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Kid Companions- Chewelry: May 5, 2010

May 5, 2010

Do Weighted Products Provide Proprioceptive Sensory Input?

So many problems, so many choice, so many decisions…Special Needs parents must feel overwhelmed so many times! Since writing my post on the Proprioceptive and Vestibular senses, I have been reading studies, perusing Special Needs products’ sites to find what is available for children to provide proprioceptive sensory input.

Proprioceptive input is the only kind of sensory input that has the unique characteristic of adjusting the sensory system "as needed". Therefore, if calming is needed, the system gets more calm and organized, if alerting is needed the system becomes more alert.

Julia Roberts, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Support for Special Needs writes in a recent post about the use of a weighted blanket by her son Gage:

“They call it magic, we call it a miracle!

I had no idea that weighted blankets could help with some of the issues that Gage has but it does. To this day where Gage sleeps, the blanket goes (Honestly, camping? Yes.). All 15 lbs. of it. It’s one of the seven things he needs to sleep! Hey! I said he had issues. ( items include two pillows, fan, two stuffed animals and a completely dark room.)…”

Their website says,

“Weighted blankets, like The Magic Blanket™, have shown to generate proprioceptive input on our bodies. For many people, this input causes the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, among others. These neurotransmitters released by the brain have naturally calming effects, which have proven to be beneficial for people experiencing sensory integration disorder, anxiety, stress, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and Rett Syndrome. It’s important to note that The Magic Blanket is not a substitute for care from an occupational therapist or mental health professional.”

We can say that when Dr. Temple Grandin developed a hug machine which provides deep pressure to help in tolerating touch and which appears to have a calming effect, she paved the way for all the weighted garments and weighted accessories that are available today.

The concept of the weighted vest or blanket is based on the technique of deep pressure. Deep pressure is used to assist the child to self-calm and relax so that sensory stimulus can be processed. The use of a weighted accessories or garments are thought to provide the child with unconscious information from the muscles and joints. It is said the weight keeps these children focused and grounded.

How Do Parents Know If Weighted Accessories Are Right for Their Child?
Each child has unique needs and, therefore, do not have the same sensory integration needs. Weighted products should only be used under the direction and advice of a healthcare professional or Occupational therapist and should be used under adult supervision.

Benefits of Weighted Accessories for Children With Autism or Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders:
*They are a non-invasive therapeutic opportunity for the family, teacher, therapist and child.
*These weighted items provide sensory input to reduce hyperactivity and distractibility.
*They aid in concentration and organizational skills helping the child academically and socially.
* They are also comforting and calming as if the child is being hugged.
*They are soothing to help a child sleep.
*They allow the child to understand their relationship to the world.
*They provide information about the child's movements and positions of the body. Example: A weight on the lap will allow the child to feel the seat he is sitting on.

What Weighted Products Are Available?
You can buy the following products weighted with steel beads encased in a vinyl pouch:
vests, wraps, blankets, lap pads, lower Torso to extend the vests, weight belts, and even weighted animals like snakes that are calming draped over the shoulders or held in their lap…

Another choice are the deep pressure accessories designed to be pulled snug to the clients' body, providing proprioceptive deep pressure sensory feedback, stability and skills.

Does Everyone Agree About the Use and Benefits of Weighted Products?
The research findings are controversial. There seems to be a limited amount of studies done and there are strong proponents on both sides of the question.

However, if you believe your child’s life AND yours could be enhanced by the use of weighted products get professional counsel and give it a try. What do you have to loose…?

What has been your experience with weighted products?

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