Quilts aren’t just for keeping warm or decorating a room. They can be weighted to make a special blanket for someone with a sensory processing disorder.
Weighted blankets and lap pads provide soothing pressure–much like the sensation of being swaddled or hugged–for people who get restless and those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other sensory processing disorders.
“We think that the weight or pressure on your skin activates specific tactile receptors that seem to calm,” says Dr. Roseann Schaaf, professor of occupational therapy at Thomas Jefferson University. Poly-Pellets, the oval plastic beads commonly used by crafters to give lifelike character to dolls and plush animals, are the key.
“Poly-Pellets give these blankets the necessary weight without being harmful,” says Tracy Whitlock, marketing coordinator at Fairfield Processing Corp. (fairfieldworld.com), the maker of the weighted stuffing material. “Rice, beans, or other such materials have the potential for mold or bugs when used as stuffing.”
The blanket’s weight is often calculated according to the user’s size. A common formula used by manufacturers is one-tenth of the intended recipient’s weight plus 1 pound. Dr. Schaaf cautions that there are no conclusive scientific studies to determine the benefits of weighted blankets or the appropriate weight. She recommends consulting with an occupational therapist before using weighted blankets or lap pads.