Included in a two-phase community service project, Tilsit 4-H members have busily cut, pressed and sewed weighted blankets for autistic and hyperactive children. Having completed 52 blankets, they have proceeded to phase two: making weighted vests. The purpose of the blankets and vests is to calm children when they are agitated. It is also believed the blankets improve the ability to focus and self-manage behaviors.
Cathy Golden, Tilsit 4-H club leader, said, "Autistic kids are sensitive to touch. Oftentimes, parents cannot even hug their children. These blankets help the kids become accustomed to pressures on the body."
4-H project leader Shirley Aufdenberg spearheaded the sewing project after reading about it in a 4-H publication. Golden watched a blanket-making demonstration at a 4-H conference and soon after it was voted upon and approved as a community service project for 2002-2003.
Horizon Screen Printing donated 500 lbs. of material to be used for the project. The Drury Lodge also responded generously by donating material for stuffing the blankets and vests.
The cost of a blanket, depending upon size, is between $200 and $300. The blankets weigh between 12 and 20 lbs. and can be stuffed with flannel material, old T-shirts, sweat shirts and clean worn sheets.
Even little brothers and sisters of the 4-H members can get involved by helping tear the fabric and stuff the long empty pockets that are sewn horizontally across the blanket in approximate six-inch sections. The older children cut, press and sew the blankets. Parents help with all aspects of the process.
On March 2, phase two of the project will begin when the Tilsit 4-H Club holds its annual chili/chicken noodle soup dinner. This fund-raiser, beginning at 11 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 496 State Highway F in Jackson, plans to use its proceeds to purchase materials used in making weighted vests. The vests, stuffed with modeling clay to add weight, can be worn in a classroom, in waiting rooms, or wherever parents believe their children might benefit from such use.
To request a blanket or vest, contact the State of Missouri Department of Mental Health, Sikeston Regional Center, P.O. Box 966, 112 Plaza Drive, Sikeston, Mo., or call (800) 497-4647.