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Pressure Garments as a Regulator of Behavior of Children and Adolescents in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Saturday, 4 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
A. Lehto1, T. Ukura2, I. K. Moilanen3,4 and H. Ebeling5, (1)Department of Child Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, (2)Department of Child Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical Medicine,University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, (3)Department of Child Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University and University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, (4)University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland, (5)University and University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland

Weighted blankets and vests are commonly used as a treatment for autism, and this method has been found to work well. They have also been helpful in calming children with motoric restlessness and for improving body awareness.

Pressure garments are a convenient way to generate a feeling of pressure. They are snugly fitting clothes, which apply adjustable pressure on different areas of the body. Each garment is tailor-made for each individual, and considerable planning goes into the design and selection of materials. The focus is on comfort, but also on the external product design. In this study, pressure garments with long pants and sleeves were used as intervention.


This study investigated whether pressure garments could benefit children with ASD behavior.


The study had 32 participants with ASD behavior aged 9 to 23 years. Each individual exhibited challenging and/or aggressive behavior. Only six of participants were without a comorbid learning disability diagnosis. 87.5% of participants were attending primary education (n=28).

The study design was carried out as follows in late 2008: Initially, respondents (parents, teachers, nurses) observed participants for a period of one month after which they completed questionnaires (survey 1). Participants began to use their custom-made pressure garments as they became available. The first participants received their garments at the end of January and the last ones in early February. Participants were given the following instructions: In the morning, the pressure garments are dressed over underwear, and under regular clothes. The garments are used continuously for 7 hours daily, and then removed.  Participants used the garments until the end of May 2009. Subsequently, we assessed participants with the same questionnaire packet that was employed at the beginning of the study (survey 2), including the PSYTO-AU-questionnaire, a modified version of the psychosocial functioning scale (PS-TKA) for mentally disabled persons with autism.


Despite noticeable between-subject variation, evidence suggests that the pressure garments significantly modulated ASD behaviors in some individuals according to PSYTO-AU-questionnaire, and in general, a trend for the overall efficacy of these garments is observable. The simple linear regression model demonstrate that the effect of using pressure garments were most apparent in social skills (R2=23%) p < 0.001, social relationships (R2=24%) p < 0.001 and processing sensory information (R2=30%) p < 0.001. The regression model gives the best explanation of these rates which are statistically significant.


Pressure garments may be beneficial when individuals with autism integrate into society and thereby avoid social exclusion. Pressure garments may have a possible role in the multimodel treatment of ASD.

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