Weighted vests, lap pads, blankets and toys have come a long way in providing therapeutic value. These items are practically indispensable to a classroom teacher in mainstream or special needs education where these tools can help to neutralize an overly excited or withdrawn child. How do they work? Their gentle pull on the muscles and pressure through the skin send just the right input to the nervous system to help it organize. What we can see are often a more grounded individual with more appropriate motor and emotional/behavioral responses. Weighted items are not only therapeutic for children on the spectrum but can be quite beneficial for those with even mild to moderate sensory or attention disorders. Let’s take a look at our top weighted items that may be just what you need to encourage calm, focus and attention in your classroom.
A weighted vest is often like a therapeutic touch. It engages the muscles around the core. In this state, a child can better focus and attend. Vests can be worn all day or in 20-minute increments. Though 5% of the body weight is suggested, it really is up to personal preference as to the amount of weight used. Many vests offer open pockets that are adjustable to add or take weight out. Kids like vests as they look like regular clothing. Adults like them as they are easy to put on, keep on and therefore keep track of. Most vests are easily washable and a great part of your “dress for success” wardrobe.
Though you don’t’ technically “wear” a lap pad, they are small enough to move around and portable enough to take on a trip. These are great for reading corners, bedrooms, dinner tables and a trip in the car or plane. You can place them on a lap when your student needs a bit more input to concentrate and attend such as during a test, doing deskwork or circle time. But they can also be used across the shoulders or on your back. Kids love to pick them up and carry them around as well.
This is like the Mercedes of the weighted wearables. A weighted blanket is often used at bedtime for kids who have a hard time winding down. It is perfect for sensory seeking individuals or those who are over responsive to help them relax. But, blankets can be used during rest time, reading time or in a sensory corner in your classroom as well. All who use them love them and nothing calls to a good book like a weighted blanket.
Sometimes all you need is a little calm through your shoulders. A weighed neck pillow is perfect for your classroom and can be used on the neck or even placed on your lap. Its unique shape makes it easy to use and easy to carry around. I’ve even seen kids who like to sit on them as a nice cushion.
Remember that though weight can be therapeutic, using a weighted item should be monitored for its effectiveness and for safety. Children should not toss items and if a child is not comfortable, the weight should be removed. Keeping a few of these key items in your classroom may just make everyone a bit more engaged so you can do what you love to do: teach.
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