Wired has a very interesting article about the origin of inflatable mascot costumes, and how they help autistic people become more outgoing.
Lee Bowen noticed inflatable banners and signs being used to promote businesses, and he liked them well enough to change careers and become a distributor. Eventually, he got the idea to put people inside them, and began constructing inflatable mascot costumes to be worn outside of businesses and at sporting events.
One day he needed a kid to dress up in the costume, and the only person available was a teenager named Joe who suffered from autism. Amazingly, once he was inside the suit, Joe became alive and much more social.
Hughes showed up with her son Joe, an 18-year-old who was, as Hughes put it, nonsocial. “He won’t look at anybody or approach anybody,” she says. “All he does is look at the floor and mumble.” But Bowen needed that demo. They decided Joe would give it a try. “You wouldn’t believe it. This kid was fine,” Hughes says. “He started running up to people and tapping them on the shoulder. I started crying. It is the only time I’ve seen my son having a good time and reaching out to people. He told me, ‘Mom, when I’m in the suit, I don’t need to be afraid no more. I can be with people.’”
Bowen has since teamed up with psychologists to explore mascot costumes as a form of therapy. Isn’t that amazing? I guess it feels safe inside the costume, making it easier to socialize.
I encourage you to head over to Wired and read the full article. It’s a bit long, but certainly worth a read!