Weighted blankets have become increasingly popular in recent years as a solution for anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep-related disorders. However, there is also a growing interest in using weighted blankets as a therapeutic tool for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is estimated that 1 in 66 children in the United States has ASD. The use of weighted blankets as a therapy for individuals with autism is based on the theory that deep pressure touch stimulation can help to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety and stress.
While there is anecdotal evidence that using a weighted blanket can have a positive impact on individuals with autism, there is limited scientific research to support these claims. In this article, we will explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of using a weighted blanket as a therapy for autism, and examine the current research on the topic.
What is Autism?
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. It is a complex disorder that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. It is typically diagnosed in early childhood and is a lifelong condition.
Autism is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including difficulty with social interaction, communication challenges, repetitive behaviors, and sensory sensitivities. Some individuals with autism may also have intellectual disabilities, while others may have exceptional abilities in certain areas, such as music, art, or math.
There is no known cure for autism, but early intervention and treatment can help individuals with autism lead fulfilling lives. Treatment may include behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and medication.
What are Weighted Blankets?
Weighted blankets are blankets that are filled with small, weighted materials such as glass beads or plastic pellets. These blankets are designed to provide deep pressure stimulation, which can have a calming effect on the body. Weighted blankets are often used as a therapeutic tool for individuals with various sensory processing disorders, including autism.
The weight of the blanket is typically determined by the individual's body weight. The general rule of thumb is to choose a blanket that is about 10% of the individual's body weight. For example, if a person weighs 100 pounds, they would use a 10-pound weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets come in a variety of sizes, materials, and weights. Some blankets are designed to be used for specific purposes, such as for travel or for use in a sensory room. Others are designed to be used as a regular blanket for sleeping or relaxing.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism
Weighted blankets have been found to offer several benefits for individuals with autism. Here are a few ways in which these blankets can help:
- Calming effect: Weighted blankets provide deep pressure stimulation, which can have a calming effect on the nervous system. This can help individuals with autism who may struggle with anxiety or sensory overload to feel more relaxed and comfortable.
- Improved sleep: Many individuals with autism struggle with sleep issues, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Weighted blankets have been found to improve sleep quality by increasing levels of serotonin and melatonin, which are hormones that regulate sleep.
- Sensory integration: Individuals with autism may have difficulty processing sensory information, which can lead to sensory overload or sensory-seeking behaviors. Weighted blankets can help with sensory integration by providing a consistent, comforting sensory input.
It's important to note that while weighted blankets can offer benefits for individuals with autism, they are not a cure-all solution. It's important to work with a healthcare professional to determine if a weighted blanket is appropriate for an individual's specific needs and to ensure that it is used safely and effectively.
How to Choose the Right Weighted Blanket for Autism
Weighted blankets have shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and increasing calmness in individuals with autism. However, it is important to choose the right weighted blanket to ensure maximum benefit. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a weighted blanket for autism:
- Weight: The weight of the blanket should be 10% of the individual's body weight plus 1-2 pounds. For example, a child who weighs 50 pounds should use a blanket that weighs between 6-7 pounds.
- Size: The blanket should be large enough to cover the individual's body but not so large that it becomes cumbersome. A good rule of thumb is to choose a blanket that is the same size as the individual's bed.
- Material: The material of the blanket should be soft and comfortable. Some individuals may have sensory sensitivities, so it is important to choose a material that is not too rough or scratchy.
- Distribution: The weight of the blanket should be evenly distributed. Some blankets have compartments filled with weighted material, while others have a continuous filling. It is important to choose a blanket with even distribution to prevent discomfort or pressure points.
- Cleaning: Weighted blankets can be difficult to clean, so it is important to choose a blanket that is easy to care for. Look for blankets that are machine washable or have a removable cover that can be washed separately.
Where to buy the Right Weighted Blanket?
Weighted blankets are available in most stores like Walmart, Amazon etc. Check out our article "Best Weighted Blankets that you can buy"
By considering these factors, you can choose the right weighted blanket for your loved one with autism. However, it is important to note that weighted blankets should not be used as a substitute for therapy or medication. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using a weighted blanket for autism.
What to do next?
Check out our article "Best Weighted Blankets that you can buy"