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Minnesota Eagle Scout makes sensory items for Children’s Care

Joe with some of the weighted vests, collars, capes, and stuffed animals he created and donated to Children's Care. Thanks, Joe!

Joe with some of the weighted vests, collars, capes, and stuffed animals he created and donated to Children's Care. Thanks, Joe!

From a story by Steven Swenson, published May 23, 2011 in the Jasper Journal. -Joe delivered these weighted vests and other items on Monday, June 6, and we thank him for thinking of our children! These weighted sensory items create a sense of calm for individuals with sensory processing disorder and autism spectrum disorders, helping them focus on learning, working, and just feeling better.

A conversation between Joe Baustian and his mother laid the groundwork for what would become his Eagle Scout project as a member of Jasper Boy Scouts Troop 84.

Baustian is the son of Jim and Carolynn Baustian of Jasper and a junior at Pipestone Area Schools. His older brother John is an Eagle Scout.

The project he selected is designing and making weighted vests, neck and shoulder pillows and adding weights to stuffed animals for disabled children and adults.

He came up with the idea when his mom told him what kinds of things they have at Children’s Care Rehabilitation Center in Sioux Falls to help children with disabilities and Baustian said one of the things they talked about was weighted vests.

“I thought that would be a good idea for my scout project,” he said. His brother has a disability and even though the project would be a bit more challenging he knew it would help more people. Wanting to know more about these items, he went and talked with Robin Mills, a certified occupational therapist at Children’s Care.

“She explained to me how the weighted items work,” he said. “She gave me a lot of information and I was able to get a better idea of what the items look like and the types of materials I would need.”

The weighted vests and other weighted items can be helpful to some children with autism, sensory integration disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other neurological disorders. They work well with children who respond to the sensory integration technique of deep pressure. The added weight or pressure from wearing the vest may help the child calm down and to be able to concentrate more.

Then it was time to plan the elements of the project—the amount of materials he needed, how many hours he thought it would take to complete, and the number of items to be made. His original plan was to make between 50-75 items but he has exceeded that number.
“The number is definitely over 75,” he said. “This is due to the help of many, many people.” A large part of the help has come with sewing the vests and neck and shoulder pillows.

The design pattern for the vests came from a pattern from a sewing store, said Baustian. The vests are designed with pockets between the two layers of fabric so weight can be added and the person wearing the vest can’t access the weight packet. To put together the weight packets, Baustian decided to use pea rock. He looked at purchasing a type of pellet but because of cost decided against that idea. The weight packets are made with heavy-duty food saver bags and then heat-sealed. An added item for the neck and shoulder pillows got the Cub Scouts involved in the project.

“I had them draw on pieces of fabric that could then be used like a cape,” he said. “The cape can be attached with Velcro. It is something the kids can do to have some fun.” Vests come in a variety of sizes, colors and patterns including “Taz” and characters from the movie “Cars.”

Joe has donated the weighted items to the Children’s Care Hospital & School Rehabilitation Center i Sioux Falls, Pipestone Elementary, and Rock County Opportunities.

Comments (1)

  1. shawna rannow wrote:

    I just read this article and became all teared up.
    My son who is almost 2 years old was just recently diagnosed with sensory processing disorder.
    I wish that people in my community would be as generous and thoughtful .


    Posted 03 Aug 2011 at 4:47 pm

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"The best thing about working at Children's Care is the children. We all work to help make their lives better, and in turn, they are making us better! I know I am a better person for having worked with our children!"
– Tina M., Teacher