Jul 28, 2021

Weighted Vest Science: 3 Studies on ADHD Relief

Weighted blanket science is relatively new, so to determine how weighted blankets can help with symptoms we rely on other tools such as weighted vest research.

Happy Friday truHugs’ blog readers! As the hours pass by, we get closer and closer to those two sweet days of relief from mundane office tasks. If you’re like me, then your attention span may become significantly reduced as the weekend approaches, and burnout ensues.

Lack of attention span has become an increasingly prevalent problem, predominantly due to the technological surge within the past decade. In 2000 the average attention span of humans was 12 seconds, but as of 2014, it fell to just 8 seconds (Borelli, 2015).

With inattention on the rise, more and more people toss around the term ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as a synonym for lack of attention. Today’s article is geared towards the weighted blanket science on ADHD and if weighted blankets can act as a tool to improve focus-oriented behaviors. Head over to our blog article on severe ADHD and adults to learn more about how weighted devices can help with symptoms of ADHD.

Spoiler: The data collected from the three studies presented show promising results for weighted vests on increasing on-task behavior, but we believe these results can be transferred to weighted blankets as well. 

As you read through this article, I encourage you to make a note of how many times you become distracted by another digital device or extraneous stimuli, and I will notate the same for myself at the end.

Study 1: The use of a weighted vest to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties (VandenBerg, 2001).

In sum, this researcher explored how weighted vests contributed to observable on-task behaviors and found that the weighted vest did significantly improve on-task behaviors for child

Who Participated?

Four children were selected from a school to participate in this study. Here are their characteristics:

All students received occupational therapy to alleviate the following symptoms:
  • Excessive fidgeting or picking at their bodies or clothing. 
  • Inability to complete the assigned activity
  • Attending to irrelevant stimuli (such as a bird chirping or a chair moving).
  • Not staying within the lines while coloring. However, at the age of 5, not coloring within the lines is not a set-in-stone indicator of a problem.

ADHD Weight Vest Used in this Study

Denim vests were purchased from a local thrift store and had jean pockets sewn within the inside to hold the weight

Weight placement on weighted vest

Weights were purposefully placed higher than other weighted vest designs common at this time because the previous occupational therapists found better successes with the weight being placed higher. The vests weighed 5% of the child’s body weight.

Also, the children wore the weighted vest during both observed and unobserved periods so that the children would not associate wearing the vest with being observed. Researchers did this as an extra step of precaution to prevent skewed data that may have resulted had the children associated the vest with observations.

What Did They Do?

The study began during the second half of the school year so that the children had time to build familiarity with class activities. Before introducing the weighted vests, the amount of time the children stayed on task was recorded to the hundredth second.

Tasks included:

  • Coloring
  • Cutting out shapes, followed by gluing them on paper
  • Practicing letter writing within boundaries
  • Counting out a certain amount of objects
  • Stringing Beads

On task behavior was defined as “engagement in those processes that were necessary to complete the activity assigned by the teacher and were a part of the expected process (VandenBerg, 2001).” 

Criteria for on-task behavior:

  • Appeared visually focused. 
  • Engaged in processes required to complete tasks (ex: reaching for scissors to cut shapes out with or materials needed to complete the next step).
  • Only reaching and interacting with objects required to complete the next step in the task. 
  • The children were allowed one dropped item as an on-task behavior before it was deemed off-task.
  • Talking with other students while completing work was considered on-task
  • The children were allowed one dropped item as an on-task behavior before it was deemed off-task.

Baseline data included 6 days of observations over 15 days. On task, behaviors were measured during 15-minute intervals and began after the teacher concluded instruction giving. Activities to be performed varied. The vest was placed on the child 5 minutes before they were to start completing the activity and teachers were interviewed to collect additional information about the vest’s effect.


changes to on-task behavior with weighted vests

  • Teacher Response: The teachers reported that they noticed a change in on-task behavior when the children used vests. However, because there was no blinding process for the teachers, this information could be biased
  • Students 1,3, and 4 asked to wear the vests at other times during the experiment
  • Student 3 wanted to wear a weighted vest during occupational therapy, and when he was given one with less weight, he noted that it did not feel the same and he did not like it as much 
  • Student 1 wanted to wear the vest every day that they attended kindergarten 

Study 2: Effects of weighted vests on attention, impulse control, and on-task behavior in children with ADHD (Lin et al., 2014)

In sum, these researchers explored how weighted vests contributed to observable on-task behaviors, attention, and impulse control; they found that the weighted vest did significantly improve on-task behaviors and attention for children who were more distractible. No improvement was found for impulse control.

Who Participated?

  • 110 children diagnosed with ADHD and between the ages of 6 – 12. 
  • 93 males and 17 females 
  • The children that were prescribed medication were asked to refrain from medication regimens for the duration of the study.

ADHD Weight Vest Used in this Study

  • Weighed 10% of the child’s body weight 
  • Weight was evenly distributed between 8 front pockets, 8 back pockets, and two shoulder pockets. 
  • Weights for each pocket were either .5lb or .25lb 
  • The researchers chose more weight than the previous studies to provide more of a clear difference between pressure vests and no-pressure vests.

weighted vest weight

What Did They Do?

  • Children sat in front of a computer to complete the Conner’s continuous performance test-II which is a program that asks children to click the mouse when any letter except “X” appears on the screen. This test lasted 14 minutes and tested various components of attention-related behaviors. 
  • Children were filmed during this task to look for the following behaviors:
    • Vocalizations – whether meaningful to the task or meaningless
    • Off task – whether they were looking at the computer or not 
    • Out of seat – whether they remained in their seat or not
    • Fidget – whether they were restless or not
  • Participants were assigned to group A or group B
    • Group A completed the performance test with weighted vests first, then completed the performance test again four weeks later without the weight in the vest. Group B completed the performance test in the reverse order. 
  • Data was collected from the filmed behavior –at every 10-second interval –and from the performance test output. 


Changes in ADHD symptoms

There were significant positive changes observed in three attention-related behaviors including a reduction in off-task behavior, a reduction in out of seat behavior and a reduction in fidgeting, however, there were no major changes observed in meaningless vocalizations. Thus the researchers inferred from these data that weighted vests are an appropriate device to use as an attention intensifier. 

Study 3: The effects of the wearing of weighted vests on sensory behavior of learners diagnosed with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder within a school context (Buckle, Franzsen, and Bester, 2011)

In sum, this researcher explored how weighted vests contributed to observable in-seat behavior, task completion speed, and attention to the task. They found that the weighted vest did significantly improve in-seat behavior and attention to the task, however, there was no significant change observed for task completion speed.

Who Participated?

  • 30 children with ADHD between the ages of 6 – 9 years old.
  • 21 Boys and 9 Girls
  • Participants were on a medication regimen to manage symptoms at school.

ADHD Weight Vest Used in the Study

  • 10% of the children’s body weight
  • Weight distributed between two front pockets, two back pockets, and two shoulder pockets.

weighted vest weight placement

What Did They Do?

In Seat Behavior data was collected via video tape; the children were filmed in their classroom settings during each phase of the study. 

Time to complete task data was collected by the teachers, who timed during each class and reported times in minutes. 

Attention to Task data was collected using the CPT-II (the assessment used in the previous study presented), and was collected three times during each phase. 

  • Each phase lasted approximately 15 days, where the participants were observed 45 minutes each day during a class period 
  • The washout period lasted as long as it took to see that the effects of the intervention was no longer apparent


ADHD symptom reducing results

ADHD behavior changes

These results show that there is an improvement seen within in-seat behavior and attention to task when a weighted vest is used. There was not a significant change in task completion speed. 

What do these Findings Mean For a Weighted Blankets?

If you’ve read up until this point, then you’ve probably noticed themes across these three studies; those themes are that weighted vests do improve some attention-related behaviors. How does this relate to weighted blanket science? Again, if you have read through all of these studies, you will notice that the weight was placed in different locations on the vest for each study.

Essentially, we can infer from this that the weight does not need to be in a particular location for therapeutic benefits to ensue, and thus this research can be related to weighted blankets. Weighted blankets are more comfortable and less constricting than weighted vests, and our specially designed fabric helps dissipate heat to keep you cool and calm while you focus on completing those deadlines. 

How Much Were You Distracted?

At the beginning of this article, I encouraged you to keep track of how many times you were distracted while reading through this post. What was your number? 

As I was editing/ coping this into our editor I counted 17 instances of distraction. Yikes!

The good news is, there are ways you can train your brain to increase focus! An upcoming article will focus on mindfulness meditation, which is an intervention known to improve concentration/ attention! 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Cautionary statement for forensic use of DSM-5. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.744053

Borreli, L. (2015). Human attention span shortens to eight seconds due to digital technology: 3 ways to stay focused. Retrieved from 

Kranowtiz, C. S. (1998). The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory integration dysfunction. New York: Skylight Press. 

VandenBerg, N. (2001). The use of a weighted vest to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 621- 621.

Riccio, C., & French, C. (2004). The status of empirical support for treatment of attention deficits. Clinical Neuropsychologist, 18, 528 – 558. doi:10.1080/138540490516662


Veronica is a mental health professional who is pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and now provides therapy to children and youth in the community agency setting. She has been a part of several studies withiфn the field of psychology, including cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and health psychology. Her current research interests revolve around utilizing mindfulness meditation techniques and how they can impact the health of individuals in various socio-economic settings. She also has research interests revolving around developing and implementing interventions to aid in recovery from substance abuse within the primary care setting.

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