When I tell people what I do, a popular response is, “Weighted blankets - aren’t they used by people with Autism?”
Yes, weighted blankets do help people with autism - children, teens, and adults. Do you know how or why they help?
Today I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Rebecca Walker. We were in graduate school together when I first started making weighted blankets. She bought one for her youngest son, Liam, a teenager with Autism. I asked her if we could talk a little about Autism, how it affects her family, and how using a weighted blanket helps Liam. Here’s our conversation...
Q: Rebecca, what is life like for people with Autism?
A: People with Autism are highly sensitive to the five senses. They can be over stimulated or under stimulated in different senses. It varies for each individual.
Autism also affects their social and emotional interaction. Liam is younger emotionally and socially - more like an 8-10 year old.
Q: What is it like when Liam comes home from school?
Liam is very drained when he gets home from school. He likes to be social, but he has to use his brain ALL DAY LONG and needs alone time for a couple hours when he gets home from school. It helps Liam re-center himself. Then he is able to re-engage.
Q: Has sleep been a problem for Liam?
Liam has been a great sleeper, but he is a very restless sleeper. He tosses and turns due to Proprioceptive Dysfunction.*
*Note to Reader about Proprioceptive Dysfunction:
It is common for children with sensory disorders to feel scattered or disjointed. They tend to be sensory seekers; they like the feeling of pushing, writing really hard, rough play. They may like to bang or shake their feet while sitting. They also like to chew and bite, and prefer tight clothes.
Q: How does a weighted blanket help Liam?
When he uses it on the bottom half of his body, the weight seems to stabilize him. He wants the stimulation and the deep pressure. When he was younger, he wanted to hit a pillow or be hit with a pillow. Sometimes he made a tent on the couch with his weighted blanket and pillows and would fall asleep between them, almost like Temple Grandin’s squeezing machine.
One time he was upset at night and went to his brother, who encouraged him to used his weighted blanket. At first he didn’t want to, but once he did, he went right to sleep. Liam knows the blanket helps him. It gives him that deep pressure his body craves and helps him feel grounded.
Q: What are some of the joys of being Liam’s mom?
He is capable in so many areas. He is really great with music! He’s in the marching band and is really into the game of football. He can remember ALL the game stats. Whatever he is into, he is into 150%. When he finds joy, it is contagious. He is so charming that people love being around him. It’s fun to watch those connections and gives me so much joy.
Q: What are the greatest challenges? How does autism affect your family?
It’s kind of a challenge to share a bed with him. We have a hard time with his moods. Focus is a real challenge. His learning challenges keep him from participating - for example, he cannot pass the driver’s test. He misses out on so many things that he cannot do, and he is aware of that. He will not have all the opportunities that everyone else has.
It is lonely - especially as a single parent - when I am making decisions for his future. It’s very lonely.
Q: Mom to mom, what brings you peace of mind when you think of caring for Liam in the future?
I think about the fact that there are so many kids with Autism: 1 in 54 now. While this is sad, it does help me feel less lonely. It also helps because the public is so much more accepting. And, because of the number of people it affects, more products are coming out to help people with Autism.
If you know Autism from a distance, I hope you learned something new from Rebecca. If you know Autism up close, we want you to know that you are not alone! We love making a product that helps people with Autism. If you have further questions about the use of weighted blankets, let us know by emailing email@example.com. This article in Autism Parenting Magazine is also a helpful resource.
Donna Durham, MMFT
President & Co-Founder