If you or a loved one is a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may be all too familiar with the propensity one has for experiencing higher levels of anxiety. When the anxiety gets out of control and you’re reaching for tools and modalities to help calm down, weighted blankets have actually been shown to help!
Occupational therapists have utilized weighted blankets for persons with autism for years — and now this fantastic tool is popular to have on hand in your own home. If you are looking for ways to help manage anxieties surrounding this, weighted blankets may be able to help.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
It's important to remember ASD occurs on a scale so recognizing it can vary from person to person. Oftentimes, it may present itself as, "Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors," according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The sharp focus, authenticity, and drive associated with ASD makes these individuals highly motivated when they are interested in a topic and can often lead to mastery. However, they can also struggle with mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, especially when a lot of time is spent out of their true interests, passions, and resonance.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is often helpful for ASD anxiety. Occupational therapy and speech therapy can also help them overcome struggles in everyday life and social settings where they may feel more challenged than when they are in “the zone.”
Is Anxiety Commonly Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Research has shown that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to experience high levels of anxiety. According to a study from the UK National Autistic Society, 47% of participants with Autism Spectrum Disorder’s met the diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and in total, 59% said that their anxiety impacted their ability to manage their daily lives.
Those with autism may experience more anxiety due to their brain’s interpretation of events, their intensely focused nature, and their tendency to hyper-fixate. This is a superpower when applied to their interests, but can be very overwhelming when analyzing or perceiving uncomfortable social situations, overwhelming ideas, and things they simply have no interest in.
For this reason, those with ASD thrive on the predictability and stability of routine. Unexpected plans or responsibilities can lead to immense anxiety, so a routine with clearly defined time for interests vs. non-interests is ideal! Difficulty processing, understanding, and expressing emotions through their discomfort can also lead to repetitive thoughts and unease.
While there is no substitute for the proper doctor, therapy, support system, and routine, it’s almost inevitable that daily anxieties will creep up. As far as mitigating daily anxieties, stressors, and overwhelm, weighted blankets can be a great tool to keep on hand! They provide comfort through deep pressure sensory stimulation that calms the nervous system and helps the wearer feel calm.
Weighted Blankets for Autism Spectrum Disorder
If you’re curious about trying out a weighted blanket for ASD anxiety, you may be surprised to discover how effective it can be at de-escalating anxious symptoms and calming the mind and body.
When treating those with autism spectrum disorder, therapists have long employed a methodology called Deep Pressure Stimulation. Typically, this is a modality in which the therapist would apply firm, direct pressure onto the body with their hands. Similar to the effects of being swaddled or squeezed in a big hug, this technique helps to calm the body and mind because the weight and pressure naturally promote serotonin and melatonin production. Knowing this, you can understand why many therapists have started using weighted blankets in their protocols and suggest keeping one on hand at home to use when needed!
Namely, the stress hormone cortisol is affected by weighted blankets. Applying pressure to certain parts of the body switches the sympathetic nervous system off and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
In other words, your body goes from “fight or flight mode” (anxiety) to a restful, peaceful state.
Order Your Weighted Blanket From Luna Today
If you are looking for ways to help manage the symptoms associated with ASD, we hope you will keep a Luna weighted blanket within reach to utilize when things get overwhelming. Many of our reviewers have noted how beneficial this tool has been in helping to soothe anxiety associated with ASD. A weighted blanket may make it easier to process anxiety, stress, and other uncomfortable feelings. Additionally, it can also make it easier to fall into a deep restful sleep, as we know getting enough quality sleep also plays a large role in good mental health and well-being.
A great product to start with is our best-selling Classic Cotton Weighted Blanket. It comes in multiple colors so you can certainly find one you or your loved one really enjoys.
Editor's Note: We are not healthcare professionals, and the content on our website is not a substitute for medical advice. We encourage everyone to reach out to their doctor before ordering a weighted blanket or trying any type of therapy or treatment.