Roughly 250 babies are born into the world every minute. However, not all of them are born or grow up to be healthy. It is estimated that 1 in every 54 children suffers from autism.
Likewise, a small percentage of children are afflicted with other developmental disorders like Asperger’s syndrome, sensory perception disorder, etc. These disorders make it difficult for kids afflicted by them to become an integral part of society.
Though there is no treatment available to cure autism, there are several intervention mechanisms that can alleviate symptoms, improve cognitive ability and daily activities in autistic children. It is important for parents and teachers to understand the challenges faced by autistic kids and make accommodations for them.
It has been observed that children with autism may also have sensory perception disorders which manifest in language delays, motor function deficits, strong sensory interests, or sensory aversions. For example, common sounds like a dog’s bark, which may not bother a normal kid, may have an adverse impact on a kid with autism.
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One of the interventional mechanisms recommended for autistic children is the use of weighted vests. A weighted vest is a piece of garment that can be worn over regular clothing, and with pockets to carry small weights.
How Does a Weighted Vest Help Autistic Children?
There is a belief that functional performance deficit in children results from an inability to process sensory information appropriately. Sensory integrative therapy came about as a means to stimulate the neurological processing of sensory inputs to solve this problem. Traditional methods involved brushing or rubbing the body, applying manual pressure to joints, etc.
Of late, weighted vests have been used as a mode of offering deep pressure stimulation therapy. It is believed that weighted vests may positively impact limbic systems and reticular activating structures, thus moderating sensory arousal .
There is ongoing research to statistically prove the benefits of using weighted vests for kids. However, their use is expected to result in the following benefits for autistic children-
- The use of weighted vests can help autistic children focus better. Often, such children may not be able to pay attention in class or listen to someone speaking to them. This is because their attention keeps shifting to other things around them. Weighted vests can help promote focus in children with autism.
- They may also improve on-task time. Often, autistic children find it very difficult to finish a task they started, because they cannot sit in a place for the duration of the activity. Wearing weighted vests during the activity increases the average time spent by the children on the various tasks, thereby increasing the probability of completion.
- You may have noticed that autistic children often perform short & quick, repetitive movements or utter sounds. This is called stimming. Stimming is one of the most important diagnostic criteria for autism. The use of weighted vests can help bring down this behavior considerably.
- Another benefit of wearing vests is the reduction of anxiety levels. Often, children with developmental disorders may find it very difficult to remain calm and may get worked up over sensory inputs which seem normal to other kids. Such anxiety makes it difficult for autistic kids to lead normal lives. Weighted vests may help calm children down.
- Autistic kids are sometimes hyperactive. They may move too often and come across as being impatient. This is usually because they may want to get an object or to a location of their desire immediately, without any regard for their environment. Weighted vests are believed to moderate this characteristic of autism as well.
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Factors to Consider While Choosing a Weighted Vest for Kids
A lot of factors must be taken into consideration while choosing weighted vests for autistic children. Unlike adults, they may not react mildly to an ill-fitting vest or one that is too heavy for them.
As a thumb rule, vests for kids should not weigh more than 10% of their body weight. For example, if a child weighs 40 pounds, the vest should only be loaded to a maximum of 4 pounds.
Secondly, pick a weighted vest made of fabric that the kid is usually comfortable in. For example, if the kid prefers clothes made of cotton, he/she may not take well to a vest made of denim. Care should be taken not to aggravate the kid’s discomfort in this manner.
Weights in the vest must be evenly distributed throughout the vest. Please ensure that the weighted vest has pockets in the mid-section, with provisions to easily remove excess weights or add additional weights.
Weighted vests comprise other components like zips, buttons, and zippers. It is important to choose which of these your child finds easiest to use.
Does your child have a favorite color, a favorite pattern, or pictures, like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck? Just like how you may lookout for these in clothes that you buy for your child, you may want to look for the same in their weighted vests as well.
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