What are Weighted Vests?

Cam Russo
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What are Weighted Vests? What are Weighted Vests?

Kids who are dealing with sensory issues, overstimulation, and anxiety can all benefit from the use of a weighted vest.

With a large variety of styles, features, and materials to choose from, the hunt for a vest can be overwhelming.

And with all the hype out there around weighted products and clothing, some parents might be wondering if weighted vests even work at all and are worth the time investment.

We’ll cover these concerns and more in this guide!

Do Weighted Vests Work for Autism?

While their use is not specifically restricted to helping kids with autism, kids all across the autism spectrum can especially benefit from weighted vests.

Not only can weighted items help with emotional regulation, but they have also been proven to help improve certain behavioral or sensory issues as well.

The idea behind weighted clothing is that the additional weight on the child’s body acts as a comforting and soothing element of deep pressure, similar to that of a hug.

Scientifically speaking, this is known as “deep touch pressure” and helps to turn off the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) system and even decrease the levels of stress hormones in the body.

Weighted vests are a component of sensory integration therapy, where the pressure of weighted clothing and bedding is used to help the body improve sensory processing.

It is important to note that the use of weighted clothing will not work to the same degree for each child on the spectrum, and some children may see no benefit at all.

For the best chance at success, weighted clothing should be used as part of a comprehensive occupational therapy strategy and in conjunction with other treatments or remedies.

While research is still ongoing, the use of a weighted vest can be an easy and simple way to try and support your autistic child at a very low cost.

The use of a weighted vest should always be under the supervision of a professional.

How Long Should a Weighted Vest Be Worn?

Weighted vests can be safely worn up to several hours a day. Many therapists recommend the use of weighted vests in small increments of time during targeted activities such as during educational instruction or when the child is in need of comfort.

This will help avoid “habituation” or your child’s body getting used to the new input.

Your child’s occupational therapist or doctor can help you design a weighted vest-wearing schedule best suited to your child’s unique individual needs.

Special undershirts can be worn if your child needs to wear the vest for several hours per day.

While there is no official upper limit as to how long a weighted vest can be worn, it is a good idea to limit use as much as possible and allows your child to take a break every once in a while.

Prolonged use can cause fatigue, skin irritation, and muscle soreness. Compression garments can be a good alternative if your child requires near-constant pressure.

How Heavy Should Your Weighted Vest Be?

Weighted vests typically use around 5-10% of a person’s body weight added to the clothing and equally distributed around the garment for even pressure.

This is about the same amount of weight as a child’s backpack. These vests can be worn either under or over clothing, depending on the child’s preference and the type and style of the garment.

Many vests come with pockets for adding additional weights or weighted bean bags.

It is important to note that weighted vests and other weighted clothing and blankets should only be used under the supervision of an occupational therapist or other healthcare providers.

The 10% weight limit should not be exceeded as it may cause pain and muscle strain.

Wrapping it Up

Weighted vests can be an extremely helpful tool in a holistic sensory integration therapy plan for children on the spectrum or with similar diagnoses.

You may need trial and error to find the right wearing schedule, weight distribution, and vest for your child based on their unique needs.

Although research is currently limited, prior studies and anecdotal evidence seem promising, and there is a low barrier to entry to giving weighted vests a try.