Assistive technology autism

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Temple’s Hug Machine

Dr Temple Grandin, America’s foremost animal behaviour expert – and Americas most well-known autistic woman was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1947. During childhood she displayed classic early symptoms of autism, sensitive to touch, temper tantrums, and was more silent than most other children. Back then, autistic children were often incorrectly diagnosed as developmentally disabled, and in Temple’s case, the expert opinion was that she was brain-damaged and should be confined to an institution to receive long-term care. As she grew it became clear that she had a unique way of seeing the world that allowed her to develop not just a photographic memory but a memory that could store and search photo-realistic pictures in her mind instantly. Temple describes her mind as her very own Google Images. Like with many people with ASD Temple struggled to make friends and build simple social skills but she found her calling in graduate school, researching animal behaviour and working in the feed yards of the livestock industry as part of her postgraduate research. She began to sense that – like her – cattle and other animals relied on visual clues to navigate their world and with her unique perspective, Temple started to write highly rated articles for livestock magazines.


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She developed new and humane ways for farmers to move and contain cattle and through developing these ideas she invented the hug machine, also known as a hug box, a squeeze machine, or a squeeze box. This device is a deep-pressure contraption designed to calm hypersensitive persons, usually individuals with ASD in a therapeutic, stress-relieving way. The hug machine consists of two hinged side-boards, each four by three feet (120 cm by 90 cm) with thick soft padding, which form a V-shape, with a complex control box at one end and heavy-duty tubes leading to an air compressor. The user lies or squats, between the side-boards, for as long or short a period as desired. Using pressure exerted by the air compressor and controlled by the user, the side-boards apply deep pressure stimulation evenly across the lateral parts of the body. Autism and autism-spectrum disorders have profound effects upon both social interactions and sensitivity to sensory stimulation often making it uncomfortable or impractical for them to turn to other human beings for comfort.

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Temple solved this with her hug machine so both she and others could turn to it for sensory relief, when needed or simply desired. Its a hug without the intensity of another person being involved. A compression vest works in much the same way and can have profoundly calming effects on the wearers body and mind. There are many simple devices available that can reduce anxiety and stress for people with autism and the way they work can vary. But one thing they all seem to have in common is that they provide sensory relief in a none intrusive way.


Fun and Function’s Blue Weighted Compression Vest

Vibrating Tube

Learning Resources Time Tracker


DenTrust 3-Sided Toothbrush :: Specialty Toothbrush for AUTISM & Special Needs :: Autistic ASD :: Made In USA



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7 thoughts on “Assistive technology autism”

  1. Great post and a great way to explain autism to others. As an Occupational Therapist I had a chance to do some fieldwork in the school systems and enjoyed using brush therapy with autistic students.

    Later I found that when I was wound up that I got great comfort and balance when I place by self above and under river rafts (I was also a river raft guide in Colorado) and the feeling of relaxation and release was incredible.

    I’m not autistic, but even at times when my nerves were a little erratic, I found comfort from this technique.

    Really great post and just wanted to say thanks.

    1. Hi Todd, thank you for your comment. I would welcome more feedback from you if you have the time. It’s not everyday that I get a comment from an Occupational Therapist. In another life I would had liked to follow a career in Occupational Therapy as well. I gain great comfort in washing the dishes. Placing my hands in warm water has a relaxing effect on me and allows me to block out the world.

  2. Hi Adrian, this is the first time I read about the story and life work of Dr Temple Grandin. What a wonderful story of a supposedly developmentally disabled to making big defining contributions to the autistic people. I, myself have seen many parents struggle to take care of their autistic children as they can be hard to understand and at times control. The Temple’s Hug Machine is indeed a ground breaking machine and I hope more of it with bow available like for example place is Malaysia. I hope more things can be done to create awareness of the existence of this great machine. Thanks Adrian for sharing your knowledge with us.

    1. Hello Dominic, I am Mark Adrian brother and I write Adrian’s blog for him from his perspective in the first person. I try my best to give him a voice because he has very limited communication, reading and writing skills. I try to think like my brother and imagine the things he would want to express. We both hope to raise awareness and inspire other people to find better ways at communicating with and for loved ones that struggle. The world can be a much more inclusive place for everyone who struggles to communicate. Mark

  3. Hi Mark, Adrian’s brother. What a great team you guys have formed and what a wonderful site you have built.

    Anyone reading this will gain lots of insight into Autism. Intellectually people know what it is but understanding it is another thing. Personally I have never knowingly met someone with autism but do know of one case where the person got so frustrated they became violent (this was years ago when autism was not as well defined). The solution her parents found was to install an swimming pool in the basement (fortunately they had a sprawling house with a large foot print). Whenever the frustration signs started, into the pool they would go with her and swim madly. I suppose in comparison with the ‘hug’ board this would be similar. Wrapping her in warmth impersonally. Whatever it was the solution worked.

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