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How to Make a Weighted Lap Pad for Kids With Autism or PDD

Leanne works at a community pharmacy. She is also the mum of three boys, one of whom has autism.

In full flight. Kids who are autistic or PPD are sometimes hyperactive and may have trouble staying on task.

In full flight. Kids who are autistic or PPD are sometimes hyperactive and may have trouble staying on task.

Why a Weighted Lap Pad

There has been much study into the effects of weighted-type products on children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders—particularly those kids who fidget incessantly, can't seem to stay on task, are hyperactive, and generally can't sit still.

It's thought that products like weighted vests, blankets, heavy toys, etc., can provide the sensory input that their bodies require, enabling them to stay calm and focus.

Weighted products provide deep pressure, which has been found to be calming. The most famous provider of this information is Temple Grandin, who has spurred much research into the tactile sensory stimulation side of things. Her books and public speaking about her own experience of autism have been invaluable to research into this condition.

I have chosen to share the lap pad with you because it's more portable than a blanket, and it's dead easy to make.

How to Make a Lap Pad

To begin with; the bottom panel 83cm x 33cm (33in x 13in) chose medium to heavy weight fabric that won't slide off your child's lap for example you wouldn't use satin because it's too slippery. This panel will support the weight. You'll find the going much easier if you chose fabric that has a pattern with lines in it, so you can use the lines as a guide.

The top panel 103cm x 33cm (40.5in x 13in) is your pretty piece. In the pics I'm using to demonstrate I've chosen a furry fabric that will stand up to being washed. In the past I've also used a tea towel with The Simpsons ('cause one kid loved The Simpsons) a teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pillowcase etc. etc. If your pretty piece is too short, sew it onto something the right size.

Next cut the strips out that will form the pockets for your weights. Cut 2x strips (the bottom and top) 14cm x 83cm (5.5in x 33in). And one 18cm x 83cm (7in x 33in). The material for these should be medium weight fabric at least.

Sewing internal strips.

The three internal strips.

The three internal strips.

As per photo above, hem one side, length ways, of each narrow strip and hem both sides, length ways, of the wide strip.

Placing middle strip onto bottom panel.


Place the wide strip that has been hemmed both sides length ways onto the middle of your bottom panel. Don't stress about wrong and right sides of fabric as this work will be the internal part of the pad. However the bottom panel should have the right side facing away from the strips being sewn onto it.

Arranging strips onto bottom panel.


Arranging the strips.

Next, line up your two narrower strips with their raw edges to the outer edges of the bottom panel. Placing one strip along the top of the panel and one strip along the bottom of the panel, so that the narrow strips are on top of the middle strip.

Pinning and drawing

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Pinning and Drawing

Pop a couple of pins in so your panels won't move. Draw a horizontal line straight down the middle of the centre of your middle strip which is the centre of the whole panel. Then draw two vertical lines on the outermost widths of the panel.

Still drawing

Drawing in centre line and outer lines.

Drawing in centre line and outer lines.

Lines for pockets.


Drawing and Pinning the Pockets

Now working from either the left or right of the vertical lines of your panel mark out approximately 13cm (5in)intervals and draw vertical lines on those. Then pin down taking care to get all three layers together. You don't want the edges of the panels to fold over when your sewing so pin them down over your drawn lines as per photo, (were I've actually done that).

Sewing the pockets up.


Sewing up the pockets.

First sew two rows of straight stitiching, up the centre horizontal line of the panel to provide a bit of extra support.

Then beginning on the middle vertical line and working your way out (so the material doesn't bunch up when your sewing) sew up the vertical lines taking care that your hems don't roll over (that's what the pins are for).

Finally sew around the perimeter of the panel to keep everything in place, trim any excess fabric and overlock around the perimeter.

Decorate top panel.


Top panel

You'll notice in the photo I've not gone the entire length of the panel with the furry stuff. That's because the last 20cm (8in) will overlap the panel to form a pillowcase type opening, only the flap will be on the outside, not the inside. Overlock around the perimeter and hem the plain end.

Joining both panels.


Joining together both panels.

Place bottom panel with pockets facing down onto work area, then put top panel, pretty side facing down, on top of the bottom panel, folding the extra 20cm (8in) in between the two panels, and straight stitch around the three sides, leaving the opening were the folded over piece is.

Finished sewing. Underside view.


What to use for weight?

I like to use uncooked rice in zip-lock plastic bags, because the rice is edible and reasonably cheap. And 'squeeze out the air' or they'll burst open.

Just say you want 3kg overall weight you'd divide the number of pockets in this case 12 into your 3kg. And put 250gm of rice into each zip-lock bag and place them into your lap pad.

How Much Weight Do I use? I've not found specific information on weight for a lap pad or blanket, however the standard acceptable weight for a VEST is not more than 5% of the child's body weight with a 20 minute wearing interval. The 20 minute wearing interval is like a reset button because the wearers body adjusts to the extra weight and the sensation is lost after a period of time.

I suggest that you talk to your occupational therapist for advice, as they may also have their own gauge on what weight for your child to use.

Putting in the weights.


Putting in the weights.

Hooray you've finished the sewing bit. Now putting in the weights. Pull the lap pad inside out through the pillow case type opening on the top.

Slide your fingers in between the overlapping folds of the pockets and place your weight in, so it's nice and snug.

Remember to check your weights from time to time as I've found the bags do burst on occasion.

Turn your pad through the right way again and there you have it!

Good Luck

Good Luck with it all please feel free to comment or add suggestions and if it doesn't work now it may work further down the track!!!

Lot's of love to all the mummy's daddy's and carers for our special people!

My Matthew


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Claire from Lincolnshire, UK on July 09, 2013:

Very useful hub. Weighted blankets can be so expensive to buy so this is a great resource, especially for people on a tight budget. My son wasn't keen on the weighted blankets but he loves to climb inside a sleeping bag, pull it right up to his neck and stay there.

Leanne Mifsud (author) from Mackay Qld Australia on July 06, 2013:

I hope it works out well for you. We start our day around here with a morning 'squash' and he asks his teachers and helpers for a squish lol Squash here squish there helps him get through the day. Thanks for commenting and Good Luck!

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on July 06, 2013:

A very useful hub. I've been considering making a weighted lap pad for my son for a while now. He gets a bit jumpy in restaurants and I'm thinking of making him one out of an old pair of blue jeans. Perhaps I'll make him an extra one for his classroom, it may come in handy for those 'jumpy' days. I'm also liking the idea of making a larger one for his shoulders. Thank you for sharing your instructions. I'll come back and let you know how it worked out for him. I'm thinking he'll like it, he asks me to hold him sometimes and directs me on how much pressure to use. :)

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