Vans released a line of sneakers for kids with autism that uses Velcro and muted colors

  • At least 75% of people with autism spectrum disorder also have sensory issues, which means they can be hypersensitive to certain elements in their environment.
  • Those sensitivities can extend to clothing and shoes. A person with autism might find bright colors, fitted fabrics, seams, and tags uncomfortable. 
  • On Wednesday, Vans, a skateboarding shoe and apparel company, introduced a line of sneakers — with muted colors and Velcro — which support the needs of people with sensory-processing issues. 
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For some people with autism spectrum disorder, getting dressed can be one of the most challenging parts of the day. 

Autism is a developmental disorder that can affect a person's fine and gross motor skills and how a person communicates. Studies suggest that at least 75% of people with autism also have significant symptoms related to sensory processing disorder. That means they may be hypersensitive to certain elements in their environment, including the clothing and shoes they wear. 

To make wearing sneakers a little easier, and also fashionable, for people with sensory issues, Vans, a skateboarding shoe company, introduced a new line of shoes on Wednesday that were designed with the condition in mind.

Vans new sneaker line caters to the needs of children with with sensory issues

The collection features shoes that slip on with pull-tabs or close with Velcro, which can be helpful for someone who may not have the fine motor skills to tie their shoelaces. The footwear also only comes in muted colors, like grays and blues, which may appeal to a person with sensory issues who finds bright colors overstimulating. 

"With this project, Vans celebrates the unique aspects of all people," the company said in a press release. 

People who have sensory-processing differences often prefer shoes that slip on instead of tie.

Vans introduced the line of sneakers in advance of Autism Awareness Month, which is celebrated in April. The company will donate at least $100,000 of the proceeds from the collection to A.skate Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches skateboarding to children with autism for free. 

At least $100,000 of the collection's proceeds will go to the non-profit A.skate Foundation.

Brands like Tommy Hilfiger and New Balance also have adaptive clothing and shoe lines

A number of other major apparel brands, including Freshly Picked, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, and Stride Rite — have developed inclusive clothing and shoe lines for children. 

In 2016, Tommy Hilfiger became the first large US brand to launch an adaptive line for children. Founder Tommy Hilfiger was sensitive to the issue because of his personal experience raising three children who have autism.

"I've seen the challenges associated with dressing children with autism first hand," Hilfiger told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. "So I understood the potential impact of an adaptive collection."

Christine Mueller, an occupational therapist in New York, said fostering inclusivity in the fashion industry can help people with autism show the world who they are.

"People with autism are individuals," Mueller said, "and it's important they be able to express that through clothes."

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