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Weighted Items and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Weighted vest

Weighted items are any items (such as blankets or vests) which have been made heavier by adding small weights. Those weights can either be stitched into the fabric or put into specially designed pockets.

Weighted items can be bought from specialist suppliers, bought second hand or made at home. 

Some people believe that specially weighted items can help children on the autism spectrum cope better with a wide range of problems, such as poor motor skills, hyperactivity and sleeplessness.

They believe that the pressure of the weights helps to calm autistic children by changing how they process sensory information and by allowing them to better feel their movements and understand where their bodies are in space.   

Our Opinion

There is a very small amount of high quality research evidence (one large controlled trial and one small controlled trial) and a small amount of low quality research (nine single-case design studies with three or more participants) into the use of weighted items for children and young people on the autism spectrum.

There is insufficient evidence to determine if weighted items provide any benefits to children and young people on the autism spectrum. There is no evidence to determine if weighted items provide any benefits to adults on the autism spectrum. 

There is a need for more research into weighted items which uses scientifically robust, experimental methodologies with larger numbers of more diverse participants. That research should investigate whether weighted items are more or less effective than other interventions designed to help with sensory issues (such as physical exercise) and whether specific individuals are more likely to benefit from weighted items than other individuals.

There is also a need for a set of agreed protocols on how weighted items should be used, for example, how much they should weigh, how long they should be used and under what circumstances.

Disclaimer

Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions

Updated
12 Jun 2018
Last Review
31 May 2018
Next Review
31 May 2021