How One Military Mom's Sewing Is Comforting Kids With Autism

Vests for Visionaries

We promise you'll be inspired by Crystal Lyons, a military mom who has a 3-year-old son with autism. When John was diagnosed along the spectrum a year ago, Lyons watched as her once-energetic and outgoing child suddenly retreat into silence and solitude. He also grew anxious, prone to tantrums and outbursts.

Even though John started applied behavioral analysis therapy, the real breakthrough for calming his difficult behavior came when his occupational therapist loaned him a weighted vest to wear. The extra weight of the vest (between 5 and 10 lbs.) was meant to add an extra muscle sensation and replicate the pressure of a hug, which would in turn calm and comfort a child with autism.

Although there haven't been major studies to confirm the effectiveness of weighted vests for kids with autism, this particular solution helped John. Rather than spend extra money on buying a weighted vest, Lyons decided to make her own. And inspiration struck when she spotted her husband's old military uniforms. She began sewing vests made from the uniforms and weighing pockets down with pennies.

But Lyons didn't just stop with her child -- she began making vests for other kids with autism. To date, the incredibly talented mom has made over 135 vests for free, using donated military uniforms and donated funds to ship the vests across the country and around the world, as far as Australia. Her vests also include special, personalized touches, like truck-print fabric as linings, fun Frozen-themed pockets, colorful zippers, and even iron-on embroidered patches of daisies and race cars.

Lyons continues creating the vests in the hopes of helping other parents raising kids with autism. Learn more about her non-profit organization, which she named Vests for Visonaries, at

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.

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