If you've read our blog articles on weighted blankets, weighted vests, and weighted lap pads you may be thinking... okay, enough with the weighted objects already! You may be tired of hearing about it, but research has supported the calming, re-organizing, re-focusing benefits of deep touch pressure (DTP) and proprioceptive input for so many people! Just like with any sensory intervention, not all weighted options are created equal, or tolerated by all.
Weighing the Options of Weighted Sensory Products
Weighted blankets are awesome for snuggling, sleeping, and wearing while stationary.
Weighted vests are great options for kids on the move and teens who need input throughout the day. Vests also allow for portability and frequent on/off changes that come with vest wearing schedules, but there can be a stigma associated with wearing something so obviously "different."
Weighted lap pads are portable, discreet options for little laps in seated positions and can be good solutions for the classroom or workplace.
Some kids, for whatever reasons, will need additional options.
The Sensory Belt
The Sensory Belt is a therapeutically weighted wearable belt that promotes self-calming, balance, and increased body awareness. We were intrigued to know more about this wearable weighted belt, and our colleagues at Sensory Belt were happy to share one with us to experience first-hand!
The Sensory Belt offers weight around the waist/hips of the child, right at the center of gravity. Because of it's positioning, the therapists who designed the belt found that 4-8% of the child's total body weight around the core was most effective (as compared to the 10% +/- 1 lb for weighted blankets). The belts come in six sizes based on the wearer's total body weight, ranging from infant to adult, with an add-on belt extender to accommodate larger waist sizes.
The company actually produces therapeutic weighted belts under three names as the "Miracle Belt" name is currently being rolled over into The "Sensory Belt" line. When shopping on their website for the size you need, know that the currently-listed Miracle Belt is designed for infants and children under 75-lbs, the Sensory Belt is for children, teens, and adults over 75-lbs, and the Thera-Belt is for use in a clinical setting.
We've put together a table for the weight and size-based recommendations for the Sensory Belt and have linked them at the end of this article for ease of buying. There are TheraBelts available for larger sizes and teens on the Sensory Belt website.
How it Works
If you read our Ultimate Deep Pressure Guide published for Harkla, you read about the physiological responses to deep touch pressure associated with weighted objects like vests, blankets, lap pads, and the Sensory Belt. The autonomic nervous system helps you self-regulate, but when your central nervous system is not taking in sensory information correctly, your ANS does not always regulate as it should. Deep touch pressure helps to improve the function of the ANS as well as release serotonin and dopamine hormones.
In 2016, Sarasota Memorial Hospital funded a study that looked at the effectiveness of the Sensory Belt in alleviating symptoms associated with autism and sensory processing disorder: auditory sensitivity, emotional/social behavior, fine motor skills, proprioceptive functioning, tactile function, and vestibular. 82.6% of the total participants reported experiencing benefits following a 2-week trial of the Sensory Belt and 94% of autism-only diagnosed participants reported benefits. As a parent and therapist, I also look to the qualitative reports that speak to notable benefits or outcomes that surveys and data perhaps don't capture. The comments and reports from families and teachers following use of the Sensory Belt were overwhelmingly positive.
The 2016 findings supported the clinical study done in 2012 that found that 80% of school-aged children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experienced benefits due to the Sensory Belt. These findings were subsequently presented at the national Occupational Therapy Association conference. These benefits included:
* Increases Body Awareness
* Reduces Hyperactivity
* Increases Focus & Concentration
* Improves Balance & Coordination
Trying it Out
We tried out the 3-lb sensory belt with a sensory-seeking, low-tone, hyperactive kiddo in preschool. It was immediately obvious that the Sensory Belt was more successful than a previously-tried weighted vest when looking at posture and core stability. He had better balance wearing the belt, as wearing weights in a vest threw him off at times and his core musculature fatigued quicker especially when sitting. The belt is worn for 15-30 minutes, up to four times per day (per company instructions) which we found to be easy to work into the regular preschool day. Circle time, centers, and tabletop tasks were all noticeably improved for seating positioning and body awareness due to the increased proprioceptive input.
This particular child, for behavioral and sensory reasons (heat, texture, bulk), was aversive to wearing a weighted vest, so the Sensory Belt was tolerated better. The company does provide colorful covers to personalize the Sensory Belt a bit more for children's preferences, but the standard black belt was fuel enough for the imagination - it was a tool belt, a superpower belt, and a cowboy belt all within an hour's worth of play!
Additional Thoughts on Therapeutic Uses
I appreciated the design of the Sensory Belt from fun, functional, and therapeutic perspectives. For students and teachers looking for a more discreet sensory wearable in the school setting, the Sensory Belt could offer a great solution. If you're crafty, creative, and want a bit more color for your belt, consider making a DIY cover in line with the child's interests. All of the weight is evenly distributed, so you don't have to worry about compromising the intended therapeutic design! The belt was easy to take on and off, which was just what we needed with a kid-on-the-go! I see the Sensory Belt as being an excellent option for providing deep touch pressure proprioceptive input in a wearable way.
Make sure that you work in conjunction with a therapist to select the appropriate size and weight for your child, otherwise the belt will not fit tightly around the hips, resulting in more bulk. It's also recommended that you monitor the child while wearing, otherwise how will you know if it's effective for you!?
Thank you to the Sensory Belt folks for sharing their sensory product with us so we could learn more!