How Weighted Products Provide Proprioceptive Sensory Input
So many problems, so many choice, so many decisions…Parents of children with special needs must feel overwhelmed so many times! This post answers questions regarding weighted products. What weighted products are available for children to provide proprioceptive sensory input? How do weighted products help? Weighted products are used to diffuse tension and help promote a sense of calmness and comfort by using, for example, a cozy weighted blanket to enhance sensory integration. The blanket is perfect for bundling up while promoting relaxation and sensory feedback.

 Proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness) can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. A child can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together like pushing something heavy or pull joints apart like hanging from monkey bars.
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Weighted blankets have shown to generate proprioceptive input on our bodies. For many people, this input causes the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, among others. These neurotransmitters released by the brain have naturally calming effects, which have proven to be beneficial for people experiencing sensory integration disorder, anxiety, stress, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and Rett Syndrome. It’s important to note that a weighted blanket is not a substitute for care from an occupational therapist or mental health professional.
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Julia Roberts, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Support for Special Needs writes in a post about the use of a weighted blanket by her son Gage:

“They call it magic, we call it a miracle!

I had no idea that weighted blankets could help with some of the issues that Gage has but it does. To this day where Gage sleeps, the blanket goes (Honestly, camping? Yes.). All 15 lbs. of it. It’s one of the seven things he needs to sleep! Hey! I said he had issues. ( items include two pillows, fan, two stuffed animals and a completely dark room.)…”

We can say that when Dr. Temple Grandin developed a hug machine which provides deep pressure to help in tolerating touch and which appears to have a calming effect, she paved the way for all the weighted garments and weighted accessories that are available today.

The concept of the weighted vest or blanket is based on the technique of deep pressure. Deep pressure is used to assist the child to self-calm and relax so that sensory stimulus can be processed. The use of a weighted accessories or garments are thought to provide the child with unconscious information from the muscles and joints. It is said the weight keeps these children focused and grounded.

How Do Parents Know If Weighted Accessories Are Right for Their Child?
Each child has unique needs and, therefore, do not have the same sensory integration needs. Weighted products should only be used under the direction and advice of a healthcare professional or occupational therapist and should be used under adult supervision.

Benefits of Weighted Accessories for Children With Autism or Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders:

  • They are a non-invasive therapeutic opportunity for the family, teacher, therapist and child.
  • These weighted items provide sensory input to reduce hyperactivity and distractibility.
  • They aid in concentration and organizational skills helping the child academically and socially.
  • They are also comforting and calming as if the child is being hugged.
  • They are soothing to help a child sleep.
  • They allow the child to understand their relationship to the world.
  • They provide information about the child’s movements and positions of the body. Example: A weight on the lap will allow the child to feel the seat he is sitting on.

weighted vests from Fun and FunctionWhat Weighted Products Are Available?

The weighted products we researched were made with plastic poly pellets like those used in Beanie Babies. These poly pellets are hypo-allergenic and are high-heat tolerant, therefore, it can be dried in a dryer.

You can find lots of different weighted products on the market: vests like in the photo at left from Fun and Function, wraps, scarves, baseball caps, ties, suspenders, blankets of all sizes, lap pads, weight belts, and even bean bags and weighted animals like snakes that are calming draped over the shoulders or held in their lap. Now there are many fabric choices, including luxuriously soft Chenille and Minky, as well as cotton, flannel, and fleece. 

Wipe-Clean Weighted Blankets sold at The Therapy Shoppe

You’ll love the innovative new quilted squares-design weighted blankets that are made of an extremely durable wipe-clean material that can be wiped down/sanitized on the spot with spray or wipes! This revolutionary weighted blankets is a superb choice for schools, clinics, hospitals, and therapy (no washing machine required)!

6.5 lb. Scented Mini Quilt sold at The Therapy Shoppe

Scented with just the right blend of self-regulating herbs and spices: lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and cloves… this extraordinary 20″x 40″ weighted blanket quilt makes a perfect, mini-sized, multi-sensory throw for home, school, clinics, car trips, naps… anywhere!

Twiddle Fiddle™ Weighted Lap Pads sold at The Therapy Shoppe

Fidgeters of all ages will love these new weighted lap pads that come ready-to-use with 2 attached, inter-changeable, silent fidgets! These discreet lap pads are a great self-regulation occupational therapy tool that are easy to take and use anywhere! Made of water-resistant nylon, these quality weighted lap pads feature a snugly soft, a washable solid fleece cover, 2 durable, easy-release velcro fidget tabs, and 2 fidget toys.

HARKLA WEIGHTED BLANKET FOR AUTISM, ANXIETY, OR ADHDHARKLA WEIGHTED BLANKET FOR AUTISM, ANXIETY, OR ADHD

    • Soft, comfortable, and just what your child needs for a full nights rest
    • Easy to wash and dry
    • The dotted minky fabric is great for sensory seekers
    • Free Shipping & a lifetime guarantee

Harkla weighted blankets are in 2-Pieces for easy washing. If children get messy, this means you need a blanket that is easy to wash! With ties in the corner, your blanket is easy to put together and won’t bunch. They use padding on the inside for a more comfortable weight than other blankets.

Clip-On Lanyard - Please note that SentioCHEWS and KidCompanions Chewelry Clip-ons make great hand fidgets and if the urge to chew and bite comes along they are perfect to put in the mouth.Please note that SentioCHEWS and KidCompanions Chewelry Clip-ons make great hand fidgets and if the urge to chew and bite comes along they are perfect to put in the mouth. These Fidget-Clip-ons attach to clothing, weighted blankets, seat belts, etc.

If you believe your child’s life AND yours could be enhanced by the use of weighted products get professional counsel and give it a try. What do you have to loose…?

What has been your experience with weighted products?

7 Comments

  • Chynna Posted May 6, 2010 1:34 am

    What an amazing post. YAY!

    I can tell you that we always knew that our daughter, Jaimie, really seemed to calm with heavy things. And our son could be in the throws of a sensory overload tantrum, we put him on the couch under one of our weighted lap cozies (we have four–each with different weights and one with a smell!) he calms within seconds.

    Weighted products DO work with many children. If I knew about weighted lap cozies, blankets and Bottle Buddies or other 'heavy work', years ago, my Jaimie would most likely have made those neural connections a long time ago.

    If you notice your child walking on her tippy toes most of the time; if she hangs off of you; if she's asking you to lean on her or she's bumping into things–accidentally or on purpose…she may need some extra weight in order to satisfy that sensory input craving. (When Jaimie gets into a crouching position then bends her toes all the way over and is balancing on her toe knuckles, I know she NEEDS weight.)

    Once we understand about all SEVEN sensory systems, things just seem to fall into place. =)

    Chynna
    http://www.lilywolfwords.ca
    http://www.the-gift-blog.com

  • Pierrette and Lorna dEntremont Posted May 6, 2010 9:42 am

    Thank you Chynna,for sharing your story with us. Your comments will surely be beneficial to families coping with sensory input problems. Lorna

  • Dr Jacey Pryjma (Chiropractor) Posted June 6, 2010 2:42 am

    Excellent Post!

    • Lorna dEntremont Posted March 18, 2016 2:10 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Dr. Jacey Pryjma.

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  • James Hood Posted October 16, 2018 7:18 am

    Hi Lorna,

    You have explained these weighted products and their use in very simple words.

    Weighted vests may help children to feel greater body awareness and these also help to reduce sensory overload.

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