A Tacoma Public School clinician approached the University of Puget Sound with a research question regarding the effectiveness of weighted vests to increase on-task behaviors and decrease problem behaviors (such as self-injurious behaviors) of students ages 3-12 with ASD. A structured literature review produced eleven studies (six single subject experimental studies and five systematic reviews) published on or after 2005 and presented evidence ranging from no evidence of effectiveness, to inconclusive results, to some rare positive effect results with weighted vest usage related to increasing on-task and decreasing self-injurious behaviors within the target population. Of the six single subject experimental studies, four showed no evidence for weighted vest effectiveness for the target outcomes, and two showed mixed or inconclusive results. Of the five systematic reviews, two showed no effect, one reported inconclusive results, one showed positive (quantitative evidence) and no effect (three experimental studies) results and one showed no effect (four of seven studies), mixed results (one out of seven studies) and positive results (two out of seven studies) for increasing on-task and decreasing self-injurious behaviors in students. There were inconsistent responses to weighted vests across the participants in the studies. These results were confounded by nonstandard outcome measures, or a lack of common outcome measures across studies.
An in-service illuminating research results was provided for school-based OT practitioners. Fourteen attendees filled out surveys about their perceptions of the research and how it would affect their practice. Six out of fourteen respondents to the clinician survey indicated they believed that weighted vests are effective (at least in some cases), while ten suggested that they would consider continued use of weighted vests for children with ASD in the future. Six respondents said that they would share the evidence with teachers and/or families, while one respondent said that he/she/they would not. Six out of fourteen practitioners suggested that they would be more cautious about implementing weighted vest interventions, while four suggested that they might be more cautious. In instances when weighted vests are used, data collection is recommended to inform future prescription of this intervention.
University of Puget Sound
Sheryl Zylstra, DOT, MS, OTR/L
Master of Science
University of Puget Sound
Blossom, Luna; Langworthy, Arielle; and Steckel, Sarah, "A Critical Appraisal and Participatory Action Research Project on Effectiveness of Weighed Vests for Early Elementary Children with ASD" (2016). School of Occupational Master's Capstone Projects. 7.