On a recent flight, I was browsing through the SkyMall magazine, when I came across an ad for “the best solution for dog anxiety, guaranteed!” The product, Thundershirt, is a pressure garment designed to be worn by dogs to assist with anxiety. The product’s design is actually based on a principle from the Sensory Processing theory, which I use in my practice on a daily basis. The idea behind the Thundershirt is that it provides continuous pressure to the dog’s body, thus creating a calming effect; this belief stems from the concept of proprioception according to Sensory Integration theory. Proprioceptive input is the input the body receives from its muscles and joints. When the nervous system receives proprioceptive input, it has a soothing effect on the body.
In my pediatric occupational therapy sessions, I use weighted blankets, weighted vests, or weighted lap pads** to provide this calming input for myclients who may have difficulty sitting still for a board game or for a client whose body is moving too fast for the activity at hand. I often recommend weighted items as part of a home exercise program for children who have difficulty falling asleep at night or who require help relaxing their body to focus on homework. In fact, I have also benefited from a deep pressure hug or curling up under a big blanket when feeling stressed or upset, both of which help to ease my mind. Not only will human adults and children find occupational therapy principles useful, but dogs can too!
What have your experiences been with the use of weighted items?
**There are weight and usage guidelines when using weighted objects with children. Be sure to contact your occupational therapist for assistance in determining the appropriate weighted product for your child.