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10 Benefits of Weighted Vests for Children and Adults with Autism


A weighted vest provides deep touch pressure (DTP) or proprioceptive which has a calming, organizing effect on the child and occupational therapists often recommend the wearables as part of a comprehensive sensory diet to help children with autism who have sensory processing disorder or self-regulation difficulties.

Here are some of the benefits that have been reported by weighted vest wearers, therapists, and parents:

10 Benefits of Weighted Vests

  1. Increased focus/attention

  2. Increased seated time on-task

  3. Decrease self-stimulatory behaviors

  4. Promote calm and organization

  5. Decreases hyperactivity

  6. Reduce anxiety

  7. Assist with self-regulation

  8. Reduced frequency of sensory overload

  9. Improved body awareness

  10. Increases therapeutic carryover of sensory diet activities


How to Best Use a Weighted Vest

The theory behind weighted vests is to provide the child with sustained deep pressure input to his/her muscles and joints (proprioception) as this type of sensory input is known to be calming and organizing.

Keep these considerations in mind:

  • Generating a weighted vest wearing schedule should be done in consultation with your child’s OT. Unfortunately, the research is inconsistent in giving a clear guideline for wearing schedules, however, it is recommended to initially introduce the weighted vest during a preferred activity. If the child should wear the weighted vest for the 20-40 minute activity, be sure to remove the vest for the same time period to allow the nervous system to reset. Some parents and educators feel that the compression vests are helpful during especially stressful times (i.e. school assemblies, doctor’s appointments). Should your child require additional, more consistent input throughout the day, consider adding a tight-fitting undershirt (lycra-based).

  • Set up your child’s weighted vest so that it is 5-10% of their body weight. So, if your child is 40 lbs, the vest weight would be 2-4 lbs. This is important as you do not want to overstrain their bodies with more weight than what is safe. The weight should be evenly distributed as much as possible.

  • Identify a simple way to measure the effectiveness of the weighted vest. This can be done with the help of your child’s Occupational Therapist or teacher. Keep in mind what you identified as the “why” behind choosing a weighted vest. By developing a progress monitoring tool that is specific to your child, you will know what works and what doesn’t!

How to Choose the Right Weighted Vest

Weighted vests are designed to be worn on top of a child’s clothing. That being said, it’s important to consider the material/texture of the vest as well as some of the properties of the fabric:
  • Some weighted vests have a lycra component that is form-fitting and offers active hugging or compression in addition to having weighted pockets. This may be helpful for children who seek out deep pressure and prefer tight-fitting clothes.

  • The fabric of the weighted vest is just as important to consider as the wearing schedule and weight factors! What does your child naturally gravitate towards when choosing his/her clothes? If they avoid denim or corduroy at all costs, don’t expect a weighted vest made of those materials to be welcomed! Choose fabrics that are preferred and suited to the activity level of your child.

  • Consider how often your child will be changing in/out of the vest and the easiest way to do that: snaps, zippers, velcro? Rear-closing for adult-only fastening or front-closing for independence?

  • Lastly, it may seem unimportant to you buying the vest as a parent, but what would your child choose to wear if he/she were doing the selecting? Would the vest have a picture or pattern of a favorite character? Be a certain favorite color? You want the vest to have a positive impression so anyway you can dress up the vest to be a preferred sensory tool, do it!

Tips & Takeaways

Weighted vests can be a helpful sensory strategy for children with autism when used appropriately and in-line with specific student needs. As with any sensory strategy or tool, be sure to consult your child’s occupational therapist for an individualized approach to making it all work as part of your child’s comprehensive sensory diet. There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right weighted vest for your child so please let us know if you have any questions or feedback!

Sources: adaptandlearn.com and harkla.co

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  • Chenne Daig