Weighted Blankets: What is a Weighted Blanket and Why does Deep Pressure help my Child?
This post contains information regarding the benefits of weighted blankets and how it can help emotional regulation. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
Whenever I think of weighted blankets for our students who have sensory issues, a little humor comes to mind as I’m reminded of a quote in the movie Mr. Mom. When Jack is trying to encourage his son to give up his “woobie” blanket, he says, “I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they’re great…and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon a woobie isn’t enough. You’re out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you’re strung out on beadspreads.”
While sensory issues and other learning challenges are no laughing matter, if you have a child who uses or benefits from a weighted blanket, you may find a little humor in that quote like I did. Oftentimes weighted blankets provide a lot of comfort and emotional grounding for children who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Asperger’s and other learning challenges that create emotional instability.
Unlike Jack, as parents with sensory children, we know that if our child struggles with emotional outbursts, meltdowns, is scared or often gets overwhelmed in large crowds or uncomfortable situations, a weighted blanket can be just the medicine to help calm our child and provide them with the emotional grounding they need. That is why you may often see sensory seekers carrying around special items, blankets or stuffed animals to provide them with that extra needed security.
As a reminder, many children who don’t have learning challenges carry around special items as well, but eventually they grow out of this stage as part of their normal development and can function without a blanket or stuffed animal. Children with sensory issues or other learning challenges may need these special items throughout their school years and into adulthood.
Why are weighted blankets important?
Now why is it that weighted blankets are so important and how do they help stabilize my child’s emotions?
First off, if your child has learning challenges and often struggles with their emotions, it’s usually due to an overstimulated nervous system that causes an emotional reaction. Because research has shown deep pressure and tactile stimulation releases serotonin, a chemical in the brain that works as a neurotransmitter, a weighted blanket serves as a way to regulate a child’s mood, sleep and sensory stimulation. Our sensory seekers tend to gravitate to weighted blankets because they need the tactile sensation to regulate their mind and body.
Firm pressure applied by a weighted blanket for longer periods of time can calm the mind and have a soothing effect on children. That is why so many parents use these blankets for bedtime because it helps their child sleep better, which we know can be a nightmare if a child is bothered by the slightest noise, light or texture of bed sheets.
What to look for in a weighted blanket
Weighted blankets contain small weights sewn into the material, which are evenly distributed throughout. You typically want to find a weighted blanket that is equal to 10 percent your child’s body weight. The great thing about weighted blankets is you can generally add or remove weight depending on the child’s needs and how much pressure they find most comfortable.
Things to remember with weighted blankets
If you are planning to get your child a weighted blanket, like the one you see here, there are a few things to remember and to explain to your child before you introduce it to them. Here are a few suggestions.
Use only when needed or for bedtime
Some therapists recommend using the blanket sparingly. You don’t want your child to get so accustomed to the blanket that they can’t function without it. Its primary goal is to help during times of emotional restlessness. However, each child is different and you know what their triggers are and how to use the blanket based on behaviors you are trying to improve. If the weighted blanket is used too often, its effectiveness may wear off and you may no longer notice the benefits.
Explain what a weighted blanket is
When your weighted blanket arrives, you will want to explain to your child what it is so they aren’t nervous or scared they might get trapped under it. Show your child that the weighted blanket is completely safe and describe how it will help calm them with they are anxious or scared.
How to use the weighted blanket
You will want to avoid putting the weighted blanket over your child’s face and head, although, our sensory seekers tend to like the sensation of being fully buried under weighted items. If this is the case, just make sure an adult is around to supervise.
Lay the blanket so it covers their body from their neck to their feet. Feel free to tuck your child in tight. Where some children may feel claustrophobic, our sensory kids tend to love the sensation of being “hugged” by a weighted blanket. You can also lay it across their lap or legs if they are doing their homework or watching TV.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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