The term "sensory integration" refers to the way your mind processes input from the world around you. People with developmental disorders like autism or sensory processing disorder have difficulty with sensory integration. Things like lights, noises and certain textures can make people with sensory difficulties very uncomfortable. People with sensory integration difficulties may also seek certain sensory input. A weighted vest can provide the sensory input necessary to calm responses to difficult stimuli.
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Many people with sensory integration difficulties find it hard to calm themselves when they become overwhelmed. Often, a feeling of having weight on your body can help people with this difficulty calm down and refocus. Parents can wrap their children in blankets or hold them close when they need this kind of calming effect. But that's not always practical for older children and adults. A weighted vest provides calm comfort and doesn't require another person to be involved.
People with sensory integration difficulties may have trouble focusing on things like work and other tasks. Their need to be moving and exploring constantly, known as sensory seeking, makes it hard to complete everyday activities. People who are sensory seeking may want to do things that work their large muscles, such as jumping or swinging. A weighted vest provides that same sort of muscle pressure while you're sitting still and working, allowing you to be more focused and competent.
If you're sensory seeking or feeling overwhelmed by sensory input, you may be able to take a break from what you're doing and regroup, either by doing some sort of heavy exercise, running around, or wrapping yourself in something heavy and calming. That's not always possible though, especially in a structured environment like work or school. That's where a weighted vest really comes in handy: it can be worn inconspicuously along with your regular clothes, doesn't require the assistance of another person, and allows you to do your usual activities while still getting the sensory input that you need.
A weighted vest may be a good option for someone who requires deep sensory stimulation for an extended period of time. At school, for example, a child can wear a vest at his desk, to the playground and to lunch, without taking it off. If your main problem is focusing at your work station, a weighted lap pad may help, providing pressure to your legs and bottom, allowing you to be aware of where you are in your seat. Weighted blankets can be a helpful tool for calming people who become overwhelmed and act out by having a tantrum or becoming agitated.