Studies estimate that one in every 68 children is born with autism. Typically, they struggle to communicate with other kids or tend to repeat certain behaviors regularly. When there is a change in routine or environment, they may quickly get upset and start throwing tantrums. Most, however, find it difficult to adjust during social situations and would prefer to attend related events like parties.
Until today, there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Clinical experts attempted various forms of therapies and prescriptions but to no avail. Fortunately, there are natural ways you can apply right away to ease your child’s symptoms. One of these is the use of weighted blankets.
For several years already, occupational therapists have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of weighted blankets. These blankets deliver sensory inputs, thus, calming the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. Aside from helping a child cope with autism, it also aids a person deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD.
Now, before we delve deeper into the benefits to children with autism, let us briefly tackle what a weighted blanket is.
Weighted Blanket in Layman’s Term
As the name implies, a weighted blanket is a specialized type of blanket with an added weight. But of course, there are variations in terms of designs, textile, weight, and other features.
But above all this, weight is the most important consideration when choosing one for your child with autism. Make sure that the weight properly correlates with your child’s weight. If your child weighs 50 pounds, for instance, experts would recommend a 7-pound blanket.
Weighted blankets also feature various forms of fillings to weigh it down. Among these are rice, poly-pellets, glass beads, and cotton. Some companies would combine these to customize the blankets depending on a person’s situation.
The fabric used for the weighted blankets also varies. Most, however, consists of incredibly soft and dotted minky fabric. This is perfect for sensory seekers. Still, there are other variants to choose from, depending on your condition and aesthetic preference.
Benefits of Weighted Blankets for a Child with Autism
1. Improves Sleep
Parents consider this as the main reason for purchasing their autistic child a weighted blanket. Since autistic children commonly manifest sleeping problems, parents get excited when they realize just how helpful a weighted blanket is. So how does it work?
Foremost, a weighted blanket causes deep touch pressure, which then releases serotonin in the body. Serotonin refers to the body chemicals which have calming effects. They also help to stabilize mood. Since children with autism are usually low in serotonin, letting them use a weighted blanket can significantly give them the dose they need.
Another helpful chemical for attaining a better sleep quality is melatonin. It tells the body if its time to go to bed. Children with autism, however, struggle to produce melatonin properly on their own. That makes it harder for them to achieve a natural sleep schedule. Fortunately, a weighted blanket is an option parents could try to help address that.
A weighted blanket also helps improve sleep by calming down the nervous system. It also lowers the anxiety level of an autistic child. Experts reveal that anxiety is one of the leading factors while children with autism struggle to sleep.
Moreover, a weighted blanket is heavier, thus, lessening tossing and turning. That means a night of better sleep for the kid.
2. Improve Transition Times
Children with autism typically struggle with transitioning from one activity to another. Good thing, a weighted blanket can be a great way to improve their transition.
Some researchers observed teachers using weighted blankets in the classroom when pupils would come in after recess. Usually, they come in very excited; thus, getting them to settle can be difficult. The teachers would then dim the lights and use the blankets for about 10 minutes. That is, to help the children transition into classroom time.
A weighted blanket can also be used in other scenarios such as when your child comes home from school, or even transitioning into something like a wheel ride. The good thing about it? Weighted blankets are not bulky for you to tag along.
Getting autistic children to sleep is also one of the hardest transition times for a parent. But they can make use of a weighted blanket for a pre-bedtime routine. For instance, it works to lay the weighted blanket on your child while they read on the sofa. That also leads to psychological benefits.
3. Sensory Input
A weighted blanket is a significant plus factor for helping autistic children cope with a sensory processing disorder. How? The extra weight of the blankets provides high sensory inputs.
For autistic children, having a feeling of where their body ends helps develops body awareness. While things like body socks or sensory wings can help accomplish this, weighted blankets autism are an excellent option.
4. Improves Classroom Performance
Studies are proving that deep touch pressure significantly and directly boosts classroom performance. A weighted blanket is a good way of gaining such pressure.
One study revealed that deep touch pressure results in positive effects on children’s on-task behavior in terms of excellent motor skills such as writing. A similar study found that autistic children using a weighted blanket exhibited better in-seat behavior.
Other studies also showed that weighted blankets help lessen self-stimulatory behavior, otherwise known as fidgeting or stimming. This is one of the primary reasons why children cannot focus. With reduced self-stimulatory behavior distracting autistic children, they can focus more on their learning.
So those are just some of the common benefits of a weighted blanket to autistic children. It may not be able to give a total cure, but it slashes a lot of difficulties on your part as a parent. Plus, it helps the child better cope with daily routines and gradually achieves productivity and fun. Moreover, it has no side effects, and you can be sure that your kid would love it because of the comfort it gives.
By the way, you can always consult a clinical expert to recommend types of weighted blankets suited for your child’s needs.