Accessibility July 6, 2020
Autism friendly T-shirts developed by young fashion designer as part of college project
Children with autism and other neurological conditions like autism feel comfortable and secure in certain types of clothing. Called Compression Wear this is recommended by therapists but high costs and lack of availability put them out of reach for many parents. To fill this gap, Saakshi Mahnot developed autism friendly T-shirts as part of her final year project. Called Deep Pressure Compression T-shirts for children with autism, Saakshi wants support to mass produce them.
Imagine wearing a T-shirt that wears like a hug. It’s a thought that would sound lovely to most of us. For children with certain sensory processing disorders like autism, it is positively therapeutic.
There’s a name for this kind of clothing. It’s called Compression Wear, popularly called Autism-Friendly Wear, and occupational therapists recommend them as they make children with certain conditions feel secure and focus better.
Autism friendly wear recommended for certain sensory conditions
Autism friendly clothing is not widely made in India and comes at a high cost. Recognising this Saakshi Mahnot, currently an assistant manager with Future Group, worked on developing such clothing as part of her graduation project at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).
As part of my graduation project, I had closely worked with institutions in Mumbai that reach out to children with autism. Based on a lot of research I developed ‘Deep Pressure Compression T-shirts’ for autistic children. They have been certified by doctors as well as tested on children with autism. – Saakshi Mahnot, Developer, Compression Wear
Saakshi says the autism-friendly T-shirts she has developed help calm the child down as weight is applied at specific points. “There is no solution available in India except the use of Wilbarger’s brush, which is expensive and needs to be imported to India”.
The T-shirts Saakshi are good for daily wear and calming. They are made of cotton lycra and cotton rib with weight strips where sand weight bags can be inserted, The strips are removable so they can be adjusted for the child’s comfort and can be washed. The weight bags are made of shell fabric which do not irritate the skin and minute granule sand has been used.
High cost of autism friendly clothes a deterrent
Akhila Vaidyanathan, Co-founder, AMAZE Charitable Trust, says autism friendly wear can be of great benefit. Pricing, however, is a concern. “Affordability is a big factor for parents. Occupational therapists recommend them for some children as it gives a sense of body awareness, helps focus better. It is worn by kids when they need to sit down and pay attention. It would be good if they were available at a reasonable cost”.
For her project, Saakshi spent considerable time speaking to doctors and developed a questionnaire to understand a child’s needs. Her autism friendly T-shirts have been verified by doctors in Gujarat as well as Tanay Foundation and Santosh Institute for Mentally Challenged Children, both in Mumbai.
“The vest which has been created consist of 5-10% of the child’s weight and could help the child balance in the given space”, says Meenakshi Agrawal, Founder-Trustee, Tanay Foundation.
Saakshi’s goal is to make these T-shirts available widely across India at an affordable price. “I want to make them available at Rs 650 per T-shirt so that more people can buy them”.
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