Weighted therapy is the use of weight to apply deep pressure to the body. The weight and pressure stimulates the proprioceptive sense helping those who are “sensory seeking” to relax, focus, and develop a greater awareness of their body.
- can have a calming effect, promoting a sense of wellbeing
- can improve body awareness
- can improve focus and concentration
- can reduce repetitive sensory-seeking behaviour
- is safe and effective
- is non-invasive and discreet
Weighted therapy is becoming increasingly recommended in the UK by Occupational Therapists. It is used in schools, hospitals, and homes. It is widely regarded as a safe and effective treatment for sensory integration disorder, making an enormous difference to the lives of sufferers and their families. Many children on the autistic spectrum have sensory processing issues, and many have benefited from the use of weighted therapy products.
Weighted therapy may also help those with Cerebral Palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, Retts syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome and those with learning and communication difficulties. The list of conditions that can be helped by weighted therapy is extensive, and some people suffering from other conditions (such as hearing problems and restless leg syndrome) also appear to benefit from the use of weight therapy. That said, not all children with these conditions will benefit. Success very much depends on the individual and their affiliation to deep pressure and weight.
The proprioceptive sense is a little-known, yet vital, bodily sense that most of us take completely for granted. Proprioception is the sense and awareness of our own body’s position and movement. It is our awareness of our body’s orientation in space, and the direction, speed, and extent of the movement of our body and limbs. This information is detected by sensory receptors in our muscles, ligaments, and joints, and then processed through the central nervous system.
The proprioceptive sense is closely related to the vestibular sense. The receptors for the vestibular sense are hair cells within the inner ear (vestibule). These send messages to the brain about the position and movement of the head in relation to the rest of the body.
In practical terms, the proprioceptive sense sends messages to our brain to tell us whether muscles are stretched or relaxed, whether joints are bending or straightening, and the extent to which this movement is occurring. This information is essential for carrying out everyday activities which most of us take for granted.
Poor proprioception makes maintaining bodily posture and moving with a feeling of safety and security difficult. It affects awareness of the position of the body, arms, and legs.
The ability to recognise which series of bodily actions and movements are necessary to complete a certain task is dependent on our proprioception. An underperforming proprioceptive sense affects ‘motor-planning’. When this does not function properly the child may have difficulty getting dressed, tying shoelaces, and completing other everyday tasks.
Our proprioceptive sense tells us how much force to exert when completing a task. For example, how hard to push when opening a door, or how much pressure to exert on a pencil when writing are just some of the everyday tasks that may be affected.
A poor-functioning proprioceptive sense can be a symptom of Sensory Integration Disorder. This concept was first developed by Dr. A Jean Ayers in the 1970’s. Sensory Integration is, in essence, the process of taking information in from our environment, making sense of that information, and using it to act and respond in an appropriate manner.
So, a child with a poor proprioceptive sense may;
- play roughly; pushing too hard, shouting, jumping, or running excessively
- appear clumsy
- have poor fine motor skills, finding writing and drawing difficult
- display repetitive and self-stimulatory behaviour such as spinning, rocking or fidgeting
- like to chew on their fingers, clothes, pens, toys, or other objects
- appear uncoordinated and have difficulty with large motor skills such as jumping, climbing, or bike riding
- frequently bump into other people and objects
Sensory Direct have a number of free resources available to help you understand how our sensory products may help you or the person you are buying for. These are available on our Downloads page.