Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 1992 Spring;2(1):63-72. doi: 10.1089/cap.1992.2.63.


ABSTRACT Many people with autistic disorder have problems with oversensitivity to both touch and sound. The author (an autistic person) developed a device that delivers deep touch pressure to help her learn to tolerate touching and to reduce anxiety and nervousness. The "squeeze machine" applies lateral, inwardly directed pressure to both lateral aspects of a person's entire body, by compressing the user between two foam-padded panels. Clinical observations and several studies suggest that deep touch pressure is therapeutically beneficial for both children with autistic disorder and probably children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Only minor and occasional adverse effects have been noted. Data are reported that show a similar calming effect in nonreferred college students. A review of the animal literature reveals that animals have similar calming reactions, and also suggests possible additional physiological effects of deep touch pressure. At present, there are increasing anecdotal reports of the clinical value of the squeeze machine, including suggestions that it can be used to reduce required doses of psychostimulant medications. More clinical studies are needed to evaluate the potential role of this seemingly beneficial form of "physiological" stimulation.