Weighted Blankets are the new hot thing on the market to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), including Asperger’s, ADD and ADHD, as well as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). We hear stories about kids using the blankets for self-calming and to help with sleep problems. But do they really work? Here is some insight on the product from Laura LeMond, the founder of Mosaic Weighted Blankets®.
“Weighted blankets are an absolute miracle for these types of kids who respond well to deep pressure touch stimulation as therapy. We have heard so many actual stories from families who have seen their kids seriously slow down, calm themselves and relax using a weighted blanket as a touch point. We have seen kids that have never slept through the night finally get relief. And we know that if a child isn’t sleeping, chances are mom and dad aren’t sleeping either, so this blanket can be mom and dad’s best friend. Every child is different, so you need to try it to see how well it works for you. It may solve significant issues like insomnia, or it may just provide a snuggly tactile experience to help your child relax. It is worth trying, and a lot better solution than pills or just living with difficult quality of life symptoms.”
What kind of blanket should parents buy?
“Kids with sensory integration issues or who are on the spectrum usually like a fabric that can breathe; so be sure to buy high percentage cotton, or better yet, 100% cotton. Polyester or 100% fleece tend to be hot and not tolerated well, in my opinion. If you want a soft fabric (or like the feel of fleece), get a 100% cotton flannel blanket so it breathes. Parents have told us 100% cotton works well with sensory sensitive kids. Blankets are available with a wide variety of weights. We recommend and use non-toxic poly-pellets, which weight down the blanket similar to a bean bag.”
Can I make a weighted blanket myself or just pile on lots of blankets?
“You certainly could try to make one, but you really need professional grade materials to be safe and durable. Some children with autism chew on the blanket; we are asked about this a lot. Blankets need to stand up to machine washing without seams breaking or pellet loss. When buying a custom weighted blanket, make sure the manufacturer is using the thickest professional grade quilting thread, has a track record of solid construction, and is using high quality machine washable fabrics and materials.
Commercially produced weighted blankets are hand sewn to fit the person’s height and weight
, $100 – $200 is the general price range. The price reflects the cost of high grade materials and labor. Labor involves ensuring a quality product that can withstand being dragged, chewed, fidgeted with and washed, as well as sewing the pellets into each quilting square with reinforced seams, in order to provide a therapeutic effect. Weighted blankets are not about being heavy, so it isn’t like simply piling on blankets. Ours are made to be light and breathe, while providing the pressure therapy.
It’s an investment, so be sure to pick a fabric that you like and matches your child’s preference. Those on the spectrum and with SPD tend to get escalated by bright yellows and neon colors, so steer clear of those colors. We offer over 50 cotton fabrics in different colors and textures. A lot of the orders that we receive are from boys and teenage young men. Our best-selling fabrics right now are the outer-space patterns. For young adults and teens, we sell a lot of darker plaids and solids based around navy, royal blue, dark greens, red and browns.”
What does the research say?
“These blankets work by providing input to the deep pressure touch receptors throughout the body,” says Karen Moore, OTR/L, an occupational therapist. “Deep pressure touch helps the body relax. Like a firm hug, weighted blankets help us feel secure, grounded, and safe.” (Source: Psychology Today
). Like a massage, moderate pressure applied to the body fosters the natural production of endorphins and serotonin, which is thought to provide a state of well-being and be helpful in inducing sleep. Serotonin transforms to melatonin, which research has shown helps maintain sleep throughout the night. Research has shown that close to 89% of children with ASDs have sleep disorders. (Source: AustismFile
Many of LeMond’s customers have sent in stories of the blanket’s success. A parent of a 6 year old child with autism said, “It has greatly reduced his restlessness and improved his learning due to increased focus and attention.” From a grandmother, “The blanket has made a huge difference for the entire family; it has given my family back its sleep. We were stunned.”
LeMond says, “I started this company because of my own sensory integration issues. I put books on my feet in college to go to sleep, and got teased by my room-mates in the dorm room; in my thirties I upgraded to sand bags on my feet, I have craved that sensory pressure for a long time. When I go to sleep, everything has to be just right, 100% cotton sheets, with a solid weave blanket and my weighted blanket on top of that. I can relate to what my customers are going through, I was the original 1960’s SPD kid.
We don’t hear from everyone who buys a blanket, but we sure do have raving reviews when they do work, and we are seeing older population customers too, which is great. Building awareness is the main thing. You may have heard of a Hershey bar or a motorcycle helmet, but most people who don’t have kids who are on the spectrum or have SPD have never heard of a weighted blanket, it’s a really new concept in sensory processing disorder treatment. I like to think we are educating the public one blanket at a time.”