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Weighted Blankets for Autistic Children and Their Benefits

written by: rocket_content • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 10/27/2010

Find out the deal about weighted blankets and lap blankets and how they benefit children with autism. Learn the science behind the way a weighted blanket works. Also know how to get the best value when choosing a weighted blanket for autistic children.

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    Treatment of Autism

    There are many misconceptions about autism and a lot of controversy when it comes to the treatment of it. There are an array of treatments varying from medication, to diet and therapy. There are also a great variety of tools, such as weighted devices that are used to stimulate the child’s tactile senses during occupational therapy which can be purchased and used in the home.

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    The Weighted Blanket

    Weighted blankets are used for therapeutic purposes. Use of a weighted blanket is usually promoted by the child’s occupational therapist. It is recommended that the weight of the blanket is 1/10th the child’s weight then 1 lb added to that. Blankets are often weighted with fillers such as river stone, rice, sand and plastic pellets. They are sold in stores that sell products that are used for occupational therapy or can be found online. The child often welcomes the blanket and is more comfortable if their blanket is in a print with a familiar character or theme the child likes. It is better to stick to a blanket weighted solely with plastic pellets because even though blankets weighted with rice or stone may be cheaper they do not wash as well and may cause a health hazard and begin to mold from washing.

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    How It Works

    The idea of using weighted blankets comes from a study that focused on the effect of deep pressure and children with sensory integration disorders which is common in children with autism. Children with autism tend to sleep less than other children and are often very restless in their sleep. Some people use weighted lap pads or vests along with the weighted blankets. These weighted lap pads and vests employ the same concept as the weighted blankets applying stimulating pressure that provides comfort and relaxation. Many children take the weighted lap pads to school as they are effective in decreasing the child’s need to constantly move around.

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    Be Cautious

    Always make sure you are using the right amount of weight for your child and test the blanket on your child during the daytime to see how they react to it. Some children are more sensitive than others so you will want to monitor your child to make sure they are using the blanket correctly and make sure they can handle the weight. The blankets can be expensive depending on the size and weight requirements your child needs. Teach your child to be gentle with the blanket and not to chew on the blanket or pull any loose strings that can cause the blanket to come apart. Weighted blankets may not work for every child but most have seen some improvement in the area of sleep as the blanket promotes relaxation.