Friday, December 10, 2010

Pressure and Weighted Vests

Hello, my name is Bridgette Anderson and I am the Director of Therapy at a Sensory Integration Center in San Diego. This is my second blog for Achievement Products, for which I am being compensated. My first blog focused on ways to help children who can’t stop moving. I provided some suggestions to help them sit still to increase focus in the classroom. That post is still available below (October 11).

This post will discuss the different types of pressure and weighted products that parents can try in order to support their children in school and other daily environments.

Deep pressure wraps, also referred to as pressure vests (generally made of a “wet suit” type of material) or Sensory Pressure Vest (842AP100) in the Achievement Products catalog, will frequently help children who seem to feel as if they are falling when they are sitting still. The wraps also provide an overall sense of calming to the nervous system (a big and continuous hug), and provide the children with information about where their bodies are in space. This is something that a child will generally wear either above or below his clothing, and it is generally recommended that he put it on and take it off frequently throughout the day (about 20 minutes on 20 minutes off). It should be tight, but not so tight that it impedes a child’s breathing. The wrap can be worn during sitting or moving activities (although the effects of it are more apparent during sitting or balancing activities). It really doesn’t matter if it is a vest (like the SI Weighted Vest 842AP119), belt (like the Sensory Pressure Belt 842AP5779) or wrap; choose whichever is preferable for your particular situation and suits the child most comfortably. These can be worn above or below clothing.

Similar to pressure vests, and more popular, are weighted vests, such as Achievement Products OTvest™ (842AP5760), SI Weighted Vest™ (842AP119) or the Achievement Weighted Vest(842AP97). Weighted vests are similar, but instead of providing a “deep hug”, they provide proprioceptive input (which provides information about one’s joints and muscles in space, as well as a release of neurotransmitters which have an organizing influence on the brain). I have found children will sometimes fatigue when carrying the weight of a weighted vest, particularly with children who are weak or have low muscle tone. Some children tire when they have vests on, which has caused some behaviors. Then again, some children have responded really well to the weighted vest and the proprioceptive input it provides every time the child moves.
When using the weighted vest, the rule of thumb about choosing the appropriate weight is to have approximately one pound per year of the child’s age. (e.g. a 3-year old will have a total of 3 pounds). However, if your child seems to be fatiguing, try to lessen the weight (or you might try to increase the weight in small increments for a really active, strong child). Also, parents have found it beneficial to be able to move the weight around, depending on the time of day and the activity the child is doing.

I really like to use weighted objects, particularly in classrooms. They are subtle objects that can be passed around to multiple children and everyone can benefit. They can be brought to school and thought of as “just another toy”. Weighted objects provide proprioceptive input to the child and allow her to choose her preference for where the weighted object feels best (e.g. lap, shoulders, hands, feet, etc). You can find a variety of weighted shapes that a child will enjoy using at Achievement Products ( Some favorites are shaped as animal friends, such as Marvin Moose(842AP3860),Weighted Gecko (842AP578), or weighted critters (842AP3853, 842AP3854, 842AP3855, 842AP3856). They can become a classroom mascot or an individual child’s friend.
A dynamic teacher interested in using weighted objects in a variety of ways may like Snap Bags (842AP90029) which are weighted beanbags which snap together. They are great and able to be used in so many ways and for a variety of fun activities. For the child who needs something less distracting and more practical, the Achievement Weighted Pocket Pad (842APA102) and the Achievement Weighted Collar (842AP99) are simple, discreet and mature. The Weighted Body Blanket (842AP3857) or Weighted Shawl (842AP5778) can be folded up and used as a pad, covering the child for a whole body experience. These items can possibly be shared among friends in the right environment. A child can wrap any of these items around his shoulders, place them on his lap, toes, or hands, or use them as fidgits. Some really creative teachers have played various “pass the animal” or “holder of the animal gets to speak”, and “beanbag” games which provide organization for all children prior to a more difficult or sedentary task. Others allow each individual child to have objects that meet his or her physical or emotional needs. Whatever way they are used, these weighted objects tend to be loved by all.

No matter what items you choose, it is important to set rules for the children to understand their limits and your requirements when using any tools in a classroom. It is also essential that the child’s team has agreed on a designated amount of time to have the item in use before determining whether the tool is working or not (novelty might impede success, so you want to be sure to give whatever you try a few days at minimum). Work with your teacher ahead of time to determine if any behavioral strategies should be paired with this sensory tool. A visual timer or schedule may be used to let the child know how long to wear the weighted item, or a written or picture set of rules can instruct the child about how to treat items in a classroom.

You may decide to give the tool as gift to the teacher or classroom. If so, before you make the gift, try the tool to be sure it works for your child. It is important to understand how different environments may affect your child’s use of that tool. Always work as a team with your school to facilitate your child’s success.