A Big Pile of Blankets

You may or may not be familiar with Temple Grandin, but she wrote the book “Thinking in Pictures,” and is an agricultural researcher, inventor, and professor. She designed a machine to calm cows down by mechanically ‘hugging’ them because she herself found the need for the pressure accompanied by a hug sensation, although the human interaction aspect of regular hugs is not always as comfortable for those with autism, the pressure and sensation of closeness are still paramount. Temple Grandin spoke to one of my college education classes, and as my professor and Temple herself explained it, it made perfect sense.

As long as I can remember my brother had hidden under couch cushions, and when people sat down on him, he merely became happy and would yell “squish me!” It was this same pressure or hugging/comforting sensation that he was seeking as Prof. Grandin noted in her own PDD and created her invention to calm cows from.

My brother also went through a phase where he had to pile as many blankets on top of himself as possible as part of his bedtime ritual. And although I do not suffer from an autism spectrum disorder, I obviously have some of the genetic linkages just by having a close relative as well as my own demons/diagnoses, and I too have found the ‘pressure’ idea comforting in my own experience. It is a mechanism I recognize that I have used for years to combat panic attacks, creating a ‘cocoon’ out of all of my blankets the same way my brother did to protect myself from the stressors I am faced with. It is something I recognize I do occasionally even now. I wonder how much of this is human nature; how much of it is depression or anxiety, and how much of it falls on the autism continuum. I have a feeling it is a combination of all of those, but it is particularly pronounced in many with autism, and I also feel that my grasp of it/feeling of necessity is nowhere near the degree or the same mechanism as those with autism.

When I say my brother had to pile blankets on himself; It’s a bit more drastic than you might first think. What began as a pile of blankets became practically a sultan’s palace, including beach towels, mountains of pillows, and eventually a PVC piping canopy structure covered in fleece blankets. It became a literal cave, ballooning up with pillows and towels and blankets and mushrooming up into the canopy. Eventually, the PVC collapsed under the weight of all the blankets he had piled on it; and he moved on to other phases. The PVC palace/blanket/pillow phase lasted over a year, and it took at least an hour to prepare the exact specifications, it was a very specific and tedious process, every night.

Have you ever made a couch fort or felt comfortable snuggled up in blankets?

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10 thoughts on “A Big Pile of Blankets

  • May 22, 2009 at 9:29 am
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    I have this thing about sheets, they have to be high count and certain kinds of high grade cotton, and I roll up in them so they’re tucked all around me and I feel like I’m ‘safe’.  I HAVE to wear only certain fabrics, and I feel very uncomfortable without sox on all the time.  I’m a sock enthusiast.  Used to think I was so weird, until I found out there are actually sock clubs online, people who collect novelty sox and get together to discuss footies and stuff.  But this post hits it on the head, I’m very particular about what touches my skin, how it touches my skin, how long it touches my skin..  Water is hard for me to deal with, used to scream about bathing and washing my hair as a child.  One of my first real intros to learning about other autistic people was Temple Grandin, I saw her interviewed years ago on tv about her uniquely designed cattle chutes that revolutionized the way cattle are managed in large numbers.  She see it in their head from their eye level, psychologically made it easy for the cattle not to be afraid of what was in front of them, which is really incredible for someone who is socially deficit from a human standpoint.  That was very heartening for me at the time, because I’d been picked on so long for not being normal.  I’m a chicken person myself…  =)  Anyway, yeah, I was glad to find out I’m not the only ‘freak’ who has this skin touch thing.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 10:30 pm
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    My niece is still pretty fond of pillows. She likes to pile them all around her when she is sleeping. She’s not autistic but she does like the comfort of being surrounded by pillows…

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  • May 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm
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    There was one time when my son was having a hard time dealing with things, and, jokingly, I started stacking cushions on him and “sat” on him. At first he was furious; next thing I knew, I asked him if he wanted me up. Rather than asking to be let up, he asked me specifically to “stay put”, and we had something of a “normal” conversation between mother and son, just hanging together; we talked about school, cartoons, music, cars…

    I was scared witless that something was “wrong” until reading about Ms. Grandin’s machine, online, that night.

    I am certainly glad that we came across this!

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  • May 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm
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    I’ve always been one to make a nest.. I also tend to sleep with a blanket up around my neck like a scarf.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 8:05 pm
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    My 16 year old asks me every night to “tuck her in” What she means is, pile tons of blankets on top of her. She has a certain order they have to be piled. Then she wants them all tucked in tight around her. It’s sensory and calming to her and helps her sleep at night. Even in the summer when it’s too hot she still wants those blankets! 🙂

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