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Difference Between a Weighted & a Pressure Vest

By Victoria Weinblatt

Weighted and pressure vests might offer alternative therapy for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. However, insufficient clinical evidence exists to rate the actual efficacy of either of these therapeutic garments. Both vests equipped with extra weight provide deep pressure touch stimulation, or DPTS. A pressure vest also fits snugly to add extra pressure. Contact your doctor before using weighted and pressure vests as alternative therapy.

DPTS Basics

Therapists who work with autistic and ADHD children use DPTS as a therapeutic tool. When children wear weighted or pressure vests, some experience less anxiety and exhibit fewer harmful behaviors, according to information from the May 2008 issue of “Science Daily.” Children with these disorders lack the sensory integration ability of the general population. This means it’s more difficult to organize the large amount of information picked up by our senses each second. The pressure and weight of the vests are purported to help improve sensory integration capability.

Occupational Therapists and Weighted Vests

Occupational therapists using weighted vests with children during sessions are more likely to have more experience and advanced degrees, according to results from a survey from Mercy College and reported in a 2004 edition of “Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics.” After analyzing the data from more than 250 surveys, researchers found occupational therapists thought the vests were most effective for helping the children stay on task, stay seated and increase attention span.

Case Study

Before this 2006, single-subject study from University of New Orleans available on the Education Resources Information Center, no studies had compared weighted vests to pressure vests. Researchers observed a 4-year-old boy in his classroom at a private school for children with sensory processing impairments in each of the vests. The results show that neither vest increased attention span nor decreased his self-stimulatory behaviors, such as rocking, tapping and squinting. Researchers found a weighted vest and a pressure vest to be equally ineffective and suggest further research before recommending these vests as an effective treatment option.

Pressure Vests

In a single-subject study, wearing a pressure vest did not improve behavioral indicators, according to a study from Vanderbilt University published in the August 2009 issue of “Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.” Researchers examined a young boy with developmental delays while doing a preschool art activity with and without a weighted vest. The data shows no improvement in the child’s behavior with or without the pressure vest. Instead, an increase in problem behavior was observed. Researchers acknowledge the limits of their study and recommend further research into the efficacy of pressure vests.

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