Social Distancing and the Need for Physical Contact
While the stay at home order is still in place, it leaves many people with Autism feeling alone and isolated. Many programs for people with Autism have shut down during the crisis or have opted to go online. While this is helpful to keep the connection, there are specific elements of physical contact that are not available. Why is physical contact so important? Physical contact is important not only for mental and emotional health, but physical health, too. When you feel stressed or have anxiety, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. The feeling of being touched can calm certain areas in your body such as your heart rate and blood pressure. Why does physical contact improve our sense of well-being? Physical contact helps create a sense of comfort. It also assists the level of chemicals in the body known as neurotransmitters. This includes Dopamine is often referred to as the “happy hormone.” It also releases a hormone in the body known as Oxytocin which is a part of human bonding. So, what can we do to simulate the sensations of physical contact? A weighted blanket is a type of therapy that can provide several benefits that mimic physical contact. These blankets have shown positive results for several conditions, including autism, ADHD, and anxiety. They can also help calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep.
A weighted blanket doesn’t only have to be used at bedtime. You can use a weighted blanket anytime throughout the day whether you are sitting at your computer, or watching TV. For years therapists around the world have used weighted blankets with their ASD clients to cope with sensory processing disorder.
During these difficult times it would be nice to be able to have a weighted blanket to ease the stress and anxiety. Although it can never replace the sensation of a real hug, it can certainly mimic the sensation enabling us to feel some comfort in this time of need.