Behavioural and physiological effects of weighted vests for children with autism

  • Author / Creator
    Hodgetts, Sandra
  • 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.

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  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.