Do Weighted Blankets Improve Sleep in Children and Teens with Autism?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


In this article, Autism Speaks discusses a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, that concludes that weighted blankets do not significantly impact in sleep in children with autism.

Here’s what we think!

A weighted blanket, like any isolated sensory strategy is not a magic pill. Difficulty falling asleep is often the result of over-responsiveness to sensation THROUGHOUT THE DAY. 

​Weighted blankets ​will only be truly ​effective as part of a comprehensive sensory diet. A sensory diet is proactive, and includes consistent sensory input throughout the day, not only at the time that the challenge arises (in this case, bed time). Think of a typical diet. Eating an apple for snack might be a healthy, nutritional choice, but you will only achieve a healthy lifestyle, and start to see a difference, if you choose healthy foods (and eliminate unhealthy foods) throughout the day. It would be silly to eat one apple in the evening, and potato chips the rest of the day, and then conclude that eating apples has no positive impact on weight loss.

So, don’t throw out your weighted blankets so quickly. If your child prefers it, this is a good sign that you chose an appropriate sensory diet activity for him/her. Work with your occupational therapist to combine it with additional sensory activities, such as Therapeutic Listening and heavy work, and you might start to see some real changes.
This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child, Therapeutic Listening.

The Magic of Music

Monday, August 20th, 2012

At home and in the classroom, your child can benefit in many ways from the power of music. One of the greatest benefits of music is its versatility. You can play it anywhere, at home, in the classroom, or on the go. You can achieve a variety of therapeutic goals: regulatory (to promote calm, organization or alertness), gross motor (balance; bilateral coordination), or fine motor (finger play).

 Here are some tips to use music to your advantage: 

1. Set the mood. Choose music to establish the type of mood you want to achieve. Some tunes (such as classical music or nature sounds) are calming and can set the tone for quiet learning, while other tunes (such as rap or heavy beats) can be very alerting.   Note, your child’s response to a genre of music may be very different than your own. There is a natural tendency for the auditory system to respond differently as we age.

2. Music can be used to facilitate whole group activities to stretch, flex, and move the body. Alternatively, you can use music in the background.

3. Use whole body movements to match the music. Movement of the whole body intermittently throughout homework or play time is a great way to keep your child’s posture from slumping or slouching. Regular movement is a much-needed wake-up call for the body to stay upright. 

4. Not only can the tempo of the music alert your child for learning, but moving to the beat of the music is another effective way to keep children attentive.          

5. Music for the hands: Many songs offer the chance to incorporate finger play, making them ideally suited for younger children who are still developing a sense of their fingers and hands. Hand games are a perfect warm-up before writing, drawing, or coloring. 

6. Bilateral coordination is important for gross motor skills as well as fine motor activities such as writing. When moving to the beat, incorporate midline activities (such as clapping), right/left discrimination, and crossing the midline of the body (such as using opposite limbs). 

7. Learning to perform a series of body movements in order is a fun and effective way to work on improving sequencing skills. We learn better by doing so by incorporating whole body movements, your child will also get the benefit of motor memory. 

8. Have your child stand on one foot, hop, skip, or gallop to the music to improve balance. It is a fun way to develop an underlying skill that is important for many gross motor activities.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, OTR/L                            

Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L, Director of POTS

This entry was posted on Monday, August 20th, 2012 and is filed under Therapeutic Listening.

Ten Things to do While “Listening”

Monday, January 25th, 2010

What is Therapeutic Listening?

Therapeutic Listening is an auditory treatment modality provided through specialized headphones using specially filtered and gated music to achieve goals such as improved self-regulation, spatial awareness, decreased tactile defensiveness, and improved attention. CD’s are carefully selected by the therapist to achieve specific goals and are changed at regular intervals.

Q: How often does my child “listen”?

A: Children listen to the music twice a day for thirty minutes. Each listening session should be separated by at least three hours, so it may be best to listen in the morning and the afternoon. It is best not to listen too close to bed time.

Q: What activities can my child do while “listening”?

A: Children can engage in their typical routines while listening, with the exception of watching TV and playing on the computer or with videogames. Listed below are some fun activities that provide strong input to the muscles and will maximize the calming effects of listening music:

1. “Bubble mountain”: Fill a container with soapy water and use a straw to blow bubbles over the top

2. Wheelbarrow walking

3. Crab walking (lie on back, pick up body with hands and feet, walk using hands and feet)

4. Play “Hide and Seek” under cushions or pillows

5. Jump off the couch and crash into pillows

6. Wall push-ups- place open hands, shoulder width apart, against the wall and push as hard as possible against the wall with both hands

7. Bounce on a “Hippity Hop” or large exercise ball

8. Play catch with a weighted ball (”medicine ball”)

9. Play with putty or Play-doh. Use cookie cutters to make shapes or play “hide and seek” with pennies or marbles.

10. Practice writing letters or numbers using different textures such as “Funny Foam”, shaving cream, Play-doh, finger paint, marshmallow fluff, chocolate pudding, etc.

Q: What can I do to keep my child’s headphones on while playing?

A: 1.Doing activities with both hands, such as playing with Play-doh, will naturally keep your child’s hands busy and prevent him/her from removing the headphones.

2. While engaged in active play:

a. Wear a stretchy headband over the headphones to keep them in place. Personalize it by decorating it together with your child.
b. Line the headphones with fabric to keep them from slipping off

3. To keep the CD player in tact during play, place a Tune Belt (www.tunebelt.com) around your child’s waist.

For more information about Therapeutic Listening, visit their website at www.vitallinks.net.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR
Chaye Lamm Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS

January 25, 2010

This entry was posted on Monday, January 25th, 2010 and is filed under Therapeutic Listening.