Weighted Blanket for Kids: A gravity blanket, or weighted blanket as it is more commonly known, is a common tool used in many psychiatry and therapy clinics but has now become available in the mainstream market for those who wish to take advantage of the numerous benefits associated with it.
Weighted blankets, as the name suggests, are heavy blankets that are weighed down by glass beads, and other types of fillers, to promote deep touch pressure. Deep pressure can calm one’s arousal levels through self-regulation. Deep pressure stimulation is known to produce more dopamine as well as serotonin in the body, which help people feel calm and more relaxed. There is some research showing that the weight felt on the body, as well as gentle touch, can help stimulate certain parts of the limbic system, which is responsible for regulating fear and emotion. Also, those who have sensory processing disorders tend to be hypersensitive to touch, and it seems that the use of weighted blankets can desensitize them.
There are several reasons why parents are turning to weighted blanket for kids, especially for those who have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder or autism even. This is because of the deep touch pressure (DTP) that this blanket provides their children. Here are some reasons why getting weighted blankets for children should be considered.
Weighted blankets have been promoted to help reduce anxiety because of its deep touch pressure. For kids who are feeling anxious at night, in a new setting, or even in the classroom, having a weighted pad or blanket may help. Children who are diagnosed with autism may use weighted blankets to help them get a good night’s sleep. Even kids who have insomnia may benefit from this blanket because the weight makes them feel secure.
Parents and teachers are aware that getting kids with autism to move from one activity to the next can be a challenge because of their overexcitement. There are schools that implement the use of weighted blankets for children with special needs in order to help them to focus on the next task.
Children who are diagnosed with sensory issues are likely to experience sensory overload, which can lead to meltdowns when not addressed quickly. You’re probably wondering what these disorders are and how a weighted blanket can potentially help. Here are a few that are worth mentioning.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects millions of children globally, with many carrying this disorder into their adulthood. ADHD is described as a condition that is typically characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, or even a combination of these symptoms. Parents who have kids with ADHD find that using a weighted blanket as a tool can help them to self-soothe. This is especially true when children with ADHD throw tantrums or when they are exposed to sensory overload. The weight of the pellets or glass beads sewn in the blanket or vest can provide deep pressure soothing relief.
Autism is a developmental disorder with a wide range of symptoms characterized by repetitive behaviors, nonverbal communication, challenges with social skills, and the like; hence it is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Although not all children with autism have sensory processing disorder, for those who do, some parents find that using weighted blankets as a tool can help kids with their sensory input. This is because the weight from the blanket on their body teaches them more awareness. Not only that, but a weighted blanket for kids may help them to sleep on their own since the deep touch pressure mimics being hugged to sleep by their parents.
Children may also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at a young age, which can affect their ability to communicate with others. PTSD can trigger severe episodes of anxiety or manifest as behavioral issues in children. That said, it appears that the deep touch pressure provided by the weighted blanket may help alleviate the symptoms of their anxiety disorder as the weight of the blanket can reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to help make them feel calm.
For a parent who has a child with sensory issues, an ordinary child’s blanket may not be enough to help them fall asleep and stay asleep easily. That said, your child’s therapist may have recommended the use of weighted blankets to calm your child when they are on the brink of a meltdown. The question now is, which weighted blanket should you go for?
There are several factors that you need to take into consideration when buying a weighted blanket, such as:
Weighted blankets are made from different types of fabric, from soft cotton to satin-cotton blends to flannel and beyond. If your child tends to sleep hot, consider a breathable fabric like cotton versus flannel.
Another factor to consider when shopping for a weighted blanket is the type of filler that is used. More often than note, steel shot beads, poly-pellets, and glass beads are frequently used for weighted blankets. Opt for an eco-friendly non-toxic filler for your child.
In order for a weighted blanket to be effective, the weight of the beads should be evenly distributed to deliver deep touch pressure. If the weight shifts to one side, your child is not getting even pressure throughout their body. This problem is usually preventable by choosing a blanket with individually stitched pockets to retain the fillers. This way, you won’t have to worry about the glass beads or poly pellets from running to one side or falling the other way as your child moves in their sleep.
What else should you consider when shopping for a weighted blanket for your child? It is also a good idea to consider whether the fabric is machine washable or not because you will need to clean the blanket at one point. Make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean their weighted blanket to avoid damaging it.
Weighted blankets range anywhere from 5 to 30 pounds. The weight of the blanket is critical because you don’t want your child to find the blanket to be too restrictive. The usual method of determining the weight of the blanket is 10 percent of the overall body weight plus a pound or two. However, some kids crave more pressure. According to the National Autism Resources, the appropriate amount of weight may even be closer to 20 percent.
However, the following guidelines will generally work for most kids:
|Child’s Weight||Age||Weighted Blanket|
|22 – 35 lbs||3||5 pounds|
|36 – 45 lbs||4-5||8 pounds|
|46 – 70 lbs||6-10||12 pounds|
|71 – 140 lbs||11-15||16 pounds|
|141 and up||16 and up||25 pounds|
Although there might be potential benefits associated with weighted blankets for kids, from helping them sleep better at night and reducing their nightmares, to minimizing the effects of post traumatic stress (and even helping to soothe them when they become hyperactive) there are still a few precautions to keep in mind.
1. Children should be able to remove them on their own. If you are planning on letting your child use a weighted blanket when they sleep, see to it that they can remove the blanket on their own. Their head and neck must not be covered by the blanket at all.
2. Never use on babies. Never use a weighted blanket on your child if they are two years old or below. They will not have the capacity as well as the motor skills to move the blanket on their own, which can increase their risk from harm. Also, consider the size of your child, even if your child is over the age of two.
3. Get your child’s consent. Never use the weighted blanket on your child without their permission. They should be the ones who will try the blanket on. You don’t want your child to be scared of the blanket, especially when it can help them with their sensory processing disorders or anxiety disorders even.
4. Do not let your child use an adult weighted blanket. It’s true that there are weighted blankets for adults, and if you are using one yourself, make sure that your little one will not have access to it. It can pose a danger to your child if they are not the appropriate weight to withstand the heft of an adult blanket.
5. Never use as a restraint. There are times when children can be too hyperactive but restraining them with a weighted blanket is never a good idea as it is dangerous.
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