If people believe it works for their dogs, then surely they would think it works for children!
I was in a pet store a few weeks ago and saw this anxiety vest for dogs. I had never seen such a thing. Well, I had for children, but not for dogs! Of course it makes sense to me, but what perplexed me is that people continue to shoo-shoo the use of pressure vests for children with Autism, ADHD and sensory issues, but yet it must be o.k. for our pets?!
Then, I was at the fireworks the other night and heard a friend of mine ask her husband if he had put the vest on their dog, Jada. My ears perked up and I asked what kind of vest and she responded, “A thunder vest for anxiety”. I asked her how it worked and she said, “It works well for thunder, so we’re trying it tonight for the fireworks!” And there you have it!
So, how does it work? Deep pressure touch reduces sensory hypersensitivities and helps to calm and organize the nervous system. For my friend’s dog, Jada, the loud noises bother her. Think about our children with sensory hypersensitivities who respond well to big bear hugs, or who like to be buried under the sofa cushions. They are seeking out this deep pressure input. These children may respond well to a deep pressure vest!
There are weighted compression vests out there and you can find one like the one above at Fun and Function. A weighted vest should be 5-10% of the child’s body weight and the weight should be well distributed throughout the vest. Wearing time may be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours at a time, with 2 hour breaks in between wearing times. I only recommend that the child wears the vest during times when he or she is expected to sit still, pay attention or learn. I never allow the child to wear the vest outside to play or at recess. The wearing schedule for pressure vests is not so stringent, but the child may accommodate to the sensation, so I still advise to only wear the vest for up to 2 hours at a time.
Massage, stacking large bean bags on top of your child and rolling a large ball on top of your child to make a pizza are just a few other ways to provide your child with deep pressure input. Ask your OT for other ways to provide your child with deep pressure input! We all know, calm kids=calm parents!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L