Weighted blankets are a sensory tool used by occupational therapists to help manage emotional and physical regulation. The use of deep pressure releases a neurotransmitter called serotonin into the body, causing a calming effect. It can help with anxiety, increased emotions such as excitement, anger, etc., improve sleep, and lowering stress such as blood pressure and pulse for all ages. Most common diagnoses that utilize a weighted blanket include Autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, and developmental delay (V, 2020).
These blankets are made from either glass beads or poly-pellets with various fabrics to either increase sensory input or for extra weight. You can use the blankets either sitting or standing, during playtime activities by rolling up in a ‘burrito’, draping over shoulders, or during your nighttime routine to settle down. Everyone is different, so let your child explore what way they prefer the input (Ford-Lanza, 2019).
When determining the appropriate weight for a weighted blanket, it is recommended to multiply the body weight by 10% then add 1-2lbs. So, if a child is 50lbs, use between a 5-7lb blanket. The weight must be heavy enough to provide the deep pressure needed for regulation, but not so heavy that causes safety concerns during sleep. It is recommended that anyone under the age of 3 should not use a weighted blanket due to increased harm and suffocation (Eron et al,2020).
There are places that you can purchase a weighted blanket, which prices can range from $40-$100+ from Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
If you do not have the funds, there is a donation-based website that requires an application and has no specific costs:
http://www.sharingtheweight.org/ (currently not accepting due to COVID)
For those who are crafty, you can make your own. You can either use a sewing machine, duct tape or create a tie blanket. Below are some patterns and resources on how to make your own weighted blanket:
Ford-Lanza, A. (2019, June 06). What is Weighted Blanket Therapy? Retrieved January 03, 2021, from https://harkla.co/blogs/special-needs/weighted-blanket-therapy
Kathryn Eron, Lindsey Kohnert, Ashlie Watters, Christina Logan, Melissa Weisner Rose, Philip S. Mehler; (2020, April 30) Weighted Blanket Use: A Systematic Review. Am J Occup Ther 2020;74(2):7402205010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.037358
V. (2020, December 19). The Use Of Weighted Vests In Pediatric Occupational Therapy Practice: Where Did The 10% Of Body Weight Rule Come From For Weighted Blankets? Retrieved January 03, 2021, from https://truhugs.com/research-science/do-weighted-blankets-work-occupational-therapy-vests/