• Nesel Packs are backpacks specially designed for people on the autism spectrum. (Flickr/Fraser Minnesota)
"We wanted to make a backpack that would be like a security blanket."
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

30 Oct 2017 - 3:18 PM  UPDATED 30 Oct 2017 - 3:20 PM

It looks like a fairly ordinary backpack, but this bag does more than just carry school books and lunchboxes. 

It comforts children with autism, and helps them get through their school day more easily.

The Nesel Pack is aimed at children between the ages of six and 12 who have challenges when it comes to sensory processing - in fact, they're calling it "the world's first sensory friendly backpack". 

Designed by a group of six students from the University of Minnesota, the backpacks were developed in consultation with parents, occupational therapists, teachers and leaders in the autism community and feature a number of design elements that should appeal to children with autism.

"Think about walking through the hallways at school, or maybe going to a busy airport. For some, these are normal, mundane things," the designers say.

"For students on the autism spectrum, the amount of sensory input can be overwhelming and stressful.

"We were inspired by the sensory tools that students with autism use, such as 'chewies' and weighted blankets, as well as compression vests. We wanted to create a backpack that encompassed all of these important features to appeal to as much of the spectrum as possible."

Deep touch pressure, such as squeezing or hugging, can have a calming effect on people with autism, so the bag's straps mimic that feeling.

The bag is made from ultra-durable, military-grade fabric. It has clips on the straps to attach sensory tools or toys, a security strap, pockets on the inside where weights can be added, and a window in the front to let children customise their bag with their initials, a name or a photo. 

"We wanted to make a backpack that would be like a security blanket," Nesel's Will Radke told the Star Tribune.

The Nesel Pack team used to a Kickstarter campaign to get off the ground, and raised more than $46,000. The bag is now available in a range of colours and two different sizes, and ships around the world - including to Australia. 

According to Autism Spectrum Australia, one in 100 Australians are on the autism spectrum, and it is four times more common in boys than girls. 

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