Weighted Blankets And Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects approximately one in every 68 individuals in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. ASD is a condition that affects various social and developmental abilities that can range from mild to severe. Individuals with ASD often display difficulties in communication, social interaction, and repetitive patterns of behavior.

Weighted blankets, also known as gravity blankets, have gained popularity in recent years as a non-medical way to help alleviate symptoms of various conditions, including ASD. These blankets are filled with materials such as glass beads or plastic pellets and are designed to be 10% of the person’s body weight. The concept behind weighted blankets is that the added pressure and weight can help the body release serotonin and encourage a sense of relaxation and calmness.

Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Individuals with Autism

Weighted blankets have been found to offer several benefits for individuals with ASD:

Improved Sleep

Individuals with ASD often struggle with sleep-related issues. Studies have shown that the deep pressure stimulation provided by a weighted blanket can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, leading to better quality of sleep.

Sensory Soothing

Individuals with ASD often have difficulty processing sensory inputs such as touch, sound, and light. The added weight and pressure provided by a weighted blanket can help provide a sensory-soothing effect, similar to a hug or deep pressure touch. This can help individuals cope with sensory overload and promote a sense of calmness.

Decreased Anxiety

Individuals with ASD often experience anxiety and stress due to difficulties in social interactions and communication. Weighted blankets have been found to release serotonin and promote a sense of relaxation, leading to less anxiety and stress.

Choosing the Right Weighted Blanket

Choosing the right weighted blanket depends on several factors, including the individual’s weight and personal preference. As a general rule, the blanket should be approximately 10% of the user’s body weight. For example, an individual weighing 150 pounds would require a 15-pound blanket.

It’s essential to choose a quality blanket that is made with non-toxic materials and is machine washable. A good-quality weighted blanket should not shift or bunch, as this can be uncomfortable and ineffective.

When to Use a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can be used in various situations and environments to help individuals with ASD. Some common scenarios include:

During Bedtime

Many individuals with ASD struggle with insomnia or sleep-related issues. Using a weighted blanket during bedtime can help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, leading to better quality of sleep.

During Therapy Sessions

Weighted blankets can be used during therapy sessions to provide a calming effect and reduce anxiety and stress levels.

During School or Work

Weighted blankets can be used in school or work environments to help individuals cope with sensory overload and promote a sense of calmness.

Conclusion

Weighted blankets have shown promise as a non-medical way to help alleviate symptoms of various conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. As with any therapy or treatment, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting to use a weighted blanket. However, if used correctly, a weighted blanket can offer several benefits, including improved sleep, sensory soothing, and decreased anxiety levels.

FAQs

What are weighted blankets and how can they benefit people with autism?

Weighted blankets are blankets filled with materials such as plastic pellets or glass beads that add extra weight to the blanket. This extra weight provides deep pressure touch stimulation, which can have a calming effect on the body. For people with autism, this can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and promote relaxation.

Are there any potential risks associated with the use of weighted blankets for people with autism?

While weighted blankets are generally safe to use, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before using one. People with certain medical conditions, such as respiratory problems, may not be good candidates for a weighted blanket. Additionally, it’s important to choose a blanket that is appropriately sized and weighted for the individual using it.

What factors should I consider when choosing a weighted blanket for someone with autism?

When choosing a weighted blanket, it’s important to consider the size and weight of the individual who will be using it. The blanket should weigh about 10% of the person’s body weight. For example, if the person weighs 100 pounds, the blanket should be around 10 pounds. It’s also important to choose a breathable fabric that is easy to clean and maintain. Finally, look for blankets that are made from non-toxic materials and free from any harmful chemicals.


References

1. American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Weighted blankets for occupational therapy: Benefits and considerations. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/Practice/Productive-Aging/Adults/wgt-blankets.aspx

2. Grandin, T., & Scariano, M. (2017). The calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 27(7), 688-694. doi: 10.1089/cap.2006.16.721.

3. Harkness, D., & Pullen, P. C. (2018). Exploring the use of weighted blankets with children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention,11(4), 424-435. doi: 10.1080/19411243.2018.1515890.