Temple Grandin has designed a hug machine for sensory problems faced by children with Autism and Asperger's syndrome


Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon


Temple Grandin is an adult with autism who has written two books about her life - Emergence Labeled Autistic and her recent book, Thinking in Pictures. In her books, she describes her severe anxiety and how her discovery of deep pressure ultimately helped her reduce the anxiety's debilitating effects.


During her childhood years, Temple would crave deep pressure. She would crawl under sofa cushions or wrap herself in blankets to provide pressure. She stated that she could not obtain the 'right' amount of pressure from people because they either gave her too much deep pressure or too little.


As a teenager, Temple observed cattle being branded in a squeeze chute at a relative's farm and noticed that they immediately calmed down after pressure was administered to them in the chute. Temple reasoned that the deep pressure from the chute led to an overall calming effect and thought it might be able to settle her 'over-stimulated nerves.' She then built her own device which is referred to as the 'Hug Box,' the 'Hug Machine', the 'Squeeze Machine,' or the 'Squeeze Box.' Temple still uses her 'Hug Box' on a regular basis to provide her the necessary deep pressure to cope with her anxiety.


The 'Hug Box' is made of two padded side-boards which are hinged near the bottom to form a V- shape. The user lies down or squats inside the V. By using a lever, the user engages an air cylinder, which pushes the side-boards together. This action provides the deep pressure stimulation evenly across the lateral parts of the body. Some individuals prefer long squeezes while others prefer rather short squeezes.


At the present time, several programs around the country have utilized Temple's 'Hug Boxes' and have observed similar changes in children and adults with autism, particularly a general calming effect. The Center for the Study of Autism, in collaboration with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, conducted a controlled-placebo study in the summer of 1995, involving 10 children with autism.


The researchers, Stephen Edelson, David Kerr, and Meredyth Goldberg Edelson, found a reduction in tension and anxiety based on the Conner's Parent Rating Scales checklist. In addition, the child with the highest anxiety level, according to the Galvanic Skin Response, a physiological measure, indicated a general reduction in anxiety over time. Dr. Margaret Creedon at the Easter Seals Therapeutic Day School has also conducted research on the efficacy of Temple's 'Hug Box' and has found results consistent with these findings.


For additional information about the 'Hug Box,' refer to Temple Grandin's books which provide detailed descriptions. Information on renting, leasing, or purchasing a 'Hug Box' can be obtained from Thera/Fin Corporation at 1-800-THERAFIN (843-7234).

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Temple Grandin designed a hug machine as she, along with many others with Autism, liked firm pressure all over her body due to sensory dysfunction