Weighted Items and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Key Features

Weighted items are any items (such as blankets, vests, belts, lap pads, and shoulder wraparounds) 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. 

However there are no widely agreed standards about what to use as weights, where to put the weights, how much weight to use or for how long to use the weighted item. For example, according to Olson and Moulton (2004) who conducted a survey of school-based occupational therapists using weighted vests, some of the therapists reported using 2%-10% of the participant's body weight, while others used weights of between 1-2 kilograms / 2-4 lbs. Some of the participants wore the vests for 10 minutes, while others wore them for 45 minutes or longer.  


Weighted blankets may weigh anything up to 12 kilograms / 24 pounds. The weights are usually sewn into the fabric of the blanket.  They are sometimes used to help with sleep difficulties or to help calm a child from over stimulation or a tantrum. 


Weighted vests may weigh anything up to 6 kilograms / 12 pounds. The weights may be sewn into the fabric of the vest or placed in special pockets. Pressure vests are similar to weighted vests but are designed to provide greater pressure more evenly over the entire trunk. The weighted vest is worn depending on the individual child, his or her behaviours and his or her response to wearing it. As it may be designed and tailored to suit the individual child it can be worn unobtrusively. Weights can be adjusted and the vest can be introduced as part of play or activity.


Belts may weigh up to 1.5 kilograms / 3 pounds. The weights may be sewn into the fabric of the belt or placed in special pockets.  Belts are sometimes used instead of vests, especially for younger children or for children who will not allow anything to be placed over them.

Shoulder wraparounds.

Shoulder wraparounds may weigh up to 3.5 kilograms / 7 pounds and are worn around the shoulders. They are used to calm children who display anxiety and stress.

Lap pads

Lap pads may weigh up to 6 kilograms / 12 pounds. They are placed on the child's lap and can be used at mealtimes, at school, whilst travelling and at social events.

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