Blankets help kids focus in school

Teacher makes 'weighted blankets' for students

We swaddle babies in blankets to make them feel safe, and like to curl up under one ourselves on a chilly night.

Now, teachers are tapping into the power of a blanket to help kids who have trouble staying focused in school.

They're called weighted blankets and they do more then just keep students warm. These blankets are designed to help kids who struggle to stay on task.

Second-grader Jonathan Walgren loves his blanket.

"It helps me get my wiggles out," Walgren said. "It helps me not talk and helps me get my work done."

Walgren's blanket was made by his teacher Christina Junge.

"It helps kids that have sensory processing issues," Junge said. "Kids that have a hard time sitting in their seats."

It might sound simple, but weighted blankets can be effective, according to Jeannie Kunz, lead occupational therapist in the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital's STEPS Autism Treatment Program.

"Children who may have ADHD, have difficulty calming down, settling in their chairs, who need just a little extra help calming and quieting their bodies, so they can learn and focus," Kunz said.

The blankets are designed to be about ten percent of the student's body weight, plus a pound or two.

It's often just enough to help center their wandering attention.

"They notice everything that's going on in their environment, so they may be hearing the fan or looking at the light or noticing that somebody across the room may have dropped their pencil, and not paying attention to what their responsibilities are in the classroom," Kunz said. "Sometimes added weight, through a weighted blanket or even a weighted lap pad, can be very helpful to encourage the students to just calm their actual bodies down and to pay attention to what they're looking at."

"Feels like when you cozy up on your chair at home and you pull a big comforter on top of you, that you just kind of relax and feel more comfortable, and settled in and that's what the weighted blankets do," Junge said.

After finding out the blankets cost about $40 each to buy, Junge decided to make them for her students.

"This blanket is made out of soft fleece material and inside there is rice in Ziploc baggies," she said.

A simple project helping students settle in and learn.

"For some students, it doesn't work, but for some it's a really great intervention tool," said Kunz.