms. These blankets provide deep pressure touch stimulation, similar to a hug or massage, which can soothe the nervous system and help individuals with autism relax and fall asleep.

According to Bridge Care ABA, studies have found that using a weighted blanket can reduce self-stimulatory behaviors, such as hand-flapping or rocking, in individuals with autism. It can also improve sleep quality and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep.

Moreover, a study from the American Occupational Therapy Association revealed that 63% of participants reported lower anxiety after using a weighted blanket, and 78% preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality [4].

Here's a summary of the benefits of weighted blankets for individuals with autism:

  • Provides deep pressure touch stimulation
  • Helps calm the nervous system
  • Reduces self-stimulatory behaviors
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Reduces anxiety

Cautions and Considerations

While weighted blankets can provide numerous benefits for individuals with autism, it's essential to take certain precautions when selecting and using these blankets.

The weight of the blanket should be carefully considered. It is recommended to choose a weighted blanket that is approximately 10% of the individual's body weight, plus one or two pounds, to ensure the right amount of pressure.

Additionally, the fabric of the blanket should be chosen based on the individual's sensory preferences. Some individuals may prefer a smooth texture while others may prefer a plush or fuzzy texture.

It's also advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist before introducing a weighted blanket, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions. This precaution ensures the safety and well-being of the user.

In conclusion, the use of weighted blankets for autism can bring about significant benefits. However, careful consideration and consultation with healthcare professionals are recommended to ensure these blankets are used effectively and safely.

References

[1]: https://www.verywellhealth.com/weighted-blankets-and-deep-touch-therapy-for-autism-4777166

[2]: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/weighted-blankets-autism/

[3]: https://psychcentral.com/autism/weighted-blankets-and-autism

[4]: https://www.bridgecareaba.com/blog/weighted-blankets-for-autism/