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Behavioural and physiological effects of weighted vests for children with autism Open Access


Other title
weighted vests
heart rate
sensory modulation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Hodgetts, Sandra
Supervisor and department
Magill-Evans, Joyce (Occupational Therapy)
Misiaszek, John (Occupational Therapy)
Examining committee member and department
Mirenda, Pat (Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education)
Sobsey, Dick (Educational Psychology)
Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)
Rehabilitation Medicine

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Tactile and proprioceptive input provided by weighted vests is thought to decrease sensory modulation dysfunction in children with autism. This study investigated behavioural and physiological effects of weighted vests for ten children with autism, ages 3 to 10, in a classroom setting. A single-case, ABCBC design was used where A =behavioural baseline without vest or heart rate monitor; B = unweighted vest and heart rate monitor; C = vest with 5-10% body weight and heart rate monitor. Observers, blinded to treatment condition, rated targeted behaviours for each participant through video taken during structured table-top activities typical of the classroom routine. Teachers, also blinded to treatment condition, rated each child’s behaviour with the Conners’ Global Index following each phase of the study. Educational aides, not blinded to treatment condition, provided subjective feedback about the effects of the weighted vest for each participant. Heart rate was collected when participants wore the vest. Results were mixed regarding the effects of weighted vests for children with autism. Objective data provided evidence to support the use of weighted vests to decrease off-task behaviours with some, but not all, children with autism and sensory modulation dysfunction. Weighted vests did not decrease motoric stereotyped behaviours in any participant, but did decrease verbal stereotyped behaviours in one participant. Heart rate did not decrease with the weighted vest. Subjectively, all aides reported that weighted vests were effective in improving behaviours in all participants at least some of the time. All teachers and aides reported that weighted vests were appropriate modalities to use in the classroom and wanted to continue using weighted vests following the study. Although weighted vests may be an appropriate modality to include as a component of intervention with some children with autism, results were not strong or consistent across participants. The results do not support the use of weighted vests in isolation to improve classroom function in children with autism.
License granted by Sandra Hodgetts ( on 2010-01-06T19:24:37Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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