Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weighted Blankets: Autism Q&A - and a Give Away!

A reminder, it is now too late to enter the Weighted Blankets: Random Drawing! The drawing was in 2011. 
I want to thank you, Eileen Jackson, owner of DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets, for answering these questions. She has also offered a blanket to one drawing entry. Be sure to click the above link to enter with a comment to my previous post on the topic.

Your website (http://www.weightedblanket.net) offers a lot of information about weighted blankets. I recommend people visit the site to read about weighted blankets in general and DreamCatcher blankets.

Q. You have an autistic son, according to the DreamCatcher website. How did you discover weighted blankets helped him?

Our son, Cody, was diagnosed with classic autism shortly after his third birthday. He struggled for years with sleeping and at age nine was still waking every few hours each night. We were not willing to put Cody on medication and our Occupational Therapist mentioned trying a weighted item, as there were a few studies showing that there was some success with children on the spectrum using a weighted vest to help calm them.

After searching for a product that would work for our son to help his sleep issues and not finding any on the market that we could either afford or were comfortable letting him use, we made his first weighted blanket. I was skeptical that it would work and more than pleasantly surprised when it did work the very first night we tried it. He has been sleeping with a weighted blanket ever since and will be 18 years old this year, still on no medication.

Q. What is a weighted blanket? Some blankets and quilts I've seen are filled with heavy "microbeads" while others use a series of round weights. What is the DreamCatcher blanket design?

A weighted blanket is a heavy blanket used as either a calming tool or for sleep. The shortened version of how they work is that the pressure the weight supplies releases serotonin, a calming chemical in the body. It is based on Temple Grandin's theory used to develop her "squeeze" machine.

Those purchasing a weighted blanket need to be very aware of what is used to weight the blankets. There are some very inexpensive blankets on the market filled with things like stone, aquarium gravel, corn, rice, lead shot, etc. that will not be useful for long. The "microbeads" you mentioned are a polypropylene material and there are also different types of them on the market, some are recycled from things like old milk jugs and car batteries, which should never be used in a weighted blanket. Not all poly pellets have a high temperature rating.

The pellets we use at DreamCatcher's are called PolyPro Pellets and the highest quality pellet on the market today. They are a US-made product, non-toxic, non-porous, have never been used prior, and have a temperature rating to 600 degrees, which makes these blankets an easy care item that can be machine washed and dried in high temperature. We have many hospitals and long-term care facilities, which have high sanitation control standards, using our DreamCatcher weighted blankets.

Q. Can adults use weighted blankets?

Adults certainly can and do use the blankets. In addition to smaller blankets for children we make our blankets in twin, full/double, queen and king size, and also offer custom sizes if requested. I use a full-size weighted blanket to help me sleep and all of our employees now use one too.

As I mentioned before, we have many hospitals and long-term care facility using weighted blankets. We have been contacted by numerous psychiatric facilities that are working on restraint reduction programs and the DreamCatcher blanket is a major tool for them to meet their goals in reducing restraint use on their adult population.

In addition to weighted blankets being used in the ASD population, we have adult clients with a variety of conditions that find a weighted blanket helpful in reducing anxiety or getting a good night's sleep. Some of those conditions include: bipolar, PTSD, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, Tourette's syndrome, general insomnia, dementia, menopause, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or any type of anxiety-producing condition.

Q. On your site, you show a variety of fabric choices. (I personally like the marbled blues and purples.) What do you look for in a fabric so it is both safe and sensory-appropriate for an autistic person? I hate "rough" fabrics, for example.

Weighted blankets are a health investment and we believe your fabric choice is just as important as getting the correct size and weight for a blanket. DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets is unique compared to all other weighted blanket manufacturers in that we offer any type of fabric in addition to patterns and colors, for a custom weighted blanket.

Our choices include but not limited to, cotton, flannel, poly fleece, cotton fleece, minkee (softress) fleece, cotton chenille, washable satin, and washable suede. We also offer organic and fire retardant fabrics. We will even let you send us your favorite fabric and make a weighted blanket of it. For example, some people want a high thread count sheet for their blanket ,which is fine. The only thing we try to do is steer our clients to the washable fabrics for ease of care. The purpose of a weighted blanket is to give weight without being too warm. For example, many people on the autism spectrum are what I call " hot-blooded," my son is, and he needs a blanket using a cotton on both sides so he does not get too warm. We don't offer a poly/cotton blend because it can be rough or scratchy, but some people like that texture and it can be used if requested.

Q. Many children (and adults) are "attached" to blankets. What tips do you have to ensure a good blanket lasts? Anything we should avoid?

We have a blanket exchange program where people can exchange an old blanket and receive a partial credit towards a new one. We have blankets coming into the exchange program now that are four or five years old and our patented design is holding up very well.

DreamCatcher weighted blankets are made with multiple layers of fabric. The inner layers are 100% cotton, which adds durability but not warmth. We use an industrial strength thread that holds up well with high temperature multiple washings. We make blankets weighing anywhere from 2LBS up to 50LB king size and use a DLS (double lock stitch) technique on those blankets that have more weight per square inch, for example a 30LB full blanket would be made using a DLS stitch.

When looking for a weighted blanket we recommend avoiding any blanket using a weighting material that is porous or organic in nature, for example stones, aquarium gravel, rice, or corn as these items can not be cleaned well and will mold or decompose and may attract insects, which shortens the life of the blanket dramatically.

A blanket should always be made with multiple layers of fabric to secure the weighting material and to add to durability. We recommend avoiding the use of poly fill in a weighted blanket. Poly fill will add too much warmth in most cases and tends to lump up inside a weighted blanket after multiple washings. More importantly, blankets made using poly fil may also pose a suffocation risk to younger children.

We recommend avoiding any fabric that is waterproof. Waterproof fabric is not breathable and is also a suffocation risk. Our hospital customers who might benefit from a waterproof fabric for clean-up purposes choose not to use it because of the high suffocation risk associated with it.

Q. My grandmother, mother, wife, and sister-in-law enjoy quilting. Your site mentions that you can use a custom quilt top. How does that work, for those interested?

We are happy to use a handmade quilt top for a weighted blanket, they turn out beautiful and are so special to the person who receives them. As each quilt top is unique, anyone interested should call us so we can personally ask and answer questions in deciding how to fit the quilt top into the user's needs. We also have a longarm machine so we can make the quilt top look quilted if requested.

Q. How long have you been sewing? Do you also have other crafting interests?

I have many interests, but because my son is home-schooled and my husband and I are his full-time caregivers there is not always a lot of time to pursue those interests.

I have been sewing for over 40 years and must admit that while I designed and started DreamCatcher's sewing all the weighted blankets, we have eight employees now, working Monday through Friday. I don't personally get the chance to sew on the weighted blankets except during our Christmas season when we often put on a second shift.

I do enjoy quilting, sewing in general, gardening, oil painting, sightseeing (we live in Montana), hiking, fishing, etc.

Q. Your son is now a teenager, which can be a special challenge. I know readers with young children worry about issues of older children with autism. Would you mind sharing a little about those challenges?

I'll have to be careful not to write a book here. Cody is mostly non-verbal; he has some speech but it is difficult for him. That is a huge challenge, of course, because it is frustrating for him to know what he needs and not able to express it. There are many behaviors that arise from not being able to communicate. We help Cody work through those behaviors daily and are always trying new ways to help him communicate. The iPad is turning out to be a great tool for him in that respect.

I think the main concern all of us are worry about is, who will watch over our special needs adult children if at some point as parents we can't.

We are personally struggling with that question right now. My husband and I are fortunate to have an older son and eight grandchildren who might be willing to oversee Cody's care in the future. Our number one goal and hope for Cody is to make sure he is happy. For him that means working on his computer and playing his keyboard and working on life skills that will help him in the future. Cody will always need assistance in some form or another.

I speak with a lot of parents every day because of the weighted blanket business. Over many years, the common bond with all of us is the frustration with the lack of help, the struggle in getting what little help there is, and so many unanswered questions on how or who can help.

My advise is always to follow their gut when deciding on the many issues faced each day with raising a special needs child. The "experts" in the field, in my opinion, can only be "experts" if they care for or have cared for someone on the spectrum seven days a week, 24 hours a day, because each minute can be and usually is different.

We personally have had plenty of "experts" steer us wrong when Cody was younger. We also have had many professionals help us. So the important thing is to gather all the information you can from as many sources you can, to make an informed decision about what is right for your child and your family. For example, our choice to not medicate Cody and homeschool would definitely not be the right choice for another family.

As hard as it is, at the end of the day, parents need to try and relax and not try to please anyone else but themselves and their children with special needs. Your family and the kids' happiness is what is most important.

Please let me know if you have any other questions, Dr. Wyatt. I look forward to hearing who your winner is and also hope you would accept a weighted blanket because we do appreciate all the time you have committed to this project and your blog in general.

Thank you,
Eileen Jackson
DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets
P O Box 252 * Stevensville * Montana * 59870

www.weightedblanket.net
dreamcatcher@weightedblanket.net
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2 comments:

  1. It's always nice to find products that are made by someone who actually encounters the same issues many of us do. I'm hesitant to purchase things marketed as for people with Autism when the person making them really doesn't seem to know about Autism at all. This sounds like a great company. Thanks for the extra Q & A. I think we're going to look into purchasing one of these blanket for our little guy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice to see you think some parents, let alone autistic parents, have something worthwhile to say.

    Of course I write this tongue firmly planted in cheek based on our recent conversation concerning the damaging use of descriptors for parents of potentially autistic children used in your comments by Violet and your defense of such derogatory language to describe a group of people.

    ReplyDelete

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