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The Mom Who Uses Pennies and Old Military Vests to Help Kids With Autism

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When John Lyons turned 3 years old, he suddenly became withdrawn and far less talkative, according to The Stir. Soon after he stopped speaking entirely, John was diagnosed with autism.

John struggled to pay attention in his sign language classes following the diagnosis. To help provide her son with a sense of security and hopefully improve his progress in school, Crystal Lyons, John’s mom, began looking for a weighted support vest, a common tactic for soothing children with autism. After learning the vests were expensive and not covered by insurance, she devised her own solution — a vest made from one of John’s dad’s old military vests, weighed down with pennies. When John began wearing the vest, his performance in school improved — within a month, he learned 50 new signs and even began talking again.

Lyons decided to make sure no child in need of a weighted vest should ever go without one. She started Vests for Visionaries, an organization based in Columbia, South Carolina, that makes vests out of military uniforms and sends them to families free of charge. Lyons began making the vests out of her husband’s numerous old uniforms, but now she receives donated military vests from all over the country.

Since the program was founded in the fall of 2014, more than 100 children with autism around the country have received a repurposed military vest, The Stir reported.

I just want people to know not to give up after diagnosis,” Lyons told The Huffington Post, “and to know there is help and there are people willing to help if you just let them know.”

Learn more about Lyons’ inspired project in the video below.

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Originally published: April 11, 2015
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