Can Weighted Blankets Help Asperger's Syndrome?Dena Darroch @ 2019-06-27 17:05:51 -0400
Because it falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, Asperger's syndrome doesn't always get the same amount of recognition.
However, Asperger's is a condition that can affect everyday life for many people on the spectrum. While people with Asperger's are often described as high functioning, they sometimes struggle with sensory issues and anxiety.
We’ve had a lot of customers with Asperger’s syndrome — and many report back to us that a weighted blanket has helped them feel more relaxed. Here’s everything that you need to know about using a weighted blanket for Asperger’s syndrome.
What Is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Until 2013, Asperger’s syndrome was a distinct diagnosis separate from autism. Now, however, it’s part of an umbrella diagnosis under autism spectrum disorder. Today, doctors no longer use Asperger’s as a diagnosis. However, many people still identify as having the syndrome.
Because the syndrome has been folded into the autism spectrum, it’s difficult to say how many people are affected. According to the Asperger Autism Network, some estimates put the number at 1 in 250 people, while others say it’s 1 in 500.
So, how do you differentiate between Asperger’s and autism?
People with Asperger’s tend to have stronger verbal skills than those with autism. While people with autism might have strong communication and language skills, their ability often depends on where they fall on the spectrum,
People with Asperger’s are quite often extremely intelligent. They may have difficulties in social settings, but they can typically overcome these challenges by playing up their strengths, such as a knack for recognizing patterns or better-than-average focus.
As with others on the spectrum, people with Asperger’s may experience challenges. Common difficulties include hypersensitivity, troubles with nonverbal communication and uncoordinated movements. People with Asperger’s tend to be incredibly focused and can often concentrate on one idea or hobby to the point of obsession.
Children with Asperger’s might avoid eye contact or speak too loudly — challenges many can overcome with speech therapy and other interventions. They may also struggle with other mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression.
Asperger’s Syndrome and Anxiety
As with autism, Asperger’s is strongly associated with anxiety in both children and adults. Sigal Sharf at Anxiety.org describes a Swedish study in which 56 percent of the Asperger’s patients studied also suffered from an anxiety disorder. Among study participants, 70 percent had experienced depression, and 30 percent had been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
This anxiety can take many forms. In some people with Asperger’s, it manifests as social anxiety. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering a significant number of people with Asperger’s have difficulty in social settings. As Sharf writes, “People with social anxiety disorder experience extreme anxiety in social situations, fearing judgment or embarrassment. The condition affects their quality of life as they limit or avoid social interactions or spend excessive time consumed with worry and dread about upcoming events.”
In other cases, people with Asperger’s experience obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is also expected, as hyper-focus is a common trait among people with Asperger’s. While the ability to focus intensely on a subject or idea can be helpful at work or in school, it can also lead to unhealthy obsessions, which can sometimes become a serious psychiatric disorder like OCD. For many people with Asperger’s, finding a balance is a key part of maintaining good mental health.
Weighted Blankets for Asperger’s Syndrome
Should you try a weighted blanket for Asperger’s syndrome? If you have Asperger’s with anxiety, a weighted blanket may help ease the symptoms and help you get more restful and restorative sleep.
As we explain in our blog post about what weighted blankets are used for, many people have experienced what a weighted blanket can do without having ever used one. For example, if you love snuggling under a pile of thick blankets, you might notice you feel calm and relaxed. Or maybe you get a warm and pleasant sensation when the dentist places the lead shield over your torso before taking an x-ray.
These feelings occur due to a form of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation. Researchers have found that touch can have a powerful effect on autism. Harvard researcher Emily Kuehn writes: “In its specific application to [autism spectrum disorder] patients, studies have shown that touch therapy can relieve common physical and mental ailments associated with the disorder, including muscle spasms and social anxiety. Touch therapy can have beneficial effects on the linguistic and social abilities of ASD patients, and can boost the effects of conventional therapies when used together.”
Specifically, studies show that therapeutic touch helps reduce cortisol (a hormone associated with stress levels) levels and boosts serotonin (a chemical that transmits signals in the brain). This is why it often feels good to get a hug or sleep under a thick down comforter. A weighted blanket provides the firm, but gentle pressure used in deep pressure touch stimulation therapy.
The Benefits of a Weighted Blanket for Asperger’s Syndrome
Weighted blankets can offer a number of benefits. If you have Asperger’s or you know someone who does, you may also know that many people with the syndrome benefit from sensory input.
Sensory therapy, such as squeezing a squishy stress ball or having one’s body pressed between bean bags, can help someone suffering from sensory issues. A weighted blanket can provide similar sensations — that can make a weighted blanket a valuable tool for someone with Asperger’s.