Squease is a London-based organisation aimed at creating products to help those individuals with Sensory Processing Differences cope with everyday life. We spoke with Sheraz, one of the founders of Squease, to find out more about the Squease Vest and their aims for the future.
We are constantly receiving stimuli through our senses. We pay little attention to much of the stimuli we receive and they are simply processed unconsciously. However, people with sensory processing differences react to the stimuli that they receive in very different ways and may be unable to tell the difference between an important detail and an unimportant one. They may be hyper-aware of the feeling of a label inside their t-shirt, or may hear a buzzing from a light that is not apparent to others. These challenges can lead to an individual experiencing sensory overload, where the brain is receiving more stimuli than it can process, and cause feelings of anxiety or complex behaviours, making everyday life more difficult.
With this challenge in mind, a group of socially minded designers and engineers set out to create a product that would help individuals with sensory processing differences. Andy, Katrien, Sheraz and Menno met at the Royal College of Art and Design in London and worked together for their graduation project. Inspired by Andy’s nephew Alex, who has autism, the group wanted to create a product that could be used to help individuals like Alex in everyday life. They listened to Alex and his friends about their stories and experiences and worked closely with the people who would use their end product to find out what would be most effective for them. The team discovered that many of the people they spoke with found feelings of deep pressure or a hug-like sensation to be beneficial when they were feeling stressed or overwhelmed. However, many of them also disliked physical contact, which often introduces new sensory stimuli. From this, the Squease Vest was born.
An animation on the Squease website gives more information about how the product came to be: http://www.squeasewear.com/contact-us/about-us/
As Sheraz states, ‘the Squease vest was inspired by Temple Grandin’s Squeeze Machine. When the vest is inflated with air, it provides a hug-like pressure to the wearer’s upper body.’
Deep pressure has been widely recognised as a means of helping to relieve feelings of sensory overload. It has a direct influence on the amygdala – the section of the brain that produces fight, flight or freeze responses when it receives what it thinks is threatening stimuli. By providing a regulatory effect, deep pressure provides a feeling of safety and helps to reduce the incidence of meltdowns and makes it easier to cope with stress or overstimulation.
When the first Squease Vest was produced, it received overwhelmingly positive feedback. ‘Based on that, with the help of family and friends, we decided to turn it into a reality, and launched in 2012. We’ve been improving the Squease Vest ever since,’ says Sheraz.
The vest is designed to help people with a variety of disabilities – including Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Anxiety Disorders and Tourette’s, among others. The team have been working with parents but Sheraz points out that they ‘also work with a lot of schools, health organisations and therapists particularly in the UK and Netherlands. Our distributors interact with the same types of groups overseas.’
Their plans for the future involve awareness building in both the ASD community and for those with other conditions. Sheraz reports that they have seen positive results from those with SPD and ADHD, for example. In addition, the team have been involved in a number of research studies looking at how the vest can be used in other ways. Sheraz says, ‘we still consider ourselves in a start-up phase so have a lot of marketing and awareness building ahead of us. At our core, we are socially minded designers and envision a pipeline of socially beneficial design products and projects. This will most likely continue on the theme of Anxiety.’
The testimonies on the Squease website speak to the impact that the vest has had on the everyday lives of many individuals, and the team’s plans for raising awareness in the future will hopefully ensure that more people are able to access this excellent product. As Sheraz states, ‘we are really happy that we designed something which helps people deal with the complexities of life, making their lives and the lives of the people around them better. The best part of our day here is hearing from a mother explaining on how the vest has changed the family’s life.’
To find out more about Squease, visit their website: http://www.squeasewear.com/ or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Squease Vests can be purchased through their website or through one of the reselling distributors listed here: http://www.squeasewear.com/resellers-distributors/
Interview and feature by Emma Bowell. Many thanks to Sheraz from Squease.