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I have a boy in my preschool group who has recently had diagnosis for autism, sensory issues, bowel issues, speech and language delay, lax muscles oh and is partially deaf. At home he sleeps for about 4-5 hours max per night. Mom has today seen an Occupational Therapist for first time who mentioned using a weighted duvet to help comfort him and secure him, she was then told they were far too expensive for her and she wouldn't afford one. Mom was quite offended by this. Anyone seen/used one, do they work, are they readily available to buy?

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You can buy home-made weighted blankets on Ebay but you need to be very careful about what they have been filled with. Some can have rice in which isn't great if it gets wet and others have been made using marbles which is very unsafe if the child puts things in their mouth a lot.

You can buy professionally made weighted blankets. They can be made to a specific weight which should be 10% of the child's bodyweight. They are very expensive but ours has been a godsend so it may be a worthwhile expense.

You can also use get the same effect by placing something like a deflated airbed, the rubbery textured ones are best, inside a quilt cover. Woven cotton throws can be nice and heavy - my younger DD is using one at the moment because her weighted blanket is too hot for this weather. The cotton cellular blankets like you see used in ambulances are deliberately made to be heavy too. If anyone can source one of those please let me know because I have failed.

You can make your own but it is a very long tedious and time consuming job usually involving several broken sewing machine needles. I am lucky enough to have had a very kind, skilled and patient friend who made ours. You need to get the poly beads from eBay and work out the weight needed for each pocket.

You can use the wheatbags designed to go in the microwave across the shoulders to produce a calming effect or sew two together to make a lap pad to aid sitting still.

If this sort of deep pressure is helpful you can get a similar effect by getting the child to carry a small but heavy rucksack, by getting him to sit on a chair and pull himself down really hard by pulling up with his hands on the side of the seat, getting him to push down with both hands on the top of his head (never let anyone else do this for him) or getting him to hug himself. Helping with carrying heavy objects like piles of books can help too.

My older daughter loves her sister or the dogs to lie on top of her on the floor or the sofa to give her a weighted blanket effect and an OT recommended rolling my younger daughter up in a blanket or rug Cleopatra-style and having three-person hugs with her in the middle.

Wrist and ankle weights designed for use in a gym can be good and you can buy weighted jackets for children but, again, they are very expensive.

Does this mother claim DLA for her son? if his care needs are greater than other children his age she would be entitled to claim it and it would pay for a weighted blanket quite quickly.

If he continues to have sleep difficulties she can ask a paediatrician to prescribe Melatonin for him. This is a natural hormone which is produced by our bodies to help us fall asleep and is often deficient in children with ASD. There is also a slow release version called Circadin which our PCT prefers.

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