Temple Grandin’s “squeeze machine” research suggests benefits of weighted blankets

An expert on animal behavior, Temple Grandin has designed humane handling systems for half the cattle-processing facilities in the US, and consults with the meat industry to develop animal welfare guidelines… Grandin’s books about her interior life as an autistic person have increased the world’s understanding of the condition with personal immediacy — and with import, as rates of autism diagnosis rise. She is revered by animal rights groups and members of autistic community, perhaps because in both regards she is a voice for those who are sometimes challenged to make themselves heard. [Bio from]

Everyone in the Autism community knows very well who Temple Grandin is. She even became virtually a household name when Claire Danes brought her story to life in her namesake HBO movie, Temple Grandin, in 2010.

Dr. Grandin’s link to the Autism community is bigger than just having Autism herself though. Her work in cattle-processing actually has a direct link to Autism as well as other neuro-behavioral disabilities with a strong sensory processing component, like ADHD. Her studies have shown that deep pressure touch has a calming effect, not just in cattle, but in humans too. 

In 1992, Dr. Grandin published a paper titled “Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals” in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.  The article outlined her studies on deep pressure touch therapy through use of  a “squeeze machine” — a device she created for her own distinct sensory needs as a person with Autism and a staunch sensory avoider. In her trials using the “squeeze machine” over the prior decade she concluded,

“It appears that the squeeze machine may be beneficial to some children with autistic disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is of little value to others. Serious side effects appear to be minimal.
In treatment of children with autism, a very heterogeneous disorder, it is well-known that a treatment that works for one individual may be useless for another. It is possible that the squeeze machine will be most beneficial to those autistic people who have problems with over-sensitivity to sensory stimulation… Some individuals with autism, who have greater cognitive problems and relatively few sensory problems, may be less likely to benefit.”

Dr. Grandin’s sensory research is of great interest to us because our Weighted Blankets provide deep pressure touch to create calm — the same idea behind her “squeeze machine.” The deep pressure from the weight of these special blankets causes the body to produce serotonin and endorphins, which are the chemicals our bodies naturally use to feel relaxed or calm.

While there aren’t many scientific studies on the efficacy of weighted blankets, Dr. Grandin’s studies on deep pressure touch certainly point to a benefit, along with the praise of many children and adults who use them. 

{Watch Dr. Grandin’s TED Talk, “The world needs all kinds of minds,” in the video below.}


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