How to Make a Weighted Blanket for Autism

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Buying a weighted blanket can be expensive! Thankfully, it is something you can make if you are not sure if you want to invest in a weighted blanket for yourself or your child yet. This article will provide all the information you need if you plan to make a weighted blanket.

What is a Weighted Blanket?

Weighted blankets are heavy blankets that are filled with a variety of materials such as plastic poly pellets, glass beads, or natural grains, which provide a comforting and calming pressure. Originating from the concept of deep pressure stimulation therapy, weighted blankets mimic the feeling of a gentle hug or being swaddled. This sensory input helps promote relaxation, help with anxiety and improve sleep by stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood, relaxation, and sleep. These blankets have gained popularity due to their therapeutic benefits, particularly for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and sensory processing disorders. However, their use is not limited to these conditions; weighted blankets have also been found to help with general stress, anxiety, and insomnia, making them a versatile tool for improving mental wellbeing.

It is important to note that weighted blankets should be used under supervision or consultation of a professional such as an occupational therapist to ensure the weighted blanket does not pose safety risks to the child.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Weighted Blankets for Autism

Weighted blankets offer an array of therapeutic benefits for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), especially for those with sensory processing issues. The deep pressure exerted by these blankets provides a calming effect, which can reduce anxiety, alleviate sensory overload, and improve focus. The comforting “hug-like” sensation they provide has been linked to the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, promoting feelings of happiness and relaxation. This is especially beneficial during moments of high anxiety or overstimulation, common experiences for those with ASD. Further, weighted blankets can improve sleep quality and duration by helping the body transition into a more relaxed state, which is a common challenge for many individuals with autism.

Understanding Weighted Blankets: How Do They Work?

Weighted blankets work on the principle of Deep Pressure Touch (DPT), a type of therapy that uses firm, hands-on pressure to reduce chronic stress and high levels of anxiety. The blankets are typically filled with materials like plastic poly pellets, micro glass beads, or natural grains, which add weight evenly distributed across the blanket. When draped over the body, this evenly distributed weight applies a gentle, steady pressure that can stimulate the release of serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate some brain functions, including sleep and mood. This is similar to the calming effect of a hug or a massage. For individuals with autism or sensory processing disorder, the DPT from weighted blankets can help create a soothing environment by reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of calm.

Deep Pressure Touch (DPT) provided by weighted blankets is more than just physically soothing; it’s known to have a significant impact on neurological processes. This technique, similar to the sensation of a warm hug or being swaddled, aids in grounding the individual’s body, facilitating a greater sense of spatial awareness and security. This in turn can decrease over-stimulation and hyperactivity, common characteristics associated with autism and sensory processing disorder.

The body’s positive response to the blanket’s pressure leads to the production of ‘feel good’ hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin, which help manage stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it can also help to suppress the production of cortisol, a hormone typically associated with the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. The overall effect leads to a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, promoting a calming, more relaxed state.

What You Need for Your DIY Weighted Blanket

Creating your own weighted blanket is not just cost-effective but also allows for a high degree of customization. Before you start, gather the necessary materials to ensure a smooth crafting process. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fabric: Choose a soft and durable material like cotton or fleece. You’ll need two pieces, each the size of the desired blanket.
  • Filler: This is what gives the blanket its weight. Plastic poly pellets are a popular choice, but glass beads, rice, or dried beans can also be used.
  • Thread: Pick a durable, high-quality thread to ensure the blanket can withstand the weight.
  • Sewing machine: This will make the process faster and neater, but you can also sew by hand.
  • Measuring tape: You’ll need this to measure the fabric and create the pockets for the filler.
  • Scale: This is essential for accurately measuring the filler to ensure the correct weight.
  • Funnel: This will make it easier to fill the pockets with the weighted material.
  • Pins or fabric clips: These will hold the fabric in place while you sew.
  • Scissors: You’ll need these to cut the fabric and thread.

Deciding on the Right Weight: Safety Considerations and Calculations

Determining the correct weight for a weighted blanket is a critical step that prioritizes the user’s safety and comfort. The general guideline recommends the blanket to weigh approximately 10% of the user’s body weight, with an addition of one or two pounds for children. For instance, if the child weighs 50 pounds, the weighted blanket should be around 5 to 7 pounds.

Again, it is essential to consult with an occupational therapist or a healthcare professional before deciding on the weight, especially when making one for children or individuals with health conditions. The blanket should never restrict movement or feel too overwhelming, and the user should be able to remove it easily if they want. Always remember, the primary goal of the blanket is to provide comfort and a sense of calm, not to induce discomfort or anxiety or be restrictive.

Step-by-Step Process: A Comprehensive Guide to Making a Weighted Blanket

Creating a weighted blanket requires some sewing skills and a bit of patience. But, with the right tools and some dedication, it can be an enjoyable and therapeutic project. Here are the steps to help guide you through the process:

  1. Preparation: Begin by measuring and cutting your fabric to the desired size of your finished blanket, keeping in mind that the seams will reduce the final size slightly.
  2. Divide and Conquer: Draw a grid on one piece of the fabric using a fabric marker to represent the pockets where the weights will go. These squares are usually about 4-5 inches in size but can be adjusted depending on personal preference.
  3. Sew the Pockets: Pin the two pieces of fabric together, with the right sides facing each other, and sew around the edges, leaving an opening for turning. Turn the blanket right side out, then sew the vertical lines of your grid.
  4. Add the Weight: Calculate the weight needed for each pocket based on the total weight of your blanket. Pour the weighted material, such as plastic poly pellets, into each column, one at a time, using a funnel.
  5. Seal it Up: After filling, sew a line across the fabric to seal the weights into the column before moving on to the next. Repeat until all columns are filled.
  6. Close the Blanket: Once all the pockets are filled, sew the opening closed. Make sure all the seams are secure to prevent any leakage of the weighted material.

Remember, this is a simplified guide, and more detailed instructions can be found online and by consultating a professional. Take your time with each step, and soon, you’ll have a custom-made weighted blanket ready for use.

Maintenance and Care: Ensuring Your Weighted Blanket Lasts

Maintaining and caring for your homemade weighted blanket properly can significantly extend its longevity, ensuring that it continues to provide comfort for years to come. Start by reviewing the care instructions for your chosen fabric and weighted material; some materials may be machine washable, while others might require hand washing or spot cleaning. It’s also beneficial to frequently inspect your blanket for signs of wear and tear, such as loose threads or damage to the pockets that contain the weighted material. If you spot any signs of wear, be proactive in repairing them to prevent further damage. Finally, consider making a removable cover for your weighted blanket, similar to a duvet cover, to protect it from spills and stains and make it easier to clean. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your handmade weighted blanket remains a durable, cherished part of your calming strategies.


How heavy should a weighted blanket be autism?

The weight of a weighted blanket for an individual with autism should be personalized and safe. It is generally recommended that the weight of the blanket should be approximately 10% of the person’s body weight, plus one or two pounds. However, comfort and personal preference should always be taken into consideration and a healthcare provider such as an occupational therapist should be consulted.

How do you make a sensory weighted blanket?

Making a sensory weighted blanket involves several steps: first, gather your materials, such as fabric, thread, and a weighted filling like plastic pellets. You’ll need to calculate the weight of the blanket based on the user’s body weight, then sew the blanket together in a grid pattern, filling each square with an equal amount of your chosen weight material.

Are weighted blankets good for people with autism?

Yes, weighted blankets can be beneficial for people with autism. They apply deep pressure stimulation, which can help increase feelings of calm, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. However, the effectiveness can vary from person to person, and it’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider or occupational therapist to determine if a weighted blanket would be beneficial for an individual’s specific needs.

How do you make a weighted blanket at home?

To make a weighted blanket at home, you’ll need fabric, weighted filling (like plastic pellets or rice), a sewing machine, and basic sewing supplies. Start by measuring and cutting your fabric, then sew a grid of pockets onto the blanket. Fill each pocket with your weighted material, making sure to distribute the weight evenly, then sew the pockets closed. Always remember to use materials that align with the user’s sensory preferences and to customize the blanket’s weight based on their needs.