Weighted blankets have been gaining a lot of notice lately because of the big benefits they offer for things like better sleep and lowering anxiety. But before they became a widespread option for relaxation, calming weighted blankets were an important tool to help kids (and adults) with autism. If you have a loved one who is autistic, a care provider may have suggested giving them a weighted blanket. Before you dive into searching for the best weighted blanket for kids, here's what you need to know about weighted blankets for kids with autism:
What a Weighted Blanket Is
Just like the name implies, a weighted blanket is, well, a heavy blanket. But this category of products aren't just any heavy blankets, like those made with thick wool. Calming weighted blankets take it a step further, with specific levels of weight. They are made to evenly distribute that weight across the entire blanket, which is where the benefits come from. The idea is that the even weight distribution offers a passive yet comfortable way to provide Deep Touch Therapy, which is a modality commonly recommended for kids with autism. A calming weighted blanket can bring those benefits in a way that is flexible enough for your child, and easy enough to bring with you anywhere that therapeutic tool is needed.
How a Weighted Blanket Can Help Kids With Autism
Calming weighted blankets are more than just a sleep aid, they are also a great way to provide physiological calming. One of the biggest reasons weighted blankets are recommended for anyone with autism is because of how they can help with sensory processing disorders. Sensory overload is a common struggle for those with autism. Calming weighted blankets have been used by Occupational Therapists (OTs) for decades as a way to help calm the nervous system.
The big benefits of a weighted therapy blanket stem from the fact that they provide Deep Touch Therapy, also called Deep Pressure Stimulation. This therapeutic technique provided by a weighted therapy blanket helps the body shift from the sympathetic nervous system, which is activated in states of emergency, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which takes control when the body feels calm and relaxed. When the nervous system is calmer and the parasympathetic nervous system is in control, the body can better handle internal processing, including automatic internals processes that range from digestion to heartbeat and blood flow as well as mental processing, like memory. In short, the body needs the parasympathetic nervous system to be in control more often so it can process day-to-day life better. The Deep Touch Therapeutic benefits of a calming weighted blanket help the body put the parasympathetic nervous system in control, which is something that many individuals with autism struggle with on a physiological level. With a weighted blanket to help, their body can reach a deeper state of calm and those internal processes can go to work better. This, in turn, can help reduce the overwhelming feelings that often accompany sensory processing disorder, helping those with autism to feel less overwhelmed by some stimuli.
Weighted Therapy Blankets and Sleep
The other big benefit of using a calming weighted blanket for kids with autism stems from the value of a good night's sleep. Weighted blankets provide gentle pressure. The intention is that a weighted therapy blanket should be somewhere between 10% and 20% of a person's weight, which is enough to provide pressure without really restricting movement. That gentle pressure should be comfortable enough to sleep under all night. That gentle pressure also offers a deeper feeling of relaxation, which can encourage the body to release serotonin, the hormone that aids in sleep. Between the gentle pressure that helps to physically still the body and the release of serotonin, sleeping under a weighted therapy blanket can help provide deeper, more restful sleep — and it helps provide that better sleep on a more consistent basis. Given how important sleep is to the body, this valuable tool can offer some impressive benefits through improving sleep.
Another common struggle for kids with autism is a consistent feeling of anxiety. Weighted therapy blankets help combat that feeling of anxiety through Deep Pressure Stimulation. Often, that feeling of anxiety can linger because the body struggles to let the parasympathetic nervous system take control, but also because someone with anxiety may find their body jumps over to the sympathetic nervous system faster, and with less of a trigger than those who don’t struggle with anxiety. A calming weighted blanket helps the body feel a deeper sense of relaxation, which can provide a longer-lasting feeling of calm. Over time, it can also make the body less sensitive to triggers that make the sympathetic nervous system take control.
Find the Best Weighted Blanket for Kids
If you’re interested in a weighted therapy blanket for kids, explore the Density Comfort shop! Our kids’ weighted blankets come in sizes and weights designed for children’s use, and you can choose the right weighted blanket cover based on your child’s needs. Shop today to bring this valuable therapeutic tool home for your kiddo!