A mum has shared a helpful hack for parents who want to help overstimulated children – and the next time your child is experiencing big feelings, it might just stop them in their tracks.
Kristen Schofield (@kristen_schofield) took to TikTok to share a video of her holding different areas of her son’s body with firm pressure for two to three seconds.
The mum-of-two said her occupational therapist had recommended the regulating activity, which “works really well” for her sensory seeking son.
“When his emotions are so big, we apply firm pressure to his head, arms and legs and just like that we’re back to even,” she wrote in the caption for a video where she shows exactly how she does the squeezing hack.
The video has been viewed more than 2.9 million times, with lots of parents of children with autism and sensory seeking behaviour saying it helps them massively.
“I’ve been doing this with my autistic son before bed,” wrote one mum in the comments section. “That and flossing his toes (yes, you read that right) has improved his sleep.”
“I started doing this with my son last night and today he came to me multiple times and indicated he wanted me to do it again,” said another parent.
Writer Amanda Mushro tried the trick with her three-year-old and found it also worked. In a piece for TLC she wrote: “When I could see my son was getting ready to spiral into a tantrum, I’d ask him ‘Do you want a big squeeze?’ and he always answers yes.
“Then I start at the top of his head and count to three for each squeeze. When I reach his toes, I can see that he is calmer and more relaxed. Also, we always finish with a big bear hug!”
She added that he likes it so much he’ll ask for big squeezes throughout the day.
“It’s become a technique that he loves, and I do too because I will always say yes to extra hugs and cuddles with my little guy,” she added.
What’s the science behind this trick?
Known as deep pressure stimulation (or DPS), the firm but gentle squeezing helps to relax the nervous system.
When deep pressure is applied to the body it switches from the sympathetic nervous system (which helps activate fight or flight) to its parasympathetic nervous system (which is more about rest and digest).
In kids with autism and other sensory processing disorders, the sympathetic nervous system is often stuck in the “on” position, according to AppliedBehaviorAnalysisEdu.org.
So helping them switch to their parasympathetic nervous system, with a series of gentle but firm squeezes, can help restore that sense of calm.