How the squeeze machine came to be

We had published a few articles lately about sensory processing issues and thought that it wouldn’t feel complete with an exploration of the squeeze machine developed by Temple Grandin. For those of you that have seen the movie you will understand what we are talking about.

The squeeze machine was invented by Temple Grandin to help relieve “tactual defensiveness.”  In her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic she writes how in second grade she dreamed of a “magical device that would provide intense, pleasant pressure.” By the time Temple Grandin was in third grade she was dreaming of a machine to provide “pleasant stimulation” when she “outgrew wrapping [herself] in a blanket or crawling under a sofa pillow.”  However, it wasn’t until the summer after her junior year in high school while visiting her aunt’s ranch in Arizona that she configured the type of machine that would help apply the appropriate pressure.

The squeeze chute that is used to hold cattle in place while being branded and vaccinated was Grandin’s inspiration for her tactile device.  While on the ranch her aunt helped Temple in the device and had to standby to help pull the rope to apply the right amount of pressure.

When Temple returned to Mountain Country School for her senior year in high school she was still fixated on the squeeze machine.  Why wouldn’t she be fixated?  She dreamt of a device that would help with her panic attacks all her life and now she had found one.  Her teacher, Mr. Carlock, advised Grandin to build one.

So Temple’s first model was made of scrap wood and was similar to the cattle chute at the ranch.  A person other than the one in the device was needed to pull the rope to administer and/or release the side walls that created the “squeeze.”  When Temple Grandin started attending Franklin Pierce College, her high school teacher, Mr. Carlock still visited Temple for encouragement.  People were giving Temple a lot of grief about the machine so Mr. Carlock told Temple, “Well, let’s build a better one and do some scientific experiments with college students. Let’s find out if the squeeze machine really does relax. Find out if the effect is, indeed, real.”  He helped Temple focus her fixation into a useful assignment that led her to study about the sensory system.  After much research and work, the second squeeze machine came to be.  Temple named it “PACES” (pressure apparatus controlled environment sensory).  It was much larger than the initial one that was built from scrap wood.  PACES helped Temple to have empathy.  Temple’s experiment proved that out of 40 normal college students, 62% of the students that tried PACES found it relaxing.  Unfortunately, Grandin’s “therapists, friends, and relatives” tried to take the machine away from her which made her feel guilty.  It took Grandin many years to accept the machine.

Now the squeeze machine is quite popular as a device that can be used to help with sensory issues.

We looked for a video featuring Temple herself to end this blog post but sadly couldn’t find one to embed but heres a link to an interview Temple did with the BBC. If you are interested in building your own there is an article here about how to do it.

So we hope you enjoyed this post, as ever, we would love to know what you think. Please leave us a comment below.




Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • jod says:

    this is so interesting this girl is so smart

  • Has this got some link to wanting to be back in the womb? Would like to know any further studys that intertwine with this as it is very interesting? However i dont see myself making a squeeze machine myself lol

  • graham m says:

    Maybe this is similar? I have always thought of being in a dark cave and I’m curled up. Back in 1972, I was able to do this by going into an opal mine shaft in the north of South Australia and crawling to the end of a small tunnel and I turned of the light. My mate freaked out as he didn’t know where I was. I just wanted to remain there, silence, confined and all curled up. I’ve always wondered why being in isolation in gaol was punishment?

  • Kath Erebus Rushworth says:

    This works in an entirely similar way to swaddling an infant. Constant neural feedback provides a sense of grounding and stability that is often missing in people with a poorly coordinated vestibular system, lack of proprioception, hyper sensitivity, and executive processing confusion. These people can feel disconnected or floaty, and unable to focus on control of impulsive physical reaction. Flapping (and other stims) can great a sense of rhythm and predictability, but at the cost of exhausting physical movement. Constriction is reassuring because it creates predictable and reliable stillness. Where internal control is lacking there can be great reassurance in external control..… consider if you will the comparative relaxation of sitting with your feet dangling, or sitting with your feet securely on the floor (or foot rest).

    • Barbara says:

      “Constant neural feedback provides a sense of grounding and stability that is often missing in people with a poorly coordinated vestibular system, lack of proprioception, hyper sensitivity, and executive processing confusion. These people can feel disconnected or floaty…”

      I love this summary:That’s how I’ve always felt and am often referred to as “spacy”. It’s a designation I sometimes think I should mind but don’t,since it’s very descriptive of my internal experience,the sense of disconnection from both body and surroundings.

      I just wanted to add that there are some companies,cottage industries that sell weighted blankets. (I’d love to craft one of Grandin’s squeeze machines,but since I have spatial chellenges,am auditory,the results probably wouldn’t be anything like her design.The blanket might also be a nice alternative to others with similar challenges,so thought I would mention it.)

    • E says:

      Thanks so much. U r brilliant!

    • WDB says:

      Kath: you have a great description and some interesting hypothesis drawing from the theory of OT which I believe explains a lot more than psychiatry or psychology.

      The Both together – OT and Pyschology – describes autism the best.

  • says: is broken or fraudulent.
    YouTube links all seem the same.

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