What are weighted vests?
A weighted vest is a vest with weights sewn into it. Typically, the vest is 10% of the person’s body weight, which means it can apply deep pressure to muscles and joints. Weighted vests are most common, but weighted blankets, belts and lap pillows are also available.
Who are weighted vests for?
Weighted vests have been used for people with sensory processing difficulties who have difficulty handling input from more than one sense at a time. This includes autistic children.
What are weighted vests used for?
Weighted vests are used to help people process sensory information. Supporters of this therapy believe that when people get better at processing sensory information, their focus, attention and learning also improve.
Where do weighted vests come from?
Weighted vests are used as a tool in sensory integration therapy. Sensory integration therapy was developed in the late 1970s by A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and educational psychologist.
What is the idea behind weighted vests?
Supporters of weighted vests believe the pressure of the weights helps to calm autistic people. The calming effect is believed to come from the feeling of pressure that the weights give. This pressure is said to change how people process sensory information, making them more aware of where their bodies are in space and allowing them to better control their movements.
Supporters claim that when people feel calmer, they have better attention and concentration.
What do weighted vests involve?
The therapy involves wearing a weighted vest either under or over clothes. The vest can be worn at home or in other places, like classrooms. Alternatively, people can use weighted blankets or belts.
There are no standard guidelines about how long people should wear the weighted vest or clothing.
The costs of vests vary depending on vest size, fabric and weight.
Do weighted vests work?
Studies have shown that weighted vests don’t work. They don’t help with attention, difficult behaviour or any core features of autism.
Who practises this method?
Some occupational therapists or other health professionals might be trained in the use of weighted vests. If you’re interested in a weighted vest as a therapy for your child, you should use it only under the supervision of a trained professional.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is using a weighted vest, you and your child’s teachers are usually encouraged to help your child use the vest at home or in the classroom.
Where can you find a practitioner?
You can find an occupational therapist through Occupational Therapy Australia.
If you’re interested in weighted vests, it’s a good idea to talk about this therapy with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about it with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood early intervention (ECEI) coordinator or NDIS local area coordinator (LAC), if you have one.
There are many therapies for autism. They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for autistic children takes you through the main therapies, so you can better understand your child’s options.