DUNBAR Grammar School has a new weapon to combat pupil anxiety... a weighted blanket!

Being beneath the specially made blanket feels similar to getting a big hug and it is now being put to use at the school by helping calm autistic or anxious pupils.

And it is already proving useful, with one teacher describing the effect it can have as “like magic”.

The school-made blanket, which would cost up to £500 to buy, has been a real team effort, with students teaming up to create it after local businesses rallied round to support the project.

Sandra Park, principal teacher support for learning at the school, said: “We had one upset boy come in and we said to him to lie down and put the blanket on and he just stopped screaming and crying.

"It was like magic – you just feel calm using it.”

Weighted blankets work by applying ‘deep touch pressure’ which increases the production of the chemical serotonin, which in turn promotes relaxation.

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder have low serotonin levels and the weighted blankets help to keep them calm when feeling anxious.

Similarly, pupils who struggle with depression or anxiety can use the blanket to reduce their anxiety levels.

Mrs Park said: “The weights in the blanket make it the equivalent of getting a big hug. Autistic students do not like physical contact and we are not allowed physical contact with any students so it just calms people down.”

Mrs Park found out about weighted blanket after attending a course about autism.

The school’s Princes Trust group then decided to make a blanket for their community project.

The students, who are in S4-S6, approached local shops for blankets and items to weight them with.

TOFS (The Original Factory Shop) donated fleece blankets while the Co-op provided zip-lock bags. Tesco in Haddington and North Berwick donated items to act as weights, with a local farmer doing the same, while Dunbar Fashion School volunteered to help with sewing.

Pockets which the students filled with bags of rice and grain to add weight were created and sewn into the blanket.

And the initiative has proven so successful that more blankets could be created.

Mrs Park said: “It is amazing and we want to make another two blankets. One is for when the senior girls come over to guidance and our school nurse would like one in the first aid room.”