A White Rock resident whose awareness of sensory sensitivities and the challenges of “restless minds” was heightened by a serious car accident and her experience as a flight attendant hopes a tool she has created will help ease the anxieties of life’s journey for special needs children and seniors with dementia.
Brita Doubroff also thinks her choppy blanket will help caregivers take well-deserved breaks.
Doubroff said the idea for her product — a colorful, lightweight, wearable blanket incorporating 16 activities — came from a group she joined a year ago to learn how to make products that could be sold on Amazon.
The blanket’s textures and activities are designed to stimulate minds, young and old, while keeping hands busy.
Originally developed for children with autism – Doubroff’s daughter, 31, has worked with children on the spectrum for more than 11 years – Doubroff said she quickly learned it could also be useful for a segment of adults older.
“When it finally launched on Amazon, all of a sudden it was a hit in the dementia market,” Doubroff said.
“Sales came a lot from the market, for people with dementia. Caregivers buy it for something to keep their hands occupied.
“Everyone who sees it is 400% excited.”
Crafted from industrial felt, the blanket features a bead necklace to play with, a belt to buckle and unbuckle, buttons and zipper to open, and more.
Doubroff thinks children as young as three could benefit, “depending on where they are on the spectrum.”
Typically diagnosed before the age of six, autism is a brain developmental disorder that affects different children in varying degrees, from mild to severe, affecting social interaction, communication skills, cognitive function and behavior .
The majority of people with dementia, on the other hand, are over the age of 65, however, people in their 40s and 50s can also develop it. Besides memory loss, symptoms include difficulty with problem solving and language, as well as changes in mood or behavior.
Doubroff, who works for WestJet, said she had no close connection to anyone with autism or dementia. But, it can relate to a need for calm.
Following a collision in Langley, she suffered effects including sensitivity to noise, bright lights and colors. She had to rid her house of everything that was red and stirred at certain noises.
Although many of her symptoms have subsided, “I really identified with these precious little children, especially those with sensory overload issues.”
“It became quite a personal thing and a very emotional product for me.”
For caregivers, Doubroff said the wave blanket is a tool they can use to free up time for themselves, even if it’s just enough to sit down for a cup of tea.
“Most of the time caregivers are 90 per cent stressed,” she said. “It could save them 20 minutes, it could save them half an hour.”
Doubroff also hopes to introduce the blankets to local schools. She has five to give away, but also encourages others to buy and donate them as well. She has already donated about 100, she noted, including to mothers in Canada and the United States whose children live with autism.
Another side effect of the project, Doubroff said, came in her job as a flight attendant, thanks to her own heightened awareness of sensory challenges. She said it made it easier for her to recognize why some young passengers may have difficulty and to better understand interactions and behaviors that others unfamiliar with autism may not understand.
“It’s just a great way to be more graceful,” she said.
Doubroff’s blanket is available on Amazon for $57.99 (US$44.99).
For more information on coverages, Doubroff can be reached at 604-805-3817, or by email at [email protected]
Autism awareness monthwhite rock