Seven Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autistic Children
The child is autistic, and his life will be affected if he is not treated in time. It is well known that autism is not easy to solve. Among the many assistive tools, weighted blankets are a great tool for treating autism in children.A weighted blanket is usually not expensive, it is similar to the price of ordinary quilts.
For kids within the spectrum, filtering sensory output can be extremely taxing. They may find themselves struggling to communicate even the simplest thoughts, or repeat certain behaviors. A change of routine, especially, is a hellish experience for them, bordering on traumatic.
With the CDC estimating that 1 in every 68 children are born with some form of autism, it’s becoming more and more necessary to come up with a non-invasive, consistently effective solution for the day-to-day demands of living with autism.
Autism creates a malfunction in the senses of those who suffer from it—they are born with a surplus of synapses in the brain, causing the nervous system to send an abnormal number of neural signals to the brain.
This barrage of sensory data forces a child with autism to go into “fight or flight” mode, but unfortunately they also lack the emotional tools to soothe this reaction on their own.
This is where Weighted Blanket comes in.
The proprioceptive input brought about by the unusual, but comforting, added weight of the blanket calms the nervous system and causes the brain to reorganize itself. This provides your child with the input he needs to self-soothe and either prevent or control a meltdown.
How exactly can Weighted Blanket help your child with autism? Here are some of the therapeutic benefits:
1. Calms them down for bedtime
Sensory overload causes autistic children to have meltdowns for various reasons, which could be difficult come nighttime. Calming strategies built around sensory input, such as cuddling and Deep Pressure Therapy, helps in dealing with the “fight or flight response”.
The heaviness of weighted blankets gives the feeling of being hugged, which soothes their overwhelmed senses.
2. Improves transition times
One of the known challenges for children with autism is transitioning their highs and lows—that is, cooling down from a high-energy activity to a low-energy one. Coming home from school, doing homework, just before bedtime… these are the most difficult for young children with autism to deal with in terms of shifting from one exercise to another.
Weighted blankets help in this transition by calming down the child’s senses for a more subdued activity.
3. Non-invasive sleep aid
If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you know very well that bedtime is one of the most challenging parts of the day, both for you and your kid.
Since 2015, occupational therapists have experimented with weighted blankets as a therapeutic instrument for treating children born with autism. Since the blanket’s weight is designed to mimic the effect of swaddling, or hugging, your child, it puts the right amount of pressure on the nervous system and effectively calms both the mind and body.
The concept has proven itself time and time again to be effective in calming down and soothing patients with autism into a deeper, better-quality sleep. Researchers found that not only did the length of sleep increase with weighted blanket use, but the participants also woke up more rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.
4. Increases their spatial awareness
Being that the weighted blanket places a significant amount of pressure on your child’s body, their sensory receptors will be treated to a spa-like experience. This proprioceptive input allows them to feel their every movement, making them more aware of their body and giving them some amount of control over their actions while under the blanket.
5. Improves their mood
Studies show that Deep Pressure Therapy helps lessen levels of cortisol, a hormone that your body produces when it thinks it’s under attack. It may elevate during times of immense stress, which for autistic children might be several times a day. Weighted blankets promote the release of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, the so-called “happy” hormones produced in the brain which help fight off stress, anxiety, and depression.
6. Increases their focus
Deep Pressure Therapy helps to organize and regulate the body’s sensory system (which explains why firm hugs and holds are calming and relaxing!)
For those with proprioceptive, vestibular and tactile sensory seeking behaviours (such as autistic children), Deep Touch Pressure gives them the sensory input they require and crave. This helps them steer away from typical behaviours such as rough play and chewing on shirt collars. Discouraging sensory seeking behaviour also allows them to be more behaved and sit still in class.
7. Mimics the comfort of a hug
Children with autism oftentimes cannot handle the sensory overload that comes with being physically touched by a loved one. Not being able to receive a warm hug or a kiss from a doting parent may cause many developmental problems. But with weighted blankets, it almost feels like their parent is hugging them, making them feel safe and secure while promoting proper brain development.
Caring for children with autism can sometimes get overwhelming for the parents—constantly looking for ways how to make sure your child feel at his best, calming down his anxieties, and helping him deal with the things he has no control over. Occupational therapists (and parents themselves) have been depending heavily on the positive benefits that weighted blankets provide. What if this non-invasive, natural remedy can do wonders for your child, too?
Weighted blankets have been popular in the market for many years. If your child is autistic or if someone else in your family has this problem, it's a good choice. Manufacturers of weighted blankets are based in countries such as China, where there are also many autistic patients, especially children, whose families often feel very sad once they are diagnosed.