Two women have started a clothing company called DIF KND to raise awareness about autism and create a sense of community.
Jenna and Heidi Kloeckner live in Menomonee Falls, which is part of the greater Milwaukee area in Wisconsin. Their little boy, Brayden, was a late walker and didn’t speak as often as was expected at his age. They knew something was up. When he was four, he was diagnosed with autism.
The Kloeckners immediately wanted to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for their son, and Jenna got to thinking about what she could do to help her family feel part of the autism community.
So, DIF KND was born.
It’s an online clothing store that sells hoodies, T-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, tank tops, hats, and stickers, and it features DIF KND branding.
“It means ‘different kind’ and the mission is it’s OK to be different and be kind to those that are,” said Jenna.
Jenna wants people to talk about autism, and creating a brand that celebrates being different is a way to do that in a positive way.
“That was the point of this, is to talk about autism more and not hide it,” Jenna said.
Like many on the spectrum, Brayden struggles being out in public sometimes. New sights, smells, lights, and sounds can be overwhelming to an autistic person’s senses, and transitioning from one task to another can be tough under that type of sensory onslaught. This can trigger meltdowns.
When autistic individuals have a meltdown in pubic — or even when they’re engaging in positive, self-stimulatory behaviors (stims) that are unique — their actions can draw attention.
The Kloeckners want to make it clear that this behavior may seem unusual, but autism is not something to hide away.
“It is OK to be different,” Jenna said. “We should bring autism out.”
One thing that Brayden does is say, “Hi. My name is Brayden!” over and over. It can draw attention sometimes. But just because it’s a behavior that people may not be used to a child doing doesn’t mean it should be squashed. Especially since it’s something Brayden likes saying!
“It’s OK to Be different,
Be kind to those that are!”
In addition, each purchase gives back to the autism community. Each time someone makes a purchase, the company donates a sensory bag to a public establishment such as a restaurant or business in the same zip code as the purchaser. The customer can choose the location themselves, or Jenna can choose for them if they prefer.
Each sensory bag contains things that may be able to help calm the child or distract them their anxieties or being overstimulated. These are items like Rubik’s cubes, stress balls, animal figurines, stuffed animals, fidget spinners, etc.
“It keeps their mind busy is what it’s doing so you never know it could be the sound of the restaurant, the lights, even the smell,” said Jenna.
It also comes with a small sign that lets customers at the location know the bag is available upon request.
“I would love to see the bags everywhere,” Jenna said. “It should be a staple.”
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.