Finding the right clothing for children with Sensory Processing Disorder SPD or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a challenge for every parent, but weighted clothing can provide a solution that works in several ways.
Meta Auden, founder of Spectra Sensory Clothing explained that weighted clothing is often recommended by occupational therapists as the wearable items can help to provide deep touch pressure for children with autism, who may experience SPD or difficulties with self-regulation.
“Not only does weighted clothing help to reduce anxiety, it can also help to create a feeling of calm; increases focus and concentration, decreases hyperactivity and enables a child to become more aware of their body,” said Meta.
“While weighted exercise clothing is designed to increase the intensity of physical activity, in children with autism, such items provide deep pressure, which sends signals to the brain, helping the child to feel calm and enabling them to focus better.”
A range of different weighted clothing is available including weighted vests, sensory weighted hats, weighted jackets, weighted backpacks, weighted blankets as well as weighted lap pads and shoulder weights.
“Weighted vests are perhaps the most popular weighted clothing item,” Meta explained.
“It is often described as similar to giving your child a ‘bear hug’. They are often recommended by occupational therapists.”
And their popularity has been backed up.
“An American study by Nancy L VandenBerg, which was carried out in 2001, actually found that on-task behaviour increased by up to 25% when children with autism wore weighted vests for fine motor tasks,” she said.
“With weighted vests, deep pressure is applied to your child’s body and shoulders, helping to reduce challenging and sensory seeking behaviour, and thereby encouraging the child to focus on tasks such as homework or simply resting.”
Meta set up Spectra Sensory Clothing after learning how much clothing affected her autistic daughter.
Since then she has been working to provide products that are suitable and help those with SPD or autism.
A range of the weighted products are available on the website, and Meta was keen to explain what weighted products can do.
“Weighed jackets, hoodies or fleeces, for example, have a calming and organising effect on the how the body is affected by the position and movement of the body),” she said.
“These clothing items are particularly popular since they provide sensory feedback for a child but look like ‘ordinary’ clothing and don’t stand out as a therapeutic aid.
“Most jackets, hoodies etc, possess pockets which, as with the hats, enable weights to be inserted and removed as required.
“Weighted jackets have proven to be particularly popular in the classroom, where they are used to reduce excessive fidgeting and to promote better concentration.”
Another weighted item are weighted blankets, that are often recommended by occupational therapists to encourage and promote calming and sleep.
“Weighted blankets can also have an organising effect on your child’s central nervous system,” said Meta.
“Many children with autism and SPD often crave pressure and, since many are often attached to one particular blanket as a source of comfort and calm, these blankets can bring double the benefits.
“As a general rule of thumb, weighted blankets are recommended for use at 10% of your child’s body weight plus one pound (2.2kg).”
Weighted hats are, perhaps the most discreet or weighted clothing for children.
“Sensory weighted hats have an inner liner, which contains weights that can be easily inserted and removed as required, and can enable the weight to be adapted to your child’s specific requirements,” she explained.
Weighted backpacks provide support while on the go and many designs also come with a headphone port, which enables comforting music to be played, and sensory strips for fidgeting.
Meta said that weighted lap pads and shoulder weights are useful in many situations.
“A weighted lap pad is ideal as part of a sensory diet for when your child is in the classroom or involved in tabletop activities at home,” she explained.
“The pads, which have been developed to help children calm and to enable them to sit comfortably, while simultaneously experiencing deep pressure sensory input, are perfect for helping to reduce your child’s fidgeting and to improve his or her memory.
“Items such as weighted shoulder wraps also help to apply deep pressure to your child’s shoulders, making them an ideal weighted solution for use anywhere.”
Meta added that these clothing solutions help children to feel more grounded and to reconnect with the world around them.
“Children with SPD and autism have enough to deal with on a daily basis without having to cope with the discomfort and distress caused by their clothing. By opting for sensory clothing, you can help to remove the aggravation caused by your child’s clothing and enable them to feel comfortable both in their clothing – and in their own skin” said Meta.