Deep Pressure

A two panel illustration shows a person on the left swaddled in a heavy blanket with the text "deep pressure. In the right hand panel, a person is coming apart with the text "floating apart"
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Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body: deep pressure input good!! Provides proprioceptive input and can soothe body stress responses (always get consent)


A famous example of the common autistic preference for deep pressure input is Temple Grandin’s Squeeze Machine.

At age 18, I constructed the squeeze machine to help calm down the anxiety and panic attacks. Using the machine for 15 minutes would reduce my anxiety for up to 45-60 minutes (Grandin and Scariano 1986). The relaxing effect was maximized if the machine was used twice a day.

Gradually, my tolerance of being held by the squeeze machine grew. Knowing that I could initiate the pressure, and stop it if the stimulation became too intense, helped me to reduce the oversensitivity of my “nervous system.” A once overwhelming stimulus was now a pleasurable experience.

Using the machine enabled me to learn to tolerate being touched by another person. By age 25, I was able to relax in the machine without pulling away from it. It also made me feel less aggressive and less tense. Soon I noted a change in our cat’s reaction to me. The cat, who used to run away from me now would stay with me, because I had learned to caress him with a gentler touch. I had to be comforted myself before I could give comfort to the cat.

As my “nervous system” calmed down, I required less squeeze pressure to produce a comforting feeling. Gradually, I could reduce the pressure regulator setting from 80 to 60 psi.

Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals

But I’m tortured because whilst I don’t want to make a scene or have strangers adding to the overload and overwhelm, I’m simultaneously desperate for someone to give me a massive, firm, bear-hug. To hide me, cocoon me, and shield me from the shock waves that travel from their universe into mine.

On meltdowns | The Misadventures of Mama Pineapple

I can think of no logical reasons why swaddles should just be for babies because they are super helpful.

They’re like a hug without physical contact. That’s amazing!


Replying to @toetie9112 hug sleep is awesome #autisticadult #autistic

♬ Sneaky Snitch – Kevin MacLeod

Further reading,

Header image: “Deep Pressure” by Betsy Selvam is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they