There’s something about a weighted blanket that helps calm autistic children. The weight makes the blanket feel like a warm hug.

The problem is that those special blankets carry a big price tag – $300 to $500 and higher. That’s steep for families already facing extra expenses helping their child cope with autism.

A group of women at the United Methodist Church in Riverside is helping. On June 5, more than a dozen gathered at the church to make the weighted blankets that will be donated to children with autism and sensory processing disorder.

The work is slow going. Each blanket has pockets about 9-inches square that are filled with polypropylene pellets. A row of the pockets is created, filled with the poly pellets and then sewn shut before starting on the next row.

Directing the operation at the church was Tami Hemmer, executive director of Weighted Comfort for Kids in Iowa. She lives in Pella but travels throughout the state to work with volunteers sewing the blankets.

She is filled with stories about the difference the weighted blankets make in autistic children. She tells of children who could not sleep without medication but are able to sleep through the night with the weighted blanket.

She tells about another child who told his classmates when he wrapped himself in a blanket: “My body gets this feeling, and my blankie squishes it out of me.”

The blankets come in four weights – 3, 5, 7 and 9 pounds. The rule of thumb is that the blanket should weigh 10 percent of the child’s body weight.

There are also lap pads that weigh 2, 3 and 4 pounds.

“We are trying to make them as sturdy as possible,” Hemmer said.

The blankets are donated to families who have children diagnosed with autism or sensory processing disorder. They just need to make a $20 donation to cover shipping costs. The blankets have been distributed to families in 21 states and Puerto Rico.

Those without a diagnosis can order a blanket through the group’s Facebook page.

Making a blanket is time consuming. After four hours of work at the United Methodist Church, only two blankets were completed, but many more were in varying stages of completion. Hemmer said that the group would probably complete five blankets in the six hours they were working.

She said the average time is about an hour for every pound in the blanket.

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