For children on the autism spectrum, transitions (think walking from class to class or catching the bus to and from school) are some of the most stressful times of their day. The amount of sensory input (noise, colours and movements) can be overwhelming for these students. To help children feel more comfortable and safe in these often stressful situations, a team from the University of Minnesota have designed a special backpack – the Nesel Pack.
According to their Kickstarter page, the backpack is designed for students aged 6-12. It draws inspiration from sensory tools that children with autism use already: "chewies," weighted blankets, and compression vests. It also features a personalisation window, "so a student can add their name or a picture of their stuffed animal" as well as special "hugging straps." The finished product is the result of consultation with parents, occupational therapists, teachers and other experts from within the autism community, including children themselves.
In a post to their Facebook page, CEO, Martha Pietruszeweski, said that she created Nelsel Packs because she, "saw that the parents and students with autism were some of the most deserving and kind people she had ever met." And she wanted to give back to the community.
An update to the company's kickstarter and Facebook pages reveals that they reached their initial goal of $10,000 after only three days. "Our campaign closes on April 19, so there is still time to donate to receive a bag if you wish. The more that we are funded, the more backpacks we are able to give to those in need, the post said.
"Reaching our first goal means we will receive funding on April 18th & we will be making (at least) 31 backpacks for families that have ordered one and 39 will be donated to Fraser - Minnesota, a nonprofit that provides a range of services to children, families and adults with special needs.