How the Project Began:
In spring 2016, a counselor at Lifeworks Northwest contacted us. While doing research on sensory integration with young survivors of sex trafficking, she stumbled on the existence of weighted blankets for therapeutic work and was wondered if they might also help her clients. Her agency was interested, but the cost was prohibitive. So she asked if we would be interested in creating some samples to test with her clients. Lifeworks Northwest agreed to supply the materials and we agreed to make the blankets.
The idea of using weighted blankets came from a study that focused on the effect of deep pressure on children with sensory integration disorders, common in children with autism. A weighted blanket (a pocketed blanket with polyester pellets) reduces anxiety and stress by giving individuals the sense of pressure that a hug would offer. Survivors of child sex trafficking have suffered great trauma and often have the same aversion to touch as autistic children. So, using these blankets to afford them the “hugs” they need might also produce positive results.
Enter the Lap Pads:
We began to discuss whether a smaller, more portable weighted object might also useful. We learned that autistic children also use lap pads with the same positive results. We assumed that lap pads could be used at a doctor’s or counselor’s office, at school, at home or in a car, and by advocates and police in the field who work with trafficked youth. So, we decided to make some sample lap pads and test them out as well.
Results of the Pilot:
Three agencies and one foster home were given blankets/lap pads to use with survivors. All reported that survivors liked them and used them daily when under stress or feeling anxious. At one facility, the clients actually argued over who would get to use them. At another, one client left the facility (not unusual for survivors who have a hard time breaking the hold of their traffickers) with none of her personal belongings except her blanket!
And then there was an unexpected result- feedback that the caseworkers, therapists, supervisors and residence staff also benefitted from them. Staff members reported feeling a kind of loss when blankets or lap pads weren’t available to grab for a few minutes of self-care because clients were using them. With the amount of vicarious trauma that these individuals experience, their reaction makes perfect sense.
How You Can Help
Giving Connection has met with representatives from the agencies we support (Lifeworks NW, DHS, SARC, Morrison Family Services, Janus Youth Programs).All of them are interested in receiving blankets and/or lap pads for use by both clients and staff. We are reaching out to the community to find individuals or groups who are willing to gather the materials needed and sew them. We are also looking for people who do not sew but who could donate the funds necessary to purchase the materials (cotton and flannel fabric, poly pellets, thread, and fiberfill).