Around 70% of people diagnosed with autism will have a range of sensory processing difficulties. For most people their brain will take in, organize and then use sensory information from their environment with ease. A person with autism can have difficulty processing this sensory information, which can cause them to;

  • have difficulty controlling sensory input – may constantly seek out more sensory information through touch, smell or taste
  • have an intolerance to being touched
  • be over or under responsive to sensations, such as sound

Although unaware, much of their effort will go into trying to manage and cope with these difficulties. This can cause them to have problems in many areas including learning, due to having difficulty concentrating, and sleeping, due to having difficulty relaxing. Many children with autism struggle to sleep at night; some may wake up every few hours while others will stay awake till the early hours of the morning. One way to tackle this problem is the use of weighted blankets.

Weighted blankets may be recommended to you by an occupational therapist and can be used as a calming tool or to help a child with autism to sleep. They work by creating deep pressure over the child’s body that creates a calming effect. As stated above many children with autism have intolerance to being touched, however there is a difference between a light touch and deep pressure. Light touch will alert the nervous system, which can feel unpleasant to a child with autism. Deep pressure touch releases a calming chemical, called serotonin, in the body, which is relaxing.

Weighted blankets will either be filled with heavy micro-beads or use a series of weights round the edge of the pillow. They can be expensive so when you are looking to buy one be careful as many of the cheaper options are filled with things like stone, gravel, corn or lead shots and will not last long.

If your child has trouble sleeping at night and you would like more information before you commit to buying a weighted blanket then you can call one of the team here at Integrated Treatment Services on: 0845 838 2921 or simply email:

We can offer advice but can also assess your child to see if they could benefit from therapy for their sensory issues. Many sensory problems can be the underlying reason for behaviours such as rocking, spinning, and hand-flapping. A speech and language therapist can provide therapy that can address and reduce these behaviours. The team at ITS can offer several different services including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and music therapy. The different professionals will work together to give integrated care through 1:1, group or even online sessions.

If you have found this article helpful and have more questions then you can contact us with ideas for topics you would like us to cover in future blogs.

Laura Oldakowska
Speech and Language Therapist

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