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Military uniforms get new life as weighted vests for kids with autism

A mom fashions old military uniforms into weighted vests for her own child with autism as well as for others who could benefit from them.

Once she realized how much better her son with autism felt when they borrowed a weighted vest from their occupational therapist, she was inspired to create her own out of her husband’s old military uniforms. Now she creates them for free for families in need.

Crystal Lyons, a South Carolina mom, told TODAY Parents that her son John was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. He soon began therapy, and when she saw how much he benefited from the weighted vest they were using, she wanted to buy one to keep. The price tag of a traditional weighted vest, however, is a little steep — she says they run around $50. So she decided to tackle the challenge herself, and bought a sewing machine.

Fabric for weighted vests needs to be sturdy so it will last, so once she remembered her husband’s old military uniforms, she knew she had a solution. She turned the uniform into a small vest with plenty of pockets, to which she added rolls of pennies to help weight it down, and voilà — they had their own weighted vest.

She then began creating more for John’s therapist to hand out to other families, and soon she opened herself up to sewing vests for everyone through her charity Vests for Visionaries. She accepts donations of uniforms, supplies and money, and fields requests from families who often work with their occupational therapists to help them request custom-designed vests.

The best part is the vests are free to families. She told TODAY Parents that requests are coming in from all over the country and even from as far away as Australia. She does ask for some money to cover shipping, but often this is donated as well.

This is such a wonderful service that she is providing, and while you’ll want to check with your child’s treatment team to make sure a weighted vest will work for your family, it’s comforting to know that a mom saw a solution that worked for her child and was inspired to help others by doing the same.

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