With this week’s focus on the newest research on autism prevalence, let’s look at benefits of babywearing for kids with ASDs (autism spectrum disorders).
My son and I participated in the Autism Piece Walk 5k last year. This was the first time I put some effort into thinking about babywearing and kids with special needs. There we were, in a sea of people, elbow to elbow. Loud music. Cold Oklahoma wind blowing. Most kids and adults, including me, were getting overstimulated. Then I noticed the moms and the dads, front carrying their children, toddlers to middle schoolers, in their arms. I couldn’t help but think, “That would be so much easier to do with a wrap.” When we hold children, we instinctively sway, bounce, or rock them. This provides stimulation of the vestibular system in the brain. This is very important to neurologic development and can be calming to the child and adult. Some children need more vestibular stimulation than others. It is thought by some that children with ASDs may have a higher need for vestibular stimulation than others and participate in self stimulatory behavior (stimming) in order to meet that need. It is theorized that babywearing could reduce socially distracting stimming behaviors. Research is needed in this area. Babywearing can also provide the child with a way to reduce overstimulation. Contoured panels wrap around the child’s body and can provide pressure that calms some children with autism. Some carriers have hoods that fit over the child’s head. Pulling their arms into the carrier means they are only exposed from the knee down.
There are a few types of baby carriers that work for children from toddlerhood up to the elementary school years. Woven wraps are the most versatile type of carrier and do not have a size or weight limit. Their drawback is a longer learning curve so I typically recommend soft structured carriers (SSC) for parents who do not already babywear. Ergobaby makes the most well-known SSC. The lower panel width (where the child sits) is 14 inches. If carrying a larger toddler or preschooler is uncomfortable in the Ergo, or if the child is over the weight limit of 45 pounds, the preschool Kinderpack has a panel width of 20 inches, is 20 inches in height and has a weight limit of 50 pounds. The Kanga XTP is weighted up to 60 pounds with a panel width of 18 inches and 18 inches in height. The Kanga also has a larger head rest and hood. Kangas can be more difficult to obtain but used Kangas could possibly be easier to find, and just as valuable. Another option, and my favorite idea, is to purchase Tula extenders to use with an SSC that you already own. These extenders fit on Ergos and Kinderpacks. I am not certain on other SSCs. You can order them from the Tula website, http://www.tulababycarriers.com/products/free-to-grow-converts-into-a-toddler-carrier or if you’d rather, you can order on-line from this small business in Oklahoma City. http://www.thechangingtableok.com/ Dearest Diapers has a great table on comparisons here: https://www.facebook.com/164148330328834/posts/567638496646480&sa=U&ei=D5M1U54tx7rbBe2dgZAF&ved=0CDUQFjAE&usg=AFQjCNFt6xQm4SpFsolB8P0RFwLA1d20jA and another helpful comparison site is here: http://thehappyhippiehomemaker.blogspot.com/2013/05/ergo-vs-boba-vs-tula-carrier-comparison.html It is always helpful to get some hands-on advice and even try carriers on before you buy. Babywearing International chapters offer free meetings, advice and hands-on help. You can find a local chapter here: http://babywearinginternational.org/pages/chapters.php Babywearing Institute also has Certified Babywearing Educators available for one-on-one help. There are usually charges for consultations from CBEs. Determine this up front when scheduling a consultation. http://www.babywearingschool.com/findinstructors.htm
An older article looking at vestibular stimulation as a therapy for children with autism. We need research on babywearing as a therapy for children with autism. http://ase.tufts.edu/hql/documents/1980Hyperresponsivity.pdf
© Robyn Miller and Therapeutic Babywearing, 2014.