Weighted blankets, to help improve the quality of sleep for autistic children, have studies for and against. But if they aren’t worthy sleep aids, what good are they?
I recall when my daughter and I visited the drugstore in hopes of finding the right sleep aid for my autistic granddaughter. Her pediatrician had just approved the use of melatonin drops and we were eager to try them for everyone’s sake. The melatonin worked but as my granddaughter grew, she needed additional help to calm down in the evenings.
When the weighted blanket hit the market, we decided to give it a try. It worked! She settled in more easily at night and rested without multiple wake-ups.
However, a test conducted by Autism Speaks concludes that there is no difference in sleep patterns between the children that slept with weighted blankets and those who did not.
So why the blanket?
There are those who disagree with Autism Speaks saying that deep touch pressure, or DTP, is known to help calm children and adults with a variety of anxiety disorders.
Deep touch pressure also occurs when we hug someone, squeeze their hand or lay against their side. This pressure releases serotonin. A feel-good hormone. And serotonin is needed to produce melatonin; the sleep hormone.
Autistic children tend to run low on both hormones.
Weighted blankets to the rescue throughout the day
Autistic children have trouble transferring from one activity to another and sometimes one room to another. This anxiety can cause outbursts, cry-downs or the urge to run away.
Schools and daycares are experimenting with weighted blankets. By wrapping the anxious child or laying the blanket over their laps a calming process can begin.
And while engaging in seat work, the use of a weighted blanket can reduce fidgeting.
A weighted blanket may be just what your grandchild needs. But before you purchase one, check out these recommendations based on the child’s age and body weight.
If you proceed, make the blanket a very special gift wrapped and celebrated. It will introduce your grandchild to his or her new “buddy” in a memorable way.