Textured Lap Pad

User Story

Jack is a 5-year-old boy with autism who attends preschool in Richmond, VA. He is described by his mom as a sweet and energetic boy who seeks movement and anxiously fidgets. Jack enjoys listening to music, playing the harmonica, and puzzles. He fulfills his sensory seeking inclinations through oral input and movement. However, due to Covid-19, he has not been able to use his chew necklace and frequently sucks on his mask.

His preschool teachers report that Jack has difficulty remaining in his seat during classroom activities and circle time. His OT presented a preliminary idea of a weighted lap blanket with fidgets to use during class. She has previously attempted to use fidgets to engage Jack and it has been successful, but the fidgets were easily lost. His teachers also present concerns regarding the distraction that a lap blanket with fidgets might present. Additionally, his mom reported that Jack is inclined to pull materials apart, which presents concerns regarding the durability of a weighted blanket with fidgets.

Problem Statements

  • Jack is a 5-year-old preschool student who has difficulty sitting still in class because he is sensory seeking and highly energetic.
  • How might we help Jack sit still during classroom activities?

Design Process

Initial design


Initial Prototype:

  • 20” x 9” design, 3-4 pounds

List of possible textures or fidgets:

  • Satin/silk
  • Fleece
  • Velvet
  • Corduroy
  • Fabric loops
  • Buttons
  • Pom poms
  • Coils
  • Beads
  • Crinkle material (that’s not loud)
  • Terry cloth
  • Velcro
  • Denim

Revisions and Design Updates

We received feedback from Jack’s mother who was excited about our idea but asked us to make a removable case to go around the lap pad so that it could be removed for cleaning.  Prior to going to Joann’s we spoke with our instructor and she advised us that we should make our lap pad 4lbs which was changed from our previous 3lbs, she also advised that we should find a stretchy material for the case to increase the ease of getting the lap pad in/out.  Our instructors also recommended that we use velcro within the case to prevent the lap pad from bunching up to one side of the case.  We determined that the best case would be one that utilized an envelope pillowcase design as this would make it harder for Jack to remove the lap pad from the case.  We created a prototype of the envelope case design to determine the size and iron out any potential problems that might arise.

Final Design

Our final design is a 4 pound weighted lap blanket with an envelope pillowcase cover that has several textures sewn to the front. The weighted blanket is made of a canvas-like material filled with polybeads while the pillowcase is a jersey material. The textures on the pillowcase include: terry cloth, fleece, mop-like material, and satin ribbon. Additionally, there are four pieces of velcro on the weighted blanket that attach to the inside of the pillowcase to ensure that the pillow stays in place. When creating the pillowcase, we considered canvas instead of jersey, but decided to opt for a fabric that would be more form fitting to the pillow. While choosing textures to attach to the pillowcase, we considered buttons, beads, and sequins. However, we were concerned about the durability of the buttons and beads as it would create a choking hazard if they were to fall off. Additionally, the sequins were a concern as it could cause distraction during class.

Approximate Cost of Materials:

  • 44” x 22” of fabric for the weighted blanket – $10.00
  • 44” x 22” of fabric for pillowcase to cover weighted lap blanket – $10.00
  • Two 9” x 4” textured fabrics of your choosing – $4.00
  • One 9” x 6” textured fabric of your choosing – $2.50
  • One 5” x 6” textured fabric of your choosing – $2.00
  • Two spools of ribbon of your choosing – $11.00
  • 2 spools of thread in a color that matches your materials – $2.00
  • Polybeads, 4lbs – $22.00

Total: $63.50

Product critique

A weakness of our product is that it is limited to 4 pounds. Unfortunately, the weighted lap pad cannot be reopened to add weight. Similarly, the product is sized for him now, so the lap pad might be small for him as he continues to grow. Finally, we were unable to have him trial textures and fidgets, so it is not created with his favorite textures in mind.

A strength of our product is that it is not distracting and instead is made with monochromatic colors of Jack’s choosing. Additionally, the pillow is organized well, with textured panels equally placed on the pillowcase. The envelope pillowcase was created with Jack’s tendency to remove or rip materials, so everything is double stitched and secured to the case. Lastly, we included velcro on the inside of the pillowcase to ensure that the weighted lap pad inside does not slip.

To improve this design, we could leave a space open to allow for additional weight as he grows. The lap pad also could be made with bigger dimensions. If we were to make this again, more fidgets could be added to replace some of the textures. We were afraid this could be distracting, but if we were able to test them with Jack it could be beneficial for him during school. Finally, it would have been helpful to stitch all textured panels to the pillowcase before sewing the front and back together. We did not do this and then had to hand stitch some final panels.


Manufacturing instructions: Manufacturing Instructions

User instructions: User Instructions

Student designers: Emiley Angle, Marykate Crawford, Caitlin Hadjis, Catherine Wistreich

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