Temple Grandin is probably the most famous autistic person living today. Her life will be chronicled on an HBO special starting in February, 2010. Among her many achievements is the development of a “squeeze machine.” Because of her autism, she resists the touch of others and doesn’t like to be hugged. But she craves the feeling of being held. When she was eighteen, during a summer vacation, she saw a herd of cattle being passed through a squeeze chute (a mechanism used to keep cattle still while a veterinarian gives them their antibiotic shots). “Watching those cattle calm down, I knew I needed a squeeze chute of my own,” she wrote in her book Animals in Translation. When she returned home from vacation, she recruited a teacher at her high school to help her build her own squeeze chute. “I bought my own air compressor, and I used plywood boards for the V. It worked beautifully. Whenever I put myself inside my squeeze machine, I felt calmer. I still use it today.” Grandin actually provides detailed instructions for building her “squeeze machine” on her website. It is also available ready-made from the Therafin Corporation.
For more information about alternative technologies to help people with autism spectrum disorder, see Thomas Armstrong, The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain, and Thomas Armstrong: Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life.