Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Under Pressure

In a recent meeting it was suggested that we try to use Joint Compression Therapy to help calm Konner down. While this is not a new technique it was relatively new to me. In fact I had never heard it called this before, but I had heard of some of the concepts. I’ve done a little research and want to share it with you so that maybe you can try it. Everything that I have found on the subject of Joint Compression Therapy includes the Brushing Technique as well, so I’ll try to include some of this as well.

So what is this therapy all about? It stems from the Wilbarger Protocol for Sensory Defensiveness, which is a therapy that uses the brushing technique and joint compressions to help stimulate patients with sensory processing difficulties. This includes children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. According to a special education site I found, the purpose is to provide deep tactile input to help organize the sensory system, increase focus and level of alertness. It is best to provide this technique daily every two hours and prior to activities that may facilitate fear, anxiety, or resistance. We all know that doing this every two hours is pretty difficult to do, but as many times a day as you can would be better than nothing.

In the past I have talked about ways that we have used pressure to help calm Konner. These include the “Konner sandwich”, the weighted vest, and making him into a burrito with heavy blankets. He also has a large inflatable ball in his safe room at school that is used to roll over him when he is over stimulated.

When we finished occupational therapy Friday I asked his therapist Krista Hannaman about it. She took the time to explain the ways that it works by grabbing him on either side of the joint, such as the elbow, and compressing the joint together.

 A couple of safety notes. Krista said that if you’re going to do the neck area you should always be careful and make sure that the head and neck are aligned. Also, a video I watched said never to pull, always push. No matter what make sure that you are careful.

There are some really good websites and videos online to help explain this better than I can. A really good demonstration of how to administer the Joint Compression Therapy is found on Youtube at: There are also written instruction on the brushing and Joint Compression Therapy  at:

Krista also explained that you could use the brushing technique along with this compression therapy and it would help. This is when you use a brush to rub the children’s limbs in order to stimulate their pressure senses. This is usually done with a surgical brush, but can be a bath brush, or even a wash cloth or the palm of your hand. You just alternate the two techniques.  

I’ve heard of the brush technique before and want to explain that this does not work the same in all children. In fact it can have negative affects in some cases. There is a story that a mother in our Parents of Autism group that shares a story of how her son had been receiving the brushing therapy and after a while he was so over stimulated by the treatment that he tried to physically harm a close friend. This is because the stimulation from the brushing had caused a stimulation overload and he couldn’t handle it anymore. This child was oversensitive to touch though where Konner seems to be under-sensitive. This means that Konner has a higher threshold for pain where the other child doesn’t like to walk on grass without his shoes on because the blades hurt his feet. You just have to try different things because all children are different.

I decided to try the joint pressure out this morning and see what happens. After going through all the joints in the legs and arms as well as the neck and shoulders I sat Konner down to ask him how he felt. He said that the treatment felt good. When I asked if he liked certain aspects better he said that he liked his arms and neck but didn’t like the legs very much.

We haven’t really tried these techniques with Konner before, although I’m sure his therapists have. It is something that I plan to try. He likes the pressure and it may be a good way to help calm him down.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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