Autism sufferers can often experience high levels of anxiety caused by sensory overload. While some would-be solutions focus on removing this sensory stimulation and distraction (like the Study Nook) others aim at dealing with the stress caused. The Squease Vest is an inflatable vest which, it's claimed, can help to alleviate anxiety through deep body pressure.
The vest, which will be launched to the public this week at the Autism Show at London’s ExCel, is said to be the first such remedy which is discreet enough that it can be worn all day and used as required. It uses the tried and tested method of deep pressure to calm an over-stimulated and overwhelmed wearer.
Looking a little like a bullet-proof vest, the device features zip and velcro fastenings and has air pockets all the way around it. An attached hand pump allows the wearer to apply and regulate soothing pressure by pumping or releasing air to deliver a hug sensation. Soft edging and a zip cover prevent irritation to the skin and elastic strips, which run vertically along the flanks of the vest, allow movement.
Studies have previously found that deep pressure releases naturally calming chemicals in the brain, along with endorphins which stimulate happiness. As such, occupational therapists use a number of methods to deliver this "big hug" sensation to people with autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorders.
However, such solutions have traditionally been somewhat cumbersome. While heavily weighted clothes, therapy blankets and swaddle-like wraps are significantly more practical for modern life than Temple Grandin's Hug Machine, they are often still not ideal for use out and about. Equally, tight-fitting therapy tops deliver a constant "hug" rather than just applying it when required.
The Squease Vest, which is also available with a compatible hooded sweatshirt, is said to be light and discreet enough that it can be worn all day. It is suggested that the best results come from inflating the vest for periods of around 20 minutes at stressful times and that when deflated, the vest sits loosely around the wearer's body.
"The vest is inflated by squeezing a hand pump, allowing the wearer to regulate and apply soothing pressure in everyday situations that may lead to anxiety, stress or sensory overload - whether that is at home, at school, or on-the-move," say its makers.
The Squease Vest is available online for £245 (around US$380) and with the Squease Jacket for £295 ($457). While the hooded top is currently available in blue or grey color schemes, different styles will be on offer later in the year.
Here's a quick video explaining how the Squease Vest works and the problems some Autism sufferers experience.
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