For parents of children with autism or ADHD, each day can present new struggles for calming their children during a tantrum or meltdown. While they are not used much even today, weighted or pressure vests are tools, in addition to weighted blankets, that have a calming effect on children with disabilities.
Very few scientific studies have investigated the usefulness of pressure vests, but testimony from those that use the vests is positive.
Weighted vests can be used for children with autism, ADHD, sensory integration disorders, or neurological disorders. Sensory Goods is a company that makes affordable weighted products, and each of their pressure vests has eight pockets with sewn-in weights. Made from neoprene, which is a synthetic material, these vests are durable, although they are not recommended to be worn on bare skin.
Most manufacturers and caregivers who use weighted vests suggest that children should wear the vest in 20-minute intervals, so for every 20 minutes the child wears the vest, he should take it off for 20 minutes.
While the field of pressure vests still lacks a great deal of scientific proof, many children who are easily distracted, hyperactive, or lack concentration benefit from the use of weighted vests.
How Do Pressure Vests Work?
Pressure vests provide proprioceptive feedback to a child with a sensory processing disorder. Proprioceptors are sensors that aid in a child’s sensation of gravity and body movement, and proper functioning of these sensors is essential for accurate and appropriate movements. Motor control, rhythmic movement, limb position, and correcting motor errors are all basic functions with some control from proprioceptors. Weighted vests provide proprioceptive feedback and stability. By providing constant and deep pressure, these vests help increase body awareness, improve balance, and provide sensory feedback. The pressure from the vest also helps decrease the child’s response to the stimulus causing frustration or anxiety, which allows the child to calm down.
Most children love wearing the vest because of the sensation it provides. Children who love hugging or squishing behaviors or who exhibit actions such as jumping, restlessness, or disorganization often benefit from pressure vests. Most children who utilize the pressure vest will advance in their therapy sessions, and their concentration will also improve.
Weighted vests can be worn during gross motor activities or other general at-home activities. Sensory Goods makes pressure vests in child and adult sizes.
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