The Short Bus Diaries » Confessions About Life With an Autistic Son

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The Human Squeeze Machine

Yeah.  So I just squeezed my son to sleep.

Well, not literally.  He just needed to calm down.

Hubby gave up trying to coax my son to sleep after lying in bed with him for half an hour and failing miserably.  (My son is at that nap/no nap transition at the age of four, but we desperately cling to our autism-free hour in the middle of the day.  Plus, he wakes up around 5:30 in the morning and falls sleep sometimes as late as 10:30pm, so a mid-day naps seems like something the doctor -in addition to his parents – ordered).

So it was my turn next, as I tend to have better luck with the whole You. Shall. Sleep.  Thing.  It takes a certain level of commitment and boredom to lie next to him and not fall asleep myself (where would I be without the Facebook app on my cell phone?).  Before I peeled myself off the couch in our living room to go upstairs and sleepify him, I could hear him squealing (his latest verbal stim) and jumping around madly on the trampoline in his room.  In the hours leading up to naptime, he had been jumping in and out of both of our in-home therapy swings and chewing obsessively on clothing, so it was pretty clear to me that he needed some major sensory input in order to calm down and sleep.  And this is exactly what I did.

I basically pulled a wrestling move on him and squeezed his arms against his body and his legs against the bed (I played Badminton in high school, so, ya know, I’m athletic).  In fact, this whole “position” was pretty exhausting for me – try keeping every muscle in your arms and legs tense for 30 minutes while trying to create an aura of calm (contradictory but a strangely appropriate version of cuddling where my son is concerned).  And despite how this all sounds, my son didn’t mind it.  Not one bit.  If he did, he would have struggled against me and screamed.  But he smiled and allowed me to continue, while he simply calmed the hell down.  Just like the cows in the HBO Temple Grandin movie.

The ongoing movie-in-my-head panned down on me to question whether pinning one’s son down on a bed  for 30 minutes straight bordered on child abuse.  I contemplated giving up and just setting him free to stim about while I edited photos during my Mommy downtime.  But the fact is that he loved it the full body squeeze.  He needed it.  He stopped squealing, flapping, and humming.  He just chilled out, transforming his face from crazed to something approaching peaceful and sleepy, as if I had given him a shot of tranquilizer.

When I could tell that it was working, I went back to trusting my instincts and stopped worrying about whether this approached abuse.  I gradually moved my hands and legs off of him, kissed him softly, and allowed him to fall asleep in a non-wrestlers hold.

Judge ye not, until you too realize the power of the squeeze.


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