On February 11, WESCO Industries of Denison will donate weighted blankets to Denison’s police and fire departments, the Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) Ambulance department and the Iowa State Patrol District #4 office.

The blankets provide a “simulated hug” to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and/or individuals suffering from anxiety and stress.

“Weighted blankets are said to both hug you and ground you at the same time,” said Sara Woerdehoff, WESCO marketing and assistant manager.

“If you think about it, a hug will naturally make people feel better because it releases oxytocin, which is a hormone that serves to reduce blood pressure, slow your heart and increase feelings of relaxation,” Woerdehoff said. “The simulated hug can also release serotonin, which is a hormone that decreases stress. So these blankets will not only be helpful for people that are on the autism spectrum but for anybody that has anxiety.”

They can even be used to calm a firefighter or paramedic suffering from stress at the scene of a call, she said.

Multiple studies have shown that the use of weighted blankets has real benefits, according to Woerdehoff.

The study of the application of “deep pressure” started with animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin in the 1990s, she said.

“She published research on a ‘squeeze machine’ that had padded panels to hug those with sensory issues,” Woerdehoff said. “That’s when the buzz really started and now we’re seeing weighted blankets being used more by EMS and hospitals in the last couple of years.”

WESCO recently purchased a total of seven adult-weighted blankets, and one youth-weighted blanket.

The Denison Police Department will receive two adult blankets, the Denison Fire Department will receive one adult and one youth blanket, and the CCMH ambulance and the Iowa State Patrol District #4 office will each receive two adult blankets.

Those agencies were chosen for the donations because of their frequent contact with individuals suffering from anxiety and stress.

The blankets are made with a synthetic poly pellet that is machine washable.

Adult blankets measure 60 by 80 inches and weigh 15 pounds; the youth blanket measures 36 by 48 inches and weighs five pounds.

Representatives of the police department, state patrol, CCMH ambulance and the fire department will be at WESCO at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, to accept the donations.

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