Compression Clothing

“Sensory integration therapy” is a current hot topic in regards to autism spectrum disorders.  It appears to have some controversy around it, but for the most part it appears to be widely used.  I say that mostly because when doing an internet search for asperger’s and weighted clothing, I get a huge list of websites offering various products for parents to buy and have their children use or wear.  And, of course, there is Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine, which seems to work for her very well.

Sadly (for me, and possibly other adults), these products are almost universally made and marketed for children.  There seems to be very little acknowledgement or discussion for any adult’s potential need for weighted or compression clothing.  Several months ago I wound up very frustrated about this, because I decided that I wanted to try it.  I have a lot of anxiety, and I thought that maybe compression clothing might help in those situations.  I already knew that I find pressure going over a wide around of my body to be soothing, so it seemed like a logical step.

Luckily, I did eventually find something – compression athletic wear!  I can easily get it in adult sizes, it’s cheaper than pretty much everything I found that was specifically for those on the autism spectrum, and it has the added benefit that I can wear it under my regular clothes.  This is good, given that I find most weighted clothing to be rather on the ugly side.

Some of the sellers like to talk about the clothing giving proprioceptive input to those who wear it.  I’m… skeptical of that.  Of course, I don’t know very much about proprioception – it’s one of those odd senses that doesn’t really get talked about, or even noticed.  Who knows, maybe clothing can improve on it, even if I can’t figure out how that could possibly work.  (proprioception, by the way, is the awareness of the position of one’s body.  impairments to proprioception tend to lead to clumsiness, and a lack of proprioception is, well, bad)  My proprioception might be mildly impaired (I can definitely be clumsy) I don’t think it’s really all that bad.

Anyway.  That’s not really what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about compression clothing, and the fact that I bought some.  I’ve only just begun to experiment with it, but so far I like the results.  So far I mostly wear it while horseback riding, but the idea is that it could also work in group social situations, or when I know I’m going to have to cope with heavy sensory input, or such situations like that.  Mostly I just want to see if it works, but the analytical part of me wonders if maybe sometimes my anxiety is because of sensory overload, and maybe this could help.  Plus, you know, compression is soothing, just in general.

So I got a sleeveless shirt, shorts, and leggings.  I haven’t tried out the leggings yet, but while I was trying things on I liked wearing them best.  The tightness just felt soooo freaking good.  And while it’s a bit premature to be making any conclusions, so far I think it’s helping.  I am finding that I feel less anxious when I wear them, it’s easier to keep calm in situation that would usually leave me flustered, and I stim less.  Now, I am not someone who thinks stimming is bad or something we need to learn to not do, but I do find it interesting that I do it less while in compression clothing.  And on a horse, this can be beneficial.

I’m not really using them in the ways I’ve heard such things being recommended for.  What I’m used to seeing is to use such things for 15-20 minutes at a time daily or multiple times a day.  I just put it on when I’m going to be in a situation that I know I’ll get anxious in and wear it for the duration.  I’m ok with that, though, as I prefer to figure out how to make things work for me, rather than simply follow the ways they worked for other people.

Also on my list is to make myself a weighted blanket at some point.  I’m a little intimidated by the idea, mostly because it would involve sewing very large swaths of fabric using a normal home sewing machine, and I’m not so sure how well that would work.  Another thing I’d like that seems far less likely to happen is to find a summer blanket – designed to not be too warm – that is also very heavy.  I sleep best under heavy blankets, and that makes summer nights difficult for me to cope with.  It would be nice to find a solution to that.

Anyway.  Overall my point is that sensory integration (or whatever is going on) needs are not exclusive to children, and they do not just vanish away when autistic children become autistic adults.  If you find pressure to be soothing in other situations, I would recommend giving it a shot.  At the very least, it seems to be working for me.

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14 Comments

Filed under personal, ramble

14 responses to “Compression Clothing

  1. Lois

    How about a weighted sheet instead of a blanket? What do they weigh blankets with?

    • gothic_feline

      Interesting thought! I’ve starting poking around a bit more, just to get the idea into my head, and there are lot of different ideas on how to do it. They can be weighted with any number of things, but so far I think I like the idea of plastic pellets best. Everything else I’ve seen listed was food (rice, corn, beans, etc).

      • I’ve been looking at making my own weighted blanket as well, especially since summers are problematic for me as well. I just can’t sleep under a single sheet. I need my duvet. Fabrics would be the easy part, a good high-thread cotton for summer and a nice flannel for winter, possibly doubled. Or whatever I want, really! Which is awesome because fabrics are very stimmy for me. I haven’t found a good place in the Netherlands to buy pellets yet, though. Online isn’t really an option because of the prohibitive shipping costs. Might have to resort to food items like you mentioned (I’ve also seen lentils and cherry stones) and figure out a way to refill the blanket with fresh “pellets” every now and again.

      • Emily

        It’s probably a little late for this comment now, but I figured you should know, organic substances are a bad idea to weight blankets with; you can’t wash them because even when the fabric dries, the rice, corn, etc will remain wet and grow moldy. They also attract animals like mice, and can have rough or spiky edges, particularly corn. There are many sites out there that sell weighted blankets, the cheapest one I’ve found is beanblanket.com, and once I have the money, I’ll be ordering one from there.

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  3. Olga F. Honea

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  5. Carolyn

    Hi.
    Firstly, thanks for sharing your story, thoughts, etc – it helps alot of people on this path.
    I am looking into buying some compression clothing for my son & preferably going with the cheaper option of the athletic compression clothing instead of the exhorbitantly expensive “children with special needs compression clothing” option. So I just wanted to know how things are going with it now that it has been about a month?
    Thanks!

    • Hi! It’s actually been around a year now since I got the compression clothing. ^_^ I have consistently worn them under my usual clothes while horseback riding, and I’ll throw on a compression garment or two any time I am going to be doing something stressful.

      Honestly, I really like it. It’s not a cure-all, by any means, but the even pressure is extremely soothing, and has continued to be soothing every time I wear them. Getting the compression clothing was definitely the right choice for me, and I’m glad I did.

      • Msmom

        Hi,
        I just found your blog while searching for treatments for my son who has sensory integration or sensory processing disorder. You are correct when you say the clothes are marketed for children.. Specifically those with autism. I have found in my searching that most people who are on the spectrum also have tactile sensitivity. The products are very expensive and honestly pretty ugly. I have recently purchased some compression shirts at Walmart for under $10. hope this helps others.

  6. joan burga

    I’m a pediatric physical therapist and have learned a great deal on sensory integration treatments as so many of the kids have this problem.. So do adults. I am an anxious person and have difficulty relaxing. I avoid social situations. While at the dentist today I could feel I was anxious and when they laid the lead apron on me to take x-rays I noticed an immediate calming affect. Duh! If it works for kids it should for adults. We all have sensory issues but aren’t aware of them. I’m now sitting at home with 2.5 lb. wrist weights on my shoulders and it feels great. I’m definitely going to figure out how to incorporate this into my daily activities.

  7. Rip Smith

    could you tell me what brand of athletic clothing you purchased? Im looking for some clothing for my son, he’s 12 but wearing adult sizes, and have the same problem. I figured rather than experimenting id follow your lead for the brand. Thanks

    • Hi! So I just want to mention – when I got compression clothing I just went with what the store had. That said, what they had was Under Armour brand (a brand I have had a lot of good experience with in general, so I know it’s a good one). I hope you are able to find something that helps your son.

      • Rip Smith

        Thank you, we were planning on UA but knowing you had success with them is very helpful. We’ll give it a try and see how it goes. Thanks again.
        Rip