Strategy

Weighted and Compression Garments

Weighted Vest, Compression Vest

Weighted and Compression Garments are IEP designated sensory support tools in which students wear attire (e.g., vests, hats) to help regulate sensory defensiveness, or distressed reactions to sensation (e.g., student recoils or lashes out when touched, anxious while moving through spaces, has difficulty tuning out noise, covers ears). Weighted and Compression Garments provide a comforting feeling of containment, similar to the sensation of receiving a hug without physical contact. Weighted Garments can be prefabricated or self-created by sewing sandbags onto a vest, or placing them in the pockets. Compression Garments can also be prefabricated or achieved using lycra spandex clothing (e.g., biking shorts, leotards) to produce a calming sensation or prevent negative reactions for a student with sensory defensiveness. These garments are best used proactively by wearing them at predetermined intervals throughout the school day as determined by an Occupational Therapist (e.g., 20 minutes on/20 minutes off/prior to or during key transitions).

Implementation Tips

IEP Designated Support
These garments can **only** be used as a support when documented on a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Consult with the student’s education team (e.g. case manager, related service provider) to determine if this is a documented accommodation before using this strategy.
Garment Selection
Experiment with both [[ http://www.southpaw.co.uk/ekmps/shops/7944e9/images/southpaw-weighted-vest-large-[2]-347-p.jpg | Weighted ]] and [[ https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51hOCkaHOsL._SY355_.jpg | Compression Garment ]] options if available to best fit a student’s individual needs (e.g., some prefabricated vests include both weighted and compression options). Conduct trial and error sessions to help determine how the student responds to the use of the garment(s).
Planning a Weight and Wearing Schedule
Consult with the OT about scheduling and weight amount (e.g., typically 5-10% of body weight). Weighted Garments should not be worn longer than 20 minutes. Compression Garments do not have the same restrictions. Determine how frequently to use the strategy based on trial results and student preference.
Conducting a Fair Trial Period
Conduct a garment trial period for at least two weeks of diligent implementation before abandoning, as it takes time for the central nervous system to adjust to the intervention. If the garment is only partially successful after a trial, make adjustments to weight or wearing schedule and extend the trial.
Offering Student Choice
Include students in discussions about decreasing sensory defensiveness. Explain that everyone responds differently to sensory interventions and highlight the importance of the trial and error process. If the student is initially resistant to the garment, provide interim options (e.g., [[ http://cdn.lemonlimeadventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Sensory-breaks-for-kids-700x467.jpg | sensory-rich movement breaks ]]).
Highlighting Student Behavior
Highlight behavior changes for students using Weighted or Compression Garments to provide positive reinforcement for behavioral improvements and build student motivation (e.g., “Have you noticed how calm and on-task you’ve been?” / “It was great that you were able to keep your hands to yourself in line.”).
Student Involvement
Include student input while planning when and where a Weighted or Compression Garment will be worn. Collaboratively plan the schedule to reduce social stigma (e.g., while Recess might be a highly sensory distressing time for the student, it might feel stigmatizing to wear the vest while playing with peers).
Alternative Options
Use alternative options to provide the calming sensation of firm deep pressure, such as weighted backpacks, fanny packs, lap/neck weights, or blankets to give sensory input. Make these options available for the student to access outside of the schedule in order to self-regulate and manage needs.
Collaborating With Teaching Staff
Educate specialty teachers (e.g., art, music, science) and additional staff members (e.g., paraprofessionals, lunch monitors) that work with a student wearing a Weighted or Compression Garment. Explain how and when the garment is used, and offer supports, such as a timer, as a reminder for garment removal.

Examples

Minimizing Distress During Transitions
During whole class transitions around the school building (e.g., from the classroom to Music), a teacher notices a student becomes irritable and aggressive while in line (e.g., pushing classmates). The teacher collaborates with the OT, and it is determined that the student is seeking sensory input when pushing others in order to avoid an adverse reaction to being accidentally bumped into, and irritable due to the stress attached to constantly guarding against being touched while in line. To support the student’s needs, a trial period with a garment is started (e.g., Weighted or Compression Vest), which includes wearing the garment 15 minutes prior to whole group transitions to minimize sensory defensive reactions.
Increasing Attentiveness
While writing independently, a teacher consistently observes a student that is distracted and irritated by background noise (e.g., activity of others, lighting), and the student verbalizes physical discomfort while writing (e.g., “I don’t like how the paper feels on the side of my hand.”). To support the student with surrounding environmental stimulation and negative reactions to touch, the teacher offers a weighted accessory (e.g., lap weight, weighted blanket) as an accommodation to provide firm pressure and support sensory integration while the student continues the writing task. The teacher makes the accessory available for the student to access as needed.
Decreasing Fidgeting
While conducting a group lesson on the rug, a student demonstrates difficulty sitting still (e.g., rocks, wiggles, lies down or rolls of the ground, touches neighboring students) and is easily distracted (e.g., finding items on the floor, such as a fuzz, to play with). The teacher recognizes these behaviors have increased over time and consults with an OT. The OT conducts a classroom observation and decides that the student’s behaviors are reflective of a sensory-processing issue. The student is offered the choice between a Weighted and Compression Vest to help satisfy sensory needs in order to support the student’s ability to attend and participate in upcoming lessons.

Related Strategies