Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability in North America. It is estimated that one in every 68 children will be diagnosed with autism, with boys at a higher risk than girls. Families managing autism are constantly under emotional and financial stress, with the cost reaching as high $60,000 a year for some. These families are constantly cautious of public stresses that may trigger their child to have a ‘meltdown’ – an uncontrollable emotional outburst.
One form of occupational therapy called deep pressure therapy has been used to calm children with autism, attention deficit disorders, sensory disorders and high levels of stress and anxiety.
Working on that theory, entrepreneur Lisa Fraser developed the Snug Vest after a concept she invented while studying industrial design at Emily Carr University. This fashion-friendly vest allows the wearer to self-inflate it creating a hug-like sensation during times of stress and anxiety.
Traditionally, deep pressure therapy has involved the use of squeeze machines, weighted vests and blankets, and other techniques that required the user to be confined to one treatment area. Lisa saw an opportunity to create a product that would allow parents and children to apply deep pressure therapy in almost any environment safely and effectively.
“We wanted to develop a product that gave parents the confidence to deal with anxiety issues in public without it being overtly obvious their child was wearing a medical device,” says Lisa. “Any casual observer would see Snug Vest as a normal fashion accessory, but it has the added benefit of helping the wearer manage sensory overload and stay calm when they need it.”
Snug Vest won the Red Dot Design Award in 2011, and was also a finalist in the 2014 Medical Design Excellence Awards, but user response is what counts. Teresa Hedley bought a Snug Vest for her son Erik, 16, three years ago. He was diagnosed with autism at age six.
“Erik was always craving pressure, we’d find him looking for small spaces to squish himself into, or running up to me or my husband and slamming his body against us,” says Teresa. “He loves to apply pressure right before he does his homework every night as it helps him stay calm and focused. My husband and I love how the Snug Vest has given him his independence.”
“Every individual is different and we don’t expect that deep pressure therapy will work for everyone,” says Lisa. The Snug Vest retails at $395 CAD with an unconditional 60-day money back guarantee.