Sharon Ruppe took up quilting only as a hobby three years ago when the women in her family started the pastime, but now there’s true purpose.
Ruppe, who works in Duke Energy’s information technology department, makes weighted quilts – also called blankets – to soothe and calm children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
If it could bring a night’s peace to someone, then it’s well worth it.
A Facebook article on the topic caught her attention one night. She wondered how something as simple as a heavy quilt could comfort a child.
The science behind the weighted quilts is fascinating. “The weight provides gentle, deep pressure that addresses the sensory-integration issues”
often associated with autism, according to the website for Autisms Speaks, an advocacy agency. Children with attention deficit disorders also report calming effects. In addition, the quilts seem to soothe adults who struggle with stress, anxiety or insomnia.
Ruppe has made and given away six creations, passing them to friends and family members with children who could use them. She’s working on several more.
“It’s so satisfying knowing that it’s going to benefit a family,” she said. “If it could bring a night’s peace to someone, then it’s well worth it.”
Tracy Worley’s 11-year-old autistic son, Nicholas, cherishes the equestrian-themed quilt Ruppe made for him. He got it last summer, drags it around the house and even sleeps with it.
“I think it’s the weight,” said Worley, Ruppe’s hairdresser. “It feels like a big hug.”
The quilt just feels good wrapped around you, Worley added.
“I think it’s something we’re probably all wired for, but it’s even more so for some of these kids with sensory issues,” she said.
Filled with plastic pellets, the quilts are weighted based on the person’s size. A common formula recommends a blanket equal 10 percent of the child’s weight plus one pound, up to a maximum weight of 10 pounds. So, a 90-pound child would need a 10-pound quilt.
Ruppe can stitch a quilt in about two weeks in her spare time. She customizes each one according to the child’s preferences and places a label with the child’s name on the back each quilt. She’s created Star Wars-themed quilts and quilts featuring flowers, brightly-colored animals and popular children’s characters.
What are sensory-integration issues?
“Autism’s symptoms often include difficulty processing sensory information such as textures, sounds, smells, tastes, brightness and movement. These difficulties can make ordinary situations feel overwhelming. As such, they can interfere with daily function and even isolate individuals and their families.”
While she’s made most of her quilts for family and friends, Ruppe received requests from colleagues after a recent Duke Energy art show for employees showcased her work.
“The need for the quilts is so great, and the benefits are simply amazing,” she said. “When I think of the struggles that a special needs child – and the family – encounter every day, it is gratifying to know that these quilts may help them in some way. I only wish I had more spare time to devote to this worthy cause so more families could have this benefit.”