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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder: How to make a weighted stuffed animal

I guess I should first explain WHY anyone would want to make a weighted stuffed animal, shouldn't I. :)

Here's the condensed version as I understand it, which hopefully isn't too far from the truth. :) Kids with sensory processing disorder (aka sensory integration disorder/dysfunction, sensory regulatory disorder, sensory processing dysfunction, etc.) have difficulty interpreting the sensory input that they receive from their bodies. It is manifested in many different ways and differs from person to person. Things feel different to them than they feel to the rest of us. If you want a more detailed description, click here or here.
One of Raya's sensory things is that she likes to squeeze things. It's a "sensory-seeking behavior", meaning that she is craving strong sensory input. She likes to hug stuffed animals and she pats really hard. (sometimes it hurts when she pats us while we're holding her) She also likes to hold and carry heavy things. According to, "Proprioceptive input is the performance of tasks that involves heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints, and is essential in helping our bodies assimilate and process both movement (vestibular) and touch (tactile) information."

So basically, giving her activities that compress her joints and make her use her muscles is one way to give her body the input that it needs in order to start recognizing and processing sensory input correctly. At her appointment this week, her OT gave her a stuffed animal to play with that had 2 lbs of weight in it. She was SOOOO excited about it and carried it around with her for most of the appointment. She squealed and hugged it and patted it (really hard, of course) and was very excited to play with it. We were even able to get her to climb over the deflated bean bag that she refused to touch and was really scared of last week in order to get to the stuffed dog. Since she responded so well to it, I decided to make her a weighted stuffed animal to play with at home. Here's how I did it:

**Note: See note at the end of the post for updated recommendations on what materials to use. In hindsight, poly pellets work better than rice & beans. :)

I started with the Eeyore that Raya's great-grandparents gave her last week when they visited. She likes to hug it so I thought it would be a good choice. I used rice and pinto beans but you could use small rocks too. Raya's OT told me not to make it more than 10% of her body weight.

I looked to find the seam that was left open for Eeyore's original stuffing process, which was on the back.

Once I located the seam, I carefully separated it and used a seam ripper to pick the thread out of the seam.

Once I had clipped the thread, I pulled it out to make an opening. I only opened it as far as the original opening had been stitched so that I didn't end up causing Eeyore to fall apart.

Then I pulled out the little ball of stuffing that was right in front of the hole and worked my fingers around on the inside of the body to make a path for the bags of rice & beans to go.

I had to divide the rice into small baggies so that when I stuffed them through the hole, they didn't pop open and make a mess.
I put the bags of rice in and pushed them up into the neck. I had to pull a little more stuffing out of the lower part of the body to make room for the bags of beans. Then I put the bags of beans in the the middle/bottom of the body and made sure that they were situated so that there weren't big lumps sticking out anywhere.

Once the bags were tucked away neatly, I put back all of the stuffing I had taken out. I made sure to put it in between the outside of the body and the bags of beans so that Eeyore is still soft when you hug him.

After everything was stuffed back in, I made sure that the body wasn't misshapen or lumpy.
In order to make sure that the stitching was secure, I threaded the needle with a double strand and then knotted it so that there were four strands to stitch it closed with.

Once everything is ready, stitch the opening shut by poking the needle through the under side of the fabric instead of from the outside. This will hide the stitching. When it's all stitched up, tie it off securely and clip the extra threads.
And VOILA: Eeyore now weighs approximately 1.75 lbs and is contributing to the family's long-term food storage.

Raya likes Heavy Eeyore :)
And there you have it. She never really shows much preference to specific toys. She'll play with something one time and then the next time you give it to her she'll completely ignore it. She seems to really like Eeyore now that he's heavy.

**Note: I used rice & beans because that's what I had lying around. However, after Eeyore got puked on a time or two, I realized that I didn't dare put him in the washer with baggies of rice & beans in him so I have since replaced them with little baggies of Poly-pellets like the ones I used in the weighted blanket tutorial I did. You can get them at craft/fabric stores and in the craft section at Walmart and they're pretty inexpensive.

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