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Making a Weighted Blanket for Autism Made Easy

Discover how to make a weighted blanket for autism. Promote sleep quality and serenity with DIY steps.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
March 13, 2024
9 min read
min read

Understanding Weighted Blankets

In the journey of understanding how to make a weighted blanket for autism, it's crucial to first grasp the concept of weighted blankets and their benefits.

The Concept of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are specialized blankets designed to apply gentle pressure evenly across the body. This feature makes them an integral tool in managing certain conditions, including autism. They provide what is known as deep pressure touch stimulation, a type of therapy that can have a calming effect on individuals.

This gentle, consistent pressure mimics the feeling of a hug, providing a sense of security and comfort. It's this concept that makes them particularly effective for individuals with autism, ADHD, and anxiety disorders, helping them relax and fall asleep more easily [2].

The Benefits of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets offer a myriad of benefits, especially for individuals with autism. By providing deep touch pressure, they promote relaxation, regulate mood, and improve feelings of safety and security [3].

These blankets also assist in managing sensory processing difficulties, a common concern among individuals with autism. They provide a calming effect and reduce sensory overload, which can be particularly beneficial for those who experience heightened sensitivity to their environment.

Furthermore, the deep pressure provided by weighted blankets can help individuals with autism feel more grounded. This can lead to better focus, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep — all of which can significantly enhance the overall quality of life.

Here's a summary of the benefits of weighted blankets:

  • Provides deep pressure touch stimulation
  • Promotes relaxation and regulates mood
  • Improves feelings of safety and security
  • Assists in managing sensory processing difficulties
  • Reduces anxiety and promotes better sleep

Understanding these benefits is the first step in the process of making a weighted blanket for autism. With this knowledge, one can better appreciate the potential positive impact this simple tool can have on the lives of those with autism.

Weighted Blankets and Autism

Exploring the concept of weighted blankets and their use in autism, it's essential to understand their role and necessary precautions to ensure their safe and effective use.

The Role of Weighted Blankets in Autism

Weighted blankets are designed to apply gentle pressure evenly across the body. For individuals with autism, these blankets provide a form of deep pressure touch stimulation, which can have a calming effect. This is especially beneficial for children with autism who may experience sensory overload or have difficulty self-regulating their emotions.

These blankets are typically filled with materials like rice, beans, glass beads, or plastic pellets, providing the necessary weight. The weight of these blankets should approximate 10% of the child's body weight to ensure effectiveness and safety.

Precautions for Using Weighted Blankets

While weighted blankets can offer many potential benefits, it's crucial to use them properly to ensure safety. Therefore, consulting an occupational therapist or an autism specialist beforehand is highly recommended. These professionals can provide guidance on how to use the blanket correctly and determine the appropriate weight for the blanket [1].

The material of the blanket is another critical consideration. Natural fabrics like cotton are generally the best choice for weighted blankets for children with autism. This is because such materials are breathable, which can prevent the child from getting overheated during use.

It's important to note that children with autism who have tactile sensitivities may initially find it challenging to tolerate a weighted blanket. Therefore, it's crucial to introduce the blanket gradually and monitor the child's response to it.

In conclusion, when used correctly, weighted blankets can be a valuable tool for helping children with autism to feel calmer and more secure. However, it's important to take the necessary precautions to ensure that the blanket is safe and comfortable for the child to use.

Designing Your Weighted Blanket

Creating a weighted blanket for autism involves careful consideration of a few important factors. The weight and the type of material used are two crucial aspects that determine the blanket's effectiveness and comfort.

Choosing the Right Weight

The weight of the blanket plays a significant role in achieving the desired calming effect. According to Psych Central, Sleep Foundation, and Autism Parenting Magazine, a weighted blanket should generally be around 10% of the individual's body weight, plus a pound or two for safety and effectiveness.

For children with autism, ADHD, and other sensory disorders, a blanket weighing around 5-10% of their body weight can be beneficial in promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. The weight can be distributed by sewing small pockets filled with materials like plastic pellets, glass beads, or rice throughout the blanket.

To illustrate, for a child weighing around 90 lbs, you would need approximately 9 lbs of filler material to make an effective weighted blanket.

Child's Weight Recommended Blanket Weight
40 lbs 4 - 6 lbs
60 lbs 6 - 8 lbs
80 lbs 8 - 10 lbs
100 lbs 10 - 12 lbs

Before introducing a weighted blanket to a child with autism, always consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist. They can provide guidance on the appropriate weight and usage of the blanket based on the individual's needs and preferences.

Selecting the Material

The material of the weighted blanket is another crucial factor to consider. The blanket should be made from natural fabrics like cotton to prevent the child from getting overheated during use [1].

Cotton is a popular choice due to its softness, breathability, and durability. It is also hypoallergenic, making it suitable for children with sensitive skin or allergies. Other natural fabrics like bamboo or linen can also be considered based on personal preferences.

Remember, the aim is to create a blanket that is not only effective in promoting calm and relaxation but also comfortable and safe for the child to use. Therefore, careful selection of the right weight and material is key in your journey of making a weighted blanket for autism.

Creating Your Weighted Blanket

Constructing a weighted blanket from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but with a straightforward approach and the right materials, it can be a rewarding DIY project. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to assemble and craft your own weighted blanket, specifically tailored for individuals with autism.

Assembling the Materials

To start off, you'll need to gather the necessary materials. This includes fabric, fill material, thread, a sewing machine, and a scale for measuring the fill material.

For the fabric, choose a material that is soft, breathable, and soothing to touch, such as flannel, fleece, or cotton [5].

The fill material is what gives the blanket its weight. Common choices include plastic pellets, glass beads, or rice. Each has its own pros and cons, so it's important to consider individual needs when making a choice. For instance, while plastic pellets are lightweight and inexpensive, glass beads are denser and offer a smoother finish. Rice, on the other hand, is a natural and budget-friendly option, but it's not suitable for machine washing [7].

Material Pros Cons
Plastic Pellets Lightweight, inexpensive Not as dense as glass beads
Glass Beads Denser, smoother finish More expensive
Rice Natural, budget-friendly Not machine washable

Crafting the Blanket

  1. Cut the Fabric: Start by cutting two identical pieces of fabric to your desired blanket size.
  2. Sew the Edges: Place the two pieces of fabric together with the right sides facing each other. Sew around the edges, leaving a small opening for turning the fabric right side out.
  3. Turn and Press: Turn the fabric right side out and press it flat with an iron.
  4. Sew the Pockets: Sew vertical lines down the blanket to create a grid of pockets. These pockets will hold the fill material and ensure even weight distribution.
  5. Weigh and Fill: Use a scale to measure the correct amount of fill material for each pocket, following the formula 10% of the individual's body weight plus 1 or 2 pounds [5]. Fill each pocket with the measured amount of fill material.
  6. Seal the Pockets: Once all the pockets are filled, sew horizontal lines to seal the pockets.
  7. Close the Opening: Finally, sew the opening closed.

And there you have it - your very own DIY weighted blanket, specifically designed for individuals with autism. Remember, patience and precision are key in this process. Take your time to ensure each step is done correctly, and soon you'll have a weighted blanket that not only offers comfort and relaxation, but also the achievement of having made it yourself.

Introducing the Weighted Blanket

Once you've completed your handmade weighted blanket, the next step is to introduce it to the person with autism. This process involves initial exposure and establishing routine use.

Initial Exposure

Introducing a weighted blanket to an individual with autism should be done gradually, especially for children who have tactile sensitivities [1]. Initially, the blanket can be placed over the individual's legs or draped across their shoulders for short periods of time. This allows them to become accustomed to the weight and texture of the blanket.

It's vital to observe their reactions closely during this initial exposure. If they appear uncomfortable or distressed, remove the blanket and try again at a later time. Reassuring them that the blanket is safe and explaining its purpose can also help alleviate any initial apprehension.

Remember, the primary goal is to ensure that the individual feels comfortable and safe with the weighted blanket. Consulting an occupational therapist or an autism specialist is recommended before using weighted blankets for children with autism to ensure proper and safe use [1].

Establishing Routine Use

Once the individual has become comfortable with the weighted blanket, it can be incorporated into their daily routine. Weighted blankets can be used during various activities, such as bedtime, relaxation, or therapy sessions, to provide calming sensory input for individuals with autism. They can also be beneficial during times of sensory overload or anxiety [3].

It's essential to consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist before introducing a weighted blanket to a child with autism. They can provide guidance on the appropriate weight and usage of the blanket based on the individual's needs and preferences. Furthermore, weighted blankets should be used under adult supervision, especially for children or individuals with health conditions, to ensure safety and effectiveness [4].

By introducing the weighted blanket gradually and incorporating it into the individual's daily routine, you can help them reap the therapeutic benefits of this tool. Always remember that each person with autism is unique, and their response to the weighted blanket will vary. Be patient, supportive, and open to adjustments as necessary.

Potential Impact on Sleep Quality

Given the significant role that sleep plays in maintaining overall health and well-being, addressing sleep disturbances is crucial, especially for individuals with autism. In this context, weighted blankets can emerge as a potentially beneficial intervention strategy.

Improving Sleep Patterns

Sleep patterns among individuals with autism can often be impaired, including shortened sleep duration, later bedtimes, earlier risings, and frequent wakings [8]. It's estimated that 44% to 83% of individuals (adults and children) with autism experience such sleep disturbances.

In this scenario, weighted blankets can offer a potential solution. These blankets are used as an intervention strategy to improve sleep in children with autism who have sleep impairments. However, it's important to note that studies have demonstrated minimal improvement in sleep quality measures, such as time to fall asleep and total amount of sleep, with the use of weighted blankets in children with autism.

Addressing Sleep Disturbances

Despite the limited evidence on the improvement of sleep quality measures, weighted blankets can offer other benefits that indirectly contribute to enhancing sleep quality. For instance, weighted blankets have been shown to provide a calming effect on the body and mind by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation for individuals with autism [7]. This is particularly beneficial for those who struggle with sensory overload and anxiety, common issues in individuals with autism.

By creating a sense of calm and safety, weighted blankets can help individuals with autism transition more easily into sleep, reducing the instances of sleep disturbances. Moreover, the gentle pressure of the weighted blanket can mimic the feeling of being held or hugged, which can further provide comfort and security, possibly leading to a more peaceful sleep.

While the results of using weighted blankets may vary from person to person, it is an option worth considering in the quest for improving sleep quality in individuals with autism. As always, any change in routine or introduction of new tools should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals to ensure the safety and well-being of the individual.

References

[1]: https://psychcentral.com/autism/weighted-blankets-and-autism

[2]: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/best-weighted-blankets/weighted-blanket-weight-chart

[3]: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/weighted-blankets-autism/

[4]: https://www.goldencaretherapy.com/weighted-blankets-for-autism/

[5]: https://www.cnet.com/health/sleep/how-to-make-your-own-weighted-blanket/

[6]: https://ilovemykidsblog.net/2013/09/tutorial-to-make-a-weighted-blanket-diy-can-help-people-with-autism.html

[7]: https://www.thetreetop.com/aba-therapy/weighted-blankets-for-autism

[8]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7823442/

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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