Sensory Disorder Leads Autistic Child to Seek Serenity in Snug Places

I called out his name repeatedly…

“Jonathan…Jonathan…where are you? …Jonathan!”

No response.

Standing still, very quietly, I hoped to make out any distant sound that would have pin pointed his location…still, I hear nothing.

After quickly looking out the windows and outside doors there was still no sign of Jonathan.

Where could he be?

I checked, and then double checked, every room in the entire house.  In my haste to scan each room I missed the obvious. The bed was not quite right.  It wasn’t the sheets, pillow or quilt…it was the bed itself.

The whole mattress was at a slight angle…BINGO!

After racing back to the bedroom I found Jonathan between the mattress and box spring, calm as can be.


Not if you know a bit about Autism, Sensory Integration (SI), sensory processing disorders (SPD) and ADHD, to name a few, and what affect they have on those attempting cope.

Although Jonathan’s act of “snuggling” under the mattress can be unnerving to the uniformed at first glance, there was a method to the supposed “madness”.

Why cram into positions like that as Jonathan did?

For some Autistics the desire to get snug in tight spaces is anything but claustrophobic.  In fact, it can be desirable…even soothing.

Triggers such as noise sensitivity can lead to feeling overwhelmed and the urgent need to cope which explain “odd” behavior such as Jonathan’s.

Dr. Temple Grandin, afflicted by Asperger’s, used to get into a device created to calm cattle down and later invented a device for herself she calls the “squeeze machine”.

Jonathan’s mirroring “mattress” behavior apparently gave him a sense of security via the pressure offered by the mattress.

Compare for yourself…

Feel good heading out into the cold wearing a heavy knit sweater and warm winter coat? How about the firm and loving sensation of an “everlasting” hug? Certainly, you felt secure strapping on a tight seatbelt or close fitting chest harness on your favorite amusement park ride.

Finally, where do you go to “get away” from it all?

Can you now understand how Jonathan’s momentary “escape” under the mattress was simply a soothing experience? Essentially, for Jonathan, under that mattress, there were no distractions or noises…almost complete solitude and serenity.

Ever had your loved one behave similar to Jonathan? Do they like small spaces? What do they do to self-sooth?

Please share your story with me. What did your loved one do that seemed “odd” to stay calm?

To share your story, please leave a comment below.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Simmons
Mother, Wife, Author, Founder & CEO of

P.S. Here is something I would like to recommend that will give you the tips, strategies, and tools you need to help understand your loved ones “escape” behavior.

To download a video presentation that will help you understand your loved one’s “escape” behavior:


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