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Mom Recycles Military Uniforms into Weighted Vests for Kids with Autism

The Short of It

South Carolina mom, Crystal Lyons, says she discovered that a specialized weighted vest helped calm her son, John, and instead of paying $50 to buy one, she made her own from her husband's old military fatigues. Now, she's making them for other kids, too.

The Lowdown

John, who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, has anxiety and what Crystal calls "mini-meltdowns." At a therapy session, the boy was loaned a weighted vest—a specialized piece of clothing that weighs about 5 to 10 pounds. It provides extra sensation to muscles that may calm some people.

Roseann Schaaf, professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says weighted vests work much like a hug, to provide gentle, soothing pressure.

"We don't know if they work," Schaaf told "The jury is still out. Most of the studies are small samples and need to be replicated."

But Crystal says the borrowed weighted vest worked for her son. Similar versions were pricey at $50 or more. So she made her own out of the sturdy fabric of her husband's old military uniforms. She adds rolls of quarters to the pockets to provide the extra weight.

The Upshot

John now wears his homemade weighted vest for about an hour a day, usually during speech therapy or when he's feeling especially anxious. And Crystal has decided to start making the vests for other children with autism for free.

"I just woke up one day and said, 'I'm going to call [my project] Vests for Visionaries,'" Lyons said. "These children see things that I would never even see."

She's made more than 135 vests since last summer, including requests from 25 states and even other countries.

Schaaf tells parents to talk to their child's occupational therapist to see if a weighted vest is right for them and for direction on how to use one properly. Remember: It may work for some kids and not for others. But for those it can help, Crystal is doing a wonderful thing!

We love hearing stories of parents not only helping their own kids, but others in the same situation, like the D'Eri family in Parkland, Fla., who employ not only their son Andrew, but others who've been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders too. Such inspiration!

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