Studies have show that autistic children benefit from pressure on their bodies especially when they are overstimulated or anxious. Most autistic kids utilize some form of compression. The easiest and cheapest way to accomplish this is with the use of weighted vests.
My son Ethan wears the vest to calm him down. I can go out with him with the vest because it looks “cool” and nobody stares. Look at the beginning of Ethan’s Story, you will see that he is walking around with the weighted vest on, but nobody realizes it’s a weighted vest. We allow Ethan to wear the vest for as long as he needs, sometimes as much as 6 hours. The vest enables him to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
Pressure relieves anxiety by regulating the sensory system especially when it is overstimulated. Ethan’s likes the freedom of movement from an open vest. If it is cold, we can always fasten the vest.
The weights need to be placed around the shoulders, upper back, and hips. There are also pockets on the inside of the vest that can be filled with weights. Ideally the weight should be evenly distributed and should be fastened to the jacket using velcro, zippers or buttons so that it can be removed for washing. There is no weight on the stomach or chest. The weights themselves could be metal, sand or divers weights from a diving shop. Ideally the weights should be sewn into separate containers and then added to the jacket. The total weight should be between 5% to 10% of the person’s body weight.
To save money we bought a regular denim jacket on sale (a XXL for $25) and we bought weights ($35) and took it to a seamstress ($25) and had her add weights to the jacket. The total cost was $85.
In my opinion, a weighted vest is a good alternative to medications.
By Dalia Shkedy (Ethan’s Mom)