There has been a lot of buzz around using weighted blankets for soothing anxiety or getting a better night’s rest. As a mom of an autistic child, I can tell you– believe the hype! Here’s how to use a weighted blanket for calming an autism meltdown. Incorporate this or add it on to one of these calming strategies for autism meltdowns.
How a Weighted Blanket is Beneficial for Calming Meltdowns
First, let’s talk about those weighted blankets. A weighted blanket is a blanket that is filled or lined with evenly distributed weight. The weight will vary depending on the intended user and the size of the blanket. The blanket’s purpose is to mimic a feeling of being held or applying needed pressure.
One of the biggest benefits behind a weighted blanket is deep pressure. And being able to get this deep pressure without having to be touched. You know the comforting feeling and sensation you get with a tight hug? A weighted blanket provides a similar sense of comfort. But why?
Well, if you want the techy and science reason: this releases oxytocin. This hormone helps reduce blood pressure, slows the heart (within reason), and provides a feeling of relaxation.
Having this type of pressure can also release serotonin, which reduces stress.
And, another benefit behind the weighted blanket? Having this sensory input could help with the releasing of melatonin. This hormone helps with sleep and helps to regulate the sleep cycle.
Are there risks of a weighted blanket?
Technically no there aren’t many when used properly. You will, of course, want to monitor a child and adjust the weight as needed. If the weighted blanket is filled with a material that could be a choking hazard, you will also want to check the seams regularly. My daughter was quite ingenious at finding all of the very tiny holes on her bean bag chair and picking at it slowly until the filling started to fall out.
How to make your own weighted blanket
Now, I’m not the craftiest person in the world, so I look for easy and simple tutorials. Like this one for how to make a weighted sensory blanket or this one for a weighted tie blanket that also includes ties or tags at the ends. I love that, don’t you? It provides a little extra sensory input. And, of course, you can also repurpose a comforter into a weighted blanket. Or, if your child is not quite ready for a weighted blanket; try a heated rice bean bag. You can adjust the weight as needed and it provides a little warmth in the process.
Do you use a weighted blanket at home? Has it worked for your autistic child?