Please reference an entry earlier this year about seat cushions.
I am essentially re-posting that earlier entry but replacing 'seat cushions' with 'weighted vests.' Let me start this post with congratulations for Amy Collins and Rosalind J. Dworkin who wrote an excellent article in this month's American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
Here comes some mildly edited cutting and pasting from the previous entry - and I will take the liberty of copying my own writing because the issue is identical and this entry will likely be searched separately than the seat cushion entry!
I encourage everyone to open up the current American Journal of Occupational Therapy and read 'Pilot Study of the Effectiveness of Weighted Vests.' This is a fantastic article that looks at the issue of whether or not weighted vests were effective at promoting attending behavior.
I think this is a fantastic study because it take a very common OT intervention and puts it to the test. For many years OTs have been dispensing weighted vests to children in classrooms based on the thought that the vests provided calming/organizing sensory stimulation that would promote attention . This has been done for so many years in so many settings that it becomes a common request from teachers who don't know what to do with children who have attending difficulties. How many OTs hear the request "Can we try to see if a weighted vest will help?"
We have precious little evidence that weighted vests do anything at all for children - and the lack of evidence is reflected in the fact that this intervention is barely mentioned in some common pediatric occupational therapy texts. However, given the formulaic and mythical popularity of the intervention you might think there would be more supporting research!! Now we have a series of recently published articles that when considered in total indicate very little evidence for using weighted vests.
For additional background reading please also reference Hodgetts, Magill-Evans, & Misiaszek (2011); Leew, Stein, & Gibbard (2010); and Stephenson & Carter (2009).
In the AJOT study the authors Collins and Dworkin used an intervention and control group in a blinded and randomly assigned design to measure the impact of wearing a weighted vest on attending behaviors. They used a clever model of removing the weights from the vests in the control group and inserting insignificantly weighted Styrofoam that replicated the appearance of the weighted vests for the data collectors.
The authors were unable to find evidence that weighted vests had any effectiveness for improving attending behaviors. The study was limited because of small sample size and a need for ensuring consistency in coding/recording methods. These limitations are significant enough to warrant the label of 'pilot study.'
The findings of this pilot study are consistent with previous studies and although there are some limitations in the research design there are some other strengths of the study and its confirmation of previous studies is compelling.
My analysis of this is that we should probably make attempts to confirm this with a more tightly controlled design and a larger sample, but based on these results and the consistency of these results with previous studies there is very little support for using weighted vests with the expressed purpose of trying to improve attending behaviors.
Collins, A. & Dworkin, R.J. (2011). Pilot Study of the Effectiveness of Weighted Vests. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(6), 688-694.
Hodgetts, S., Magill-Evans, J., & Misiaszek, J. (2011). Weighted vests, stereotyped behaviors and arousal in children with autism. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 41(6), 805-814.
Leew, S., Stein, N., & Gibbard, W. (2010). Weighted vests' effect on social attention for toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Canadian Journal Of Occupational Therapy. Revue Canadienne D'ergothérapie, 77(2), 113-124.
Stephenson, J., & Carter, M. (2009). The use of weighted vests with children with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 39(1), 105-114.