Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Product Hits and Misses: Sensory Seeker Edition

As with the autism-insurance post -- it's been a while since I've done one of these!

I'm really excited about a new goodie that has come into my sensory-seeking daughter's life lately.

I posted briefly at one point about Joy's home-concocted weighted vest. Unfortunately I never posted a photo, and now it's been disassembled and discarded, alas! But I'll re-describe it, and then tell you about the newer-and-better version.

Foy Joy, a weighted vest helps give her some of the sensory input she so seems to crave. While she's wearing it, it seems to help her get to a place of being calmer and more focused. The theory would have it that the effect should last after the vest is removed, which doesn't actually seem to be the case with Joy. (If you've seen one person with sensory issues, you've seen one person with sensory issues!) Here's a page with a little more information on weighted vests.

Commercial weighted vests can get pretty expensive, and so one of Joy's occupational therapists set her up with a homemade vest based on one of those swim vests with removeable floats. Looked kind of like a pink barrel. Take all the floaties out, replace with weights, and there you go! Add as much or little weight as you need, in consultation with your OT. Weights can be bags of rice or beans or fishing weights or shot, either plastic baggies swathed in duct tape or homemade cloth beanbags. Since they're removable, you don't have to worry if the weights can be gotten wet in the wash. We even added weight with a couple of duct-taped door-hinges!

The floaty/weighted vest worked well but had some disadvantages. First, it was obviously not a standard piece of clothing (see barrel comment above), so it sets the wearer apart and people do tend to gawp or ask questions. Second, it was made of polyester-ish material, liable to snags and runs. The weights in particular tended to poke out of their pockets eventually.

Our new improved replacement is a kiddie fly-fishing vest from L.L. Bean! We have to credit Joy's kindergarten staff for introducing us to this. Price is $34.





The vest is breatheable and durable, woven cotton instead of the snaggy knit. It looks like a real garment, and comes in khaki or pale blue or pink. It has rings on the front to clip chewies on, and one in the back for a caregiver to grab. It has a clip over the zipper in front to keep the vest on. And, it has pockets all over the front for weights, plus a big flat zippered pocket for weight in the back!

We're using the weights from the old vest. It's working out really well so far. This one's a hit.

[Update: I just remembered a post from Both Hands & a Flashlight a while back, about their adventures in homemade weighted vests, that you might want to peek at as well.]




Another hit with Joy, in general and specifically, is keys. Real keys, none of your plastic fakes, thank-you-very-much. She loves to handle them, clink them, carry them around, stim on them. Mama's ring of keys is the ultimate prize -- Mama's got to be very careful not to bring out the keys when Joy might request them and have to be told no, or great unhappiness ensues.

So, we've come up with a replacement.


These are keys from the hardware store. They're "mis-keys" -- keys that got flubbed up in the process of cutting and had to be discarded.

Different hardware stores have different policies with mis-keys. One store near here cheerfully gave us a whole handful for free. Another said sorry, but they return them to the manufacturer for some sort of refund. Yet a third tosses all their mis-keys and metal shavings into a big ol' bucket that you can dig through and choose the keys you want for twenty-five cents a pop.

The ring of keys pictured above is connected to a mega-chewelry bracelet from National Autism Resources. I'd initially bought a cheapo curly-bracelet keychain at the hardware store, but when Joy started chewing on it, the teeth marks stayed and the bracelet got deformed very quickly. The real thing is worth the extra money.

We've also recently acquired a ChewEase Clip-on Chewy Tube from National Autism Resources. The product has a plastic clip at one end, attached to a chewelry-type coil with a key-ring and a chewy-tube at the other end. Yes, I did say "key-ring." You could see how this product might work together with our keys obsession...

Just be careful to track the keys when your kiddo is carrying them about. We've lost two sets on the prairie, one because she dropped them when I wasn't looking, the other because I apparently hadn't fully joined Joy's key-ring to the ChewEase key ring and it wiggled off. I do hope that, if anybody found them, they didn't knock themselves out trying to find the poor soul who's been locked out of a non-existent home & office & car!

15 comments:

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

I love this post. That weighted vest with all the pockets looks awesome.

I use an OTVest, available at the wesite of the same name. It's made of denim with smooth weights in the shoulders. It looks like a regular item of clothing and works well for me. The only disadvantage is that you can't modify the weight.

And your solution to Joy's love of keys is brilliant! I had no idea that hardware stores make their cast-off keys available.

JoyMama said...

Hi Rachel, and welcome! Thanks for the pointer to the OTvest. It's a much better looking piece of clothing than some of the commercial options out there, though as you say, it's not set up to let you change the weight. I should point out that the fly-fishing vest does come in adult sizes as well (I tend to get a little child-centric at times, whoops!)

About the keys, I didn't know either until I shared with a fellow mama at Joy's school that I was thinking about going to a hardware store and just buying some blank keys. Oh, don't do that, she said -- just ask them for the discards!

Niksmom said...

I love how the universe drops the right thing into my sphere at just the right time! I am off to find that vest...

JoyDad said...

Just so as y'all don't go making assumptions and stuff, given the NFL logo for a certain Wisconsin-based team visible on the one keys...

While we live in Wisconsin, JoyDad is a native of the great City of Chicago, and we cheer for da Bears in our household. Just saying...

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

JoyMama said...

JoyDad, m'love -- that green and gold key is a DISCARD. A mis-key. From the reject bucket, even.

At least I didn't find a Bears key in there!!

There ya go, feel better now?

Mama Pickles said...

What perfect timing! My son needs a weighted vest and I can sew, so I refuse to pay what they charge in catalogs. I sewed a vest yesterday, but the vest you posted is excellent! I also went to the thrift store today and bought 2 denim jackets. I plan on cutting the arms off to make them into vests and then sew a pocket on the inside to hold the weights. I'm using the weights out of some ankle weights my lazy self doesn't use any more. :) My mom and I are also trying to figure out how to make our own vest like the OTVest someone else posted about.

Kelly said...

Both are great ideas! I have several kiddos I think would benefit from the vest, but we are waiting until we get OT evals done before doing something like that.

The keys though is brilliant! A local dealership keeps sending junk mail with fake keys (you know, the if you get the car to start it's yours trick. Three of my children keep fighting over who gets them. One of those three is constantly asking to hold my keys and if I have any extras he can have. I would have never thought to check with hardware stores about this...thanks for sharing!

Big Daddy Autism said...

Wow. That vest would have saved us a bundle 8 or 9 years ago. Great idea.

adiaryofamom said...

i love the home made weighted vest! brooke has a lap pad at school that she tends to wrap around her shoulders. looks like i might be headed over to ll bean!

blackknightsbrood said...

Brilliant ideas!!! Wish we'd thought of the fly fishing vest before dropping a bundle on a custom vest our kiddo never wore.
Our kids always beg for paint swatch samples at Home Depot. - they will be beside themselves if they wind up with a free mystery key!

JoyMama said...

LL Bean and the hardware stores are going to wonder why there's such a run on fishing vests and discarded keys -- I'm so glad to hear these ideas striking a chord (especially when the comments say "perfect timing" or some such! Woo hoo!)

Mama Pickles - sounds like your sewing skills may be a few notches above mine. Great ideas you have too!

Kelly - great point about the OT evals, and something I should have perhaps emphasized more - weighted vests are therapy tools - get an occupational therapist to "weigh in" (as it were), as you're so wisely doing, rather than prescribing weighted equipment on your own.

Keys, however, are totally fair game! :-)

rhemashope said...

great vest! we've used a pressure vest on rhema that we got from www.affordabletherapysolutions.com - we opted for the pressure vest b/c we didn't want to spend a fortune on the weighted vest!

i was curious how long Joy keeps the vest on a time?

JoyMama said...

rhemashope - we generally go about 30 to 45 minutes, per OT advice. Though we do also have a pressure-wrap for Joy's torso that the OT didn't feel as strongly about limiting the time. What have you been doing with Rhema and the pressure-vest?

Kelly said...

Thanks for the encouragement that it's wise to wait for our OT eval. We are looking at a very long wait (4-6 mos for first kid, others are further down the waiting list) and I'm starting to get impatient. However, I don't want to do the wrong thing and make difficult things worse. I keep telling myself we've waited years to even pursue this, we can wait several more months...

rhemashope said...

joymama, we only use the pressure vest during therapy. like the weighted vest, it does seem to calm and settle her some.