For kids with autism, one of the most stressful times in their days are the "transitions" — walking through the hallways at school or to and from the bus stop — because the amount of sensory input is both overwhelming and often uncontrollable.
To help ease that frustrating time, a group of college students — enrolled in the University of Minnesota's yearlong entrepreneurship class — have decided to create a solution in the form of a backpack.
Children on the autism spectrum have often relied on weighted blankets and compression vests, but the Nesel Pack, designed for ages 6 to 12, encompasses the positive elements of those tools with a more functional product.
"We had hundreds of meetings with parents, occupational therapists, teachers, and leaders in the autism community to learn what exactly we could do to most benefit the students," graduating senior Martha Pietruszewski, the company's CEO, said on its just-launched Kickstarter site. "We have received nothing but positive reviews on our final iteration and believe it will be the Nesel Pack to truly make a difference in students lives."
What sets the blue Nesel Pack apart from other bags is its durability. The bottom is constructed of reinforced ballistic fabric, which is used on the outside of bullet-proof vests, and it's waterproof. Specially designed "hugging" arm straps add a sense of safety, and the hip straps offer crucial weight distribution. Additionally, the bag features a personalization window "so a student can add their name or a picture of their favorite stuffed animal," as well as pouches for additional weights and clips for sensory tools or toys.
If you are interested in supporting Nesel Pack's fundraising campaign but don't need to purchase one of the $115 bags for a child, the company has partnered with Fraser, a national autism services organization, to donate.
With 1 in 68 children on the autism spectrum, the company's mission is clear: "we want to get these bags into the hands of as many students as possible."