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Topic: Making a Weighted Jacket For an Autistic Child  (Read 5260 times)
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« on: March 05, 2007 12:08:26 PM »

A friend of mine recently came to me looking for help.  Her younger brother is autistic, and her family is looking for someone to make a weighted jacket to help his sensory integration issues.  I've done some looking around, but all I really know is that the weights should be on the shoulders and upper back, almost giving a hugging sensation. 

Ideally, I want it to look basically like the rest of his clothing.  I'm not sure how functional he is, but he's going to come into contact with other people, and presumably other kids, and it doesn't make his life easier if he looks like a freak.  I'm tempted to add a bit of quilt batting to even out the bulk and make sure he's not being poked by any weights, but I don't want it to be too heavy or warm. 

What else should I know?  Has anyone got any experience seeing these in use?  One vest I saw had riveted "fidget-proof" buttons; should I be looking for something like that?

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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2007 07:20:27 PM »

I used to work in the special education field - working a lot with kids with autism.  I've only seen a few weighted vest being used, and it's been a few years.  The ones that I've seen are pretty blah as far as design, more functional than stylish.  A lot of times the closure is velcro.

Here's a site that might give you some ideas and more information:

You can also look up sensory intergration therapy to see what you come up with.

« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2007 05:39:19 PM »

I have no experience with this at all but it got me thinking.
I recently bought a hot pack which was a corduroy bag filled with grain. Quite heavy but very soft and tactile. Where I bought it from also made little cape like bags designed to fit around the top of the shoulders and neck. Essentially a half moon with segments sewn in it to stop the grains all falling to the wider edge.
I was wondering if you made a jacket/vest with built in pouches you could insert gain filled bags where necessary and remove them for washing. Then you don't have sharp edges on weights to worry about.
Maybe something a little like this:
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2007 10:20:20 PM »

I have made a weighted vest for SI therapy...  There is a lady online  who sells the pattern but you don't need it and it's expensive.

You could not tell that the vest I made was anything other than an ordinary vest.  I will see if I kept the specific directions but in the meantime, all I did was get a child's vest pattern... 

Buy fabric for vest & coordinating fabric for lining.  You will need a little extra lining fabric.  I cut strips of lining that was the same width as the back & side panels (including seam allowance).  I cut it as long as the distance from just below the arm holes down to the bottom edge of vest, plus another inch or so to add a rolled hem to the top edge...  in all I had 3 panels (2 sides, one back) cut from lining. 

Someone suggested I just make a patch pocket and top stitch it to the lining but I was worried the weight would stress the seams.  So first I did a double fold hem (turn down 1/2" then another 1/2", then topstich close to edge) on the top edges of the pockets.

Next baste the pockets onto the lining back and sides.  Again, make sure it is not so high that it will get stuck in the SA for the armholes. 
Once you have the pockets basted in place, Measure them and figure out how to divide them.  I think I divided sides in halves and back in thirds or 4ths.  Mark location and then topstich entire height of pocket (so from top edge of pocket down to bottom/hem edge of vest).  So when you get the vest put together, you'll have lots of little pockets that go around the entire inside of the vest. 

I forgot about the bottons & buttonholes, so my pockets went all the way to the edge but you couldn't use the full width of them because of the buttons/holes.  No big deal but I pass it on in the event that design flaws like that will annoy you.   Tongue  You might want to TS the bits that can't be used closed (top of pocket above button placket and top to bottom next to where button/holes will end up).

OK, so if you're following me at this point, you have your lining pieces with finished pockets on them.  Sew the lining together as directed...side seams & shoulders.  Now sew together the 3 pieces of the outer vest.  I guess you also need to add interfacing to either lining or vest along center fronts to reinforce for buttons/holes (I'm doing this all from memory LOL).

Next, sew the lining & vest together... sew RS together, leaving a hole for turning.  You can either hand stitch the hole closed or you can top stitch around the whole thing, making sure to get the hole closed.   Yee-haw!  Unless I have forgotten anything you should be almost done.

Add your buttons & buttonholes and admire your handiwork.  They can weight the vest with packs of modelling clay or you can make rice pack "bean bags" of various weights to fit in the pocket sections.  My understanding is that the clay makes it very easy to adjust the weight (wrap it in ziploc type bags).  YOu can add snaps or velcro to keep pockets shut but  I didn't and never got feedback that it was a problem.

I see no reason why you couldn't do the same w/a jacket or top...as long as you line it.  Otherwise you'll do the TSing to make the pocket segements and it will show through on the outside.  With the lining you can't tell it's anything but a normal top.  The mom cried when it was done. Grin 

Let me know if you need any clarification.
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007 06:15:17 AM »

Thanks, guys!  Unfortunately, he is not a little boy as I had thought, but a big boy.  A big, teenage boy who goes to a regular high school.  So an ordinary vest is probably out of the question. 

I did make a prototype just to see - I made it out of stretchy jersey (it was actually those old t-shirt sheets), and just interfaced the pockets so that they'd keep their shape.  I made it in my own size and tried it on just to see - it didn't show at all underneath a hoodie, but I didn't manage to get enough weight on the shoulders, so I'll have to work on that.  The jersey was kind of nice, actually - it allowed me to make a tight-fitting garment, and I think that helps you feel the weight more.

I only had four pockets on the torso and one on each shoulder, though.  I may have to add more pockets.

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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2007 06:32:23 AM »

You know, I suddenly understand my boyfriend's favorite jacket a lot better.  He is mildly autistic and he has a jacket that is lightly weighted.  It is fleece with the weight pockets sewn on the outside to look like a sort of yoke thing in a coordinating fabric.  I'll see if I can get a pic of it.  Weights explain a lot about A) that jacket and B) why he wouldn't let me make him a new one.
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2007 08:23:11 AM »

here is what I did --easy peasy!!!

added pockets on the inside bottom of a fav jacket- it will pull on the shoulders-- the pockets fit weights from the bottom of vertial blinds--done!!
I have since though this out better --if I just do 1 continues pocket with seams the width of the weight --we can add/subtract weight-- even more than 1 in a pocket
this way the kid can wear any jacket
I have also made weighted lap "snakes"

all kids are different ---this worked for us!!!!!


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« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2007 11:53:33 AM »

(You could use baked polymer clay, but it's not all that heavy really.)

I was thinking though that you could use "metal things" of various types maybe, especially for upper areas of jackets/clothing which are less suited to bulky additions. 

Those (heavy metal) things could be used as embellishments in various ways since kids these days often wear clothing with metal brads, etc., even chains --though you might not want to go there.

Or the heavy metal things could be sewn under the fabric in decorative ways ... for example, in the channel between two lines of stitching, where they'd just look like any other decorative line detail (which might normally be stuffed with batting, or just be fabric folded over before stitching down). 
They could also just be sewn under the fabric in other shapes, or start out as other shapes (... a row of any shape looks like clothing detail).

Lead is probably the heaviest metal for its size and it comes in various shapes (from fishing weight of various types, to ropes of lead solder).  There's also tiny balls of lead "shot" or buckshot (the DH says it comes up to 1/4" diamter).
If you used lead, you'd want to enclose it to keep it from rubbing off onto skin (you could use shrink tubing, for example, or just something thick like leather). 
And/or you could even make it removable for washing by making one end or side of the fabric enclosure openable.
Steel and stainless steel are also heavy for their size. 
They come as steel shot (and ball bearings are usually stainless steel), as well as other shapes, etc.   Those could be used in the same ways as above, or even partly showing if "captured" by a fabric "frame" since they're more attractive.   Again, they could look quite decorative if there were several in a row or in a pattern, etc.

Rocks and pebbles could be used in the same ways, and sand is even better since it's basically ground up rocks close together.  Sand would definitely have to be captured in some way, and also not visible, though... but sand and stainless steel could be washed with the jacket, etc.

Actually, we do "cover" real rocks and all sorts of things with polymer clay (then bake them), and we even do various things to polymer clay to make it simulate metal (or wood or leather, or just all kinds of things) or just make it patterned or decorative.  Some kind of connector or hole(s) could be made in the clay too so it would act like a button or could be sewn down in several places or dangled like other embellishments might be-- so polymer clay might be helpful in some ways for clothing too.

Great idea!... hope you can figure out some good ways to do it, or ideas to suggest to them for later.

Diane B.

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(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2007 10:20:44 AM »

I like the idea about making it out of the jersey so that it is more form fitting.  Maybe it could be made more like a sleeveless undershirt with the weights sewn in.

I found a link that shows how the weights could be placed and I think that it would work well for an undershirt type "vest".

« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2010 12:48:48 PM »

Great topic, I wonder if I could help out a family I know with this! Weighted vests are great, but so expensive to buy.

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If you have a question about Autism, ask me. I don't bite.
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