Many children with autism suffer from sensory processing disorders, which mean they are extremely sensitive to various forms of sensory stimuli—such as touching, texture of food or clothing, lights and aromas—that, for most people, go unnoticed.
This is not necessarily true for many children with autism. According to the BBB Autism website, the three general kinds of sensory processing disorders are:
Tactile—based on a person’s sense of touch
Proprioceptive—based on where a person’s body is within a particular space
Vestibular—based on a person’s inner ear, and how it governs a person’s ability to interact with gravity and keep balance
For an autistic child with hyperactive sensory processing, this can lead to inappropriate social behaviors that can be very embarrassing for the parent. Additionally, this can drastically affect a child’s sleep pattern.
Most research indicates that a significant majority of children with autism have some type of sleep disorder. This can show itself in a variety of ways, such as having problems going to sleep, having problems staying asleep, or just waking up very early. For autistic children who have a hyperactive proprioceptive sensory disorder, there are a few tricks that can help the child go to sleep easier at night; one that parents are moving toward more often are weighted blankets.
The principle behind weighted blankets is to help the child with autism feel that he or she is enclosed and safe. An autistic child with a hyperactive proprioceptive sensory disorder often needs to feel cocooned in order to go to sleep because they don’t have an appropriate sense of space in relation to their body. As a result, weighted blankets, generally filled with sand or beans as opposed to traditional goose down, help alleviate the feeling of being in extraordinary space.
Without weighted blankets, many parents of autistic children must share the same bed to help compensate for their child’s anxiety over being in space. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of this practice can be the loss of sleep for the parents who often wake the next morning sleep-deprived, which can lead to a parent’s irritability. Using a weighted blanket can encourage a child to sleep in his or her own bed allowing for a better night’s sleep for the parents as well as a better relationship with their child.
Still, a weighted blanket is not necessarily a panacea for the child who wakes up in the middle of the night or who wakes up extremely early. For an autistic child who has a persistent sleep disorder, parents might want to look into additional alternatives to use in combination with a weighted blanket. There are a number of beds on the market designed specifically for autistic children. One in particular can aid the effectiveness of a weighted blanket: Noah’s Bed.
The unique, patented design of Noah’s Bed allows for a feeling of safety for the hyperactive proprioceptive sensory child by creating a cocoon-like atmosphere while still allowing the child to see out through the mesh netting. At the same time, parents will have a sense of security knowing that their child will be safe regardless what time he or she wakes up.
For more information on weighted blankets, go to www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/weighted-blankets.html.
For more information on Noah’s Bed, go to www.noahsworldllc.com.