As a parent or guardian of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you’ll know only too well the distress and discomfort that clothing can cause your child.
Trying to find clothing that doesn’t upset your child or cause their skin irritation can be, on occasion, an absolute nightmare.
But have you looked at the benefits that weighted clothing can bring to your child?
Weighted clothing is often recommended by occupational therapists since the wearable items can help to provide deep touch pressure for children with autism, who may experience SPD or difficulties with self regulation.
Not only does weighted clothing help to reduce anxiety, it can also help to create a feeling of calm; increases focus and concentration, decreases hyperactivity and enables a child to become more aware of their body.
While weighted exercise clothing is designed to increase the intensity of physical activity, in children with autism, such items provide deep pressure, which sends signals to the brain, helping the child to feel calm and enabling them to focus better.
Here are just a few of the weighted clothing items that may benefit your child.
Perhaps the most popular weighted clothing item – and often described as similar to giving your child a ‘bear hug’ – weighted vests are probably the most popular means of providing weighted clothing for children with autism and are often recommended by occupational therapists.
An American study by Nancy L VandenBerg, which was carried out in 2001, actually found that on-task behaviour increased by up to 25% when children with autism wore weighted vests for fine motor tasks!
With weighted vests, deep pressure is applied to your child’s body and shoulders, helping to reduce challenging and sensory seeking behaviour, and thereby encouraging the child to focus on tasks such as homework or simply resting.
Sensory weighted hats
One of the most discreet methods of providing weighted clothing for your child, sensory weighted hats have an inner liner, which contains weights that can be easily inserted and removed as required, and can enable the weight to be adapted to your child’s specific requirements.
Research has shown that clothing items such as weighted jackets, hoodies and fleeces, have a calming and organising effect on the body’s proprioceptive system (ie, the part of the system that relates to stimuli which are produced within an organism, particularly those that are connected with the position and movement of the body).
These clothing items are particularly popular since they provide sensory feedback for a child, but look like ‘ordinary’ clothing and don’t stand out as a therapeutic aid. Most jackets, hoodies etc, possess pockets which, as with the hats, enable weights to be inserted and removed as required.
Weighted jackets have proven to be particularly popular in the classroom, where they are used to reduce excessive fidgeting and to promote better concentration.
These can be perfect for providing your child with support while they’re on the go! Many designs also come with a headphone port, which enables comforting music to be played, and sensory strips for fidgeting.
Often recommended by occupational therapists to encourage and promote calming and sleep by impacting the proprioceptive system, weighted blankets can also have an organising effect on your child’s central nervous system. Many children with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) often crave pressure and, since many are often attached to one particular blanket as a source of comfort and calm, these blankets can bring double the benefits.
As a general rule of thumb, weighted blankets are recommended for use at 10% of your child’s body weight plus one pound (2.2kg).
Weighted lap pads and shoulder weights
A weighted lap pad is ideal as part of a sensory diet for when your child is in the classroom or involved in tabletop activities at home. The pads, which have been developed to help children calm and to enable them to sit comfortably, while simultaneously experiencing deep pressure sensory input, are perfect for helping to reduce your child’s fidgeting and to improve his or her memory.
Items such as weighted shoulder wraps also help to apply deep pressure to your child’s shoulders, making them an ideal weighted solution for use anywhere – particularly while on the go!