Students Develop Autism Snuggle Chair

An autistic student uses the Sensory Lounger. Photo courtesy of Stuart Jackson.
An autistic student uses the Sensory Lounger. Photo courtesy of Stuart Jackson.

A group of Kansas City high school engineering students are proving what many suspected: Hugs are the best medicine. They have designed a special chair for autistic children who respond best to sensory therapy—a treatment that provides a calming, deep touch squeezing pressure to overwhelmed autistic children. The therapy was discovered by Temple Grandin, one of the world’s best-known autistic adults, as a teenager. She developed a “hugging machine” that, she found, calmed her. Sensory therapy has been a proven technique for decades; however, existing hugging machines are rare, noisy, and exorbitantly expensive.

The Blue Valley School District in Kansas City is home to an innovative program designed to foster advanced professional skills in talented high school students. At the CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies), students can take accelerated courses in everything from computer science and engineering to film direction.

Stuart Jackson, a local engineer and father to an autistic child, was looking for a cost-effective means of providing his son with sensory therapy when he approached the Blue Valley CAPS program with his idea. A team of seven students, aged 17-18 and mentored by Jackson, developed two products: a Sensory Chair and a Sensory Lounger that would cost less than $1000 apiece.

The idea has taken off. Collaborating with the business and marketing CAPS students, the engineering students have applied for a patent. Their work is progressing rapidly to introduce the chairs to the mainstream market.

Read the full Kansas City Star article here to warm your heart and stoke your entrepreneurial spirit.

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