“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.