Let’s Discuss Sensory Processing and Weighted Blankets!

Weighted blankets and lap pads are often recommended for individuals with sensory integration disorder, Autism, anxiety, ADHD, Rett Syndrome, PTSD, Restless Leg Syndrome, and many other conditions. They provide the body with proprioceptive input which can cause the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters released by the brain have natural, calming effects. This can help people to calm down, sleep, and relax when they normally wouldn’t be able to.

Weighted blankets may create a calming effect on children, particularly if they experience anxiety of sensory over-responsivity, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.

What is a weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets come in a variety of sizes, fabrics, and weighted materials. Some are filled with beads, rice, or poly pellets in pouches that are placed throughout the blanket. Others use different techniques and materials for cooling effects for those who are hot under a standard weighted blanket.

Who can use a weighted blanket?

This is an important question to consider. Young children and babies are at risk of suffocating under a weighted blanket. If you are considering a weighted blanket, consult your occupational therapy practitioner or pediatrician before you acquire one—especially for children under two years old.

How does a weighted blanket work?

The weight in the blanket provides deep pressure stimulation (like a hug), which reduces anxiety, overstimulation, restlessness, and perhaps even insomnia.

How much should the blanket weigh?

Choose a blanket that is about 10% of your child’s weight, plus an extra pound or two. If your child weighs 40 pounds, shop for a 5- to 6-pound blanket. Ten percent of 40 pounds is 4 pounds plus 1 or 2 pounds.

Wish there was something similar for daytime?

You can also find weighted lap pads for kids. These are great in the classroom, during homework, and even for pre-bedtime snuggles!

What do the experts say?

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) says that Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder or another developmental disorder may benefit from weighted blankets. Occupational therapy practitioners working with children and families with these issues explored the impact of sleep deprivation on the family unit and the child’s and caregivers’ ability to function effectively during the day. They aid families to try changes in bedtime routines, habits, and patterns. Cognitive or behavioral therapy interventions, or strategies to address sensory avoiding or sensory seeking behaviors (e.g., a picture poster depicting bedtime routines, stickers or consistent praise for sleeping through the night, loose or tight pajamas, lightweight or weighted blankets) are used. Managing the physical environment and enhancing observation skills help parents anticipate reactions to changes in clothing, toys, or family schedules. Calming activities and routines that do not burden the family and can be consistently carried out may facilitate sleep. (Source – AOTA Fact Sheet: Occupational Therapy’s Role with Sleep, Copyright 2017)


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