Therapy Thursday: Weighted Garments and Blankets

Posted Thursday May 26, 2011 by Melissa

Case sleeping at the hospital with his blanket

In keeping with a prior post about making weighted toys, I thought we’d take the next step and discuss weighted garments and blankets. Sometimes these are also discussed along with compression garments, but we’ll leave those to another time (although there are also combinations of weighted and compression garments – see here or here).

You can spend time reading the theories behind the use of weighted items and discussing them with your child’s therapist. We did some of that. But sometimes, it is just trial and error. Case had many of the classic symptoms for a proprioception dysfunction and over time, has also exhibited other sensory issues. With that in mind, we tested out some products available at the school (and I would encourage you to ask the school about what they have available and to try them out in class and at home), but at some point, we just decided to jump in and purchase items that were not incredibly expensive.

Case has experience with several different weighted items, specifically a weighted belt, a weighted vest, and a weighted blanket. You could also possibly include the weighted harness/backpack that we discussed in a prior post seeing as how a child could also wear the backpack in a similar manner as a weighted belt.

Weighted Belts

There are several different options when it comes to weighted belts. If you search for weighted belts online, you often find ones for working out or weightlifting – make sure that you focus specifically on those for children/sensory issues. A safe bet is to google using the words “weighted belt, sensory.” This will give you several options that you can consider. Case specifically has the Miracle Belt. This was the one recommended by his OT and we have been quite happy with how it helps him walk more slowly (instead of his normal running and darting) when he wears it. We use it specifically when we are working with him to be able to walk independently from us, without holding our hand (he suffers from a lack of safety awareness, so him walking independently only happens in a controlled environment). Case seems to enjoy wearing it and has actually asked for his “belt” on occasion.

We did stop using it altogether for a time because Case had an inguinal hernia. This was not related to using the belt – most of our MPS II boys (and other MPS’s as well?) develop hernias at one point or another and we felt blessed that Case did not have one until he was three years old. We had to address that and wait until it fully healed before we could consider using the belt again.

Weighted Blankets

As with other weighted items, for blankets, you can opt to fashion something yourself or buy it from a professional or hobby maker of weighted blankets. Even if you purchase one, you can decide on a pre-made blanket or pick your own fabrics.

The reason we started researching this option is that Case had problems settling down to sleep. He sleeps with his brother and would often move around, hit his brother, talk a lot, and just generally had trouble settling in to sleep. We hoped that a weighted blanket would calm him and make him feel ready to go to sleep.

Case sleeping at the hospital with his blanket

Case sleeping at the hospital with his blanket

Although I sew, I did not feel like I had the time, energy, or expertise to complete this type of project. Were the blankets more expensive, I might have tried, but we felt like the prices were reasonable compared to the cost of materials and the time it would take to construct ourselves. After researching a number of makers, we opted for a DreamCatcher weighted blanket for Case. We liked the construction of the blanket, its ease of care, and the ability to choose our own fabrics (from anywhere). We were delighted by their responsiveness and the high quality of the blanket. We travel with it and Case does not want to sleep without it. As we had hoped, he is much easier to settle down and goes to sleep faster when he is covered with the blanket, so we are pleased with the results.

Closeup of blanket

Pooh and friends scene on fleece side of blanket

Although you would need to consider what is appropriate for your child, Case’s blanket is a crib-size blanket made with polypropylene pellets for weight at 7 pounds. Case’s OT and other information online recommends 10% of body weight plus 1 pound. Case was 53 pounds, so we rounded up to 7 pounds.

With Case’s therapy items, we are big about multi-use products so we wanted to design his blanket for more than just the purpose of calming him for sleep. We used a fleece fabric on one side and cotton on the other with a satin edge to provide for additional sensory input if necessary. For the fleece fabric, we specifically searched and found a scene (Pooh and friends in the woods) that we could look at and talk about to help with speech concepts. Case really enjoys the Pooh scene on his blanket, so I would encourage you, if you are designing or making your own blanket to choose fabrics that are both interesting to you child and possibly provide alternate uses.

Several different websites we compiled that offer weighted blankets are:

Affordable Weighted Blankets – custom blankets, lap pads, wraps made with cotton fabrics, polypropylene pellets and polyfill

Dreamcatcher – pre-made and custom blankets of various sizes and weights, lap pads, etc. using poly pellets

Salt of the Earth – pre-made and custom blankets, lap pads, wraps, shoulder pads, and plush animals and dolls, with choice of fine grade stone or poly pellets

Sensory Goods – many pre-made blankets of various weights, lap pads, and neck weights with choice of plastic pellets or glass beads

Southpaw Weighted Blankets – blankets, yokes, lap pads, and neck snakes made with steel shot, the most interesting concept we found; allows for velcro items to attach to the fabric

The Magic Blanket – pre-made and custom blankets with chenille and other fabric options, poly pellets

These are just a few sites that we stumbled upon and wanted to highlight. We can’t recommend any specifically other than the one we ordered from. Some of these sites offer other sensory products as well.

Weighted Vest

I should mention that we did try a weighted vest with Case several times on a sporadic basis. This was before we went the avenue of the weighted belt. He was not a big fan of the weighted vest at all and kept trying to take it off. That is not to say that it might not work for your child or that they might not enjoy it, but I mention it specifically to emphasize that you really need to experiment with several different options and see what seems to work best for your child.

There are many different weighted vests out there that you can find simply by googling “weighted vest”. One thing you should consider when going down the avenue of a weighted vest is where and when your child will be wearing it, with what clothing on top or underneath, are there seams that may bother them if worn against the skin, will it make them too hot, etc.

Weighted Shoulder Pads & Lap Pads

Generally the sites that offer sensory products generally or weighted blankets will also carry weighted shoulder pads or yokes and weighted lap pads. Although I don’t have experience with the shoulder pads, I do know that many kids use the weighted lap pads to help them stay seated at seated activities. I would love to hear some experiences from parents about their children’s responses to this strategy.

Lastly, we couldn’t live without Case’s weighted blanket, we take it almost everywhere he needs to sleep. His weighted belt and backpack are used some, but are often hard to remember to bring places (maybe I should leave them in the car?). Please comment about your questions or experiences with weighted garments and blankets.

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2 Responses to “Therapy Thursday: Weighted Garments and Blankets”

  1. Very nice write-up Melissa. Maybe we should get some of this stuff for Reed.

  2. As you know I am a BIG fan of weighted vests, blankets, back packs, etc… They have done us well! We just stopped using the weighted vest at school since Jack is doing so well…we are so excited about this!