Can an Autism Hug Machine Help Control Challenging Behaviors of Children on the Spectrum?

March 21, 2022

Recent Study Suggests Deep Pressure Provided by One Type of Device Can Be Calming 

Deep pressure has been widely used by occupational therapists who work with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The deep pressure sensation is thought to regulate the sensory system, reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety of individuals on the spectrum. Temple Grandin provides the most famous example of a person with autism who craves deep pressure. When she was just 18, Temple designed and built a “squeeze machine,” to calm her anxieties and help reduce her panic attacks. Now, decades later, researchers from Indonesia have decided to investigate the use of deep pressure devices and studied whether the short-term use of an autism hug machine portable seat (AHMPS) improves behavioral and neurobiological stress for children with ASD. The main goal of this research was to determine whether AHMPS with an inflatable wrap or manual pull is more effective at calming and improving challenging behaviors. The study’s design involved enrolling children with ASD into two groups. Group I was administered the inflatable wrap AHMPS. Group II utilized the manual pull designed AHMPS. Participants in both groups used the machines for 20 minutes, twice a week for three weeks. At the end of the three week interval, the Conners’ Parents Rating Scale-48 (CPRS-48) was employed to assess behavioral improvements and the galvanic skin response (GSR) was used to measure sympathetic stress response. In total, 20 children with autism (14 boys and 6 girls; aged 7-13 years) took part in the research. After the study was over, the CPRS-48 results demonstrated that challenging behaviors were significantly decreased in group I, the inflatable wrap group.  Group II, the manual pull group, did not show the same level of improvements. Similarly, the GSR discovered a notable decrease in sympathetic response in group I only. These findings indicate that neurobiological stress was reduced in children wearing the AHMPS inflatable wrap. Therefore, the study’s authors concluded that only the AHMPS inflatable wrap is an effective method to reduce emotional arousal and outbursts.  


Original Study 

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