How Can a Weighted Vest Help Your Child?

How Can a Weighted Vest Help Your Child?

If your child has a sensory processing disorder, your occupational therapist or other health professional may have recommended a weighted vest. In kids who experience sensory overload or difficulties with proprioception — awareness of their body in relation to the world around them — a weighted vest may help increase their body awareness. Weighted vests may also help reduce sensory overload. We explain what weighted vests do and how you can order one today.

Should You Get a Weighted Vest for Your Child?

a laborador puppy cuddling a teddy bear under a blanket.

Parents of children who experience sensory overload may have already heard about weighted blankets. Used by occupational therapists and other health professionals, weighted blankets are typically made with 10 percent of a child’s body weight — give or take a few pounds. Weighted vests work the same way — but they allow children to move about and perform daily activities, such as playing and studying.

Weighted vests may help children feel greater body awareness. Weighted vests are approximately 5 percent of a child’s body weight, with various weights available depending on the child’s size, needs and comfort level. 

Weighted Vests vs. Compression Vests

Although you might hear the terms “weighted vest” and “compression vest” used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A compression vest is snug against the body and resembles the tight-fitting undershirts sometimes worn by athletes. It compresses (squeezes) the body.

By contrast, a weighted vest sits on top of clothing. While a weighted vests provides firm, gentle pressure, it does not squeeze like a compression vest or garment. You can buy combination weighted/compression vests, but the weighted vests we sell at SensaCalm are not compression vests.  

Using a Weighted Vest to Calm Anxiety in Children

Children who experience sensory overload can display a range of symptoms that run the gamut from behavior to physical to psychosocial.

Behavioral Symptoms of Sensory Overload - The behavioral symptoms of sensory overload include withdrawing when touched, a reluctance to engage in creative play, difficulty calming oneself down after exercise or an upsetting incident, and experiencing challenges with certain movements like sliding, swinging or descending stairs.

Physical Symptoms of Sensory Overload - Some of the physical symptoms of sensory overload include poor balance, general clumsiness, developmental delays in terms of gross motor skills, and a tendency to become fatigued easily or quickly. 

Psychosocial Symptoms of Sensory Overload - In children who experience sensory overload, psychosocial symptoms can include anxiety, aggression, avoidance when confronting large crowds, and fearfulness when surprised by touch.       

Studies have shown that using the firm but gentle pressure of a weighted blanket or weighted vest helps individuals feel calmer and sleep better. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders found that the application of “deep pressure” through the use of weighted blankets and vests “has been reported to produce a calming and relaxing effect in clinical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders. Applying deep pressure has been shown to be beneficial for children with high levels of anxiety or arousal and deep pressure touch may also alleviate anxiety…”

If your child feels anxious when confronted by noise, light or touch, a weighted vest may be a good way to experience all the benefits of deep touch therapy, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and help people self-soothe.

Using a Weighted Vest for Your Child at School

close shot of father holding child's hand.

School can be filled with physical and social challenges for any child — especially elementary-age kids. It’s normal for most young children to experience bouts of fidgetiness or restlessness. When children transition from home to school, one of the main challenges they face is learning how to sit still for extended periods of time.

When a child experiences sensory overload, school can be a particularly challenging environment. As every parent knows, most schools are filled with loud noises, bright lights and large groups of people. These stimuli are often tough for children with sensory overload to process. This is where a weighted vest may be able to help.  

In a study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, researchers found that weighted vests helped study participants perform better on tests.

According to researchers Stacey Reynolds, Shelly J. Lane and Brian Mullen, “Results showed that wearing the [vest] for even short periods of time reduced sympathetic arousal non-stimulus-driven electrical occurrences. Concomitant increases in parasympathetic arousal were found. Performance improvements were noted after wearing the [vest], potentially because of changes in arousal. We conclude that deep pressure stimulation is capable of eliciting changes in autonomic arousal and maybe be a useful modality in diagnostic groups seen by occupational practitioners.”

A good weighted vest is designed to look like any fashionable vest any child would want to wear. When we talk to parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorder, they often tell us how important it is for their child’s weighted blanket or weighted vest to look like any typical blanket or vest — not a “therapy” item.

KozieClothes are a favorite of ours,  they sell a weighted vests from durable, high-quality denim with attractive gold stitching. They weighted vests can withstand play, but they are also supremely soft, so children can derive comfort from the cuddle fabric inside. Parents love them because they are machine washable and feature a waterproof neoprene zipper kids can use as a chewy if they wish. As we discuss on our page about sensory processing disorder, chewies may provide a way for very young children, or children who are aggressive biters, to safely develop their oral sensory skills without chewing gum or harming themselves or others.

Should I Buy a Weighted Vest If My Child Is Reclined or Prone?

If you would like to purchase a weighted vest for your child, please note that KozieClothes weighted vest is designed to hold the weights in pockets around the inside lower half of the vest. The weights are easy to remove for routine washing and drying. The weights pull the vest downward along the child’s shoulders and chest, giving firm but gentle pressure that may help children experience greater body awareness.

However, if you are interested in a weighted product for a child who must stay prone or reclined most of the time, a weighted blanket may be a better option. If your child is too young to walk, has a developmental challenge that has delayed his or her walking, or must remain in a reclined position for most of the day or night, the weights inside the weighted vest are going to be bulky and uncomfortable.  Our weighted blankets come in a variety of sizes and weights, and can be placed anywhere on the body for maximum comfort. We also make weighted lap pads, which are designed to drape over the thighs. 

If you have questions about which weighted product is best for your child’s needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our product experts can explain the various benefits of each of our products and help you select the best fit for your child.      

Shop weighted vest here

At SensaCalm, we are the industry leader in custom weighted blankets, weighted lap pads and wraps designed to help ease sensory overload and related conditions. You can visit our custom order page to learn more about SensaCalm weighted blankets. We also offer ready-to-ship products like Chewy/Oral motor tools and weighted toys.

Questions? Get in touch by calling us at 855-736-7222, or use our online contact form to speak to a knowledgeable member of our team.

Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.

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