How do weighted blankets help with autism?

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Many products are now created to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sleep soundly. Learn how weighted blankets help with autism

The world has been gaining awareness about psychology and the realm of mental illnesses year after another. There are a lot of talks, movies, tv-shows, songs, and online posts that enlighten the public about different kinds of disorders and how people cope with them. This awareness has led to a lot of changes in our world. Today, people are more aware, accepting, and understanding, and there are a lot of products dedicated to helping.

Many products are now created to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sleep more soundly. And surprisingly, the highest in-demand product is not a drug, nor is it ingested. It’s as simple as a weighted blanket. 

Many products are now created to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sleep soundly. Learn how weighted blankets help with autism

How do weighted blankets help with autism? 

Initially, this innovative product was designed to help ASD kids sleep better; however, the more researchers looked into the effects of it, the more benefits they found. Initially, weighted blankets, on the outside, might look like they were created as a sleeping aid, but in reality, they help in a lot of other aspects. These blankets, which have become a phenomenon, are being used to help with anxiety, restlessness syndrome, as well as insomnia for children and adults alike. 

How do they work?

Blankets are designed to keep us warm, so how can one type of blanket do so much more than just maintaining warmth? To understand how these blankets can help kids with ASD, we need to understand first what they are made of and how they work.

As the name implies, these blankets are somewhat heavier than your average blanket. They are usually made from different fabrics and are stuffed with different materials, but they all have the same function and lead to the same results. Some blankets are made from pure cotton, and others use Minky dot fabric. 

Harkla Weighted Blanket with Minky Pattern

Size & Weight

There is no one right fabric for these kinds of blankets so that you can pick from a wide variety. Just make sure you include your kid in the picking process since the blanket will be for them. The same thing goes for the stuffing, too. Some companies use poly-pellets, rice, PP cotton, or glass beads. The only thing that you need to take note of is that the blanket should weigh 10% of your child’s body weight. So, the best thing to do is to know your kid’s weight and weigh the blanket before purchasing it.

So, how does a heavy blanket help your child? Well, the answer is simple. It’s like a hug for them. Kids with ASD are prone to feeling overwhelmed and restless, which is why their pressure receptors need to feel a soft kind of pressure so it can calm down. 

When we feel uneasy, our fight or flight response is activated, and it makes us feel anxious and nervous. So, these blankets act as a calming, soothing sensation that the kids can continuously feel at sleep time. They increase melatonin and help relax the nervous system. These blankets give the same effects as a hug, and that’s the whole point of them.

Why are they important?

If anyone were to describe what these covers are made from and how they feel, the first word they would likely choose to describe it would be comfortable. There are a lot of people with different kinds of mental illnesses that need weighted covers to fall asleep because it makes them feel safe and contained. Some people can’t sleep unless they are completely tucked in. But, with these blankets, you don’t need to be tucked in because it will feel like you are.

These covers can easily get overlooked; in fact, some think that they are a scam. When, in reality, they are considered to be beneficial and soothing. These blankets also help your child to associate sleeping with comfort rather than fear and anxiousness. Sleeping is vital for our health, especially for kids. So, if your kid is restless and can’t sleep, you might want to consider buying this product for your child’s sake.

The benefits of a weighted blanket  

Two boys underweighted Blanket by Harkla

Mood booster

As mentioned before, these blankets are created for anyone who has trouble sleeping at night, including kids with ASD. A lot of people might not know this, but these blankets are a mood booster. They help the body release serotonin, the happy hormone, and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by using only pressure. They also help kids with ASD transition smoothly. 

Manages energy and increases focus 

Sometimes, kids find it challenging to transition from one energy level to another. So, if your kid just finished playing and needs to go to sleep, they might find it difficult to do so. This is why a heavy blanket can help them go from a high energy level to a calmer one. These products also help kids focus better. Another benefit of deep pressure therapy is that it reduces fidgeting, meaning, the more your child undergoes the deep pressure therapy that the covers provide, the more likely they are to stop fidgeting in class and focus more.

Little boy playing with wooden truck under a weighted blanket by Harkla

Being hugged 

There are a lot of kids with ASD who cannot handle a hug from a loved one because they mostly prefer a firm, tight sensation without physical contact. This is exactly what the blankets provide. They are firm and heavy enough to replicate the feeling of being hugged, which significantly reduces their separation anxiety disorder and general anxiety. 

Aids sensory receptors 

Some children on the autism spectrum might also suffer from sensory processing disorder, which can sometimes make them unaware of their bodies because they struggle to receive information through their senses. And because these blankets add pressure on their sensory receptors, they can easily tell where their bodies end and whether they need to adjust their limbs or not.

Happy little boy under a weighted blanket by Harkla

How weighted blankets help with autism

The bottom line is: weighted blankets are super helpful for your children, and are vital for their development and performance. Not only do these products help them sleep at night. They also calm down their nervous system by adding pressure to the right receptors. They also help kids focus more, feel happy, and be at ease. 

Your children will most certainly love their blankets for their calming effects. However, you do need to remember to include your child in the picking process. You need to make sure that they are comfortable with the fabric; otherwise, they won’t be okay with sleeping under it.  

TheMomKind

Alicia Trautwein is an autism parenting coach living in Missouri. She is the creator behind The Mom Kind, a website dedicated to parenting neurodiverse families.  She is featured in the "Amazing Moms" coffee table book by Hogan Hilling & Dr. Elise Ho.  She shares her expertise along with her experience in parenting children, both with and without autism.

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