Feeling snug as a bug in a rug, or a vest in this case, could be the key to people who suffer from sensory overload. So thinks Lisa Fraser, the 24-year-old inventor of the Snug Vest for people with autism.
Many autistic people do not like to be touched but they still need pressure on their body to feel calm. Previous solutions used weights and velcro straps, but neither are self-adjustable unlike the Snug Vest. A very early version of a device that applied pressure was an elaborate contraption invented in the 1960s.
The Snug Vest uses air to put pressure on the shoulder, back and sides of the body. The air is pumped in with a small hand pump that the wearer can control. This self-adjustment feature allows the person to change the pressure at will, as the need changes.
Lisa came up with the idea after teaching special-needs children how to swim and helping them in the classroom. She did not like the weights system because it was heavy, restrictive and had limited pressure adjustability. The weights used could be up to 10% of bodyweight.
As a design student in the industrial design program at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, she did her thesis based on a prototype. Response from occupational therapists with whom she worked, and parents who knew about the project, persuaded her to continue working on it after she graduated.
Early feedback has been very encouraging. One teenager, Danny, loved it because he could change the pressure himself as needed. His father was very relieved that the family could go to a restaurant without a causing a scene plus, there were no side effects like what medication would cause.
The Snug Vest has already won multiple design awards including the Red Dot Design Award Winner 2011, the Spark Concept Award 2011, Autism Speaks & Core77 Community Winner and the Industrial Design Society of America West.
Snug Vest should be available sometime this year for about $300 and comes in three childrens sizes and three adult sizes.