An exhausted mother’s quest.
by Rebecca Miller
All I wanted was a good night's sleep.
Seriously. Just one night.
Every night was a struggle. I tried lavender bath bubbles, massage, essential oils, lights on, lights off, white noise, no noise, and still my son would NOT sleep.
All night long, he'd pop out of bed or kick the walls. Worried that he would sneak out the front door, I had him sleep with me.
Sleep. Yeah, neither one of us was doing much of that.
My other autism mom friends suggested melatonin. I tried the supplement, but it didn't work for long. On the other hand, I had a hallucination of Winnie-the-Pooh hovering over me holding a red balloon.
Or maybe it was the fact that I haven't had a decent night's sleep in years.
Most kids with autism DO NOT SLEEP
Sleep disturbances are so typical with our littles on the autism spectrum. Studies show that 80% of kids with autism have disturbed sleep patterns.
His lack of sleep became my lack of sleep, and I was cranky, seeking carbs and getting to my wit's end. It affected my work and how I parented Max, but I realized it affected my response time after a near-miss on the highway. I was terrified to get behind the wheel.
Desperate, I tried Benadryl, CBD, even acupuncture. Nothing worked. One night, with tears streaming down my face, I got on my FB group for autism moms, and one of them told me about the Autism Community Store and their magic weighted blankets.
Of course, I was skeptical, but the mom assured me the weighted blankets help calm many kids on the autism spectrum by gentle compression. She explained it caused a release of neurotransmitters from the brain that told the body to calm down.
"It's like swaddling," she said. "Like when we were babies."
I thought about it, and I realized I had to do it. I was willing to try anything, just to get some sleep.
"Don't just buy any old weighted blanket," she warned. "Go see Shannon at the Autism Community Store."
It Was My One Last Act of Desperation
I went to the Autism Community Store and met with Shannon, the owner and a mom of a lovely girl on the autism spectrum. I explained my plight, and she reassured me I wasn't alone. Her daughter struggled with sleep as well.
"Lots of kids have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep," she said as she led me to her collection of blankets. I looked over the colorful pile, and Shannon asked me how much my son weighed and his age.
"Does it matter?" I asked her.
A Series of Questions
She explained that occupational therapists recommend the blanket weight average 10% of the child’s body weight plus one pound or for shorties like my Max, who was eight at the time, his age plus one pound.
She then asked if I saw any sensory-seeking behaviors in Max. I did. He would bury himself under the Big Kitty I bought from Costco. Big Kitty was about 5 feet in length and at least 10 pounds. Shannon told me this was important because not all sensory sensitive people like weight.
Shannon asked me if he got hot at night. Max didn't. She asked me if he liked soft fabrics, which he did. She showed me the removable 100% cotton covers, which help wick away heat. They were comfy, but I preferred the super-soft Minky covers. It was like snuggling a stuffed animal, so, so soft! I couldn't resist running my hands over the smooth, velvety fabric.
To My Relief, The Magic Weighted Blankets Were Easy-to-Clean!
I looked over the different types of blanket samples, and I had one big concern. My son was a MESSY guy. He was the type that when he had picture day at school, I'd send him to class with his shirt on backward and have his teacher turn it around at the last minute.
"How do you wash these?" I asked. Shannon explained she designed the cotton-covered blankets like a down comforter and duvet, so you can remove the duvet and wash it.
"You can wash the blanket as well, but you needed to do it at a commercial laundry if it weighs over 8 pounds and make sure you dry them thoroughly," she said. She explained If I was really worried about messes, she had a special blanket made of RipStop fabric—it was water-resistant and could be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe.
The Lap Pads Could Be Heated Up or Cooled
She handed me a four-pound lap blanket. Shannon explained that the pad could be heated in the microwave for three minutes or put in the freezer as a cold pack. I loved the idea of the warm pack to smooth my little boy's tummy. He had terrible digestive issues and required a heating pad at times.
I felt the round pellet filling slip between my fingers. The pad literally enveloped my hand. Then, I remembered how my old bean bag exploded when I was a kid in the 70s, and the white pellet stuffing went all over the TV room. My mom almost packed me up for the orphanage.
A Safe, Non-Toxic Filling
"What's inside?" I asked. I was worried about a white pellet explosion. Shannon told me it was millet.
"Millet—just like you buy at Whole Foods. They are perfectly round, and they move like water. That's how they perfectly conform to your body. No clumping or having filling on one side or the other. Perfectly balanced."
"And…edible, I suppose," I mused.
"Safe, non-toxic filling. I once opened up a blanket I got online, and it was filled with metal filaments. Some mass-produced blankets are filled with glass beads," Shannon said. I was appalled. My son went through a stage where he tasted the world. I shuddered.
I was curious who sourced her amazing weighted blankets.
A Hand-Made Weighted Blanket Created With Intention To Help People With Sensory Issues
Impressed, I asked, "Where do you buy these from?" She smiled.
"We make them here at the store," Shannon said proudly. She told me she sources her organic millet from a Colorado farm near Sterling. Her sewers and fillers were long-time employees, including people on the autism spectrum, retirees, a Serbian refugee, and a woman who had agoraphobia, but sewing enabled her to make friends.
Shannon explained she sourced the best fabrics from a company in California and she can custom make a blanket regarding weight or color, and that she even had animals, like cats, lizards, and neck pillows—all hand made with love at the store.
A Call to Service
"What made you decide to start hand-making weighted blankets?" Shannon laughed. I had to know.
"It all started with a weighted lizard," she told me. "We were selling them, and the supplier went out of business, but our kids loved them. We dissected the one we still had and discovered the secret ingredient—the millet. We then decided to start making blankets, and our goal was to make them as therapeutic as possible. It took a lot of trial and feedback. "
She paused a moment.
"I was blessed with help from a retired professional seamstress who helped us perfect the blankets. The millet itself is grounding, and by keeping it in individual squares, it spreads evenly over the body, so there are no lumps or shifting, and it's quiet. The weight is then evenly distributed. Sure, you can buy a weighted blanket anywhere, but our product is the best in the market because it's made deliberately to help with calming people with sensory issues."
Made deliberately to help…I mulled this over.
The Evidence Revealed Through Her Daughter
"You said your daughter had a hard time sleeping," I asked. Shannon smiled.
"Not anymore," she said. "She starts her day with a warm lap pad and goes to bed with her full-sized blanket. And I'd tried a mail order blanket. It didn't do anything. Then one day at the store, I placed our prototype on her while she was in the sensory room. It worked. That was the day I knew we had something special."
She was right. The blankets from Target or Amazon were just MADE, with no intention, and sure, the price is WAY different, but I was paying for durability, wash-ability, and a non-toxic filling.
I Took A Chance
I had to try for Max and myself. We needed SLEEP.
I purchased two—one full-size 9-pound blanket with a removable cotton cover for washing and a 4-pound lap pad with a Minky fabric—so soft and cuddly. I figured I'd use them for myself if it didn't work.
That night, I showed Max his new weighted blanket with a cover depicting the galaxy on it. I had him lie down next to me. I placed it over him, and I held my breath for a moment. He wiggled at first, and I started reading James and the Giant Peach. Slowly his eyes began to close, and soon he fell asleep. And, he stayed asleep.
I'd like to say I shed tears of joy, but I was too tired. I put the lap pad on my chest and fell asleep fast.
It was the best night's sleep we'd had in years. Literal years.
The Magic Weighted Blankets From The Autism Community Store Work!
These hand-made with INTENTION weighted blankets WORK. You do NOT have to suffer through a tough night anymore.
Sure, you can order one off Amazon, but it's not the same. A mass-produced weighted blanket is like Spandex, and we all know how that works out in the end.
Shop Small and Shop Made in the U.S.A.
But what do you get from ordering one from the Autism Community Store?
- A consultation to ensure you are getting the RIGHT blanket for your child.
- A chance to touch and feel different weights and fabrics
- The ability to pick a color or pattern your child will like.
- The best part—bring your kid to the store and let them try a sample out in the sensory room. You will know within MINUTES if it is the right weight for you.
And, my favorite—shop local, shop small. The Autism Community Store invests back into the community. Plus, if your blanket happens to explode….
Millet is edible. It's birdseed.
Order Your Magic Weighted Blanket During World Autism Awareness Month (April) For 20 Percent Off
Follow this link to learn more about weighted blankets, and in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, get your coupon for 20% off your entire order during April. Code: AA20 at checkout or mention AA20 when shopping in person.
From one autism mom to another—this is the BEST purchase you can make for your child, and be sure to pick one up for yourself.