Autism is a lifelong challenge, no matter how you look at it. When you have a diagnosis like that, it’s in your best interest to keep an open mind and think outside the box. With every passing year, scientists are learning more about autism and ways to help those with the condition.
Although autism is a condition some estimates say impact up to 1 in 59 children, some people still have trouble explaining what it is. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are developmental disorders that affect each person uniquely, although they share common characteristics.
People with autism can have trouble with communication and social situations. They might also have repetitive behavior and intellectual delays or impairment. Or they could have a sensory processing disorder.
You don’t know what you’re getting with autism -- you can have a mild case or a severe one.
Is There a Difference in Autism in Adults Compared to Children?
Many of us may have had speech issues in our younger years at school that required intervention. Autism intervention has that in common with speech therapy -- interventions are best when introduced at a young age.
Autism is much more mainstream than ever before -- teachers, doctors, and even regular parents know what it is and some basic signs.
Pediatricians routinely perform well-baby and well-child check-ups now. That’s a lot different from when I was a kid -- I practically had to be having a near-death experience before my parents would spring for a trip to the doctor.
School teachers and officials flag any child they see who isn’t meeting the developmental milestones they should. Due to this, children going through school are less likely to graduate with an undiagnosed case of autism.
A generation or two ago, it was entirely possible for children with mild cases of autism to have their condition unnoticed. As a result, some people hear the diagnosis of autism for the first time when they are adults.
Adults who are diagnosed may notice different symptoms than what would be a red flag to a pediatrician who was diagnosing children with autism. As a result of the patient’s age, an adult may have different therapies than a child with autism would.
Therapies for Autism
There are plenty of therapies a person with autism may be offered. Some of them include:
- Play therapy: There are different types of play therapy, including floortime, integrated play groups, and JASPER (Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation). Play therapy can boost emotional, social, and language skills.
- Behavioral therapy: This can help those with autism learn new skills in all areas, like life skills, communication, and more.
- Occupational therapy: This type of therapy helps people with autism improve on performing everyday tasks.
- Speech therapy: Speech therapy involves more than just talking -- it’s about communication too. Simple things we take for granted like looking another person in the eyes when we talk to them are addressed in this type of therapy.
In addition to these therapies, people with autism find other tools to help manage their condition and symptoms. Occupational therapists, for example, sometimes recommend a weighted blanket for autism.
They can provide some relief from sleep disorders, sometimes caused by anxiety, that people with autism often experience. The weighted blankets can offer deep pressure stimulation which relaxes and calms people with autism. That can lead to falling asleep faster, less frequent wakings, and less anxiety.
A heavy blanket for autism can quite literally become a security blanket. A weighted blanket for autistic adults has been proven in one study to help, with 63 percent of those tested reporting feeling less stressed.
The benefits of weighted blankets for autism children are less clear. It’s still an option some therapists recommend because they have seen success with some of their patients.
The Different Weighted Blankets Available
Weighted blankets come in various sizes and weights. They might just weigh a few pounds, or they could be as heavy as 30 pounds.
There are some that are better for adults than children, and you have to be aware of those differences when looking for one.
You’ll need to consider the size of the bed you’ll use it on. Other things that can vary from blanket to blanket include what they are filled with, such as glass beads or polyfill, and how they are constructed in terms of where the weight is placed.
The fabric they are made out of can also be a huge deciding factor for you. If you’re always cold like I am, you might want a warmer fabric like fleece or flannel. If you run warm, you may want a more breathable, lighter fabric like cotton or bamboo.
How to Select a Blanket for Someone with Autism
Weighted blankets can be expensive so you want to ensure you’re getting one that will be loved and used by the person you’re giving it to. Let’s make that decision a bit easier by going over some things you should consider before buying.
If you’re looking for a blanket for an adult with autism, remember:
- Weight: Try to stick with a weight that is equal or close to 10 percent of the person’s body weight. Anything lighter may not be weighty enough. And anything heavier might be uncomfortable. However, bear in mind this is down to personal preference.
- Fabric: If you know the temperature they like to keep their apartment or house at, that will help. If it is warm because they don’t like to use much air conditioning, stay away from heavier fabrics.
- Go neutral: You can get blankets in any color. But if you don’t want to clash with the colors they already have in their bedroom, pick something muted like a tan or gray.
- Washing instructions: The last thing you want to do is give a 30-pound blanket to an autistic person and say, “Here you go, have fun cleaning it!” Make sure it is easy to wash and is made from a durable fabric that will last. The easiest way to avoid this is to buy one with a removable cover, so they won’t have to lug a heavy blanket to the washing machine.
If you’re looking for a blanket for autism for a child:
- Consider the pattern: Having your child’s favorite cartoon character on their blanket might seem like a good idea. But, before you buy a pattern that’s too exciting for your child, remember it is easy to overstimulate the senses with autism. That’s the last thing you want right before trying to get them to sleep.
- Weight: The same 10 percent weight rule applies when shopping for weighted blankets for kids. It can be tempting to increase the weight so you don’t have to replace the blanket as they get bigger and heavier. But that’s a bad idea. You don’t want them to feel smothered -- they’ll never want to use it.
- Cost: Because children will outgrow their blanket and adults won’t, you might want to steer toward a more inexpensive purchase. But if you don’t want to skimp, that’s okay too. Weighted blankets that aren’t heavy enough anymore can be donated or you can keep them around. They make great blankets to use for picnics and days at the beach too. The wind won’t carry them away!
Keep Searching For Ways To Help
Whether the person you’re shopping for is a child or an adult, they are lucky to have you. The fact that you’re looking into ways to help them with their autism shows how much you care about them.
The greatest gift someone can give is their love, attention, and thoughtfulness. Just by being in their corner, you’ll help them immeasurably.
For more information about choosing the right weighted blanket, check out Autism Parenting Magazine's: Weighted Blankets for Autism: Reducing Anxiety and Providing a Good Night's Sleep