The concept of the weighted vest or deep pressure vest is based on the sensory integration (SI) therapy technique of deep pressure. Deep pressure is often used to assist the child to self-calm and relax so that sensory stimulus can be processed. The use of a weighted vest provides the child with unconscious information from the muscles and joints.
Children who are easily distracted, hyperactive and lacking in concentration respond positively to the additional weight or pressure a vest provides.
Although there is limited research in the area of weighted vest therapy, many therapists have found a weighted vest may also assist with reflex maturity, body position awareness and coordination, balance, eye/hand coordination, spatial perception and hearing and speaking skills. Because of these anecdotal outcomes, many therapists working with children are recommending the use of a weighted vest.
What is Sensory Integration (SI)?
Sensory Integration (SI) is a brain process that occurs in all of us. It allows us, often without conscious thought, to take information through our senses, organize it and make a plan to produce a meaningful response to interact with our environment with ease and comfort. Our senses can be those that we know and those that are hidden. The senses that are the most obvious are those of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. The hidden senses are those of movement (vestibular or inner ear) and of body position sense (proprioception). The hidden senses are regulators of our nervous system and help build the foundation for purposeful movement.
For most children, sensory integration develops through ordinary childhood activities. Children must be able to organize sensory information to function in daily activities, in the classroom, on the playground and in relationships.
What is Disfunction of Sensory Integration (DSI)?
Simply put, a Sensory Processing Disorder or Dysfunction of Sensory Integration is the inability to process information received through our senses. A child with a dysfunction of sensory integration cannot respond to sensory information and use it to behave in a meaningful way. Some children are hypersensitive or hyposensitive to sensory information. Either way impairs learning and creates a threatening situation for the child causing increased anxiety and a decreased ability to interpret and respond appropriately to stimuli.
If your child is diagnosed with autism, ADD, ADHD or is hyperactive, he/she may benefit from a referral to a qualified occupational therapist who specializes in SI, and a weighted vest may be an effective component of a comprehensive occupational therapy program.