The Use of Compression & Weighted Vests in Occupational Therapy Treatments

Occupational therapists often use compression and weighted vests as a therapy tool with children with a variety of diagnoses such as Autism, ADHD, anxiety, or sensory processing difficulties. These vests provide proprioceptive (deep pressure) input to the child’s body to aid their overall regulation and attention. The deep pressure input these vests provide facilitates a physiological reaction by reducing heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and can reduce anxiety. These vests are often utilized in children who are constantly on the move, fidgety, and/or crave movement or deep pressure. An occupational therapist will assess the child’s needs to determine which type of vest is best and when a vest should be worn to facilitate optimal performance during everyday routines and activities. There are only slight differences between the types of vests, but both offer the deep pressure input that a child may need to regulate and organize their bodies. 

Compression Vests:

  • Fits snuggly against the child’s torso
  • Provides a hug-like deep squeeze sensation

Weighted Vests:

  • Vest that is worn over a child’s clothing
  • Weighted based on child’s weight (10% of body weight)

**Be sure to consult with an occupational therapist on proper weight of the vest and the wearing schedule. 

If you do not have access to a vest, there are many other great ways to provide deep pressure input to your child’s body to help regulate their bodies. See below for a few ideas:

  • Animal walks

  • Yoga poses
  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Rolling your child up tightly in a blanket like a “burrito” then unrolling them
  • Have your child lay on their stomach and then roll a therapy ball over your child’s back

  • Cushion and/or bean bag crashes/squishes
  • Have your child help with carrying/putting away groceries, pushing the shopping carts, or pushing the laundry basket

Compression and weighted vests are great tools often used, but at times may not be enough input for your child and your child may need additional input to meet their sensory needs. These vests are often used in conjunction with sensory diets that are put together by occupational therapists. 

If you notice that your child is having a difficult time with regulating their body, demonstrates inattention, or is seeking movement and deep pressure, please reach out for a skilled occupational therapy evaluation to see if your child would benefit from using one of these tools. Do not use a weighted or compression vest without the guidance of a skilled occupational therapist. Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy at (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.