The right amount of squish at just the right time. splendid
Added on Sunday 25 October 15
As the name of the site implies I am pretty happy to be spaced out. I am often happiest when I am spaced out enjoying a sensory toy or making something with Lego.
However, spaced out is not always a good thing. Sometimes i get spaced out when i don’t want to be. At times like this i want tools to help me stay focused.
The Squease vest is one of those tools. Iv’e not had mine long, but it has made a huge positive impact on my life. In this review i want to cover some of my experiences using it so that others can get an idea for how it might help them. I also want to detail some of the snags i have encountered along the way.
I received my Squease vest about 2 weeks ago. The makers of the vest very kindly agreed to lend me one as i was interested in trying it out and have been going through a rough patch. About 7 weeks ago i had an operation to resolve a long term pain issue. The operation was a success (I am now pain free!) however I have not recovered speech. To help get the support i needed 2 weeks ago i moved across london to live with friends.
With so much change and new challenges this has been an ideal time to test the Squease vest. In the two weeks i have had it i have been at times extremely stressed, frustrated and anxious.
The concept of the Squease jacket is simple. In a nutshell many people on the autism spectrum (and with related conditions like ADHD and dyslexia) benefit from deep pressure. Squishing pressure helps us to feel calmer, more in control and more aware of ourselves and our bodies. Think of it like really need a damn good hug, but all the time.
It’s hard to explain how it feels to be “me” sometimes. When it comes to sensory things i can be hard to explain. I often feel like i am “floating apart”, sometimes its not a bad feeling (i can walk around feeling like a cloud rather than an object, very wooshy) but other times it is the most disturbing feeling ever.
When i am tired or stressed the feeling is amplified. Trying to focus on something when i feel like am floating apart is very very hard.
The purpose of the vest is to apply just the right amount of pressure so that i can feel calm. It is reassuring pressure which allows me to focus and feel more together.
The vest is astonishingly effective. It stops me from feeling like a floaty cloud and makes me feel like a single Jamie again
In a moment i will talk more about the vest and some of the situations i have been using it in, but i wanted to give some quick background information about me so that the review has some context. I am a 25 year old male on the autism spectrum and I live alone(ish) with lots of support from my friends. My functional ability ranges from something like neurotypical to really very spacey indeed (my friends describe me as sometimes being a bit like a 5 year old. Cheeky sods).
So thats the context of this review.
The vest i have is dark blue and size medium. Before I was sent a vest a friend measure my chest and we sent those measurements to squeasewear who suggested i try the medium. It arrived in a nice box and you can read more about my first impressions in a blog post i wrote a few days after it arrived.
The vest is really, insanely, high quality. It feels more like high end sports clothing than something for “special needs”. It feels like it’s been made by NASA and come out of a space suit which is very cool. The texture is smooth but soft. Generally it feels ace.
It is covered in little soft tube shapes and it has lots of holes all over it for ventilation. Around the edges is a soft edging. To get it to fit right it has velcro strap which you can do up as tight as you like.
To apply pressure the vest inflates. It inflates with a little hand pump which is attached via a clip. My first impression was that the clip and tubing looked very professional but also very medical. That impression has not changed. The hand pump and the clip is VERY effective, but it does not look friendly.
In use i tend to unclip the pump. Its easy enough to unclip but it can be fiddly. If i am spaced out getting the pump unclipped is very hard because i don’t have the dexterity or precision to push down the metal clip inside the plastic housing.
Ironically, the pump being slightly hard to unclip has meant that when i am spacey I am also unlikely to loose the pump. So it has an upside too ;)
The vest gets all the small but important details right. The cold zipper has a snug place to slip into and all the labels are on the OUTSIDE away from my skin. I am somewhat sensitive to labels and texture and the vest has not been an issue.
As an item of clothing i am massively impressed with the vest. It’s a simple idea, but it has been executed with huge amount of precision and detailing.
In a moment I will detail how I have used it in a few scenarios, but first here is a more general overview.
I have found the Squease vest to be amazingly effective. Its the sort of item i have started to wonder how I lived without. A bit like ear defenders, I wish I had found it sooner.
Within a few days i started being in situations where i thought “I wish i had the vest”, on more than one occasion I have found myself reaching for the pump only to find i am not wearing the vest yet. Doh.
One of the biggest struggles i have is with the “elephants”. The “elephants” is the name we have given the how i feel when i am anxious. So named because it feels like there is a herd of elephants wearing pointy shoes stood on my chest. The Squease vest is really good at reducing the amount of elephants i live with. I normally give elephants a score from 1 to 10. Where 1 is no elephants at all, and 10 is so many elephants i feel like i am going to explode or have a panic attack.
The Squeasy vest has reduced my elephants by about half i think. I still get some elephants but it is no where near as pronounced.
With the squish comes a much better sense of my body and where I am in space. I am finding myself less clumsy and generally more aware.
I have used other sensory products in the past like sensory t-shirts. They work well, but getting in and out of them is very hard. Getting out of a tight sensory tshirt is the clothing equivalent of “FLUBBER”. When i first had my sensory shirts my friends referred to them as Jamie breaking as I laid on the floor overwhelmed with the sensory feedback of every movement.
The Squease vest does not give me that effect. It’s far more controllable. I can go from almost no pressure, to LOTS of pressure easily.
I feel that the vest also works quickly. My friends have commented that the change is sometimes almost instant. The pressure can help stop worry chains and pause running thoughts so i think thats why they see such a sudden change.
I sleep better than i use too but i still don’t sleep well. Add in the stress of moving and living with friends for a week and my sleep has been very disturbed. Before bed is one of the times where the vest has been most used.
I have for years slept on my front snuggling lion in a very specific position. I need the pressure on my chest. Without the pressure I struggle to fall asleep. The vest provides a very similar pressure to my front down sleeping position. This means i have found it very very effective for helping me to get to sleep.
For sleeping I don’t tend to want the squish to be too strong. I tend to give just 5 pumps so that i can feel the pressure but it is not crushing me.
Being able to drift off to sleep without having to lay on my front has been pretty useful. For example, its much easier to watch TV in bed before i go to sleep now because i can lie on my back in the squeaky vest and then turn onto my front just before get to sleep.
I tend to deflate (or remove) the vest during the night. I often wake up in the morning to find it on the floor or wrapped around one arm. I guess once i am asleep i don’t need the pressure anymore. I think it would be awesome if a future version of the vest had a time release system. Where i could press a button for it to slowly release pressure over a period of a few minutes.
In summery, the vest has helped my sleeping giving me more spoons. More spoons means more energy for the day.
I like riding in the car, but riding in the car is often the build up to something stressful. For example, going shopping, to the dentist or in one case driving in the van to my old house to collect all my things!
When i moved house i wore the vest all day and it was massively helpful. It helped me to stay calm. I still got very tired and spaced out, but i was calm all day and i think the vest was part of why. The vest is comfortable in the car when the seating is more upright.
The moving van was fine, but the back of a friends car is difficult. Its a much tighter fit (he’s tall and has the seat back) and bringing my legs up towards my chest makes the vest uncomfortable. In effect my tummy tries to poke out of the bottom.
I found the vest was fine in a short journey in the front of the car where I could have the seat at a better angle. In the car i was using very little pressure (1 or 2 pumps) because of the seating position. I tried riding in the car without it a few times so that i could compare.
Tesco’s is a good example of a situation I find difficult. Bright lights, lots of people, lots of movement and noise can all build up to be overwhelming. I have done a couple of weekly shops, plus a couple of smaller shops since I got my vest and it has been super helpful.
One of things which i like about the vest is that it fits neatly under my clothing. As we tend to go to tesco in the car and i don’t like how it fits in the car, i put it on as we get out of the car and then hide it under my hoodie.
I am experimenting with the best way to use it in Tesco. For the last two visits i have had it quite heavily inflated (10 pumps) for the whole trip and that has worked well. The only issues with it heavily inflated is that it can be harder to bend over and in Tesco I need to bend over (e.g. taking things of a low shelf)
I asked the friend i go shopping with if he had noticed anything and he said with the vest I seem to refocus after a distraction faster. I think that sounds correct. I found it easier to shut the world out when it was overwhelming with the vest on and pumped up so it was tight.
The final scenario when I have been using the vest lots is with my work. I work from home, for the most part i am writing emails and code. I would normally use the phone lots, but I don’t have speech at the moment so instead i have been doing chats via instant messaging.
Earlier this week i was talking to the development team of one of our leading products (one that most UK adults use!) and i was very tired. I found the vest was useful in helping me to stay focused. With instant messaging i have to wait for the other end to write their messages. As the chat was technical (swapping code examples etc) it was really easy to get distracted. So help staying focused was useful.
With work, i found inflating the vest for a short period (10-15 minutes or so) and then deflating it for a while help. A side effect of the vest is that i tend to sit up straighter and for some reason that feels more “work like”.
The vest is really good but nothing is perfect. For version two there are a few changes I would make.
The first is I would look at some sort of crotch strap. I do find that the vest can slide upwards. This might be because I have a largish tummy (!). I asked the makers and they said they were working on something to help. One thing i did try was to place the vest under a racketys.com vest and that worked pretty well. The vest snaps down the crotch and holds the shoulders in place well. (i have been using the vests to stop the flappy feeling of tshirt when i sleep). I think a crotch strap would a provide another way to apply pressure against the shoulders.
The only functional change i would look for is more protection along the back of the zip. A few times when wearing it directly against my skin i caught a chest hair or two in the zip and that was very painful. A small cover alone the back of the zip would solve the issue.
Beyond aesthetic changes (it would be nice to have a choice of colours and materials, i fancy something bright with contrasting edging!) the only other change I would make is the pump connector I mentioned earlier. It is a bit fiddly to use and a bit medical to look at. It could be more attractive and easier to use.
I am very positive about the vest. Its not often I come across something which I miss after only a day or two of use. The real question is it worth the cost (around £200 for personal use, £250 for VAT payers)?
Value is a personal question. With something like this the value is not in what it does but in what it enables. One of my friends commented that: “without the vest we would have been pouring you into the the car after tesco’s”… That is very very valuable by making me easier to support.
Another case is work. If using the vest I can extend my work day 30 minutes or take less breaks then it has value.
My only worry with the cost is the cost of replacement if i loose it. I mentioned this to one of my friends and his comment was “The more you use it the less likely to are to loose it”. I think he makes a good point. Its hard to loose something you are wearing!
This makes the cost of the vest easy for me to justify. I like it so much and my friends are so impressed with it, they are lending me the money to buy it as my cash flow is broken due to the house move.
To rent a vest for two weeks costs £60 which is then returned as discount if you buy one. Its not cheap, but I think its a very worthwhile thing to try and I would encourage anyone who thinks it might help to give it a go. For the potential change it can have, £60 to try it is very good value.