Vest provides a new way to comfort people with autism
An Israeli father invented the stress-reducing vest for his autistic son.
Can a hug hurt?
It can, if you’re one of the millions of people worldwide who suffer from autism.
Hugs can be beneficial – they are thought to trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can lower blood pressure and make you feel calm, while also reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But a human touch, though applied with the best of intentions, can actually increase anxiety levels in people with autism.
Raphael Rembrand, an Israeli engineer with an autistic son, understands the problem firsthand. Combining a father’s love and his problem-solving skills, Rembrand developed BioHug, a battery-operated cotton vest that applies variable, gentle pressure to the wearer’s body using compressed air, resulting in a soothing sensation.
He didn't have to look far to find a test subject. Rembrand's son, Yankele, finds comfort in his BioHug and even wears it for fun, not just when he’s in an agitated state.
The vest provides the best of both worlds for people like Yankele – the comfort of being wrapped in an embrace without the human contact. The vest is lined with air pockets that expand to create a hug-like sensation, and wearers can program the vest to deliver random or on-demand squeezes.
"When my son puts a smile on his face and doesn’t want to take the vest off, it’s such a great feeling," Rembrand said.
Since its invention, the BioHug has attracted interest from institutions like MIT and Stanford. In February, it received medical device certification from the Israel Ministry of Health. It's also landed on Chatelaine's list of "20 Weird, Wacky and Wonderful Health Innovations." Its relaxing effects have led doctors to consider using the vest on patients with chronic pain.
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