The Calming Effect: Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, a light-skinned woman wearing a bright pink jacket pets a dark brown horse

The Calming Effect: Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted scientist, a trailblazer in autism research, and one of the first people to document her experiences living with autism — and the fruits of her decades of research have an interesting connection to the Bancroft School.

Although she had trouble verbally communicating until the age of 3, Dr. Grandin has gone on to become a renowned professor, author & rights advocate. Her experience on the autism spectrum led her to become a pioneer in deep-pressure stimulation with her invention of The Temple Grandin Hug Machine.

Dr. Grandin was born in 1947 and was not diagnosed with autism until she was well into her 40s. She received her doctoral degree in 1975, and has focused much of her career on animal science and behavior, and animal rights activism. Her advocacy for the humane treatment of livestock led to the 1965 creation of The Temple Grandin Hug Machine, a device designed to calm hypersensitive individuals.

Also known as a hug boxsqueeze machine, or a squeezebox, the hug machine is a deep-pressure device designed to administer pressure evenly through the body, between two sideboards hinged in a V shape.

The idea first came to Dr. Grandin while observing cattle chutes on her aunt’s farm. She noticed the chutes — which function similarly to what eventually became the hug machine — helped to noticeably calm the cattle as they passed through. It was after this experience when Dr. Grandin realized that the cattle were coming out of the chute calmer than when they went in.

She hoped to create a similar effect with the hug machine, which she originally constructed to alleviate her own symptoms. She never intended to share her design publicly but decided to expand her research to determine whether others could benefit in the same ways she had, and the modern hug machine was born.

Today, the machine is now an essential tool in helping to provide sensory benefits to children and adults with autism — and its design allows them to adjust the amount of pressure the device delivers on their own. Bancroft has two hug machines currently in use at The Bancroft School.

Learn more about the machine from Bancroft Occupational Therapist, Libby Gephart!


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