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A Pediatric Perspective

The Weighted Vest Debate

Published September 26, 2014 1:45 PM by Wendy Spoor-Hof

A recent discussion arose in the "Pediatric Occupational Therapists" Facebook group about the usefulness of weighted vests. The writer posted that there are numerous studies showing weighted vests are not an effective intervention in the pediatric population. Several studies were posted supporting this that I'm listing here:

Pilot Study of the Effectiveness of Weighted Vests (The American Journal of Occupational Therapy)

The Use of Weighted Vests with Children with ASD and other Disabilities (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders)

The Effects of Weighted Vests on Appropriate In-Seat Behaviors of Elementary-Age Students With Autism and Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities (Sage Journals)

There is also an article to support that weighted vests do work:

Effects of Weighted Vests on Attention, Impulse Control, and On-Task Behavior in Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (The American Journal of Occupational Therapy)

The blog "OT and Self Regulation" has an entry sharing two studies -- one that shows they work and one that shows they may not.

For anyone who isn't sure how a weighted vest might work, here is an article about helping a child with sensory-processing and motor-planning challenges from the website Especialneeds.com.

I have used weighted vests on a few of the children I've worked with over the years and have had varying results. A couple of children really showed improvement with their ability to sit and focus on an activity. A couple other children showed no improvement at all. I know in the cases where they worked, the children were originally all over the place -- jumping up on furniture and running back and forth in the house.

We used a weighted vest on them for an hour and then off for an hour over the course of a day. It took a couple days before the parents shared that the child was slowing down a little. Then in a couple more days, they shared that the child was able to actually sit for a few moments and focus on a play activity (puzzle or shape-sorter or coloring).

I'm a believer as an OT/COTA that we should be open to trying a variety of things with the children we work with, as long as there is no risk of harm. A weighted vest won't hurt a child but may help him. It may not work on every child, but if it works on even one and helps that child and family cope better during the day, then I'm willing to at least give it a try if the family is. If it works, great. If it doesn't, no harm done and we move on to another option.

What are your thoughts on the weighted vest subject? Have you used one before? If so, what were the results? Did it work? Not work? Why type of vest did you use?

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