Weighted Blankets provide relief for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

Marci Prose founded Sharing the Weight to help address the need

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CORALVILLE — A weighted blanket may not appear to have “miracles” stitched in its seams.

But Marci Prose knows the blankets she crafts with the help of family, friends and community members are much more powerful than the usual hand-me-down, homemade or store-bought blankets children wrap around themselves each night.

“I knew what it was like to not have sleep ... and to get that back,” she said. “Giving someone else that feeling is awesome.”

Prose started Sharing the Weight in Ottumwa last year with the goal of making three blankets to mark her son David’s third birthday.

David was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, which caused him to wake up every 15 minutes. Prose said the weighted blanket gives him the feeling of work, which allows him to relax and sleep.

Eventually, 12 blankets were hand-sewn and assembled, followed by 61 more until Prose and her mother ran out of supplies. After giving the first couple away, she turned to Facebook to see whether anyone would want one. The demand exploded.

Now with a waiting list of over 700 people, Prose continues to chip away at the demand, but assembling the blankets takes time. The process is engineered to produce a final product that evenly distributes the small plastic pellets “like a hug,” said Raven Hollenhorst, who set up a time for Prose and a handful of other women to work on the blankets Saturday at the Coralville Library.

When possible, the family receiving the blanket picks out the fabric, and that kicks off the production process, which can be as long as a 10-hour affair.

Prose estimates each pound takes about an hour and the group makes 3-, 5-, 7- and 10-pound blankets, depending on the child’s need.

Hollenhorst, an advocate with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, said parents of children with autism spectrum disorders or those who have experienced trauma tell her the blankets make a difference.

“I constantly hear from moms, ‘I cannot believe my child slept all night,’ ” she said.

Prose has heard similar feedback. One parent messaged her at 4 a.m. to say her daughter had slept through the night for the first time in years.

Prose said the ultimate goal for her organization is to gain non-profit status and to award grants for parents who may live in communities without financial support.

Two of the blankets made during Saturday’s event will be donated to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, but the rest will join the 203 other blankets that have been sent to 35 states, Canada, New Zealand and soon the United Kingdom.

“[The response] means a lot. It’s what keeps me going,” Prose said. “Five hours to change someone’s life.”

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