You may or may not be familiar with Temple Grandin
, but she wrote the book "Thinking in Pictures," and is an agricultural researcher, inventor and professor. She designed a machine to calm cows down by mechanically 'hugging' them, because she herself found the need for the pressure accompanied by a hug sensation, although the human interaction aspect of regular hugs is not always as comfortable for those with autism, the pressure and sensation of closeness is still paramount. Temple Grandin spoke to one of my college education classes, and as my professor, and Temple herself explained it, it made perfect sense.
As long as I can remember my brother had hidden under couch cushions, and when people sat down on him, he merely became happy and would yell "squish me!" It was this same pressure, or hugging/comforting sensation that he was seeking as Prof. Grandin noted in her own PDD and created her invention to calm cows from.
My brother also went through a phase where he had to pile as many blankets on top of himself as possible as part of his bedtime ritual. And although I do not suffer from an autism spectrum disorder, I obviously have some of the genetic linkage just by having a close relative as well as my own demons/diagnoses, and I too have found the 'pressure' idea comforting in my own experience. It is a mechanism I recognize that I have used for years to combat panic attacks, creating a 'cocoon' out of all of my blankets the same way my brother did to protect myself from the stressors I am faced with. It is something I recognize I do occasionally even now. I wonder how much of this is human nature; how much of it is depression or anxiety, and how much of it falls on the autism continuum. I have a feeling it is a combination of all of those, but it is particularly pronounced in many with autism; and I also feel that my grasp of it/feeling of necessity is nowhere near the degree or the same mechanism as those with autism.
When I say my brother had to pile blankets on himself; It's a bit more drastic than you might first think. What began as a pile of blankets became practically a sultan's palace, including beach towels, mountains of pillows, and eventually a PVC piping canopy structure covered in fleece blankets. It became a literal cave, ballooning up with pillows and towels and blankets and mushrooming up into the canopy. Eventually the PVC collapsed under the weight of all the blankets he had piled on it; and he moved on to other phases. The PVC palace/blanket/pillow phase lasted over a year; and it took at least an hour to prepare the exact specifications, it was a very specific and tedious process, every night.
Have you ever made a couch fort or felt comfortable snuggled up in blankets?