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Weighted Items and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Aims and Claims

Aims

The aim of using weighted items is to apply deep pressure to the body. Some people think that the pressure of the weights helps to calm people with sensory problems by changing how they process sensory information, allowing them to better feel their movements and understand where their bodies are in space. For example, according to Morrison (2007), 

“The use of a weighted vest is based on the sensory integrative frame of reference. It is argued that the weight in the vest provides proprioception (deep pressure), which provides calming input to the central nervous system by promoting the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.”

Some people believe that using weighted items to calm autistic children can in turn help them with a wide range of other problems such as poor motor skills, hyperactivity and sleeplessness etc.

Claims 

There have been various claims made for weighted vests and blankets. For example, 

  • Fertel-Daly et al (2001) claimed that the use of a weighted vest resulted in an increase in attention to task and decrease in self-stimulatory behaviors in five pre-schoolers with pervasive developmental disorders.
  • Olson and Moulton (2004) claimed that 82% of respondents to a survey of school-based occupational therapists were using weighted vests with autistic students. These therapists reported some decreased behaviours which they considered to be negative (flapping, hitting, rocking, tantrums, covering face, wandering) and some increased behaviours which they considered to be positive (attention, eye contact, staying on task, purposeful requests, following instructions, and balance and stability).
Updated
12 Jun 2018
Last Review
31 May 2018
Next Review
31 May 2021