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 integration dysfunction who have difficulty handling input from more than one sense at a time. This includes children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

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 people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 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 the classroom. Alternatively, people can use weighted blankets or belts.

There are no standard guidelines about how long people should wear the weighted vest or clothing.

Cost considerations

The costs of vests vary depending on vest size, fabric and weight.

Do weighted vests work?

Studies examining the effectiveness of weighted vests have shown mixed results. Most studies have found that weighted vests don’t work.

Who practises this method?

Children should use weighted vests only under the direction of a trained occupational therapist or other health 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.

You can speak about weighted vests with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.