Welcome to my new series, Autism Solutions! In this section, I’ll review a product, intervention, or other helpful tools that can aid a child or youth on the autism spectrum. If you are in need of useful tools, tech or toys for your child, this series can help you with advice like my autism safety product guide. This week, I’m taking a look at weighted blankets for autism. I’ll answer some important questions about these blankets. Then, I’ll be reviewing Sonno Zona’s weighted blanket, which I was sent for review. Ready? Let’s go!
Who Benefits From A Weighted Blanket?
I’d been hearing about weighted blankets for years but never thought much about them, until a few years ago at, believe it or not, a LuluRoe clothing event my neighbor held. She had an assistant helping her to show the clothes, find sizes, and set us up to try them on. At the tail end of this very successful event, I had mentioned that my daughter was on the autism spectrum and that’s why I was buying leggings. She is very sensitive to clothing and fabric, and won’t wear things other types of pants.
The girl smiled and said, “I have Asperger’s and sensory issues too! I got a weighted blanket a few years and ago and it changed my life. I have less anxiety, struggle less with my ADHD, and I believe it even helped me today!” She told me that she didn’t think she could do retail sales without the calm and rest she got after using the blanket and that she felt a real difference whenever she had to sleep without it.
According to this lady, a weighted blanket helped with Asperger’s, anxiety, ADHD, sleeplessness and more.
I was surprised but I put it on my very long list of tools that I want to help my daughter. Could it help her?
“Where Are All The Blankets??!!”
Fast forward to the winter before last. Zoe started sleeping with multiple blankets. I put it up to winter cozy comforts…my girl likes to get cuddly and cozy. I assumed this was just like sleeping with a teddy bear.
But as the year went on and the weather warmed, the blankets piled up, and up, and UP! Finally, I was looking for a blanket the next winter and couldn’t find ANY because Zoe had put them ALL on her bed.
What on earth?!! 🙂
So when Sonno Zona reached out and asked me to review their weighted blanket, I thought, why not? How different could it be than a large pile of blankets? And maybe I could get my blankets back for the rest of us??
Well, it arrived and I was shocked at how heavy it was! Under their advice, we got the smallest blanket for my daughter – and it was a good thing too. This is nothing like piling up 10 quilts. No, really, I should know!
How Do Weighted Blankets Help Autism?
But how exactly does a weighted blanket help autism? According to Sonno Zona, weighted blankets can provide “deep pressure therapy.” Deep pressure “triggers a release of serotonin and dopamine, naturally occurring neurotransmitters involved in happiness, impulse control, focus, and many other important processes.” This helps our kids better process their environment and be able to calm. According to AppliedBehaviorAnalysisEdu.org, deep pressure stimulation is a “firm but gentle squeezing, hugs, or holding that relaxes the nervous system.”
In fact, the first time I used the blanket, Zoe was sitting on the couch the first day of her period. She usually has a pretty easy time with them but on this day, she was feeling drained. I draped the blanket over her as she relaxed on the couch and she cuddled right into it. It seemed to soothe her and, a little later, she got up and was her usual self.
Sonna Zona even has tips on how to use the weighted blanket as therapy in an OT session. Some of the researched benefits that a weighted blanket can help a child on the autism spectrum include:
- Decreased stress
- Increased focus
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved sleeping patterns
Other benefits you may see include reduced stimming, better communication, reduced touch hypersensitivity and better body/spacial awareness.
How Does A Weighted Blanket Work For Anxiety?
Weighted blankets are not just beneficial for kids and people on the autism spectrum, and they have benefits that can help everyone! They can even be useful for anyone dealing with anxiety. Benefits here include:
- Better sleep quality
- Feeling grounded as the pressure may regulate the stress hormone, cortisol
- It feels like a hug!
- Anyone can benefit from the deep pressure benefits listed above
Are Weighted Blankets Covered By Insurance?
That depends on your insurance. Contact them to find out. You’ll likely need a prescription from your child’s doctor or therapist. You may also be able to write it off as a tax-deductible medical expense or purchase with a flex spending account. Discuss this with your accountant.
Our Experience With A Sonno Zona Weighted Blanket for Autism
Sonno Zona graciously sent me a small weighted blanket. I already said it was heavier than expected but that’s just my lack of experience 🙂 It turned out that even though Zoe has a Queen sized bed, the size of the blanket was perfect as she needed time to acclimate to it. At first, she pushed it down or aside and slept with her usual pile of blankets.
That, however, is impractical when you’re living through a heatwave that is making a laughing stock of your central air conditioning! I diligently put the blanket on her every night, and eventually, she started getting used to it. At first, she still asked for the other blankets, but with the heat, I started putting them away and just giving her a sheet and the weighted blanket.
The small weighted blanket comes in 2 pieces. The first is a beautiful cover and, oh my Word, how incredibly beautiful and soft the cover was!! We selected the color “Tide,” which is a kind of pale water-toned blue – Zoe selected the color herself.
It’s easy to put together, just make sure you’re on the right side of the blanket before tying everything together. Check where the zipper is to help. Lay the blanket flat on your mattress (I’d advise without anything on it), then put the cover down and tie the pieces together. Zip and flip – there are directions too!
Zoe thoroughly enjoys her blanket and now requests it. Today, when I brought it downstairs, she immediately wrapped herself in it to lie on the floor. I think this is an amazing tool that can help anyone. And it’s not just good to use a weighted blanket for autism – now I need another because my husband wants to use it too!