“If he could just sit still for five minutes, maybe we could all relax a bit!” It’s the weary sigh of so many parents of children with autism and sensory processing disorders.
While there is no magic pill or technique to keep your child in a blissful state of calm, products offering deep touch stimulation can provided some much needed relief.
But with so many types of products available, where should you start? We’ve compiled a list of five of the best deep touch stimulation products.
Not to be confused with a weighted vest, pressure vests create gentle, even pressure along the torso.
Some of these vests, like the highly popular Snug Vest, offer stylish designs that look right off the rack from Old Navy. Your child controls the level of pressure with a small hand pump, and they can adjust it according to their needs throughout the day.
If you like the idea of air pressure but want something to fit under your child’s clothing, you may want to check out the Squeeze Vest.
Other lower cost pressure vests, like the PresSureVest, wrap around the child’s torso in a cozy hug and Velcro into place instead of using air.
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Ahhh, weighted blankets. Originally designed for those with sensory processing disorders, even neurotypicals are getting on the bandwagon with this one! Who doesn’t love waking up to the comfort of cozy, heavy quilts on a cool morning?
Most parents report improved sleep when using these blankets, and many also find that letting their child curl up with one on a hard day brings quick relief to frazzled senses.
Buying a weighted blanket can feel a bit confusing…most companies offer a variety of weights and some offer multiple filling options. The general rule is to calculate 10% of child’s body weight and then add one pound.
Plastic beads, river stone, flax seed, rice…while the options seem endless, poly beads tend to be the most used and carry the fewest concerns. Blankets stuffed with rice or flax seed pose issues when it comes to washing and potential mold. Some parents express concern over whether or not river stone carries the same issues, but the designers at Salt of the Earth Weighted Gear say that properly cleaned blankets with river stone don’t mold or mildew and make for a less bulky blanket, as it takes less of the stone to achieve desired weights.
Some companies, like Sensacalm, offer a variety of fabrics and patterns, including waterproof options.
- Weighted blankets should never be used with very young children. In 2015 a 7-month old infant died of SIDS while under a weighted blanket at daycare.
- Blankets should always be used in accordance with the child’s weight. This prevents the possibility for suffocation.
- Children should never be rolled in a blanket in such a way that they are unable to move. This, combined with laying facedown and laying in a much too heavy blanket, caused the death of a 9-year old boy.
- When used according to directions, weighted blankets provide safe sensory relief for many children, but caregivers must be very clear on how they should and should not be used.
This pressure product takes up a bit of floor space, but if snuggling down into one prevents a tantrum or calms a child before sleep you might find it worth rearranging some furniture.
Pea Pods are inflatable sitting devices that look like a cross between a peapod and a canoe. The velvety material presses firmly but gently against your child as they read, watch television, or just burrow down for a few moments of quiet.
Pea Pods vary greatly in price from store to store, but we found some of the best deals on Amazon and at autism-products.com. Just be sure to pay attention to sizing! They come in Junior, Medium, and XL.
Weighted Lap Pads
Does your little jumping bean struggle to sit still in school? Many parents find weighted lap pads an indispensible component to their calming toolkit.
Essentially a mini weighted blanket, you can stuff lap pads into your go-bag for long car rides, overnights away from home, and trips to the movie theater. Many adults keep one tucked in a drawer at work to use while sitting at the computer.
Choices range from simple, smooth gel pads to those offering varied visual and tactile stimulation. Some options to consider include:
- Gel pads
- Animal Themed Sensory Pads
- Fidget Lap Pads
- Glitter Lap Pads
- Color Change “Mermaid” Pads (Not just for girls!)
Like weighted blankets, lap pads come in varying weights depending on the age and weight of your child, so be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations for their particular pad.
If you’re looking for something less visible to use throughout the day compression clothing is worth trying.
Compression clothing gently and evenly squeezes your child’s body without pinching or binding.
Children and adults alike often find significant sensory relief with the clothing, and even children who resist other clothing often crave compression outfits. One mother says that her 2-year old became more verbal and began to show interest in the outer world after a week of consistent wear.
Some options to try include:
It’s worth asking your therapist or other parents if you could borrow one of these compression products for a couple of hours before purchasing one. You may find that a vest your friend’s child rejected works perfectly for your child, or that the crazy bulky pea pod gives your preteen a needed afternoon of quiet reading.