Introduction: Calm a Sensory Seeker With Hosiery

Picture of Calm a Sensory Seeker With Hosiery

Autism is a structural difference in the brain with a strong genetic component.  People on the autism spectrum have brains that don't go through the normal culling of brain cells after birth that neurotypical brains do.  Although autistic brains do go through a culling at a later age, they tend to be denser than normal brains with more brain cells.  

People on the autism spectrum tend to have sensory processing differences.  Some are highly sensitive to loud noises, colors, textures, or other sensory stimuli and are called "sensory avoiders" because they try to get away from stimuli that are too disturbing.  Others on the spectrum are called "sensory seekers" because they pursue high levels of sensory input by, say, eating spicy foods or running around and crashing into things.  Sensory seekers seem to need proprioceptive feedback in order to calm down and re-equilibriate.  

***EDIT:  I should probably post this information here.  Most children with sensory differences have some sensory seeking and some sensory avoiding behavior.  See discussions in the comments for more information.***

There are places that sell compression vests and jackets, sometimes with weights.  Those can run about $50-150.  Compression vests are more for long term wear, say during the school day to help sensory seekers feel secure and able to concentrate.

This is a quick fix that works for us when my 3 year old can't seem to calm himself.  I can't always drop everything and give him deep pressure massage for 20 minutes if he's freaking out, and this is another option.

Note:  if you feel the urge to leave a comment or send me a note about how you heard that autism is caused by vaccines, poor nutrition, gluten intolerance, food additives, or poor parenting... just don't.

Step 1: Secure the Items

Picture of Secure the Items

items needed:

nylons or tights
a sensory seeker toddler who is starting to get hyper, possibly running around, dumping things out, throwing things, and/or hollering

This sounds easy but sometimes it's tough to find a pair of tights when there's a 3 year old tornado in your house.  My only advice is to hurry.  When you have your pair of tights, pick up the toddler and hold him tightly.  Don't yell or act angry; he's not trying to be naughty, and your yelling will make his brain freak out even more.

When he's still enough for you to begin, hold one foot of the tights by his right armpit and over his left shoulder.  Pull rather tightly, but not tight enough to bruise.  When the tights are back to his right armpit, simply wrap them over the loose foot end to secure it.  Once you've reached that point, the rest of this should be pretty easy.

Step 2: Finish Wrapping

Picture of Finish Wrapping

Wrap the tights around the front of the toddler's torso, under the left arm, across the back, and over the right shoulder to the front.  Pull securely, but try to be gentle even if you're mad.  This is an assistive device, not a punishment.  If your toddler acts upset at the wrapping, stop.  His brain will tell him very quickly if this is something that will help him reset; pay attention to his cues.

Wrap the tights around the front, under the left arm, and around the back until you come to the end of the tights.

Step 3: Secure the Ends

Picture of Secure the Ends

Hold onto the loose end of the tights and find the end you started with under the right armpit.  Tie these together.

Wrap the loose middle section of the tights around the stretched bands to keep it from getting snagged on something.

Be careful not to tie the knot too tightly.  You'll want to be able to unfasten it easily.  Your toddler will likely let you know when he wants it off by trying to pull it off or grabbing your hand and putting it on the wrap.  It'l be hard for the toddler to be patient if it takes too long to remove.

Our little guy likes to wear this for about 10-20 minutes when he needs it.

Step 4: Love Your Little Sensory Seeker

Picture of Love Your Little Sensory Seeker

This step is crucial to the whole process.

Hug him and tell him you love him.  Even if he doesn't yet use words or make much eye contact, it does NOT mean he doesn't understand the words you're using.

This is a quick and dirty fix, but it works for us; I'll post another instructable at a later time about a more lasting device with other features.

Thanks for reading!


haney2 (author)2015-09-20
You must have device. At the time of feeling in his urine key press. He was in the habit, even at the time it presses the key. You will feel its time to handle the variable. To prevent her from learning progress not
jkraus1 (author)2012-11-09

I was motivated to read this, because my son has always rubbed my hair to fall asleep - if I am not able to lay down with him, he will rub his own. He has done this since birth and is now 3 1/2. He also tends to prefer sleeping under his covers - sort of wrapped or behind me - between me and the back of the couch. Instinctively, I have always snuggled him as described above when he starts acting out... and now I know why and what it was about him laying behind me that made him calm down so quickly. AND my family has a genetic hearing loss issue - those of us who have it, lose our hearing very slowly over our lifetimes... the nerves in the ears that process different tones die one at a time. The reason I tell you this is because my son has always shocked me, because he will shrink away from loud noises - he looks as though he is in pain. I have made fun by saying he has super-sonic hearing. Not made fun of him, just the situation... but your instructable and the explanations that you have along with it has just made little bells go off all over... you really nailed several aspects of my son's comforts and discomforts. I need to do some research on sensory seeker / avoider. Can your child have aspects of both? As I type this he is upset because he wanted to go to work with Daddy... he is standing beside me rubbing my hair.

supersoftdrink (author)jkraus12012-11-21

I've noticed many kids with sensory differences (whether my own or the others in our neighborhood) who have aspects of both. I... don't think I've met a child who was ONLY a sensory seeker or ONLY a sensory avoider.

I've come across the belief that "sensory seeking kids are less sensitive to input and therefore seek strong sensory experiences to feed the lack of sensory input" in some literature written by one-time experts on spectrum and sensory kids.

I think (and I'm just a parent, not a therapist or doctor, of course) that sensory kids in general tend to receive excessive input from most (if not all) senses, and that the sensory seeking behavior is a way of overpowering overstimulating experiences, rather than a kid trying to "feel" something because he or she can't feel certain things as strongly.  If a person gets an itch on his arm, what does he often do?  He overpowers the irritating sensation on his arm by providing an even stronger sensory input to that area - he scratches it.  Scratching his arm isn't a sign that it was partly numb, just as sensory seeking behavior isn't a sign that those children who cope that way are less sensitive.  Not all overwhelming senses can be short circuited by increasing stimuli, of course.  If light is too bright for a person, they don't tend to respond by staring directly into the source of light.

I suspect that some therapists have been confused by sensory issues over the years because children respond so differently.  Swaddling can definitely calm one child while inducing a panic attack in another, even if they have almost identical oversensitivity to sensory input.  That's why it's so important to pay extra close attention to each child and let them teach you what works and doesn't work for them; there is no "one size fits all" approach... except love, attention, and respect.

You sound like an amazing parent and very in touch with your little sweetheart.  As you do research and observation, remember that others might be experts on a large population and certain trends of behavior, but you're the expert on your child... and anything they say about what he is, or what will work for him, is just a suggestion, possibly an educated guess.  :)

I love your post and this reply is wonderful! Wish you a lot of luck and happiness!

bothawm (author)2013-09-24

Hi. Have you tried brushing? As my son has sensory processing disorder and his occupational therapist gave us a special rubber brush which we had to use on him every 2hours. We had to brush arms legs and back as well as his palms and the soles of his feet. Then we had to do compressions on all his joints. Worked well with him. Much more participative at school. Thanks

picturesofsilver (author)2013-03-02

great idea!!

myboyzx4 (author)2013-02-17

Job well done Mom. We have a six year old that finally has been diagnosed ( knew soothing was amiss at 9mo) . Most people don't know or understand what sensory issues or having a sensory seeking child is like. It's hard and wearing but we love him just the way he is and we learn to adapt as well. Great t shirt by the way, have fun with your little one and keep doing what your doing, a great job.

sirebril (author)2013-01-20

Interesting article. I usually read about computers and toys on here and this one made me think in a different direction. Thank you for posting and I wish you and your son the very best. Aloha!

sarahfish (author)2012-05-30

This is SO SO cool! You are wonderful, and a superhero and brilliant!

spaceman874 (author)2012-05-01

i am happy that there are people on instructables, who share thier wisdom with others on topic like autism, i have autism (just a part of the spectrum) and find these type very helpfull in understanding my situation and how other see me.

pyromonkey (author)2012-02-04

This is a great instructible. It would have worked wonders with my niece when she was in her terrible twos. Too bad I just learned about it :P

love4pds (author)2011-12-09

This is different but I have a dog who is autistic and I am going to try this with him because he rhythmically licks on himself a lot and walks in circles and barks at nothing, he loves to be held if sitting facing away from me, wont look me in the eyes, but I cant do that all the time. I am hoping this may help the problem with him? Poor little guy, he is the sweetest dog and I would love to make him feel better. Thanks for the Ible. What makes the wrapping work? Is it the way you wrap or just having pressure? I am thinking of making him a jacket or buying that hug jacket "as seen on TV " for dogs that has popped up recently. Would that potentially work? His name is Winston :). I know my problem with him is nothing compared to having children with autism and i worry I will make someone feel I am minimizing this. I am not. But Winston is the only dog I could find online or anywhere with autism so I have nobody to learn from. God Bless all of your children and I am praying for them all!!! Added a photo of him calmed.

susanrm (author)love4pds2011-12-20

A Thundershirt might help, yes. Temple Grandin pioneered this field of pressure for calming those with autism (she is autistic herself) and has used it effectively to help calm all kinds of animals. It can't hurt. You might want to try with a t-shirt before you make the investment, though.

love4pds (author)susanrm2011-12-22

thank you very much,

creative_cait (author)2011-11-28

Your instructable taught me something today about autism. I am really in the dark about it, to be honest, and this helped me understand a lot.

Also, your son is so cute!

jpinney (author)2011-07-21

Love the shirt!

mwebber (author)2011-06-26

All children are different. My son would have loved this, but he's now at the point where he 'self medicates' with his own creative methods to attenuate his sensory needs. As an infant, swaddling was an intense relief to him; he still wraps himself up in his blankets to sleep as a compression method.

When I tried to swaddle my daughter, she wanted no part of it. It did not calm her; she found the pressure disturbing and was strong enough (and stubborn enough) to get out of my best swaddling job.

BOTH of these children have Autism. Both present at the higher functioning end of the scale, with my daughter much closer to normal than my son. If your child is calmed by deep pressure, this looks like a fantastic method to address it without dropping a packet on the latest craze product. Props to the OP.

mslaynie (author)2011-04-08

I said this earlier in a different instructable, but wow, you really, really make me smile. It's clear that you love your kids and that you're working to help them better handle their environment. Thank you for sharing this!

ludionis (author)2010-11-30

Nice idea. We have one of those dog/leash backpacks for my 3 yr old autistic son, and he loves wearing it, possibly for this reason. Mine likes to stim vestibularlly, walking past objects while watching out the far corner of his eye as they pass. When needing to break him of sippy cups, his therapists recommended a honey bear cup. I refused to pay $15 for one, so I made my own, and now sell them exclusively on ebay :) Kudos for your ingenuity to meet your child's needs.

DELETED_jorgegunn (author)2010-11-12

This is wonderful and so great that you shared it. I have a neurolgoical dissorder where my nervers are hypersensitive It causes my mucles to contract in a violent ticking (which is completly diffrent) but i have found that wrapping a scarf tightly around my back and uper torso (much in the manner of your tights) when i start to get jittery seems to lessen this phenomon. I also sometimes pull socks with the toes cut out up to the top of my arms. I really appreciate that you are sharing this bit of information with the world. --Julie

craftyv (author)2010-11-11

Well done.I did write a comment but it disappeared into the eether. Look up Temple Grandin and you will see how she developed her own sensory management frame. It will help those who don't quite get it yet.

Azayles (author)2010-11-04

What a wonderful 'Ible from a wonder and resourceful mum! You should make things like these and sell them from a website. If you can undercut the 50 dollar price tag a "proper" one costs, you'll earn some good money.
On another note, did you also make his shirt? If you did, that's worthy of an instructable in itself!

supersoftdrink (author)Azayles2010-11-10

yeah it's just acrylic paint mixed with textile medium on a white t-shirt :) The point of using hosiery is that lots of people have it in a drawer somewhere and don't have to go out of their way to buy something.

Azayles (author)supersoftdrink2010-11-10

I looked at your other 'Ibles and saw the acrylic t-shirt printing one here. How did I miss that before! oh well!
I've heard of hosiery being used to temporarily replace a fan belt on a car, but I love your use more :P

uminohoshi (author)2010-11-04

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Coming from a family with a tendency towards mental and behaviourable (is that a word?) illness and the like: Bipolar disorder, Asperger syndrome, Depression, Borderline personality disorder, ADD... I tend to lap up any ideas and information from EXPERIENCE that I find, not to recommend (so totally get your note - "understanding people" really make me see red!) but to have in mind to apply or just contribute to understanding a persons actions and controlling my response and reaction.

I'm sure your son will appreciate your contribution to other peoples understanding as well. It is from people who do this (share in spite of misunderstandings) that we are finally overcoming some of the stigmas involved. As my husband and I say, we'd rather people knew and were given the chance of understanding my occasionally very odd reactions than to leave them in the dark and contribute to further misunderstading of these illnesses and syndromes.

polyspace (author)2010-11-04

How odd. I used to work in a cleanroom wearing a bunny suit (environmental suit that covers head to toe.) I felt naked and insecure when I took it off. It's interesting how tight/supportive clothing can make one feel better.
Breat 'ible by the way. I may just adapt it for myself. Under my clothes though, so my co-workers don't think I'm stranger than they already do now. :-)

snoopycomputer (author)2010-11-04

YOUR kid, YOUR love, YOUR life. Don't let anyone tell you diff. GO MOM ! :D

Gottwinkies (author)2010-11-01

Ah, before I forget! On the subject of sensory vests: I think my son came up with his own version. Somewhere, we were given a small boy's blazer that was pretty tight on my son. He loved it and would button it as much as he could and walk around the house in it (with shades, he called it his "spy jacket"). He used this until he couldn't get his arms in the sleeves...tight shirts and vests do wonders.....

Gottwinkies (author)2010-11-01

I loved seeing this! I have a son that was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at about 8 years old. He is 24 yo now. Before we had a name for what made him different, I had a daughter that started showing self-stimming behaviors. Due to my job at the time, we started immersing her in texture and multisensory fun. We would set her in a bin with dried pintos and hide small toys and items in the beans. Her OT and speech therapist at the time encouraged as much as she would tolerate and she loved it! At 20, she is still a sensory-seeker, and both she and my son have grown into wonderful adults. Good job, and remember that your creativity will help your son learn his own coping mechanisms as he gets older.

couchchangeracing (author)2010-10-28

I have a sensory seeking son too. When he was younger we used to do lots of dog piles on the floor with pillows. Including me and his little brother. He is 8 now so we do it less, but he still loves that input. One of his sensory outlets is a MMA full body punching bag.

Great idea with the stocking.

bustedit (author)2010-10-28

cute kid. he looks like a young version of the singer, Beck! (that's supposed to be a complement)

shesparticular (author)2010-10-26

Your son is simply adorable!

farzadbayan (author)2010-10-25

So nice !

jatoha (author)2010-10-20

Nice instructable. I just wanted to say that your little guy is a cutie!

EmmettO (author)2010-10-13

Along with one of the other comments (by deltasierra) I wonder if you could be both a seeker and an avoider. My son used to jump in our tile tub an land (on purpose) on his knees repeatedly. Now that he's in school, loud busses and cafeterias really stress him out. He and I are a bit mild on the spectrum so it's sometimes hard to know if it's just something we should plow through or to go with methods like this (I don't think I would look good with a hosiery wrapped around me, I'd have to modify this one).

supersoftdrink (author)EmmettO2010-10-13

Absolutely. When I first heard Benjamin's occupational therapist talk about sensory seekers and avoiders, she talked about the kids who are both. She said they're trickier to figure out (my kid is both), but if you're diligent you can find out what he's sensitive to and what he craves more of. Loud noises bother my husband a lot and we suspect he's on the mild end of the spectrum as well but was never diagnosed because the milder spectrum folks tend to find ways to cope with their differences.

I wouldn't say you have to just plow through anything; it's not always possible to wear earplugs, but sometimes having something to distract you works. My husband wears headphones often in order to zone out when things are stressful or loud. I suppose the school would frown on allowing your son to have a little ipod with headphones while on the bus or in the cafeteria... although it's worth a shot to ask because of ADA compliance - I don't know which accommodations the law designates.

Is there something in particular your son seems to enjoy holding onto or touching? A little square of soft fabric, a small toy cars with wheels he can spin, a bristly brush he can touch, a beanbag full of metal BBs (metal is heavy and provides more proprioceptive feedback from the weight in his hand), a rubbery squish ball? Sometimes it helps to have something just in your pocket you can touch to distract from the bothersome stimuli.

Distraction isn't as effective as removing the bothersome stimuli, but when it's not possible to get away from the noise, it's better than nothing. People who have trouble filtering stimuli can't "just ignore the noise" like the people who have neurotypical brains that filter out the noise automatically.

That's funny... I wear noise canceling headphones at work all the time, but 95% of the time I am usually not listening to music.

EmmettO (author)supersoftdrink2010-10-13

He does wear earplugs on the bus and in the cafeteria. That helps a lot. I'll have to try compression with him and see if it has any effect. I don't know that it would help me at all . . . maybe I'll try it with the ace bandages and see how my day goes. I've always wondered what I would be like now if my parents had known about HFA. Would I develop the coping skills that I now share with my son? Maybe I would be more aware of them and therefore better able to communicate them. Who knows (not I).

supersoftdrink (author)EmmettO2010-10-13

I forgot to add - there are compression vests designed to be worn under the clothes. Some people also use bandages (like the elastic wraps with velcro at the ends) either under or over clothing. A person doesn't necessarily need it wrapped around the torso. Some people like having them wrapped around a wrist or ankle; if people ask and the person isn't up for fully explaining and educating them, they can reply "my wrist needed the support" without clarifying that it's support for neurological feedback, not for injury. :)

Michaelgoode (author)2010-10-17

A smart idea. 5 *

got2bskilled (author)2010-10-14

My daughter has APD (auditory processing disorder) and sensory processing which comes with it for most kids. Very similiar in many ways to your child. Anywho, her OT has us doing joint compression thearpy and we also rub her skin with a soft surgical nail brush. Not sure if you have given that a try. Our latest treatment is a sound therapy program where she listens to misic with frequencies that are designed to make the brain active where she needs for the sensory stuff... therefore forming stronger connections while doing sensory activiity.... thus, reducing the need to sensory imput constantly because the connections are becomming stronger neurologically. I believe it is called "The Listening Program". Very successful for sensory children of all walks from what I have learned. It is strictly prescription though--- My best~great ible~ got2bskilled

We do joint compression and brushing on all the kids, especially the twin with the heart condition and some sensory aversions. It makes my little boy more hyper, though. :) They get a wide variety of music pretty often; I think music is great for all kids.

scoochmaroo (author)2010-10-14

This is really fascinating. Thank you for letting us into your family this way.

Even if it helped just one spectrum kid be better understood by his caregivers, it makes it worth it to me. I'm sure my 3 year old will forgive me for posting his image once he's old enough to know about it, as long as he remembers my intent. :)

steptrig (author)2010-10-12

As my husband is a Navajo indian, I was excited to try a traditional cradle board while caring for our new grandbaby. It uses the same principles and even though she has no autism symptoms she also smiles when she is swaddled and wrapped into the board. Great instructable and you are obviously a loving parent!

supersoftdrink (author)steptrig2010-10-13

That's wonderful. I know many babies love being swaddled even if they're not on the spectrum. That safe, secure feeling is similar to how they feel when they're squished in the womb before birth, I'd imagine. Thanks for sharing that. :)

steptrig (author)supersoftdrink2010-10-13

One of the advantages of swaddling is it reduces the startle reflex that so frequently awakens newborns. I feel the same principle works with wrapping the autistic child; ie helping suppress the overactive/overstimulated sensory response.

scoochmaroo (author)steptrig2010-10-14

We would love to see your cradle board on here too!

bazery (author)2010-10-13

Another one that works well is a light rug, have them roll up and pretend to be caterpillars. Works a treat

mplafferty (author)2010-10-13

ditto on the shirt! it is easy to forget about all of the WONDERFUL things that some challenged kids provide!

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Bio: I'm known as Glindabunny elsewhere on the web. (silly name, I know... it was based on a former pet) Everyone is born with unique ... More »
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