Finding clothes and accessories can be difficult for adults and kids alike who have special needs and disabilities. Unfortunately, we still live in a culture that designs virtually everything for “able-bodied” people, even though that’s an antiquated approach to living. Because of this, six University of Minnesota students created a backpack for children with autism called the “Nesel pack.”
So what makes this backpack different from the usual kind? The Nesel Pack has pockets where weights can be added to function like a weighted vest, which helps people with sensory challenges feel a calming pressure–kind of like a hug. It’s also more durable, as it uses military-grade fabric and zippers. There is also a window for a personalized ID card, clips for sensory tools and toys, and it’s big enough to fit a 14-inch laptop. 21-year-old Will Radke, Nesel’s chief relations officer, told the Star Tribune:
“We wanted to make a backpack that would be like a security blanket.”
Radke has experience with understanding the needs of kids with autism, as his parents hosted foster children for more than a decade, some of whom were children with autism. The rest of the team includes Jake Portra, Martha Pietruszewski, Larry Lorbiecki, Cole McCloskey, and Rosebert Altianas–the team has partnered with Fraser, a company that provides services to children and adults with special needs. After six months and four prototypes, they’re now close to a finished product after receiving feedback from students at Bailey Elementary School in Woodbury, Minnesota. Lorbiecki told The Mighty:
“It is the most heartwarming and rewarding experience to see how the backpack could change a child’s life. Seeing the smiles on their faces reassures all the hard work we’ve been doing over the past seven months.
Anyone can personalize their backpack to make it an extension of themselves.”