Weighted blankets have become mainstream products embraced by all. This has made it popular over time. However, the main question that patients with autism ask themselves is, are there any best weighted blankets for autism?
But before we answer the question, perhaps the first thing that we need to ask is, what is autism?
What is Autism?
Autism is a complicated condition that includes problems in social, language, and communication skills.
The developmental disorder that is characterized by repetitive patterns of behaviors and thoughts varies in severity. Patients suffering from this disorder are generally said to be in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
With the autistic people, their sensory issues appear like ‘traffic jam’ within the brain. The ‘traffic jam’ interferes with the signals from the brain by clogging and jumbling them up in the sensory nerves. The resultant effect is anxiety and emotional meltdowns.
Autism affects young children the most because they are unable to verbalize their problems and feelings effectively. The emotional maturity that can handle the anxiety is also lacking in children.
There are millions of brilliant and creative people living a fulfilling life today and have been diagnosed with autism. Most of these individuals are contributing enormously to society, science, education, and arts.
Some of the world’s most renown individuals who live in the autism spectrum include:
- Bill Gates – Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation
- Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
- Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, and Physicist
- Albert Einstein – Scientist and mathematician
- Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
- Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist and the pioneer of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) Therapy
- Hans Christian Anderson – Children’s Author
- Emily Dickenson – Poet
- Daryl Hannah – Actress and Environmental Activist
- Andy Warhol – Artist
- Dan Aykroyd – Comedic Actor
- Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian
These are a few of them. Anyone in the autism spectrum should be assured that they are not alone.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism
The symptoms of autism appear before a child is 3 years old. On rare occasions, the signs appear from birth.
The common symptoms of autism include:
- Inability to maintain eye contact
- Showing little or no interest in some topics and having intense interests in other topics
- Doing things repeatedly. This can include the repetition of words and phrases or rocking back and forth.
- Showing hypersensitivity to normal sounds, touches, smells, and sights.
- Lack of concentration to other people as they talk
- Failure to look at things that are being pointed to by other people
- Lack of interest in cuddling or being firmly held
- Difficulty in understanding the use of speech, gestures, facial expressions, or tone variation.
- The use of sing-song, flat, or robotic voice
- Lack of flexibility or adaptability to changes in routine
Frequent seizures might begin to show up in autistic children at adolescence.
Is There a Difference in Autism in Adults Compared to Children?
Autism is more prevalent in children than in adults. This is because children lack the mental strength to withstand the symptoms and they hardly recognize that they are suffering from autism.
During our childhood, we would have speech difficulties back in school and immediate intervention was necessary. Autism interventions are best introduced at a young age to enable children to grow with confidence.
Luckily, autism is much more mainstream today. Teachers, doctors, and parents can easily notice the signs.
With children, pediatricians routinely perform well-baby and well-child checks. That’s a huge difference from my time as a child.
A decade or two ago, you had to have a near-death experience to get your parents’ attention and a subsequent appointment with a doctor.
Back in school, children who don’t meet developmental milestones are flagged and given special attention.
Adult patients with autism may undergo different diagnosis from what a pediatrician would do to a child patient.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
There are several types of disorders that fall in the autism spectrum disorders that were initially thought to be separate. These disorders include:
Asperger’s Syndrome – the children who experience this disorder don’t have difficulty with language. These children score average or above-average in intelligence tests. However, these children have social problems and a narrow scope of interest.
Autistic disorder – this is what rings in people’s minds when they hear the word ‘autism’. This condition is common in children under the age of 3 years. They experience problems with social interactions, communication, and play.
Childhood disintegrative disorder – children begin by experiencing typical development for at least 2 years. After that, they lose some or most of their communication and social skills.
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or atypical autism) – this term is used by doctors to describe children that show autistic behaviors like delay in communication and social skills, but they don’t fit in any of the autism group.
Causes and Risk Factors of Autism
It is not clear what causes autism. However, there is a likelihood of many causes for multiple types of autism. Many factors make a child highly likely to have autism which ranges from environmental, biological, and genetic.
- Genes are one of the leading risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing ASD.
- Children who have siblings in the autism spectrum are at a high risk of having autism
- Certain genetic or chromosomal conditions increase the chances of having autism. These include fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.
- Pregnant women who take certain prescription drugs such as valproic acid and thalidomide are highly vulnerable to ASD.
- Some evidence points to periods before, during, and immediately after birth as critical periods to developing ASD.
- Children born by older parents are at high risk of having ASD.
Currently, there is no cure for autism. Research has however shown that early interventions can improve a child’s development. Early intervention services enable children from birth to 36 months to learn important skills.
Talk to your pediatrician as early as possible if you notice any autistic symptoms in your child.
Occupational Therapists use massage and deep touch therapy to manage patients in the autism spectrum disorder. Deep touch pressure (DTP) therapy has proved to be effective and worthwhile for occupational therapists over time.
A weighted blanket is the most valuable tool that is effective for recreating massage and deep touch therapy. The weighted blanket has been used in the treatment of autism, the reason for its overnight fame.
In the subsequent section, we will look at how a weighted blanket helps with autism and give a list of the best weighted blankets for autism.
What Is an Autism Weighted Blanket?
Before we look at the comprehensive list of the best weighted blankets for autism, we should first discuss what an autism weighted blanket is.
Occupation Therapists and other medical specialists who treat autism use weighted blankets, weighted vests, weighted lap pads, and similar tools as their main therapeutic tool.
Weighted blankets have been designed with an extra weight sewn into its fabric to make it heavier than a normal blanket.
Micro glass beads and plastic poly pellets are used as filler materials to provide the extra weight. These filler materials are fastened by microfiber that is stitched to form pockets that hold the filler material in place.
The weight of a weighted blanket is about 10 percent of the user’s body weight. This is as per the recommendations of the manufacturers, however, the weight should be comfortable to the user.
Since its invention, the weighted blanket has been closely associated with autism. However, it is also known to help ease the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, and insomnia among other conditions. Here is a list of health benefits of weighted blankets.
How do Weighted Blankets Work?
A weighted blanket uses its weight to apply pressure on the body that provides tactile input to the body’s sensory nerves. The type of pressure is consistent with a therapy used by Occupational Therapists called the deep touch pressure (DTP) stimulation.
Therapists apply firm but gentle pressure on the body or squeeze various parts of the body to perform DTP. The therapists use their hands, rolling tools, or weights to achieve their objective of applying deep touch stimulation.
Perhaps the invention of a weighted blanket, weighted vests, and weighted lap pads was a dream come true for the therapists.
Dr. Temple Grandin was the proponent and advocate for deep touch pressure therapy. Her experiences through autism and the observation of animals being squeeze to calm them down during vaccine administration led her to develop a human “squeeze machine” for people with autism.
Dr. Grandin observed that the gentle squeezing and hugging made people with autism to relax and calm down.
The invention of weighted blankets has made it possible to experience deep touch pressure stimulation at home without the intervention of an Occupational Therapist. Many people who use a weighted blanket describe their experience as “amazing” and “magic”.
You just need to identify one of the best weighted blankets for autism and your nights will change forever.
The Benefits of a Weighted Blanket for Children With Autism
Weighted blankets play an important role in enabling children with autism to get quality sleep. A weighted blanket is a tool that every autistic child should strive to acquire for their lives to go back to normal. The benefits range from boosting serotonin level, reducing anxiety, and improving focus at school. These are discussed in detail below.
1. Get More Restful Sleep
Weighted blankets help boost the levels of serotonin hormone in the body. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy in Mental Health shows that more than three-quarters of the participants preferred sleeping with a weighted blanket.
The presence of serotonin in the body regulates sleep. Low levels of serotonin hormone result in restless sleep or insomnia. A weighted blanket exerts pressure on the body stimulating the sensory nerves to release serotonin hormone, hence leading to more restorative sleep.
2. Reduce Anxiety
A weighted blanket also helps in easing the symptoms of anxiety. Studies show that children with autism may experience co-occurring disorders such as anxiety.
Anxiety stricken children find it hard falling asleep and remaining asleep for long. This affects the quality of sleep that they get hence affecting their productivity.
The use of weighted blankets at night will enable them to calm down hence managing their anxiety. With less anxiety, they can fall asleep faster and deeper.
3. Improve Focus at School
Children with autism may inhibit problems with concentration and attention to detail. These children find it hard to stay on one task for long or complete it.
A study showed that children who a weighted vest in the classroom had higher concentration and higher task completion rates.
Wearing a weighted vest or using a weighted blanket in class is effective by enabling children to have more concentration.
4. Reduce the Frequency of Meltdowns
People with autism occasionally have meltdowns. However, this is normally confused with temper tantrums by people unfamiliar with autism. These occasional meltdowns are not bad behavior but rather a response to overwhelming stimuli.
Children with autism can be disruptive. Their disruptive behavior can be linked to sensory issues and difficulties in dealing with different settings. The bewilderment can be a result of lights, darkness, unusual noises, smells, queues, crowds, unfamiliar places, and people.
A weighted blanket can be used to help an overwhelmed child feel calmer and secure.
5. Stimulates production of serotonin and melatonin hormones
Weighted blankets stimulate the body to produce the serotonin hormone. The presence of serotonin hormone stimulates the production of melatonin in large quantities. The melatonin hormone is responsible for falling asleep faster and deeper. Autistic children need these hormones in large quantities because of finding it difficult to fall asleep on their own.
6. Stimulates the production of oxytocin hormone
Autism is a developmental disorder that includes problems in social, language, and communication skills. These problems can be overwhelming especially for children. This may result in stress and depression.
Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone. Its presence in the body calms it. Children need that calmness especially when they are stress and anxiety stricken.
Feeling good about yourself enables you to overcome any shortcomings. This is important for children facing problems with autism.
7. Inhibits the production of the stress hormone
Stress can come in as a result of the inability to socialize, communicate effectively, or complete a task successfully. This is a daily dose for children with autism.
Stress is caused by the chemical cortisol which is produced in the body. High levels of cortisol increase stress.
With the deep touch pressure stimulation of the weighted blanket, it inhibits the production of cortisol reducing the levels of stress in autistic children.
Factors to Consider While Choosing the Best Weighted Blankets for Autism
Weighted blankets were initially used as a therapy tool for autism. However, more people have discovered its benefits for a deeper sleeper. The weighted blankets have become mainstream.
The popularity of weighted blankets has pushed its demand over the roof. The weighted blanket bandwagon has attracted so many companies, some coming in to make the kill in profits.
The increase in popularity has seen an increase in the number of weighted blankets, some low quality, others using substandard and harmful products, while others offering poorly done weighted blankets.
This is a clear indication that while choosing the best weighted blanket, there are so many things to be considered. These factors are listed below.
1. Durable Fabric
The best weighted blankets for autism should use a durable and non-toxic fabric. The selected weighted blanket should have a clear statement on the fabric used. The recommended fabrics should be washable, durable, and made from materials that do not react with the skin.
The best weighted blankets for autism should be highly breathable. The material used should be able to allow the free flow of air and keep the body warm during winter. Most of the companies use cotton fabric because of its high breathability features. Other fabrics also work depending on the requirements of the users.
3. Easy to Clean and Maintain
It’s a fact that your weighted blanket won’t remain clean for long. This is not us judging you, but hey, what with children and pets around. So, we all agree that at some point, the weighted blanket has to be washed.
A weighted blanket that is hard to wash and keep clean will give you problems with time. It will encourage molds to grow and develop a bad smell.
The weighted blanket should be machine-washable and dryer friendly. This will guarantee that you can keep it clean.
A good way to keep a weighted blanket clean is to get a duvet cover for it. The duvet cover can be removed and washed easily unlike a weighted blanket.
4. Hotness/Coolness of the Blanket
Are you a hot sleeper or a cold sleeper?
Do you want a weighted blanket for winter, summer, or all seasons year-round?
These are the pertinent questions to ask yourself when looking for the best weighted blanket to use for autism.
You do not want to buy a weighted blanket only to put it aside during summer when the temperatures are beyond the roof. The same is also true during winter when it is extremely cold.
A good weighted blanket should be able to adjust to your temperature and keep you cool and dry whenever necessary.
The challenge is that most of the manufacturers will promise you that a weighted blanket will keep you cool but its use will show otherwise. But customer reviews can help you determine the truth before you commit yourself.
Best Weighted Blankets for Kids With Autism
Selecting the best weighted blankets for kids with autism can be a challenge. The main reason is, most of the manufacturers have a one-fit-all weighted blanket that is too heavy for children.
Again, the use of weighted blankets with children is risky and one has to be sure that the child won’t be overwhelmed by the weight.
Most of the weighted blankets available in the market also use materials that can irritate the skin or cause a side effect. These could be the fabric or filler material.
However, there are established companies that have wonderful weighted blankets that provide the best sensation for children with autism. In this section, we will go through some of the best selections we know and we have used them before.
You can also go through our comprehensive list of top-rated weighted blankets on Amazon.
#1 Mosaic Weighted Blanket Kids/Teens, Owl Print
The Mosaic weighted blanket provides a safe and effective non-drug therapy for children seeking a solution for deep sleep and relaxation.
The weighted blanket is the most preferred tool in psychiatric care and used to help children fight anxiety. Occupational Therapists love the Mosaic weighted blanket because of its unique design.
Mosaic’s unique owl pattern print appeal most to children and makes the Mosaic weighted blanket their favorite toy.
You can read our in-depth review of the Mosaic Weighted Blanket.
#2 Harkla Weighted Blanket for Kids
The 5 lbs Harkla weighted blanket is the best for kids weighing between 30 and 40 lbs. The weighted blanket comes with a duvet cover and is great for sensory seekers.
Harkla kids weighted blanket uses cooling bamboo fabric that makes it perfect for use all year round.
With this weighted blanket, your child is guaranteed a sense of calm and a good night’s sleep.
Harkla provides a lifetime guarantee for their meticulously designed weighted blanket. Any dissatisfaction on your end makes the company frown.
The weighted blanket can easily be washed and dried. The accompanying duvet cover makes the weighted blanket maintenance easy.
#3 Mosaic Light Aqua Weighted Blanket
The Light Aqua Mosaic weighted blanket uses a light, pretty, and 100% cotton fabric. This premium material will help your child sleep better, lessen their anxiety, and give them a grounding experience.
Mosaic Light Aqua weighted blankets are quilted in small square pockets to ensure that the weight on the weighted blanket is evenly distributed.
The weighted blanket uses 100% new, BPA-free, hypoallergenic, and FDA compliant plastic poly pellets.
Mosaic has ensured that its weighted blankets are machine-washable and durable.
#4 Sommerfly Sleep Tight Weighted Blanket
Sommerfly’s therapeutic Sleep Tight weighted blanket provides a restful, calm, and comfortable night of sleep. The company has various color options and sizes including Buckskin Tan, Navy Blue Corduroy, and Blue Wave/navy Blue.
The sleep tight weighted blankets come in various evenly distributed weights that range from 5 lbs to 25 lbs.
Sommerfly has an innovative cut out curve at the top that allows the weighted blanket to contour well on the shoulders.
The weighted blankets are filled with non-toxic, BPA-free PET pellets free of Phthalate or Lead.
The pellets are held within uniquely sewn pockets that keep them in place ensuring an evenly distributed weight on the blanket.
#5 Abilitations Fleece Weighted Blanket
Abilitations make products exclusively for special needs children. Abilitations is a popular choice for therapists, schools, and rehabilitation centers. With Abilitations you can also buy unweighted blankets that you can custom-fill. They however sell the weights separately.
#6 Southpaw Weighted Blanket
Southpaw is a specialist in products that help children with sensory-related disorders to calm down. They produce weighted blankets in three and four pounds which are good for smaller users.
Best Cheap Weighted Blankets for Autism
The best weighted blankets for autism come at a cost. This can be a challenge for parents who cannot afford pricey therapeutic tools. However, there is a way out.
You can still get the benefits of the soothing sensory needs at a lower cost than what the rest of the merchants are offering.
This section recommends three weighted blankets that we think can still be beneficial at a lower price.
#1 The Snuggle weighted sheet
With just $40, you can get yourself this effective weighted sheet that gives you the sensation of a weighted blanket.
The snuggle sheet can be used over a normal blanket and it provides a compression that feels like a hug. This way, you get a calm and totally restorative sleep.
Check out prices at Fun and Function.
#2 Weighted washable blanket
This provides one of the cheapest weighted blankets that are easy to wash. It can be used by parents and teachers for kids with autism. Its sewing technology has been made to last.
The filling materials used in this weighted blanket are non-toxic and can easily be washed.
The weight of the blanket is evenly distributed on the blanket with the help of the individually sewn squares.
The price of the weighted washable blanket is available from $82 and comes in different weights and sizes starting from the smallest that is 5 lbs and measures 30 x 40 inches.
Check out this product at National autism resources.
#3 Daytime drape blanket
This weighted blanket starts at $89.99 for a 5 lbs blanket. It is the best weighted blanket for sensory needs and great at promoting sleep.
The weighted blanket is beneficial for people with restless leg syndrome, sensory processing disorder, autism, and ADHD.
The weighted blanket is great for daytime naps or draping over the shoulders during the day. It can be used both at home and at school for autistic children.
Check out prices at Fun and Function.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
1. How heavy should a weighted blanket be?
The weight of a weighted blanket is normally an individual preference. However, as a guideline, the weighted of the weighted blanket should be 10 percent of the body weight. You can add or subtract a couple of pounds from the weight depending on your level of comfort.
2. Can a weighted blanket be too heavy?
Yes, the weighted blanket may become too heavy. This is normally the case for children, the elderly, and the sick. A weighted blanket can also appear heavy during the first time of use. However, after a couple of days, the body adjusts to it and it becomes normal.
A heavy weighted blanket can be risky for children, the elderly, and the sick. Since they are visible weak and unable to throw away a weighted blanket when they are overwhelmed, the weighted blanket may suffocate them.
Allow the children and elderly to use a weighted blanket under strict observance from an adult.
3. What size weighted blanket is right for me?
When comes to the right size of the weighted blanket to use, the frame size determines what your body can take. To be safe, most people recommend weighted blankets based on body weight. The right size and weight are believed to be 10 percent of the body.
Research and experience have shown that an individual can use up to 20 percent of their body weight and still feel comfortable.
Most of the manufacturers often provide a weighted blanket weight chart that can be used by anyone in need of a weighted blanket.
4. Do weighted blankets really work?
According to many customer reviews, the answer is yes. Most parents have reported that their autistic children feel calmer and comfortable at night under a weighted blanket. Others have reported feeling comfortable and their struggles with restless leg syndrome, autism, ADHD, and PTSD have been alleviated with the use of a weighted blanket.
5. How do I choose a weighted blanket?
We agree that choosing the best weighted blanket is never an easy task. However, we have taken the hustle off your back by putting together a comprehensive list of things that you should consider while choosing the best weighted blanket.
6. What are the alternatives to weighted blankets?
It is a fact that some times, affording a weighted blanket may be a tall order. However, we have taken the problems from you by giving you various alternatives to weighted blankets. The list also includes a number of cheap weighted blankets that you can get instead of going for the pricey weighted blankets.
7. Where can I purchase a weighted blanket?
The best weighted blanket for autism can be purchased online from so many merchants. The most common ones are:
List of References
- Data and Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder
- History’s 30 Most Inspiring People on the Autism Spectrum
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parent’s Perspective: Articles: Indiana Resource Center for Autism
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
- Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders
- What causes autism?
- Autism’s sex ratio explained
- Autism spectrum disorder – Symptoms and causes
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket
- Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorders: Articles: Indiana Resource Center for Autism: Indiana University Bloomington
- Why is occupational therapy important for autistic children?
- FACT SHEET: Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach
- 5 Research-Backed Benefits of Weighted Blankets and Vests
- Is My Child with ADHD on the Autism Spectrum?
- Research into our sense of touch leads to new treatments for autism
- Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket