“Mommy, you have legs! Can I squeeze them?”
This phrase has become a funny line in our family though it is not something funny at the heart of it. Like many other children who have autism, Michael has sensory issues where squeezing things help him control his anxiety or stress. As you can probably guess, squeezing legs is one of Michael’s ways of de-stressing. It started when he was three years old. Generally it’s just my legs and certain family members’ whom he goes after, but he did have a phase when he squeezed his male swim instructor’s legs when he was younger too and his preschool teacher’s too. Never a dull moment. 🙂 They were short-lived though, and I notice that this only happens when said people’s lower legs are exposed through capri pants, me in particular, or if they are wearing shorter skirts. This also only happens in warm weather when the bottom part of the leg is exposed.
In the past we’ve redirected Michael with fidget toys or stuffed animals, but now that he is older and the “leg squeezing ” is back with the warmer weather, I am having to be creative once again. In the meantime, I am trying to redirect him to using pillows and to me giving him big hugs or squeezes as well as Wilbarger Protocol if he lets me, but I know this is a short-lived solution. After a weekend of a lot of squeezing, I was reminded of Temple Grandin and her squeeze machine. She actually invented a machine where she goes in and compresses or hugs her body in order to relieve stress and calm herself. Could this be what we need to look at?
So off I went yesterday on website searches to figure out how to build one. I found some interesting ideas. I also plan to ask the school OT and my exceptional mom friends what they think of the idea and if they have heard of anything else that could help. As with everything else, I see that with Michael growing, we need to find new tools and strategies to help him cope and regulate. Michael for his part, loved the idea of potentially getting a squeeze machine if we could build it for him. I spoke to him about it at bedtime yesterday as he was squeezing my legs a lot in the pm yesterday. I also told him about the lady with autism who designed it. Now that he knows he has autism and is asking questions, I tell him about the many talented autistic people in the world so he knows he is not alone even if his Dad and I don’t understand some of his sensory urges.
“That sounds cool. And Mommy, I didn’t know adults have autism. I thought it was only kids.”
I smile. There is so much I could say to this statement, but I choose to keep it simple.
“Yes, honey. Adults have autism too.”
Exceptional Parents, what new strategies do you need to implement to help your Exceptional Children handle the warmer weather, the change in routine and other factors? Are squeeze machines, new therapies, or new adjustments in your child’s toolbox in your future? If so, my advice would be to pay attention to the cues your child is sending out about what they need. And don’t be afraid to ask around other parents in person and online, and other professionals you have worked with or others, to see what else is out there. Never give up that you and your child can find a new way to help handle stressors. Until next time.