Adaptive Equipment for ASD
by Rynae Golke
As a member of the care team for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Sensory Perception Disorder (SPD), you would go to the ends of the earth to provide these patients with the tools and resources they need to be successful. While behavioral techniques are most successful, the addition of adaptive products can improve the outcome of other interventions.
Adaptive products can be highly successful in managing behaviors associated with ASD and promoting positive social interactions and success in daily life. Understanding which adaptive products are available and for which indications they are most successful can better prepare you to address concerns and enhance the lives of your ASD patients.
Weighted products provide a feeling a security, promoting calmness and cooperation. Weighted products can be especially helpful in improving sleep habits, preventing behaviors during quiet time at home or school, and calming anxiety and frustration. A benefit is that many of them are discreet and can be hard to differentiate from a normal blanket or article of clothing.
The most commonly used weighted products include:
- Weighted blankets, which are often filled with rice or other heavy seeds sewn into compartments in the blanket. Weighted blankets are recommended at bedtime and naptime to make falling asleep and staying asleep easier. They can also be used in situations that may induce anxiety or in times of frustration for comfort.
- Weighted lap pads, which can be used for hyperactivity and nerves in many different settings. Weighted lap pads are widely used to keep students focused and grounded in school; they fit on the lap under a child’s desk and typically do not draw unwanted attention.
- Weighted wearables. The most common weighted wearable is a weighted vest. They can be worn under or over clothing and provide a sense of security to calm nerves, most commonly in situations with overstimulation. For example, at school, at a busy social event, etc.
Weighted wearables are so successful in preventing anxiety and undesirable behaviors that they are often used in inpatient psychiatric units and Alzheimer’s units as well.
Fidgeters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes but all serve one purpose – to provide a positive, non-disruptive outlet for energy that is typically expelled when fidgeting. This improves focus, setting students up for success in school and in life. In addition to school, they are often utilized during long car rides, the movie theater, religious services, and other settings.
There are hundreds of fidgeters on the market, but here are some of the most common types:
- Desk bands, which allow students to bounce their feet on a special rubber band under their desk or chair. Desk bands have been especially successful in managing ADHD.
- Stress balls, which can improve motor skills and hand strength while still creating an outlet for excess energy or stress.
- Keychain fidgeters, which may come in a variety of forms but attached to a backpack or coat zipper for maximum convenience and portability.
Swaddling products are designed to improve comfort and decrease nervousness and anxiety by providing comfortable pressure, much like a swaddling blanket. Swaddling products can mimic the way an embrace feels, inducing feelings of comfort, familiarity, and peace.
- Swaddling swings – Swaddling swings hang from the ceiling and are cocoon-like in appearance. Children can climb in and be enclosed in soft and colorful fabric to quietly read, rest, or take a break from stimulation. Swaddling swings are great at home, in the classroom, and even in clinical settings.
- Swaddling blankets – Swaddling blankets resemble swaddlers for infants. They can be wrapped tight and secured with Velcro to provide a comfortable setting for nap-time or night-time sleeping. They may help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
Other Adaptive Equipment
There are thousands of adaptive items on the market that don’t fall into these primary categories but can make life with ASD easier on children and their families, including:
- Fun, kid-friendly earmuffs that drown out sound in loud environments
- Calming sounds CDs that help ease the child with ASD into sleep or relaxation
- Silicone finger toothbrushes to encourage brushing despite sensory aversions
- Essential oils for diffusion, massage, or consumption
- Eating utensils designed for those with aversions to metal or other textures
- Teethers for those who tend to chew on their shirt color, blanket, pencil, etc
Products designed for management of behaviors associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders are often helpful for children with other related disorders including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Sensory Perception Disorder (SPD). Most products are generally affordable, which means more of the families you work with may be able to take advantage of this option.
By assisting families as they look for ways to better adapt to, accommodate, and empower their loved ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you become an integral part of the process. The best healthcare providers address not only the disorder itself, but the patient as a whole person, their loved ones, and their wants and desires in addition to their needs.