Auckland mum who created autism awareness t-shirts expands business to blankets

An Auckland mum who started designing t-shirts to put an end to the judgment her autistic son endured in public has now expanded her business to help people with other disabilities.

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Gaylene Chambers started autism awareness clothing line Chambers & Co for her autistic son Rikki last year. Source: 1 NEWS

Gaylene Chambers now sells weighted blankets and lap pads on her website to "reduce anxiety for children and the elderly".

Ms Chambers has a 12-year-old son, Rikki, who has autism and created t-shirts to bring awareness to the disability as it is often invisible.

The t-shirts say, "Keep calm, I'm autistic, I'm just being myself," and "Autism is not contagious but a smile is."

(left to right) Gaylene Chambers, Rikki Chambers, Monique Chambers and Richard Chambers. Source: Gaylene Chambers

She started selling the lap pads and weighted blankets in April this year. She wanted to broaden her market and cater for those with other disabilities as well.

"The lap pads are made of a mink soft fabric with a dot design and weighted beads, a feeling of sensory heaven," she said. "They are great if your child is inclined to fidgeting, has anxiety, OCD and autism. It gives them a calm ground safe feeling."

She says lap pads can also help those with Alzheimers, Parkinsons or restless leg syndrome.

Lap pad. Source: Gaylene Chambers

The weighted blankets trigger a chain reaction in the body that releases an overall sense of calm and peace, she said.

Ms Chambers said the blanket is not a "cure" but it does provide relief for families overwhelmed by the struggles to help their child experience "calm".

Rikki Chambers and his new weighted blanket. Source: Gaylene Chambers

She said the amount of positive feedback she has received has been overwhelming.

"I had orders coming out of my ears in the first two weeks," she said. 

"I felt quite overwhelmed. This is what I want to achieve for people, a therapy and relief that is completely natural."

Elaine Gutteridge, who has an 18-year-old son with ASD, ADHD and an intellectual disability, said she recently purchased a weighted blanket.

"He sleeps soundly all night," she said. "In fact, sometimes it is difficult to get him out of bed. Before the blanket he would be up as soon as it was light. We've also noticed Joel will often go to his room to lay under the blanket during the day, too. It definitely has a calming, relaxing affect."

Another mother, who wished not to be named, has a five-year-old foster child who has come from a gang family and a very traumatic background.

"She's developmentally delayed and has the behaviour of a traumatised child," she explained. "The blanket calms her down, has helped stopped her getting out of bed, stops her nightmares and bed wetting."

Her blanket was funded by Oranga Tamariki.

Ms Chambers said she has approached special education centres and rest homes with the idea and hopes to broaden her business further.