Skip to main content

The Use of Weighted Vests with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities

Abstract

Therapists who use sensory integration therapy may recommend that children wear weighted vests as an intervention strategy that they claim may assist in remediating problems such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, stereotypic behaviors and clumsiness. Seven studies examining weighted vests are reviewed. While there is only a limited body of research and a number of methodological weaknesses, on balance, indications are that weighted vests are ineffective. There may be an arguable case for continued research on this intervention but weighted vests cannot be recommended for clinical application at this point. Suggestions are offered for future research with regard to addressing methodological problems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Arendt, R. E., MacLean, W. E., & Baumeister, A. A. (1988). Critique of sensory integration therapy and its application to mental retardation. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 92, 401–411.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ayres, A. J. (1972). Sensory integration and learning disorders. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baer, D. M., Wolf, M. M., & Risley, T. R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91–97. doi:10.1901/jaba.1968.1-91.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baranek, G. T. (2002). Efficacy of sensory and motor interventions for children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 397–422. doi:10.1023/A:1020541906063.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barton, E.E., Reichow, B., & Wolery, M. (2007, May). Double blind placebo evaluation on the engagement of young children with autism. Poster session presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Seattle Washington.

  • Bormann, I. (2003). Digitizelt (version 1.5.7) [Computer software]. Braunschweig, Germany: Bormisoft.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carter, S. L. (2005). An empirical analysis of the effects of a possible sinus infection and weighted vest on functional analysis outcomes of self-injury exhibited by a child with autism. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Interventions, 2, 252–258.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crosbie, J. (1987). The inability of the binomial test to control Type I error with single-subject data. Behavioral Assessment, 9, 141–150.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dawson, G. D., & Watling, R. (2000). Interventions to facilitate auditory, visual, and motor integration in autism: A review of the evidence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 415–421. doi:10.1023/A:1005547422749.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Densem, J. F., Nuthall, G. A., Bushnell, J., & Horn, J. (1989). effectiveness of a sensory integrative therapy program for children with perceptual-motor deficits. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 221–229.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Deris, A. R., Hagelman, E. M., Schilling, K., & DiCarlo, C. F. (2006). Using a weighted or pressure vest for a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED490780).

  • Fertel-Daly, D., Bedell, G., & Hinojosa, J. (2001). Effects of a weighted vest on attention to task and self-stimulatory behaviors in preschoolers with pervasive developmental disorders. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 629–640.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Green, V. A., Pituch, K. A., Itchon, J., Choi, A., O’Reilly, M., & Sigafoos, J. (2006). Internet survey of treatments used by parents of children with autism. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 70–84. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2004.12.002.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoehn, T. P., & Baumeister, A. A. (1994). A critique of the application of sensory integration therapy to children with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 338–350.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hyatt, K. J., Stephenson, J., & Carter, M. (in press). A review of three controversial educational practices: Perceptual motor programs, sensory integration, and tinted lenses. Education & Treatment of Children.

  • Iwata, B., Dorsey, M., Slifer, K., Bauman, K., & Richman, G. (1994). Towards a functional analysis of self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 197–209. doi:10.1901/jaba.1994.27-197.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kane, A., Luiselli, J. K., Dearborn, S., & Young, N. (2004–2005). Wearing a weighted vest as an intervention for children with autism/pervasive developmental disorder. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 3, 19–24.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kazdin, A. E. (1982). Single-case research designs: Methods for clinical and applied settings. NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leong, H. M., & Carter, M. (2008). Research on the efficacy of sensory integration therapy: Past, present and future. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 32, 83–99. doi:10.1080/10300110701842653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mastropieri, M. S., Scruggs, T. E., Bakken, J. P., & Whedon, C. (1996). Reading comprehension: A synthesis of research in learning disabilities. In T. E. Scruggs & M. S. Mastropieri (Eds.), Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (Vol. 10b, pp. 201–227). New York: Elsevier Science/JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matyas, T. A., & Greenwood, K. M. (1990). Visual analysis of single-case time series: Effects of variability, serial dependence and magnitude of intervention effects. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 23, 341–351. doi:10.1901/jaba.1990.23-341.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mauer, D. M. (1999). Issues and applications of sensory integration theory and treatment with children with language disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 30, 383–392.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, M. J., White, G. L., & Moore, D. L. (2007). Association of relative backpack weight with reported pain, pain sites, medical utilization, and lost school time in children and adolescents. The Journal of School Health, 77, 232–239. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2007.00198.x.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morrison, A. P. (2007). A review of research on the use of weighted vests with children on the autism spectrum. Education, 127, 323–327.

    Google Scholar 

  • Myles, B. S., Simpson, R. L., Carlson, J., Laurant, M., Gentry, A. M., Cook, K. T., et al. (2004). Examining the effects of the use of weighted vests for addressing behaviors of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of the International Association of Special Education, 5, 47–62.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Research Council (Ed.). (2001). Educating children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  • New York State Department of Health. (1999). Clinical practice guideline—Report of the guideline recommendations: Autism/pervasive developmental disorders assessment and intervention for young children (Age 0–3 Years). Retrieved August 8, 2006, from http://www.health.state.ny.us/community/infants_children/early_intervention/autism/index.htm.

  • Olson, L. J., & Moulton, H. J. (2004a). Occupational therapists’ reported experiences using weighted vests with children with specific developmental disorders. Occupational Therapy International, 11, 52–66. doi:10.1002/oti.197.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Olson, L. J., & Moulton, H. J. (2004b). Use of weighted vests in pediatric occupational therapy practice. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 24(3), 45–60. doi:10.1300/J006v24n03_04.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ottenbacher, K. (1982). Sensory integration therapy: Affect or effect. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 36, 571–578.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Perry, A., & Condillac, R. (2003). Evidence-based practices for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders: Review of the literature and practice guide. Toronto, Canada: Children’s Medical Health Ontario.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reynhout, G., & Carter, M. (2006). Social Stories™ for children with disabilities. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 445–469. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0086-1.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, J. (2004). A review of the research to identify the most effective models of best practice in the management of children with autism spectrum disorder. Sydney, NSW: Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

    Google Scholar 

  • Runyon, R. P., & Haber, A. (1967). Fundamentals of behavioral statistics (3rd ed.). Menlo Park, California: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaaf, R. C., & Miller, L. J. (2005). Occupational therapy using a sensory integrative approach for children with developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 11, 143–148. doi:10.1002/mrdd.20067.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schaffer, R. (1984). Sensory integration therapy with learning disabled children: A critical review. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 73–77.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & Casto, G. (1987). The quantitative synthesis of single-subject research: Methodology and validation. Remedial and Special Education, 8(2), 24–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shaw, S. R. (2002). A school psychologist investigates sensory integration therapies: Promise, possibility, and the art of placebo. NASP Communiqué, 31(2). Retrieved August 9, 2006, from http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq312si.html.

  • Smith, T., Mruzek, D. W., & Mozingo, D. (2005). Sensory integrative therapy. In J. W. Jacobson, R. M. Foxx, & J. A. Mulick (Eds.), Controversial therapies for developmental disabilities: Fad, fashion, and science in professional practice (pp. 331–350). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • VandenBerg, N. L. (2001). The use of a weighted vest to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 621–628.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vargas, S., & Camilli, G. (1999). A meta-analysis of research on sensory integration treatment. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53, 189–198.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Weinstein, S. (2002). Safe backpack loads for kids. Retrieved October 5, 2007, from http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/medicaldepartments/orthopaedics/backpacks/index.html.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jennifer Stephenson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stephenson, J., Carter, M. The Use of Weighted Vests with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Disabilities. J Autism Dev Disord 39, 105 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0605-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-008-0605-3

Keywords

  • Sensory integration
  • Weighted vests
  • Autism
  • ADHD