Squeeze Machines, Hug Machines, And The Like

Once before, the Hughes Brothers have begun a review of an autism product – a three-sided toothbrush – by discussing immediately its price, in the brush’s case a paltry five dollars. You should know up front here, in our opinion, that the autism therapy provided in these machines costs as much as six hundred dollars in small, mechanically simple devices for children to more than six thousand dollars for an adult-size, hydraulically controlled model. The Hughes Brothers understand the unavoidable obstacle that sometimes price alone can impose.

A lyrical approach to the squeeze machine

A new book is hitting the autism shelves, How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine, story of an inventive little girl who wanted to be held, but who didn’t like hugs because, to her, “hugs felt like being stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world; like a tidal wave of dentist drills, sandpaper, and awful cologne, coming at her all at once. . . . Then one day, Temple had an idea. If she couldn’t receive a hug, she would make one…she would build a hug machine!”

A technical approach to the squeeze machine

A squeeze machine – also known as a hug box, a squeeze machine, or a squeeze box – is a device bringing deep pressure as a means of calming people with autism who struggle with issues of hypersensitivity. In fact, invented by a woman named Temple Grandin as in the story above, the machine delivers sensory relief for people who find it uncomfortable or impractical to turn to other human beings for comfort.

Fairly simple in its initial construction, the squeeze machine involved two hinged side-boards, each four feet by three feet, covered with thick padding, the two boards forming a V-shape. The user lies between the side-boards and adjusts the pressure therefrom using an air compressor.

The Squeeze Machine from especial Needs

Available on Amazon, the Squeeze Machine theoretically works better than weighted blankets because larger amounts of pressure can be applied over larger areas of the body. The air cylinder maintains constant pressure, even if the user changes position.

Most importantly, the pressure – in its amount and its duration – remains in the strict, precise control of the user.

The Squeeze Machine: The structural details

· 60″ tall, 60″ long and 32″ wide
· Constructed from 13-ply 3/4″ birch plywood, sealed and lacquered for a durable smooth finish
· All edges rounded to ensure safety
· High-quality air controls with multiple safety devices
· Fully adjustable, with more than a foot of adjustment in width at the base
· Slots for comfortable placement of the headrest
· Movable control center
· Pads to accommodate either children or adults
· Supports up to 250 pounds

An enduring hope

The Squeeze Machine’s makers extend the possibility: “Since the machine is designed to feel very much like being held by another person, the device might help the user to accept, and perhaps enjoy, being held or touched by another.”
As a matter of fact, Temple Grandin herself admitted that she no longer uses her invention. “”It broke two years ago, and I never got around to fixing it. I’m into hugging people now.”

Moving Mountains, a child’s squeeze machine

Also available on Amazon and retailing just under seven hundred dollars, this much simplified machine – using bands for tension and pressure – will serve children with issues of touch.
· Adjustable pressure rollers for sensory and massage therapies
· Easily adapts to the child’s specific needs for stimulation
· Cushioned foam rollers for even consistent pressure
· Easily portable
· Vinyl-covered rollers for durable wear and easy cleaning

MORE INFO HERE:Moving Mountains Single Squeezer

Games and Toys for Children with Autism

The Hughes Brothers have observed what you too have long known: a Google or Amazon search for “Toys for Children with Autism” will produce more configurations of soft plastic than three Wal-Marts might ever hold. That said, we’ve picked out, firstly, a game unlike any we’ve seen before and, secondly, a toy collection that to our minds represents the positives and negatives of the genre in a most democratic way, consistent with its cousins on Page, oh, 127 of the Amazon listings.

We begin with a game, a toy that stands alone, as far we know, uncopied.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids

Actually, the longish name of the product (not included here) includes adult participation in the fun, the maker suggesting that this pin art thingee will serve “kiddos as young as eight to adults looking for a great way to kill the time,
hone their creativity, or relieve some stress.”

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids Specs

Let’s turn to the specifics.

· An immediate, accessible means of self-expression. In three dimensions. From the most basic of shapes to configurations approaching works of art.

· Simplicity itself: the creativity arises from the pushing of pins into a board that then brings to life all this eye-catching design. From nothing but blacks and chromes come these fulfilling demonstrations of thought and feeling.

· The board a six-inch star shape that, again per the manufacturer, “makes your cool creation stand out even more.”

· Built to last, this star and its pins – the latter designed to remain exactly where you put them, no slipping out hereabouts with these corrosion-resistant stainless steels pins ready for insertion into a board lightweight but still sturdy, sturdy in its hard, enduring plastic; the result, pins that remain year after year, rust-free, unbending, waiting for good times and creative thought.

· Ready to be a semi-permanent item of décor; again, per its makers, “time-honored metal pin art, a great stress-reliever” and, with enough original ideas, “an awesome conversation starter.” (The Hughes Brothers seem to be relying rather heavily on the promotional verbiage of the pin-art games’ creators. To be sure, but only because we agree wholeheartedly with the claims.)

· Soothing means of sharing focus and enjoyable passage of the hours with children all along the autism spectrum.

· Guaranteed product satisfaction; total and complete money-back guarantee; upon any sort of dissatisfaction either an immediate replacement or a full refund of the really quite reasonable fifteen-dollar purchase price.

Any one of your generic “sensory processing, learning resource, anxiety relief, stress reduction, fidgeting” implements.

The Hugheses threw one of Brother Curtis’ competitive darts at a list of the toys described above and, lo and behold, there stuck the page belonging to, of all people, Mr. E=MC2 and his Twelve Tools for Kids. Here’s what will arrive with your order.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids includes

· Big MC’s variety value pack including knobby balls, pencil grips, stretchy string, squeeze ball, puzzle balls, lizards – no fooling, lizards, and there toward the bottom of the package, smiley emoji men

Here are the values toward which the value pack aspires.

· Increased attention, greater focus and construction.

· Reduction of anxiety and, get this!, wiggles.

· Academic applications: increased reading fluency and comprehension, more writing skills.

· Self-regulation for children all along the autism spectrum.

· “Uniquely satisfying tactile sensation.”

· Nice pairing of the elements of this kit with sensory necklaces, chewelry, koosh balls, putty, and sensory weighted blankets or vests.

Mr. E suggests that his purpose throughout remains “an inexpensive starter bundle” so that parents and teachers might locate the specific toys that answer individual kiddos’ individual needs.

Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids Reviews

And then there come the complaints.

· Cheaply constructed.

· “Not what I expected.”

· And “a complete waste of time.”

This last comment a bit harsh, huh?

The Hughes Brothers recommendation: these sets of toys are a dime a dozen dollars, a hit and miss proposition involving your beloved little one’s likes and dislikes. So. Pick one, much as Curtis’ magic dart, and see what for less than fifteen bucks you might find to like.

MORE INFO HERE:6” Star Pin Art Game for Kids or Adults by ArtCreativity-Pin Art Toy for Autistic Kids-Stainless Steel Metal Pins, Sturdy Plastic Frame-Great Party Favor/Gift for Boys-Girls/Office Desk Decoration


The Hughes Brothers apologize for a too-sweeping statement in the review just above. The pin art toy described there is not unique. We just ran across another toy built on the same premise, the Rhode Island Novelty Pin Point Impressions Metal Pin Art. We continue to believe, however, that we reviewed the clearly superior product.

Book: The Autism Playbook for Teens

The Autism Playbook for Teens: Imagination-Based Mindfulness Activities to Calm Yourself, Build Independence, and Connect with Others (The Instant Help Solutions Series)

Today’s nominee for longest book title in the library, the Playbook comes to you with borrowed recommendation from the Hughes Brothers. From John Howard Hughes in particular, the current rancher and erstwhile cowboy, who says, “As soon as I encountered Temple Grandin’s endorsement for the book, I was sold. Sold completely. Temple Grandin taught me more about handling cattle than any other single source, including my family and my neighbors. If she recommends this book, dealing with teenagers now, as a “real, practical and positive guide for reducing stress,” well, that’s more than enough for me.”

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: Acting as a means of dealing with autism

Take the “playbook” of the title literally. The premise here: teenagers with autism can be outstanding actors, given their natural proclivity for observation. Teen girls, in particular, have developed remarkable abilities to witness, to imitate, and to internalize appropriate, effective social behaviors.

Many of the recommended exercises come directly from theater, from the lessons to be taught an actor. The thinking here: such exercises help a teenager with autism learn body language – other people’s and their own – as an expression of deeper feeling; how tone of voice becomes appropriate to various roles; how scripting ahead of time can help a teen arrive at school, at a party or sporting event, with relationship skills already practiced. Or rehearsed rather.

And so the book trots out strategies for mindfulness and scripts for roleplaying, each geared toward the reduction of anxiety, living in the present moment, reduction of fears and, ultimately, real and deep and abiding connections with others.

The playbook addresses head-on the issues of teen life – anxiety, bullying, depression, eating disorders, problems with self-esteem, and trauma of several sorts. A teenager with autism will learn here the coping skills now that will take them into adulthood, meanwhile delivering the tools necessary for finding one’s way through school and home-life.

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A quick trip through the contents

The book begins with breathing. Teens can learn the immediate, the always there calming effect of meaningful, intentional breathing, breathing as a means of focus and fending off anxious moments.

The Hughes Brothers found Chapter 3 novel and appealing. It deals with what the authors call a “pause button,” a means of confronting a difficult situation by first becoming comfortable with oneself, a minute or two of gathering one’s strength, one’s purpose in dealing with whatever life might send along.

The second part of the book deals with management of thoughts, with finding the energy in one’s feelings, all as building blocks toward true and lasting independence. Chapter 8 here gives very practical, quite useful advice in controlling anger, as the chapter’s title suggests, “Basic Meltdown Prevention.”

Part III of the book looks outward, demonstrating means of connection with other people while retaining control of . . . no, directing one’s own life. In one particularly innovative chapter here, the authors discuss the role that curiosity, simple curiosity might play in enlivening a young person with autism, in finding new sources of intellectual satisfaction, personal interest and, ultimately, joy.

The Autism Playbook for Teens Book Review: A summation

Some of the book’s pronouncements seem obvious, but they bear repeating in the context of a teenager trying to locate himself among social situations that perhaps have troubled him since early childhood. Case in point: a chapter entitled “Practice kindness: Make Friends.”

The book remains one of a kind, however, the only book available for teens with autism combining the comfort and calm of mindfulness skills with an active, a kinetic resource for building authentic social experiences.

And as John Hughes reminds us, “If it’s good enough for Temple Grandin, it’s good enough for me.”

MORE INFO HERE: The Autism Playbook for Teens: Imagination-Based Mindfulness Activities to Calm Yourself, Build Independence, and Connect with Others (The Instant Help Solutions Series)

LUNA Kids Natural Sleep Aid Tablets for Children

The LUNA details.

Made for children four-plus years of age, also sensitive adults (The Hughes Brothers offer no suggestion what constitutes sensitivity in the case of grown-ups.)

Sixty chewable pills in each bottle, usually retailed at $15 or so

Very gentle, entirely safe for children

Herbal ingredients: chamomile, valerian, lemon balm

And melatonin, which LUNA lumps with the other herbs when, truly, melatonin is a hormone, secreted by the pineal gland in the brain

The story of a sleep-aid with some maturity about it.

The principal ingredients in LUNA tablets have been used for centuries to improve sleep. Chamomile and lemon balm bring calming, soothing help to the tired child. Valerian root functions as a mild sedative. All gentle and non-habit forming.

Now about that melatonin.

LUNA claims that “We add a very small amount of melatonin to nudge your child to sleep at night without feeling groggy in the morning.” Okay, fine.

But know this: melatonin inevitably leads to more REM sleep, that deep slumber wherein dreams arise. REM sleep is a phenomenon of normal circadian rhythm (the daily progress of waking hours and sleep in its various cycles), and the dreams do follow.

A consideration about your child’s dreams.

The Hughes Brothers have encountered complaints from parents who admit that the LUNA tables do indeed help their children fall asleep, stay asleep. But. But some of the dreams which follow are no fun at all. Nightmarish in a heart-wrenching way for parents who overhear their child enthralled to a bad, bad dream.

We must caution the post-hoc/propter-hoc logical fallacy here. Just because the poor child suffered through some personal boogymen after taking melatonin, that fact does necessarily that the poor child suffered through some personal boogymen because of taking melatonin.

At the same time, we know children who report fairy-tale dreams, happy endings all around, after using LUNA a half-hour before bedtime.

Your child’s friend, vitamin D.

LUNA tablets bring along a major boost of supplemental vitamin D3. Essential for good health all around, a healthful level of vitamin D has been shown to enhance quality of sleep and, come morning, to uplift kiddos’ mood.

Meanwhile, the tablets themselves are kid-friendly.

Parents, take comfort in LUNA pills popping into little Junior’s eager mouth with no sugar whatsoever, with a flavor of tropical berries that LUNA bets he’s going to like. All natural flavors, of curse, with stevia-leaf extract and xylitol, a sweet-tasting crystalline alcohol derived from xylose, as found in some plant tissues.

Now, about dosages.

The bottle dose says “one tablet twenty or thirty minutes before bedtime.” Some parents have experimented with dosages ranging from a half-tablet for very young or, again, “sensitive” children, while two tables have proven best for teenagers.

Noteworthy: Mike Hughes’ daughters have encountered families wherein whatever dosage has been given is, for some reason or other, interrupted. Each of those families report next-morning regression, after restless sleep and consequent lethargy and rotten mood.

About the price.

Pure melatonin, over the counter, costs less than the average cost for sixty LUNA tablets, but some parents believe that the rather miniscule amount of melatonin here interferes less with the pineal gland’s usual work.

Lastly, about LUNA the company.

The Hughes Brothers admit being softies for sentiment, genuine sentiment, and LUNA manifests such here, there, and all the time. We mean, here’s a pharmaceutical company asking for it all: “You are our beloved customers. And we hope you’ll love us too.” These folks advertise “a new standard of honesty in the health supplement industry.” LUNA insists on third-party testing of every batch of supplements off the line. Good gosh, they seek happiness as a consequence of using their products.

One could do worse.

LUNA Kids | 1 Sleep Aid Tablets for Children 4+ and Sensitive Adults | Naturally Sourced Ingredients | 60 x Chewable Pills | Gentle, Herbal Supplement with Chamomile, Melatonin, Valerian & Lemon Balm

The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb

“Sleep well, astronauts,” this sleep-enhancing bulb says from Houston Control. Few endorsements of any product carry the heft of “NASA,” and if NASA suggests that this light bulb promotes sleep, well then who are we Hughes Brothers to argue. We’re told by the seller, the specialized gift-givers over at Hammacher Schlemmer, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses the bulb “to help astronauts sleep in peace.” Indeed if anyone were deserving of eight solid hours of easy sleep, it would be our nation’s intrepid space travelers.

The Hughes Brothers offer you this review, for adults with sleep difficulties as well as for younger people with ASD.

Our friend, melatonin.

The theory behind the bulb involves the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.


Typical light bulbs emit high levels of short-wavelength blue light that suppresses melatonin. By filtering out the blue light – up to a fifty percent reduction claims HS – the NASA bulb encourages a better night’s sleep. As with so many products developed in NASA labs, a patent covers the filter. Typical use of the bulb would call for a half-hour’s reading or crossword solving by the light of the bulb in a bedside lamp, maintaining the body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to falling asleep faster and waking more refreshed. (The nine-watt LED gives off the same light as a 65-watt incandescent – perfect light for reading – but lasts, we’re told, up to sixteen times longer.) A lifetime guarantee from Hammacher Schlemmer accompanies the bulb. Whether sleep improves or not.

“Not a bad bulb,” says Mike Hughes.

Mike, the youngest of the Hughes boys, confronts insomnia occasionally after long power-hours at his NASA-strength computer. He used the bulb to “pretty good” effect. “The first couple of nights, the bulb produced no noticeable results. But I persisted, and by week’s end I was most definitely sleeping better. And longer. Far less of the tossing and turning that has bothered me for several years now.”

Two of us older brothers fared even better. Dave Hughes reported “dramatic improvement,” Dave even more sleep-deprived than our little brother. “My first night using the bulb I slept nine hours, waking only once, and then just because of the neighbor’s damn barking dog.” Even loud-mouthed Barky, however, could not prevent our drowsy brother from falling almost immediately back to sleep.

Big bladders help. They really, really do.

James Hughes owns the biggest bladder in the family – hell, in the whole town – and he has heretofore escaped the thrice-nightly pees that plague the continuity of brother John Howard Hughes’ otherwise workable slumber. So James did fall asleep faster, he thinks, over the course of a week’s use, while John – who has always been first to fall asleep – found the bulb no help in countering the urges of a urinary tract he refuses to keep free of evening Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Some sleep problems simply can’t be helped without a fifty-or-so-watt increase in willpower.

Our friends, the holistic medicine crowd.

We Hughess know of friends, consumers of holistic medical care, who first used the bulb because of its non-pharmaceutical nature. Unfortunately, a couple of those folks report no help at all, not in the quickness or the quality or the duration, of their sleep. From our experience, both personal and reported, the bulb does bat at least .750 in a very tough league.

And, its sleep-inducing properties aside, everyone agrees that the soft radiance of the bulb’s light could not be warmer, nor more soothing. One of the Hughes wives mentioned that her complexion had never looked better.

A bit pricey – the cost not a deal-breaker, but a consideration.

Oh, at forty bucks the bulb is a bit pricey. Should it work as intended, however, it will quickly pay for itself with money saved on other, consumable sleep aids. And a final note: the bulb need not be used alone; in conjunction with other sleep stimulators, a very workable package might be discovered.

Laminated Shower Chart

Just made for children autism or with special needs otherwise, this waterproof chart goes directly into the shower to help the child take care of personal hygiene with some independence, some assurance, some thoroughness.

Here’s the procedure.

The Hughes Brothers are sold on the attention to detail, the sheer amount of solid information on a chart measuring but nine-by-eleven inches. The steps follow.

· Turn on water. (with a neat little inset showing the “just right” temperature setting on the shower knob)

· Wet body.

· Get 1 pump of soap (with a visual instruction to push down on the soap dispenser, labeled “3 in 1,” indicating the soap’s usefulness as a shampoo, a facial cleanser, and a body cleanser)

· Wash hair.

· A repeat now: get 1 pump of soap.

· Wash face.

· Wash ears.

· Wash neck.

· Rinse all soap off.

· Get two pumps of soap.

· Wash chest.

· Wash arms.

· Wash stomach.

· Wash legs.

· Wash feet (with a cautionary instruction, “Lean on wall.”)

· Wash private area and bottom.

· Rinse all soap off.

· Finished. Turn off water.

· Get towel and dry all off.

· Great job.

Please understand that each of these guidances is accompanied by a cartoon drawing of a happy unisex kiddo going modeling the prescribed action at every step. We see, for example, the smiling little person leaning on the shower wall, one leg lifted up and over the opposing thigh.

An encapsulation of the chart’s byproducts

· Independence – The ease of these step-by-step instructions builds quick understanding in a child with ASD, knowing now that daily showering is a necessary task that can be completed without parental assistance.

· Confidence – Parents may relax a bit; the child is safely and completely achieving self care.

· Enjoyment – The child will find good fun in learning a daily ritual that perhaps heretofore had been difficult and time-consuming.

· Familial Peace of Mind: Parents may take heart in the knowledge that with this daily assignment now being managed by the child, even as other skills, other responsibilities, other goals seem not just possible, but likely.

Help for children with autism, of course, but for all children in fact

Such charts as these, designed by parents for parents, focus on helping children learn, for themselves, by themselves. While charts and schedules have long been an integral part of raising children with autism, the same teaching and learning methodology applies to all young people, visual learners most especially.

The Hughes Brothers find it troubling, however, that the details of manufacture, the mechanical, logistical failings of some products prevent the flowering of some good pedagogical ideas. Sadly, we’ve seen some well-intentioned products go astray. An extended example follows.

Autism Product Review Visual Morning Routine Chart

A companion to the showering chart just reviewed, this products makes full, permitted use of the picture communication symbol images developed by Mayer-Johnson (whose value has been discussed in another Hughes Brothers review). As we reported there, the Mayer-Johnson symbols are the most common visual symbols used in the teaching and development of children with learning disabilities, largely because of the ease of the symbols’ understanding and implementation. The theoretical basis of the Visual Morning Routine Chart could not be stronger.


This chart has been widely panned by parents who found the product, in many instances, dysfunctional. Their came complaints of its size, too small for easy following. Of its difficulty of placement; that is, the chart doesn’t really hang, it doesn’t really sit. Of its problematical management of cards. Of insufficient storage for the cards.

Minor imperfections perhaps, but the functional gripes proved in many cases sufficient to looking past the good, good message of the cards, their wonderful symbolism.

Too bad.

MORE INFO: HOM ABA/OT Approved Step-By-Step 100% Sealed and Laminated Shower Chart for Kids. Ideal for Children with Autism or Special Needs. Helps with Teaching Self Care. PECS Charts, Visual Schedules, Aids

The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve M.D.

Now five years from its publication, the Survival Guide remains one of a kind; that is, a book meant to be read, in the company of a parent, by a child with ASD. Kid-friendly and then some, no-nonsense, straight-ahead, this book has become a true and comprehensive resource for children trying to understand their situation. Even more, the guide brings along tools to help these kids cope with the difficulties of their daily lives.

Of course, the book underscores the differences, some significant, among children with ASD: some academically gifted, some struggling with life in the classroom; some introverted, some trying so very hard to be social and socially appropriate; some with limited interests, some fixated on a particular object or activity; some dealing with repeated motor movements (“stims” discussed in a Hughes Brothers review on chewing products). The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders addresses all of these variables, helping children know themselves better, accept themselves more fully.

The book begins with the fundamental, the overwhelming questions of a child: “What is happening to me?”, “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?” “Is there something wrong with me?” “How come only I feel and behave this way?” Again, the authors know that kids can handle the truth, and so they deliver the answers. And then they move on to what might done in the face of those answers.

Ms. Verdick and Doctor Reeve do a magnificent job of simplifying, making available to a child the basics of the human body, the human brain. With this semi-clinical understanding in place, the authors move on to suggestions for managing symptoms while guiding the child through the daily importance of diet, exercise, hygiene, fun and relaxation, sleep, and even toileting. Child readers, and their parents, will find here means of handling their sometimes overpowering emotions and their consequent behaviors. Stories from other children who have confronted the same difficulties bring the book’s necessary abstractions into sharp, knowable focus.

The book’s key features

· Brilliantly colored text

· Cartoon drawings

· Well organized

· Fact boxes

· Checklists for daily activities

· References to other resources

· Glossary

The book’s strongest points

· Eminently readable

· At last, a voice – a knowing and sympathetic voice – for children with autism

· A fine balance between data-laden academic books and overly simplistic books for children only

· A tone neither condescending or overly lofty

· Definitely of more value higher-functioning children with ASD

· A frank and open look at ASD, with no social, no physical manifestation of the disorder off limits

· Real problems with real solutions from and for real kids

· An emphasis on every child’s unique, priceless gifts

No book is perfect. And so.

Boys are diagnosed with autism five times more frequently than girls, and the book chooses its examples, its suggestions toward that fact. The Hughes Brothers, however, have encountered a strong wish from parents of little girls with autism for more inclusion of their needs, of potential responses to ASD that are specifically theirs.

Some parents have said that the book focuses heavily on dealing with situations at school, thereby precluding families who home-school their children. In this same vein, the book does lean toward children who seek sensory stimulation. Little is made for children who avoid sensation at all costs. Some parents worried that guide perhaps gives too much weight to medication.

Still, a book for everyone. Really, everyone.

Obviously directed at families with children on the spectrum, the guide nonetheless serves the greater community, most especially as diagnoses of ASD continue to increase. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders will help teachers, school administrators, counselors, parents of children who other children with ASD, indeed anyone who knows a family confronting the struggles of ASD.

MORE INFO: The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents)

Liquid Timers

The Hughes Brothers admit that our thinking about this product may be clouded by the fact that three of us fell asleep watching the LT perform, and the other four forgot their state capitals. Such is the lulling, completely lulling nature of this visual engagement. Here’s a device just perfect for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, although we’ve encountered so many other folks who have made good use of the Liquid Timer in all sorts of applications: in classrooms, with church groups and other social gatherings, and on family outings.

The timer is simplicity itself, made of thick acrylic plastic in a display shaped like an hourglass, only to be turned upside down for the colors to begin again. Two rows of soft circles in assorted colors float down to the bottom, but also with complementary colors that fall at a somewhat more accelerated pace – about a minute after the get-go. The timer could not be more visually oriented, and we all know that kids with ASD relate well to pictures and pretty objects.

We must tell you that the actual time to be measured here lies a bit beyond nebulous. Dave Hughes insists that the fall-time to completion requires thirty minutes. Chris Hughes, the youngest of our brothers, insists that time is relative, and so, while we love him, Chris has been kicked out of this review.

To our knowledge almost all children with autism gravitate toward the floating colors, some mesmerized for a half-hour and more, others taking somewhat less interest but calmed and quieted thereby nonetheless. Some kids enjoy actually holding the timer as the show unfolds. And we’ve encountered countless comments from family members – moms, dads, siblings – who find in the Liquid Timer a respite, an enjoyable time apart from the daily grind. Some brothers and sisters take the LT to school, to be used as a means of concentration, as a soothe to a fidgety second-grader.

Now, the Cascade S Timer Review

The principal structural, and therefore sensory, difference between the Light Timer comes in the Cascade S’s display: small colored balls gently glide down a winding slope. And then appears a second row of winding balls, all conspiring to produce a magical visual sensation. A gentle S configuration speaks of calmness, relaxation, and escape from a child’s emotional overload.

As with the Liquid Timer, a quick inversion repeats the Technicolor process. Because the entire top-to-bottom float, the staggered plane of it all, happens in about three minutes, the Cascade S should work well when only a brief time-out, a short withdrawal from the day and the hour seems needed. Like the LT, the Cascade arrives in the smallest of packages (5”x3”), ready to slide unobtrusively into a purse or a backpack, ready for a welcome distraction for children with autism on those occasions when the heeby-jeebs trouble your little one.

A caveat: please don’t expose the Cascade S to extreme temperatures high or low, and do not allow its exposure to direct sunlight. In these cases, the colored drops do fade. Also, we’re not sure why, but the manufacturer recommends the Cascade’s use only for teenagers, fourteen and on up.

That said, we encountered a report of a little seven-year-old guy with sensory modulation disorder, and he just loved to zone on out and watch those balls move down, on down that comforting, the soothing S-curve at the heart of this near-miraculous device. Further, the Hughes Brothers know of instances when a little one becomes just overwhelmed, angry at the world, and then the Cascade S immediately stops the crying and screaming.

All nice and quiet now. Nice. And quiet.

Weighted Blankets

Please be advised, dear readers, the thoughts below apply to all weighted blankets. We turn to specific brands in other entries on this site.

Weighted blankets weigh in at a hefty five pounds on the light side and a whopping thirty pounds on the heavy. No comparison here between one of these behemoths and that especially heavy quilt Great Aunt Susie Hughes gave us for Christmas back in 1962.

The principal benefit from these heavy blankets arises in their promotion of the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that has much to say about your sleep cycle. We’ve also seen some claims that weighted blankets call forth other hormones capable of calming your nerves.

At the outset, you should know that these blankets are far from inexpensive, with most falling into a price range of one hundred to three hundred dollars. At those prices, expect a bunch of options in weights and materials.

The theory of weighted sleep
With a weighted blanket, your child will feel more grounded; that is, the blanket presses the child farther into the sleep surface, adding nicely to a feeling of wrapped-around security. From a more clinical standpoint, the grounding effect reduces the production of cortisol. And that’s good, very good, because cortisol — a steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands — is dumped into the blood to control mood, motivation, and fear. Cortisol triggers the body’s flight-or-fight instincts in a stressful situation. Not exactly conducive to sleep, this instinct. Essentially, cortisol production at bedtime becomes counter-productive, working against the production of melatonin, definitely not a happy effect on time required to go to sleep or to stay asleep thereafter.

Children with autism may often produce minimal amounts of meltatonin. (In this regard, you’ll read throughout the pages of our Hughes website multiple reviews of products intended to bring melatonin to the relief of your child’s sleep difficulties.) In the reduction of cortisol, in the increase of melatonin, weighted blankets earn their keep.

If the grounding sensation created by the blankets also triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine — hormones that help us to relax, to feel calm and content — then your child will enjoy a double dose of goodness. And in the best news of all, weighted blankets may induce the production of oxytocin, that wonderful hormone associated with a long, warm, loving hug.

The practicalities of weighted blankets
You should make a special effort to tailor any weighted blanket to your child, weight being the principal consideration, of course. Most clinicians agree that a child will find maximum comfort under a blanket weighing about ten percent that of their own total body weight.

Be particularly careful about allowing kiddos under the age of eight to use a weighted blanket. In fact, youngsters in this age group should sleep so grounded only after the blanket has been prescribed by a physician or a licensed therapist.

As a parent, you should also be certain that the child doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia or other such fears of being enclosed or trapped: the extra weight of the blanket might very well cause the phobia to erupt.

On a much more positive note, you may choose from a broad range of blanket weights. Some blankets may be folded to distribute more or less weight, as the child wants or needs. Weighted blankets come in sizes that match the dimensions of common mattresses: twin through king. The blankets will be filled with plastic or glass beads to ensure proper distribution of weight, along with polyester pill to add soft comfort. You may choose the cover as you would any other blanket, finding the material best suited to your child, from natural fibers to synthetic fabrics to blends incorporating both. Expect to pay more for wool or cotton, with their greater breathability.

Book Review: The Un-Prescription for Autism

The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Happier, Calmer, and More Focused Child by Janet Lintala

In a first for Hughes Brothers, we’re beginning here with disclaimers. As we must since, per the author, her title might lead families to some false assumptions about the book’s intent. The Hugheses are so, so taken with this little masterpiece that we want not the slightest impingement on its integrity.

In Ms. Lintala’s own words, “I do not recommend that you stop your or your child’s prescription medications. Once he or she feels better, that is a conversation between you and the prescribing doctors. Nothing in this book treats, cures or prevents autism and my book is not the ‘Anti-Prescription’.” Key word: “anti.”

Rather, this book proceeds from the observation that “The conventional medical approach to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) tends to be prescription medications that reduce the symptoms of underlying medical problems, but don’t address the medical problems themselves.” The old medical conundrum of treating results – in this case, difficult behaviors – rather than causes that often lie in medical conditions ignored by the clinicians. Of course, most meds bring along side effects which, with autism, may actually amplify the underlying roots of the problem. So, Ms. Lintala insists that “simple natural approaches work best at my center.”

The Un-Prescription for Autism Features

(Our author and guide Janet Lintala operates the Autism Health Center in West Virgina (2401 S. Kanawha Street, Suite 106, Beckley WV, 25801 Phone: 304.255.2550).

Supported by the latest clinical and behavioral research, the recommendations jumping off every page of this book arise from Ms. Lintala’s experience, what with three sons struggling with all sorts of mental-health issues: Asperger syndrome, Tourette disorder, OCD, anxiety and ADHD. These recommendations address the underlying physical issues — chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, gastrointestinal dysfunction, immune dysregulation – associated with the behavioral, bowel, and sleep problems that so frequently accompany autism. Ms. Lintala’s ideas for relief come straight-forward, no-nonsense. She discusses probiotics, antifungals, and other non-psychiatric treatments in pursuit of a child suffering less pain and feeling less aggression, a child more open to interventions both behavioral and educational.

The book halves itself, Part 1 explaining the whys of the protocol, listing the rules to be followed while Part 2 brings along the hows, explaining the action steps that will lead to relief of symptoms after targeting the underlying physical problems. Certainly, one The Un-Prescription’s greatest strengths lies in the far-ranging details of its action plans. Chapter 9, in fact, consists of a sample of an entire year’s basic gastrointestinal-support protocol.

The Hughes Brothers must tell you that not everyone is as smitten with this book as are we. It does seem to us, however, that most negative reviews come written by people who reject out of hand the concept of dietary intervention. That is, they haven’t read the book, do not intend to read the book, and suggest that “families work with the medical doctor before trying any of this! There is no cure for autism except acceptance and accommodation. Accept your child and help him/her learn life skills; don’t restrict his/her diet for no reason.”

And so. There stands the opposition. For our part, the Hughes Brothers give this book our strongest recommendation. And we’re far from alone.

The book has won its share of recognition among the alternative-medicine community. In our opinion, The Un-Prescription for Autism deserves every syllable of recognition that comes its way.

The Un-Prescription for Autism Awards

· Winner, Gold Award Best Book Awards Health/Alternative Medicine category

· Winner, Gold Award Bookvana Book Awards Health and Healing: Psychology/Mental Health

· Winner, Gold Award Bookvana Book Awards Health and Healing: Alternative Medicine

· Winner, Book Excellence Awards, Alternative Medicine

The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Calmer, Happier, and More Focused Child