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The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare's New Guidelines:

Introducing Weighted Blankets & Cognitive Tools for ADHD and Autism

About ADHD, Autism, and the New Guidelines

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and autism are common disorders found all around the world, affecting children and adults alike. The exact causes of these conditions are not fully understood, but it's known that a mix of genetic factors and environmental demands plays a significant role. Globally, it's estimated that about 5–7% of all children and 3% of adults have ADHD, while autism affects 1–2% of all children and adults.

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, Socialstyrelsen, has published a new version of the Swedish national guidelines for ADHD and autism, first published in October 2022. The latest version, which was published on 19th March 2024, contains a total of thirteen new recommendations that were developed following a consultation with almost 500 professionals. The updated guidelines also include some significant new recommendations on cognitive support and the treatment of sleep problems, including the use of weighted duvets.

Cognitive Support

For the first time, there's guidance on offering cognitive support to those with ADHD or autism. This means providing help with organizing daily tasks, keeping track of time, and reminders to help people be more independent and engaged in their daily lives. This kind of support is especially beneficial for children, as it can prevent difficulties later on in life.

Using Weighted Duvets

There have been ongoing discussions in the past about whether weighted duvets or weighted blankets can help improve sleep. The new guidelines suggest that adults with ADHD or autism and severe sleeping problems might benefit from using a weighted duvet. That is if they haven't seen much improvement from support received to help them achieve healthy sleeping habits, such as adjusting their sleep environment and keeping a sleep diary. That's why weighted duvets or weighted blankets are given high priority for adults in general and especially for those with autism because their challenges tend to be more severe than for those with ADHD.

Further research is currently being conducted regarding the effectiveness of weighted duvets specifically for children. Therefore, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare recommends weighted duvets for children with ADHD or autism on a base of frequent evaluations. Furthermore, they generally recommend these duvets for children older than five years who experience severe sleep problems and do not sufficiently benefit from improvements in sleep hygiene.

A study published in 2023 investigated the effect of weighted blankets on children with ADHD and suggests that they can indeed help children with ADHD and sleep problems manage their daily lives more easily.

The Significance of the New Guidelines

The guidelines are significant because they're not just about the tools themselves but about recognising the importance of addressing ADHD and autism with a wide range of support options. They're meant to help healthcare and social care professionals make more informed decisions on resource allocation but are also a good source of information for individuals and families looking for further support options.

The guidelines also recognise weighted duvets as an effective tool in treating sleeping problems associated with ADHD and autism.

Ultimately, the aim is to improve and simplify daily life for people with ADHD or autism and their families by emphasising the value of early support and tailored solutions such as cognitive aids and weighted duvets.

"In school and even later in working life, high demands are placed on cognitive and social flexibility and these demands do not always match our abilities. Our brains don't seem to be equipped for this load, especially if we have a neurodevelopmental disorder."

– Evelyn Andersson, Socialstyrelsen's project manager for the work on the guidelines

Why Proper Support is Important

Today's societal demands and social norms can be challenging for adults and children with ADHD or autism, which can impact family life, relationships, education, and work. Schools and workplaces, for instance, frequently require social skills, planning abilities, and flexibility that might be difficult to meet for those affected. To support positive experiences in school, children struggling with ADHD and autism should receive proper support tailored to their difficulties and strengths. That way, the risk of early failures possibly leading to increasing struggles later in life, can be eased significantly.

To conclude, serious social, mental, and physical consequences for both adults and children with ADHD and autism can be helped by a supportive and adaptive environment, early detection, and treatment. That's why tailored support and interventions are incredibly important.

Read the full guidelines and an accompanying press release (in Swedish) on Socialstyrelsen's homepage.


Socialstyrelsen (The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare): 

Guidelines for ADHD & Autism in full (in Swedish)

Press release on the publication (in Swedish)

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