In addition to having auditory sensitivities, children with ASDs may be hypersensitive to touch. Some children can't tolerate the feeling of certain fabrics. One boy I know can't stand to have wool touch his skin, so his parents make sure all of his clothes and blankets are 100 percent cotton. Other children don't like to be touched by anybody. As Jake's typical behavior declined, he no longer accepted our gentle hugs. His body stiffened when we embraced him, yet he welcomed big bear hugs or being playfully thrown on a bed.
Temple Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism, offered me insight into what Jake may have been experiencing: "From as far back as I can remember, I always hated to be hugged. I wanted to experience the good feeling of being hugged, but it was just too overwhelming. It was like a great all-engulfing tidal wave of stimulation, and I reacted like a wild animal. Being touched triggered flight; it flipped my circuit breaker. I was overloaded and would have to escape, often by jerking away suddenly."
Temple Grandin is an adult with an ASD who has her Ph.D. in animal science and is an assistant professor at Colorado State University. According to Grandin in Thinking in Pictures, many children with ASDs can tolerate touch only if they initiate it and may prefer pressure stimulation (such as big bear hugs) over gentle stimulation. If children exhibit this type of tactile sensory problem, they may like to bundle up in blankets or wedge themselves into tight spaces, such as under the bed. Jake loved to roll himself up in the living room rug. He also liked being vigorously tossed onto the sofa or bed. Grandin came up with her own treatment, which she called a "squeeze machine." It was inspired by a visit to her aunt's ranch, where she saw cattle being put into a squeeze chute for vaccinations. The cows seemed to relax when the side panels of the chute were pressed against their bodies. After experiencing a panic attack one day, Grandin put her body into the machine and had her aunt adjust the side panels so that they squeezed her body. She experienced a wave of relaxation that she had never felt before. After this, she constructed her own human squeeze machine.9
Although we didn't use a squeeze machine for Jake, we did use sensory integration techniques to help reduce his touch sensitivities. Sensory integration was developed by Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist in California. In Jake's case, his occupational therapist had him jumping off a bunk bed onto bean bag chairs to provide him with the deep pressure stimulation that he seemed to crave. Through sensory integration and ABA, Jake learned to get over his food-related tactile sensitivities so that he could use his fingers to feed himself. Jake not only learned how to tolerate our hugs, but also began to actually like giving and receiving them again.
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Learn How to Help, Understand amp Cope with your Aspergers Child from a UK Chartered Educational Psychologist. Before beginning any practice relating to Aspergers it is highly recommended that you first obtain the consent and advice of a qualified health,education or social care professional.