Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Different Perspectives: Hugs

Sometimes while I am poking around on the internet I read things written by parents and spouses of autistics.  I am convinced that there is a major communication meltdown between NTs (neurotypicals-meaning someone without a neurological difference such as autism) and those with ASD.  I do think that there are times where people are just being selfish and uncaring on both sides, but I do feel that most of the time it's more about people getting their feelings hurt and reacting from a place of pain.  We don't always make our best judgements or behave at our best when coming from that place.

So, I thought I'd try to offer up a few of the most commonly read ones and an explanation for what might be going on for both sides in an effort to bridge the gap a bit,  Obviously, I am only one person with one point of view, so I may be off the mark a little bit, or a lot for how these situations may have been or will be experienced in your life.

I think that I will make this a series with one example being cited a a time.  Kind of like those relationship articles where they have He said She said and then the counselor's turn to moderate and discuss the issue.

"My son/daughter/husband/wife doesn't respond to my affection." or "He/She runs away from my hugs and kisses"
I show my love with physical affection and when you reject that, it feels like you are rejecting ME.  I feel hurt and alone without frequent physical touch as a part of my daily routine . (especially for spouses)  As a parent, I feel helpless when you cry and I can't comfort you.  I may even feel like a bad parent.  I sometimes feel ignored and unloved by your lack of reciprocation of physical affection. I feel abandoned and uncared for.

What the person on the spectrum might be thinking:
Hugs can feel suffocating and scary. I  may not be able to read nonverbal cues well enough to know when, or how long a hug might occur, thus making physical contact seem unpredictable.  Light touch is often aggravating.  Deep pressure may work better than light brushes. (they make my skin crawl just thinking about it) One of my sons enjoy being squished up in a blanket.  This might be a good alternative to hugs.  Trust is important and trying to force physical contact in one way to be sure I will not trust you.  Let me cue you when I am ready and be gentle.  Provoking anxiety will only make me  feel more distrustful and leery.  I can show my affection in other ways, like doing things for you to show I think of you and care.  Please, look for alternative ways I might be showing my love, like remembering to do a chore for you that you dislike, or making something for you.  Some children that are on the severe end of the spectrum like to carry around objects from the people they love most.  This can be shoes, clothes, jewelry, or other personal items that have your scent on them and remind them of you.  This is their way of being close to you.  For my spouse, I like to show affection, but only but only when he listens to my sensory issues and doesn't do the things I dislike.  Clean shaven, no light brushes on my skin, no stinky breath, ect.. Respecting my space and my being results in more hugs and kisses for him.


  1. Even before my boys' diagnosis, I always held the belief that even though I might not understand, I do have to respect.
    I never forced hugs, kisses or anything on the kids. And to be honest, I never questioned if they did or didn't. If they did - great. If they didn't - equally great.
    My boys move to the beat of their own drum and I'm good with that.
    Good post!

  2. I guess I'm fairly lucky that both of my boys are affectionate, at least to an extent. Don't know that it would bother me much if they weren't, though. Thanks for stopping by and reading!


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