Sensory Weighted Blankets For Kids With Autism – The Ultimate Guide
Is it a struggle for you or your child to relax and fall asleep?
A sensory weighted blanket maybe just what you are looking for.
What is a weighted blanket?
A weighted blanket, also known as an autism or sensory blanket, is filled with materials that apply a deep pressure stimulation on those wearing it. They are often filled with glass beads, cotton or other materials to apply a weight on the body which gives a sense of security and relaxation.
They can be used to aid sleep but can also provide anxiety reduction in the daytime.
How do weighted blankets work?
The human body is a very sensitive instrument that responds to touch and pressure. In the same way that a baby can be soothed when it is picked up, the human body can also be soothed by applying deep pressure stimulation.
When we apply a weighted blanket or vest, the body releases oxytocin in the same sense way as it does when we are hugged or held as a baby. While some people are open to being hugged, those with autism or sensory processing issues may not be and so this kind of blanket is an ideal thing to use.
What are the benefits of a weighted blanket for kids with autism?
We all know the impact it can have when we are sleep deprived. We become overly emotional and have difficulty concentrating. For children with autism or other kinds of special needs, this is even more pronounced.
Many children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) struggle with sensory issues including sensory processing disorder (SPD). This can appear in the form of difficulty processing sensory input of the five senses as well as internal emotions. Often this can create anxiety and problems with sleep.
Parents might wonder what to do when their child gets stuck in the cycle of anxiety causing sleep dysregulation and vice versa. Holistic options are often more favorable over medication for many families.
Research has show that weighted blankets are beneficial for:
- Anxiety reduction
- Better sleep quality
- Deescalation of meltdowns and sensory overload
- Release of serotonin which is needed to create melatonin for sleep
- Release of oxytocin which gives a sense of security and warmth
- Reduces stress hormones in the body
- Calms nervous system
- Children who don’t like to be hugged
Weighted blanket reviews
If you are looking for where to buy weighted blankets we compiled a list of suppliers that are suitable for those with special needs. We evaluated each blanket in accordance with sensory needs of autistic children. Autism Parenting Magazine will receive an affiliate commission for products purchased using our affiliate link. Many of the below options come with free shipping in the USA.
Best weighted blankets for kids with autism
Best blanket patterns for kids
The thing we like about weighted blankets from Mosaic is they have particularly special designs for kids making bedtime fun. All the blankets use pellets that are 100% non toxic. You can get 8 lbs or 10 lbs versions of most blankets. They also have a special offer if you are ok with with a random design.
Sleep tight – A unique neck cut out design
Often kids with sensory needs are sensitive not only to the fabric of the blanket but also its layout. What we like about this kids weighted blanket is that it has been designed by an occupational therapist to have several features including a curved neck cut out at the top which allows it fit smoothly over the shoulders and chin without placing the blanket over the head. Parents often report its ability to deescalate meltdowns. Weight is available in 5 lbs all the way up to 25lbs. Both waterproof and soft covers are available depending on your childs sensory needs.
Wipe clean sensory blanket
With this pressure blanket you get the benefit of something that is easy to clean, with no washing required. Not only is it waterproof, breathable and tear resistant, it also features the special design listed above with the neck cut out for sensory issues.
Soft fabric blanket design for sensory issues
This soft design is great for kids with sensory seeking or over-responding issues. Children with autism generally feel quite cosy in this design by providing sensory input. It has a weight of 3 lbs and is machine washable unlike other similar blankets.
Animal lap pads
While these are not strictly weighted blankets, we wanted to include these here because they both cute and practical. They employ the same deep pressure techniques as an autism weighted blanket. Having your child use on of these while sitting can help in grounding to improve calm and focus
Best cheap weighted blankets
In this section we evaluated blankets that had the benefits of soothing sensory needs while not being overly priced.
The Snuggle weighted sheet
Snuggle sheet $40.99
If you are looking for the effectiveness of a weighted blanket without spending a fortune, this is for you. The snuggle sheet can be applied over a regular blanket providing compression with a hug like feel.
Cheapest weighted washable blanket
Washable blanket $82.99
This is the cheapest regular blanket designed for special needs that we could find. Prices start at $82.99
Daytime drape blanket
Starting at $89.99 for a 5 lbs , this blanket is great for sensory needs and promoting sleep. It can be draped around shoulders in the day or used for naps and bedtime.
FAQ -Weighted blanket frequently asked questions
To some extent this is a mater of preference but as a general rule, we can say that is good that the blanket weight is approximately 10% of the weight of the individuals body weight plus a couple of lbs.
Yes, it is possible if the weight is too much. Children should be able to remove the blanket without assistance.
It is important to be comfortable when sleeping so for a blanket for sleeping the blanket should cover the user’s feet, legs, and abdomen. For a daytime or general sensory blanket the size can be smaller. A couple of things to bear in mind when considering younger children is the size of the bed and to accommodate for growth.
According to many parents, the answer is yes. Many of the products mentioned contain reviews where parents comment on their effectiveness.
We also explored the scientific research on this subject:
A study involving Temple Grandin published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy assessed that the use of deep pressure stimulation resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety.
Similar research on hyperactivity disorder and sleeping problems concluded that the use of ball blankets “is a relevant and effective treatment method with regard to minimizing sleep onset latency”.
If you are finding it difficult to choose, we put together some tips of things to consider before buying.
Pattern and colour
Firstly if you are trying to get a child to use a weighted blanket, it is important that they like the design and feel relaxed under the blanket.
Depending on a childs sensitivity it is good to consider what kind of textures they are sensitive to. While some weighted blankets are waterproof, the material may be triggering to an autistic child. It can be good to consider the use of a cover which fits with specific sensory needs. There are many different types of weighted blankets made in a variety of materials including cotton, antimicrobial fabrics, mink, chenille, fleece, cooling fabrics, and waterproof fabrics. Quilted weighted blankets are also available.
Design and weight distribution
Most of us have become accustomed to blankets being rectangular shaped and are accustomed to the blanket either going over our head or curled up around the shoulders. To a child on the autism spectrum, this may cause an additional sense of discomfort. It is worth considering some of the special designs where there is a neck shape cut out of the blanket and weight is distributed over the body rather than equally over the blanket.
Ability to wash the blankets
It is good to check whether the weighted blanket can be washed, some can simply be wiped down but others need to be hand washed or dry cleaned.
Be sure to check the supplier uses a filling that is safe such as glass beads or cotton. Some manufacturers use fillings such as lead which are toxic to the body.
For reducing anxiety in the day time, some parents have also benefitted from the use of special autism clothing a weighted vest for autism sensory issues. You may also want to consider creating a special sensory space or bedroom and possibly the use of essential oils or supplementation like melatonin.