Table of Contents
Weighted Blanket for Autistic Adults
Autistic adults often have difficulty sleeping, and a weighted blanket can help. This guide will show you how to use a weighted blanket for autistic adults, including the benefits and risks of using one.
Weighted blankets are typically used as part of a sensory diet or sensory integration therapy program. However, they can also be used on an as-needed basis to provide calming input during times of stress or anxiety.
Table of Contents
What is sensory processing disorder?
Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which individuals have difficulty interpreting and responding to everyday sensory stimuli. This can manifest in the form of over- or under-sensitivity to various sensations such as sound, light, touch, smells, and even taste.
Individuals with a sensory processing disorder may be easily overwhelmed by normal everyday stimuli, causing them to feel uncomfortable, anxious, and overstimulated. Weighted blankets can help soothe the overwhelming sensations by providing calming feedback to the body, helping to move the body into a relaxed state.
Sensory blankets for autism
Sensory blankets, also known as weighted blankets, have been used as a therapeutic tool for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These blankets are designed to provide deep pressure and sensory input, which can have a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
Many individuals with ASD may have difficulty processing sensory information and can experience sensory overload or anxiety. A sensory blanket can provide a sense of security and comfort by creating a sense of pressure on the body, which can help to regulate the sensory system and promote relaxation.
It is important to note that sensory blankets may not be suitable for everyone with ASD, and it is important to consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist to determine if a sensory blanket is appropriate for an individual’s specific needs.
If you like being in small places, then you definitely have to try out a weighted blanket!
Benefits of weighted blankets for autism
The benefits of using a weighted blanket for autistic adults include improved sleep, lower anxiety, increased concentration and focus, and reduced meltdowns. Through deep pressure stimulation, weighted blankets increase the production of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin and sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, helping to promote better sleep.
Weighted blankets can also reduce feelings of anxiety and provide a sense of security and comfort for autistic adults. In addition, these blankets can help improve concentration at school or work and reduce the frequency of meltdowns caused by overwhelming stimuli.
1. A weighted blanket can help calm an autistic person and reduce anxiety.
A weighted blanket can help an autistic person calm down and reduce anxiety by boosting serotonin levels, which can improve their mood and reduce stress. This can lead to fewer meltdowns and better school performance. An autism blanket over head is popular among autistic persons as it gives control.
2. A weighted blanket can improve sleep quality and reduce sleep latency.
Weighted blankets can improve sleep quality and reduce sleep latency in autistic adults by providing deep pressure stimulation to their bodies. DPS helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles (better than pulling an all-nighter) and improve the overall quality of sleep.
Weighted blankets can reduce cortisol levels, leading to a calmer and more relaxed mood, as well as better focus and concentration. Research has shown that by using a weighted blanket, autistic adults can improve their sleep quality and reduce sleep latency, allowing them to feel more rested and better able to focus on their daily activities.
3. A weighted blanket can help reduce fidgeting and stimming.
Sleeping with a weighted blanket can help reduce fidgeting and stimming in autistic adults by providing deep pressure stimulation (DPS). This helps to create a calming and relaxed feeling, which can reduce the frequency and intensity of stimming and fidgeting behaviors.
Research has shown that the use of a deep pressure stimulator such as a weighted blanket can be an effective tool for managing sensory processing issues. It can also help to reduce anxiety and improve focus, making it easier for autistic adults to focus and complete tasks.
4. A weighted blanket can increase sensory stimulation and help with sensory integration.
Weighted blankets can help individuals with autism increase their sensory stimulation and improve their sensory integration. The pressure of the blanket can help with sensory regulation, calming the nervous system and providing comfort.
The blanket also provides tactile input and proprioceptive feedback, helping the person become more aware of their body and sensations. It can also help improve focus and concentration, aiding in the completion of daily tasks. Weighted blankets can be used to help autistic adults feel more grounded, relaxed and safe.
5. A weighted blanket can improve muscle tone and reduce tension.
Weighted blankets can improve muscle tone and reduce tension in an autistic adult by activating their proprioceptive sensory system. The added weight of the blanket causes an increase in serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in a calmer, more regulated emotional state. Additionally, it can reduce cortisol levels, which are responsible for making us feel stressed, and increase levels of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep-wake cycles.
Studies have shown that 78% of participants preferred sleeping with a weighted blanket, providing them with a calming effect and improved sleep quality. Therefore, using a weighted blanket can be beneficial in reducing tension and improving muscle tone in an autistic adult.
6. A weighted blanket can improve focus and attention.
A weighted blanket can improve focus and attention in autistic adults by providing deep pressure stimulation. Melatonin production is increased, which helps to promote a deeper and more restful sleep. Furthermore, DPS has been shown to reduce self-stimulatory behavior and cortisol levels, both of which can distract autistic adults and interfere with their focus.
A weighted blanket can help autistic adults to focus and complete tasks better, and also improve their classroom performance. Even IKEA started to sell a weighted blanket so you can try it out!
How does deep pressure stimulation work for autism?
Deep pressure stimulation is a technique used to help calm and relax people on the autism spectrum. It is believed to work by mimicking the feeling of being hugged, providing a sense of security and comfort. This is based on a study by Temple Grandin in 1989, in which she found that applying pressure to the body through a “squeeze machine” caused a reduction in stress and anxiety in autistic people. The deep pressure sensation is believed to stimulate the release of serotonin, which is known to have a calming effect.
More recent studies have found that the use of deep pressure calming activities or weighted blankets may provide a similar effect to deep pressure stimulation without the need for a hug machine. The weight of the blanket is thought to provide the same feeling of being enveloped, reducing stress and improving sleep. Despite this, there is a lack of research into the direct effect of weighted blankets as a calming tool or sleep aid in children. Further studies are needed to provide a direct link between deep pressure stimulation studies and weighted blankets.
Do Weighted Blankets for Autism Actually Work?
The recent rise in popularity of weighted blankets has made them a popular item among those who struggle with sleep issues, including those on the autism spectrum. But do these blankets actually work? Are they safe for a person with autism to use?
We found some great results for the effectiveness of weighted blankets for autism, and will discuss the safety considerations to keep in mind when using them.
In this meta analysis research 18 eligible articles demonstrated that behavioral interventions, such as cognitivebehavioral therapy, bedtime fading with response cost, and functional behavioral assessment, physical activity such as aerobic exercise, swimming, and aquatic exercise and weighted blankets can improve sleep disturbances.
We are sure that weighted blankets are not just a scam just by looking at the experience of autistic people. By examining the research, we found that weighted blankets are a legitimate tool for those on the autism spectrum.
Tayyar Iravanlou F, Soltani M, Alsadat Rahnemaei F, Abdi F, Ilkhani M. Non- Pharmacological Approaches on the Improvement of Sleep Disturbances in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Iran J Child Neurol. 2021 Winter;15(1):79-91. doi: 10.22037/ijcn.v15i2.25539. PMID: 33558816; PMCID: PMC7856440.
How to Select an Autism Blanket
Choosing a weighted blanket for someone with autism requires careful consideration to ensure that the person is comfortable with the blanket and it meets their needs. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you select the best weighted blanket for autism:
- Understand the needs and preferences of the person with autism: Ask the person what they prefer in terms of colors, patterns, and materials.
- Take into consideration the appropriateness of the weight: The weighted blanket should be equal or close to 10% of the person’s body weight. Try the Corala Weighted Blanket Calculator to calculate the ideal weight.
- Think about the fabric: Select a fabric that is suitable to the temperature the person prefers to keep their apartment or house at.
- Opt for neutral colors: Pick a muted color like gray or tan if you do not wish to clash with the colors in the person’s bedroom.
- Check the washing instructions: Confirm that the blanket is easy to wash and is made from durable fabric. Consider a removable cover.
- Consider the pattern: Avoid overly stimulating patterns or cartoon characters if the blanket is for a child.
Deep Touch Therapy for Autism
Deep Touch Therapy (DTP) is a type of therapeutic treatment used to reduce anxiety and help manage sensory issues in autistic adults. Through the use of weighted blankets, vests, and other items, deep pressure is applied to various parts of the body.
This pressure is thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing stress and providing a feeling of security that can be beneficial to those with autism.
Research into the efficacy of deep touch therapy has yielded mixed results, but smaller studies suggest that the approach can be extremely helpful. A 2001 study using weighted vests found that on-task behavior increased in four students wearing the vest, and a 2008 study using weighted blankets found that the majority of participants reported lower anxiety after use.
While the research is not universally positive, DTP carries almost no risk, is not expensive, and may provide benefits for some people with autism. You even can do it with your dog (no kidding!)
For those interested in trying out DTP, it is best to seek out an occupational therapist with sensory integration training and experience to evaluate and treat an individual. If such a specialist is not available, DIY deep touch pressure can be integrated into the routine which could include trying out a weighted blanket or vest, rolling an individual in a blanket, or pressing them between two pillows.
How does a weighted blanket for autistic adults provide calming sensory input?
Weighted blankets for autistic adults provide calming sensory input through deep pressure therapy. The blankets are sewn with small, evenly distributed pockets containing polypropylene pellets that add weight, allowing the blanket to provide firm but gentle pressure to the whole body.
This pressure is similar to deep touch pressure stimulation (DTP), which is a type of therapy developed by Dr. Temple Grandin that involves applying firm, gentle pressure or squeezing on various parts of the body.
How can a weighted blanket help with autism meltdowns?
A weighted blanket can help with autism meltdowns by the deep touch pressure which releases serotonin in the body, which is an important chemical needed to create a stable mood and feel calm. This helps address the root cause of the meltdown, as many children with autism are low in serotonin.
Finally, the extra weight can help reduce tossing and turning, allowing the child to sleep better throughout the night.
What safety considerations should be taken into account when using weighted blankets for autistic adults?
When buying a weighted blanket for an autistic adult, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, you should make sure the weight of the blanket is 10 percent of the person’s body weight, any lighter might not provide enough pressure, and any heavier might be uncomfortable.
Is There Any Science Backing up Weighted Blankets?
Yes! There is a considerable amount of scientific evidence that supports the therapeutic benefits of weighted blankets. The underlying science behind weighted blankets is called “Deep Touch Pressure” (DTP) or “Deep Pressure Therapy” (DPT), which is essentially any gentle pressure distributed across the body.
Studies have shown that DTP releases hormones which can help calm the nervous system. Weighted blankets can provide this type of pressure, which can eliminate the need for parents to have to hug their child while they are trying to fall to sleep fast.