Weighted vests are often recommended for children with autism. Usually they are recommended by a therapist to help a child focus in the classroom or calm down and sometimes to help with stereotypical behaviors, or stimming. Below are the answers to the most common questions our customers ask us about weighted vests.
How much weight should the vest have?
While there are no studies on how much weight a vest should have, most therapists recommend anywhere from five to ten percent of a person's body weight. This recommendation is based on studies on maximum weight allowances for backpacks. Too much weight can result in over-stimulation and/or injury.
How long should a child with autism wear it?
Some therapists recommend as little as fifteen minutes while others encourage wearing them throughout the academic time in class. The positive benefits of a weighted vest usually happen while the child is wearing the vest. However, in cases where it is calming, often it can be taken off and the child will remain calm.
Do all children with autism need one?
You should only use a weighted vest with a child when you are attempting to help them focus or calm down. They do not help all children because they can be uncomfortable and distracting for some. Pay attention when introducing one, especially if the child has significant communication challenges. Discontinue use if you see no benefit or it causes any distress.
Do weighted vests decrease "stimming" or stereotypical behaviors?
There is almost no research on whether or not weighted vests decrease stereotypical behaviors in children with autism. Therapists report observing some children decrease "stimming" behavior while wearing one. However, there is little if any research on this topic.
What kind of therapy is a weighted vest?
They fall under the umbrella of Sensory Integration therapy. Sensory Integration therapy is usually performed by an Occupational Therapist trained in sensory integration. These therapists believe that inattentiveness and stereotypical behaviors are caused by over- or under-sensitivity to sensory input. Wearing one provides deep pressure sensory input that helps with sensory difficulties.
Can I make a weighted vest?
For those who don't sew, start by shopping at a thrift store or sporting goods store for a small fishing vest. If you sew, you can modify a vest by adding pockets either inside or outside the vest for weights. Next add weight to the pockets with bean bags or modeling clay. Remember to remove the weights before washing.
Please remember to consult with a therapist to make sure you add the appropriate amount of weight.