Effectiveness of weighted blankets as an intervention for sleep problems in children with autism
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Sleep problems are common in children with ASD. Despite this, evidence for interventions, particularly alternative approaches such as weighted blankets is limited. Aims. The aims of the study were to examine weighted blankets for: (1) their effectiveness as an intervention for sleep problems; (2) their impact on sleep state organisation; (3) their impact on night-time movement; (4) the sensory characteristics of children responding to the intervention; (5) parent’s perceptions of the intervention; (6) behavioural interventions as a second intervention if required. Method. Using a non-concurrent multiple baseline design, five children with autism aged between 7 to 13 years received a weighted blanket intervention with the option of a secondary behavioural intervention. Results. One participant rejected the weighted blanket outright. Four participants showed no substantial improvements in sleep problems or changes in sleep state organisational. Despite this, parents of four participants still perceived the weighted blanket to be moderately effective. The sensory profiles of participants were not related to their response to the intervention. Participants’ night-time movements were not found to be suppressed by the weighted blankets. Two participants went on to receive a behavioural intervention, one was successful and the other withdrew from the study before implementing the strategies. One other participant’s sleep difficulties resolved over time without further intervention. Implications. The current study neither supported weighted blankets as an intervention for sleep problems in children with autism nor supported contentions of its effectiveness for children with sensation seeking behaviours.