16 Jan Chimeras and Autism
We got the following message about a Chimeras order just before Christmas:
I have a son who is so excited—and he is special needs—and he’s just obsessed. So I just want to make sure there’s not going to be any issues with receiving them prior to Christmas.
We called the customer, MaShel, and assured her that her son’s Chimeras would arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. We then cautiously asked what kind of special needs her son had, even though we thought we might already know the answer.
Some of the earliest feedback we received about Chimeras was from a parent who said that her son with Autism loved them! Since then, it has become strangely commonplace to hear from parents of kids on the spectrum. We know so little about Autism, so we recently started reaching out to these customers to better understand why our toy seems to resonate with their kids. We know that every child is unique and has a different experience, but these are some of the things we’ve heard so far:
A LOT OF POSSIBILITIES (BUT NOT TOO MANY)
Most of the parents said their child likes to draw or make their own creatures. Several even said their kids drew chimeras before even seeing our toys. It is no surprise to hear that kids like mixing and matching Chimeras, but it was interesting to hear that Chimeras are in the “goldilocks zone” of having a lot of possibilities without being overwhelming.
MaShel mentioned that her son Lucas knows that he is special and unique, but that products tend to promote what is “normal.” (Truly heartbreaking.) She believes that he enjoys creating different combinations with Chimeras because they are unique and special—just like him! (Truly heartwarming.)
One of the original design requirements for Chimeras was that you could snuggle them. We weren’t interested in making a vinyl toy (even though we love cool vinyl toys), and we didn’t use magnets (even though we love magnets) because the parts would fall off during snuggle time. We thought about snuggling, but we didn’t fully appreciate how important that interaction is for a toy. It can be difficult for neurodivergent kids to make friends, and toys you can snuggle make good friends.
We learned a new word.
Stimming: The repetitive performance of certain physical movements or vocalizations, as a form of behavior by persons with autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions. This behaviour is thought to serve a variety of functions, such as calming and expression of feelings.
Apparently, the repetitive action of switching pieces on Chimeras again and again can be a stimming behavior that helps regulate an autistic child to feel more grounded and calm in his surroundings. When we designed Chimeras, we didn’t think about how our mix ‘n’ match toy (and its custom connection) could help soothe and comfort kids with Autism.
One of the most rewarding parts of making a product is seeing it take on a life of its own. Seeing kids play with a toy that you designed is a really special feeling. It is even more rewarding when you hear that your toy is filling a unique need for kids. And it is even more rewarding when those kids have special needs.
We feel very lucky to have stumbled onto something that resonates with kids on the spectrum, and we are so grateful for the parents who were willing to share their experience. Thank you!