child wearing a weighted vest

Kids who are dealing with sensory issues, overstimulation, and anxiety can all benefit from the use of a weighted vest. With a large variety of styles, features, and materials to choose from, the hunt for a vest can be overwhelming.

And with all the hype out there around weighted products and clothing, some parents might be wondering if weighted vests even work at all and are worth the time investment.

We’ll cover these concerns and more, as well as share our list of the top 10 best weighted vests on the market today for a child on the autism spectrum!

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Do Weighted Vests Work for Autism?

While their use is not specifically restricted to helping kids with autism, kids all across the spectrum can especially benefit from weighted vests.

Not only can weighted items help with emotional regulation, but they have also been proven to help improve certain behavioral or sensory issues as well.

The idea behind weighted clothing is that the additional weight on the child’s body acts as a comforting and soothing element of deep pressure, similar to that of a hug.

Scientifically speaking, this is known as “deep touch pressure” and helps to turn off the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) system and even decrease the levels of stress hormones in the body.

Weighted vests are a component of sensory integration therapy, where the pressure of weighted clothing and bedding is used to help the body improve sensory processing.

It is important to note that the use of weighted clothing will not work to the same degree for each child on the spectrum, and some children may see no benefit at all.

For the best chance at success, weighted clothing should be used as part of a comprehensive occupational therapy strategy and in conjunction with other treatments or remedies.

While research is still ongoing, the use of a weighted vest can be an easy and simple way to try and support your autistic child at a very low cost.

The use of a weighted vest should always be under the supervision of a professional.

How Long Should a Weighted Vest Be Worn?

Weighted vests can be safely worn up to several hours a day. Many therapists recommend the use of weighted vests in small increments of time during targeted activities such as during educational instruction or when the child is in need of comfort.

This will help avoid “habituation” or your child’s body getting used to the new input.

Your child’s occupational therapist or doctor can help you design a weighted vest-wearing schedule best suited to your child’s unique individual needs.

Special undershirts can be worn if your child needs to wear the vest for several hours per day.

While there is no official upper limit as to how long a weighted vest can be worn, it is a good idea to limit use as much as possible and allows your child to take a break every once in a while.

Prolonged use can cause fatigue, skin irritation, and muscle soreness. Compression garments can be a good alternative if your child requires near-constant pressure.

How Heavy Should Your Weighted Vest Be?

Weighted vests typically use around 5-10% of a person’s body weight added to the clothing and equally distributed around the garment for even pressure.

This is about the same amount of weight as a child’s backpack. These vests can be worn either under or over clothing, depending on the child’s preference and the type and style of the garment.

Many vests come with pockets for adding additional weights or weighted bean bags.

It is important to note that weighted vests and other weighted clothing and blankets should only be used under the supervision of an occupational therapist or other healthcare providers.

The 10% weight limit should not be exceeded as it may cause pain and muscle strain.

What are the Best Weighted Vests for a Child with Autism?

Parents and caregivers on the market for the best weighted vest will find a plethora of options to choose from.

Factors that may influence your purchase decision include the presence or absence of a compression element, the type of fabric used, the comfort of the vest, ease of use, price, durability, and even style.

We’ve done the research for you and selected some of the top vests available on the market based on features and customer reviews!

#1: Fun and Function’s Denim Weighted Vest for Children

This vest takes the prize for style with a fashionable look that looks just like a regular denim vest. You’d never even guess there are weighted pockets inside!

Weights are also added to the shoulder area for even distribution. A vest such as this one is perfect for a school setting where caregivers can assist a child with quickly putting on the vest during instructional time without needing to undress.

The vest features a unisex design and working exterior pockets that can hold fidget items. It comes with 2.5 lbs of weights to start off and can be increased to 9 lbs with the purchase of additional weights.

The denim material is very durable and comes in 5 different sizes to suit your child.

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#2: Fun and Function Weighted Compression Vest

For a child who also enjoys the feeling of compression, this interior vest is made with neoprene for a flexible and snug fit. Best of all, the sides and shoulder straps are fully adjustable to get the perfect fit.

The vest is machine washable, and weights can be removed or added to get to the right weight for your child. The brand offers a full-size chart to help you find the best size for your child, and this vest even comes in teen and adult sizes for older wearers.

The vest’s slim fit and comfortable material allow it to be worn either under or over regular clothes. It’s easy to see why this vest is highly recommended by many occupational therapists.

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#3: Harkla Weighted Compression Vest

As another compression option from a different brand, this vest offers a slightly different take on the design. Additional mesh in the front and back of the vest helps your child to stay cool, while six weights offer up to two pounds of deep pressure with the ability to add more.

Like the Fun and Function vest, this garment is made with neoprene and offers adjustable Velcro sides and shoulders. However, this vest comes in only three sizes and maxes out at around the age of 10.

Spot cleaning is recommended, but the vest can be gently machine washed in a pinch. Reviewers love the ease of use, comfort, and fit of this weighted compression vest.

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#4: ZooVaa Weighted Sensory Vest for Kids

This vest comes in 3 stylish color options and even a denim option. To the outside observer, the ZooVaa child vest is not identifiable as a weighted vest, which many families prefer.

This vest features additional Velcro flaps to secure the weighted pockets in place. Stretch elastic sides and functional front pockets make this vest unique and comfortable for everyday use.

The denim vest even features a comfortable hoodie! Each vest comes with 2 or 3 lbs of weight, can be adjusted to add more weight, and zips or buttons up for those cold winter days.

If you’re looking for a weighted vest (or 2) that matches your child’s wardrobe – this product line is it.

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#5: Special Supplies Sensory Compression Vest

As an alternative to weighted vests, this popular vest offers consistent compression for the same deep pressure without the added weight.

This vest is another great option for those needing larger vest sizes, even up to adult sizes. It comes in 5 colors and five different sizes.

The flexible neoprene material allows this vest to be worn either under or over clothing while still being comfortable and easy to use. 2 side and two shoulder closures allow for a customized fit. Reviewers found it to be comfortable, easy to use, and easy to get the right fit.

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#6: Special Supplies Weighted Sensory Compression Vest

As the weighted version of the previous item, this vest is a hit with many kids and parents for its functionality and ease of use. The sides and shoulders of this vest are highly adjustable, and five sizes offer the perfect fit for ASD individuals of all ages.

It can be worn over an undershirt or on top of your child’s regular clothing. Reviewers found this vest to be sturdy and durable without being overly bulky. With the weights removed, it is also machine washable.

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#7: Weighted Compression Vest for Children (Ages 2 to 4) by Harkla 

This fun vest may be a hit with otherwise-reluctant wearers. Made from breathable and lightweight cotton, this safari-style vest offers plenty of exterior pockets for fidget items or cold hands.

Two pounds of weight are included with the ability to add more by purchasing additional weights. Six interior torso pockets allow for the even distribution of weight.

The vest is machine washable and zips up for added warmth and comfort.

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#8: UrbanRed Weighted Vest for Kids

This vest is as durable as it is affordable. Breathable mesh windows are located on the front, back, and sides of this vest to allow for better comfort and airflow.

The vest’s neoprene material offers a snug and cozy fit that is durable enough to stand the test of time. Adjustable Velcro side and shoulder straps, as well as the ability to adjust the weights inside, allow for the perfect fit.

The vest is machine washable on gentle.

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#9: Fun and Function’s Weighted Fleece Zippered Vest

For those in colder climates or looking for a vest for the winter months, this soft and cozy fleece vest is the perfect option.

The front zipper closure and real front pockets will allow your child to blend in with their peers, while the navy blue color is gender neutral and discreet.

The range of this vest is especially impressive, as it comes in 5 sizes covering approximately ages 2 to 15. As with the other weighted garments on this list, 2 lbs of weights are included, and more can be added to the six interior pockets.

The vest is made of 100% polyester and is machine washable on the cold water setting.

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#10: Fun and Function’s Stretch Denim Weighted Vest

As a great option for teens, this snug-fit denim vest zips in the front for easy access and offers adjustable Velcro sides. Like other vests, this garment features interior pockets for adding and removing weights.

It includes 2 lbs of weights with your purchase but can accommodate up to 10 lbs of weights. Since it is made with 100% cotton, this vest is 100% machine washable once the weights are removed.

Older kids and teens love this discreet, stylish vest!

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Wrapping it Up

Weighted vests can be an extremely helpful tool as part of a holistic sensory integration therapy plan for children on the spectrum or with similar diagnoses.

You may need to do some trial and error in order to find the right wearing schedule, weight distribution, and vest for your child based on their unique individual needs.

Although research is currently limited, prior studies and anecdotal evidence seem promising, and there is a low barrier for entry on giving weighted vests a try.

 If you have a success story or a specific product recommendation for a weighted vest, let us know your experience in the comments below!