Ever noticed how good your body feels after a day of digging in the garden? Or how you feel more comfortable on the lounge with a cushion on your lap? Or how your kids just need to run, jump and climb?
These activities all have something in common. They all push and pull on our muscles and joints, and provide our body with deep pressure and feedback about where we are and what we are doing.
Children or adults with sensory processing challenges, particularly with touch or body feedback needs, have a need for the deep pressure input and can find these sensations soothing for bedtime or throughout the day.
Weighted blankets, toys and lap bags are some of the most effective tools for helping kids to feel calm, unwind and relax their body.
Weighted blankets are a simple solution to what often appears to be complex attention, calming, or sleeping difficulties. Give your child the input he/she needs and watch “miracles” happen. They can bring one to school for quiet times. They can wrap them around their shoulders or whole body, or place them on their lap during desk work and reading times for the extra calming deep pressure input their bodies crave.
You see, one of the most commonly used and “prescribed” therapeutic interventions in the Occupational Therapy world is the use of weighted products and treatments that involve what we call “heavy work”, proprioceptive input, and deep pressure. The therapeutic use of weight and “deep pressure” to the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments allows the central nervous system to better interpret and use both tactile (sense of touch) and proprioceptive (sense of movement, body position, and pressure) input.
This therapeutic concept and particular treatment is used in schools, clinics, homes, and communities world wide. The use of weight and deep pressure is at the core of almost all OT treatments for SPD. It is safe, effective, and can make enormous differences in these children! Their families rejoice and daily life becomes more tolerable, physically calm, and emotionally regulated.
Specifically, weighted products are used for several reasons with children who do not properly process sensory stimuli/input. The 3 main reasons are:
1. to improve body awareness
2. to calm and improve attention and focus
3. to decrease sensory seeking behaviors
Think about it; from the very first minutes we enter this new loud, bright, bustling world, we are instantly soothed by pressure as a nurse tightly swaddles us in a blanket. This is PROVEN to be comforting to a vulnerable, undeveloped nervous system. This is what we also are trying to achieve!
But, why WAIT until it gets to the point of sensory overload? Weighted products are all about PREVENTION… being proactive BEFORE we see the behavior! In these cases, “pressure” is good! Deep pressure will calm and soothe an over-aroused, disorganized, or “fearful” nervous system. Why put a child in a restraint, discipline him for something that is not his fault and he can’t control, or give him medicine when it may not even be necessary (or helpful)? We want you to know, there ARE other options!
IF recommended by an Occupational Therapist who has done a proper evaluation… why WOULDN’T a parent try weight first? Weighted blankets, vests, and other weighted products are a therapeutic miracle for so many. And, they are non-invasive, socially acceptable, inconspicuous and convenient… what a wonderful way to have immediate, accessible therapy with you wherever you are! THIS is a gift, a lifesaver! They are an incredible way to bring therapy right into your home, school, or community when it is THEN that you need the most help.
Our children are crying out and telling us EXACTLY what they need… we just need to pay attention and educate ourselves on the options we have to help them! Weighted products are one.
So how much weight to use?
For lap bags, vests and toys, usually up to 10% of the child’s body weight is recommended. Use these items for approximately 30 minutes, then take a break for at least 1 hour.
For weighted blankets, the weight is distributed more widely, so the weight can be heavier. Ensure the blanket DOES NOT cover the face, and use up to 20% of the child’s weight. Weighted blankets should only be used with children who can remove the blanket independently.
See your OT for specific recommendations for your child.