Parents

Students Design Backpack To Help Kids With Autism

So cool.

A new Kickstarter campaign aims to help kids with autism by providing a necessity for school or travel: a backpack.

The Nesel Packis a backpack specifically geared toward 6- to 12-year-old students with autism. Inspired by existing sensory tools like compression vests and weighted blankets, the Nesel Pack features pouches for weights, different strap options (with fuzzy, comfortable linings), clips for accessories like "chewies" and a very durable base.

There is also a display slot that gives kids the option to customize their backpack with their initials, name or a photo of their favorite stuffed animal or pet.

The Nesel Pack is the brainchild of a group of University of Minnesota students, led by senior Martha Pietruszewski. "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," she wrote on the Kickstarter page.

"Think about walking through the hallways at school, or maybe going to a busy airport," she added. "For some, these are normal, mundane things. For students on the autism spectrum, the amount of sensory input can be overwhelming and stressful."

Thus, the university students created the Nesel Pack, "to provide a comfortable and durable solution to those in need." They've nearly reached their fundraising goal of $10,000, which will allow them to finalize the design and put in their first production order.

As of now, one Nesel Pack backpack costs $115, which Pietruszewski says is a reflection of its incredible durability, though she added that they aim to reduce the price in the future. They've also partnered with Fraser -- a leading provider of autism-related services in Minnesota -- which will facilitate Nesel Pack donations to kids in need. So, those who want to support the new brand but don't necessarily need to buy a backpack are still encouraged to pledge money as it will go to the Fraser initiative.

Said Pietruszewski, "With your help, we want to get these bags into the hands of as many students as possible."

What Autism Means