Deep pressure therapy also known as deep pressure stimulation is a type of therapy is a type of tactile sensory to activate the proprioceptive input (a sensory on body awareness). For children with sensory processing issues, deep pressure applied to muscles and joints on the entire body tends to calm those who are easily overwhelmed by sensory information in their environment.
To lessen sensory meltdowns and help children regulate their emotions, deep pressure therapy is one of the best ways to calm anxiety and sensory overload. Deep pressure stimulation is highly effective for children on the autism spectrum and with sensory issues.
But any child can benefit from proprioceptive input by adding these fun, easy, at-home deep pressure therapy techniques.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
What Are The Benefits Of Deep Pressure Stimulation?
- Lowers anxiety levels – A 2008 study found children wearing weighted vest were able to reduce anxiety by 63%.
- Improves focus and concentration
- Increases body awareness
- Calms feelings of sensory overload
- Regulates emotions
Does Your Child Need Deep Pressure Therapy?
While deep pressure is beneficial for children and adults alike, there are signs to look in your child that may show your son or daughter is craving deep pressure stimulation.
Children needing deep pressure input may:
- Crash into people, furniture, and more.
- Prefer to sleep under heavy blankets
- Like to be hugged tightly
- Show signs of teeth grinding or head banging
- Like to ‘rough house’ or play rough
- Mouth or chew on inanimate objects like cardboard, paper, toys, etc.
Although this list does not cover every example, it does give you a sense of what to look for in your child’s behavior to indicate whether he or she is craving and needing more deep pressure therapy.
11 At-Home Ways To Give Children Deep Pressure Stimulation
Weighted Products-Blankets/Vests/Stuffed Animals/Lap Pad
As the world is gaining awareness about sensory issues and those with autism, weighted products are finding their way into homes to be used by children and adults. But what type of weighted products are available and what weighted product do you choose for your child?
I am an avid user of a weighted blanket for anxiety, as well as my five-year-old son with autism. The best advice I give any parent for finding the best weighted product for deep pressure is to (first) find the right weight for your child. Second, purchase multiple weighted products!
It may sound ridiculous, but trust me… As a mom of a child with autism, meltdowns can happen anywhere and certain weighted products are perfect for different occasions.
Here is a list of different weighted products:
- Weighted Blankets– Check out this quick guide on how to purchase the right weight for a weighted blanket.
- Weighted Vests– Best for deep pressure therapy away from home.
- Lap Pad– These work best for classroom setting when working at a desk.
- Stuffed animals– Best for comfort, sleeping, and car rides.
In my house we have two weighted blanket (one for myself and one for my son), plus a weighted stuffed animal.
Related Articles: 52 Heavy Work Activities For Sensory Seekers
A yoga ball is a cheap, yet effective way to give your child deep pressure therapy at-home. It can be used by your child to sit and bounce on or try these deep pressure yoga ball techniques!
-Having your child lay on the floor and roll the yoga back-and-forth with light pressure over the length of their body.
-Have your child lay over the top of the yoga ball. Hold your child by the legs and slowly rock him/her back and forth over the ball.
-Roll the ball across the floor and have it “crash” into your child.
This deep pressure stimulation may be uncomfortable for children with sensory issues and autism because many do not like to “be touch” but they still crave proprioceptive input. While your child may pull away after, bear hugs are an extremely effective on-the-go deep pressure therapy technique.
Meaning it can be applied anywhere! If your child has a sensory meltdown in the store, simply give them a big “bear hug” with extra squeeze force for a deep pressure feeling.
I use ‘bear hugs’ to accomplish two things for my son with autism:
- Calms and gives a sense of security and love
- Keeps my son from aggressive behavior due to a sensory meltdown like hitting/biting himself or others
A trampoline is one of the best investments I’ve made toward my son’s autism. Plus, it’s just plain fun! Now if you can’t afford a large outdoor trampoline or don’t have the space, you can always purchase a small indoor trampoline. Indoor trampolines are perfect to use because you can fold and store them, plus your receives deep pressure input even indoors during cold weather.
If your child loves ‘rough play,’ there’s no better way to combine a fun easy activity and deep pressure stimulation! Try taking two pillows and squeezing them firmly against your child’s body forming a “pillow sandwich.”
Joint Compression Massage
This was taught to me by my son’s occupational therapist and it’s a game changer! All joint massage is is taking your hands and applying To do joint compression massage, follow the following steps! This deep pressure therapy technique is perfect for calming children before bedtime!
Joint Compression Massage:
- Start cupping your hands and putting light, but firm pressure against the balls of the feet in a ‘pushing’ motion
- Next, do the same to the knees
- Press against the back of the hips
- Wrap your hands around your child’s wrists and gently squeeze
- Repeat this process to all the major joint areas
Bean Bag Chairs
You don’t think of bean bags as a deep pressure tool. But bean bag chairs are able to sink and mold to your child’s body putting firm pressure against their body.
Bean bag chairs are a great addition to any sensory room or calm down corner!
An inflatable PeaBody is a new deep pressure product tool on the market. Instead of using beads for deep pressure, an inflatable PeaBody uses air to squeeze your child in the canoe like shape.
This is another deep pressure stimulation tool perfect for reading time and for a sensory calm down area.
Have a sofa with cushions that come off? Why not use those sofa cushions for more than just sitting on? Take off your couch cushions and let your child jump on them, crash onto them, and even bury themselves under the cushions.
Vibration provides an all-at-once deep pressure input for calming anxious children. If your child responds well and tolerates a vibration sensation, the best product for this is a vibrating plate machine. Simply, have your child stand or sit on the platform for 10 to 15 minutes.
Foam Therapy Roll
A foam therapy roll can take the place of a yoga ball if you choose. All you need to do is place in on the floor and teach your child how to roll their body across it. Another way to provide deep pressure stimulation is having your child lay flat on the floor or sofa and roll the foam roll across their body.
There are many ways to provide deep pressure therapy at-home for any child. But every deep pressure technique above I use and firmly believe in.
Deep pressure stimulation not only helps calm children by lowering their cortisol levels (stress hormone), but helps teach my child the proper way to seek proprioceptive input instead of “inappropriate” ways like crashing into people and objects.
While I use every one of the above tools for deep pressure input, their are many products your child will love. It’s all about finding that perfect deep pressure tool to match your child’s needs and personality!