Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Can Aspergers and HFA Children Show Affection?

"My Aspergers (high-functioning) son refuses to be touched. He says he doesn't like it. It's really hard to have a child that you can't hug, kiss or hold. Is it common for Aspies to avoid showing and receiving affection?"

Although it can happen, it is rare for children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism to "refuse" to be touched at all times - in all situations. However, it is fairly common for these children to have tactile sensory issues, which may make them avoid certain types of physical contact with others on occasion.

BUT... this really has nothing at all to do with the inability - or lack of desire - to show or receive affection. Aspergers kids are the most loving and affectionate people I know! So please don't make the mistake of taking your son's lack of interest in physical contact as a personal insult.

One of the most pervasive myths that surround Aspergers is that a child who has it will never show affection and can’t accept getting affection from anyone. There have been hundreds of stories of parents taking their child to a psychologist and the doctor telling the parents something like, "Your child can’t possibly have an Autism Spectrum Disorder because he gives you a hug now and then."

While this assessment is incorrect, studies have shown that Aspergers children do process sensory touch differently than a neurotypical child, and that this is where the myth that children on the spectrum don’t like to be touched comes from.

Aspergers and the way it affects kids really runs the gamut from light to severe. An excellent point to remember when dealing with an Aspergers child is that every one is different and will react to almost everything differently.

Here are some tips for showing your Aspergers son affection:

1. For a few Aspergers kids, a simple, random hug can be sensory overload. They can become agitated, upset and even violent if they are touched without prior warning. You will probably need to have a trial and error approach when it comes to hugging and touching your son. Some methods may be responded to in a positive way, other ways won’t be. You just have to try and see.

2. If you think your son needs a hug, instead of rushing into his personal space and just taking one, speak to him, bend down to his level and open your arms. Smile and let him know that he is loved and see what the response is. If he doesn't come running in for a hug, don’t be offended. It may just not have been the right time.

3. If your son is too sensitive to hugs or touches to show affection, you can try positive reinforcement in addition to hand singles. Things like a simple thumbs up accompanied by a smile and some positive comments can let him know he is loved and what he did was good. You can also offer him a chance to hug during these situations - and he might just take you up on it.

4. Make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are starting to make progress on getting your son to be more affectionate, you don’t need a sibling, teacher or grandparent who doesn’t know or understand your son’s boundaries messing up all of your hard work. If you’ve begun to implement an affection program with him, make sure everyone who would possibly try to hug or touch him knows the rules.

Consistency and repetition are crucial to Aspergers kids, and this applies to a situation like this as well. Trying to figure out a puzzling condition like Aspergers can be a lifelong challenge. For many parents, the affection issue may be the biggest. But with patience and learning to go by the child’s cues and not your own, you will be able to connect with your son in a deep and meaningful way.

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... 7 yr old- that was a characteristic that always puzzled me before we starting looking into "reasons why" he behaved the way he does. Helps put things into perspective a bit and not take it personal. However, with time, he has learned to handle hand shakes and an occasional hug or kiss on the top of his head. But I do like that portion in the article where it's not that they don't want it...they just can't handle the sensory overload. It's very clear he does wants that takes conscious effort to change our way of showing appreciation, love, etc with C. but it's worth it in the long run!
•    Anonymous said... It's probably really hard for the child to have a parent that wants to hug, kiss or hold him too.
•    Anonymous said... jp doest like light touches when he was younger he didn't even like the wind touching him so he would only wear long pants and long sleeves no matter how hot outside with a lot of work and time 7 years he now wears shorts and t shirts and asks for hugs or should I say tight squeezes
•    Anonymous said... My 10yr old never gives hugs either and hardly ever smiles either but when he does its so joyful
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is the same way. She doesn't like physical touch. It is very hard while my son also Aspergers like touch but only when he seeks it out first.
•    Anonymous said... My some does not like soft fluffy things or touched soft. He says it hurts. It have learned that he likes deep pressure hugs and touch on holding his hand or shoulder. Also taught him to ask for "transformer hugs" I put him in my lap facing out and hug his shoulders snug, then put pressure on his head, then he pushes upward, then do the same to each joint wrist to elbow, elbow to shoulder and same with legs until he tells me he feels better. I love him so, and glad I am figuring out his puzzle pieces.
•    Anonymous said... My son is nine and now I can hug him and he will hug us back sometimes but he still does not like to be touched by anyone other than us...and I think he just tolerates us so he doesn't hurt our feelings because he has been told so many times that mommies like to hug their children because we love them so much.
•    Anonymous said... My son likes "tight" hugs as well- took me a long time to learn what he deems "affection" Sometimes he will just come up and sniff me and smile, and that's affection from him!
•    Anonymous said... My son likes deep pressure and hugs...however, we had him in karate for about a year and he didn't like that. We thought he did but he got to a point of hiding in the bathroom whenever it was time for the one on one sparring. I finally dropped the karate.
•    Anonymous said... My son was like that for a long time. He wouldn't let you kiss or hug him or hold his hand. He might let you put your arm around him or sit in your lap, but that was when he was sick or hurt. My mom said when I was a baby, I didn't want to be held and she would have to stand next to the crib and hold my bottle for me. I still find, in alot of situations, that I don't really want to be touched too much.
•    Anonymous said... Was your child diagnosed with sensory integration disorder? My 7 yo wasnt as sensitive to some aspies are to textures or touch. We did the brushing therapy where we used soft baby brushes when he woke up. We brushed him up and down his back and arms and legs. He slso was a tip toer when he walked. He eventually grew out of that with the help of occupational therapy. Like Marcia, my son responded to compression hugs too and uses a compression vest while in school or therapy.
•    Anonymous said... We have two children on the spectrum, one totally dislikes hugs or hugging, the other will literally hang off me 24/7 if she could!
•    Anonymous said... yes my 2 grown a/s daughters the same,and my a/s hubby not much different, its sad.

•    Anonymous said... My 10 year old aspie,is forever asking for hugs.It's like a form of therapy for him!I'm thankful it's not the other way around.My heart goes out to you.
•    Anonymous said... My 6 year old grandson loves to cuddle and have hugs. Not all Aspies do not like touch. Maybe take it slow.
•    Anonymous said... My daughter is 15. She can go both ways. Sometimes she doesn't like to be touched and other times she asks me to hug her and kiss on her. I let it be up to her or if I want to hug and kiss her I ask her first so I don't upset her if she didn't want me to.
•    Anonymous said... My now 16yr old has never liked to be touched. In honesty I wish I had of zoned in more with therapy regarding this as now has impacted on the mother/son bond. It's sad.
•    Anonymous said... My son doesn't like hugs either. He is not very affectionate the most I get out of him is I love you but it's good enough for me.
•    Anonymous said... some do some don't, it can be too much of a sensory overload for them.

Post your comment below…


Anonymous said...

My 9 y.o daughter does not like being hugged or cuddled and does not like holding hands....I love her and respect her for the way she feels but as her mother I wish I could hold her more!!!

Anonymous said...

Most Aspies also have sensory issues, including but not limited to sensory integration disorder, or sensory deprivation. Their skin is so heightened and sensitive to touch and texture, but it goes beyond that. Bright lights, loud noises, food textures, etc. My son had a very hard time with sensory disorder, but thanks to therapy, I can now hug him, he can wear clothes he couldn't wear before, can do to a circus without noise-blocking earmuffs, etc. He still has a hard time with the humming in fluorescent lighting though. You can't hear it? Yeah, me neither.

Anonymous said...

That sounds exactly like my daughter. She's 15 now & I honestly can't tell you the last time she showed any affection. It will be interesting to see if she can hold a loving relationship. Something tells me she's going to have a long unloved life. She doesn't even want to have any close friends preferring to be on her own. As she tells me 'if I'm on my own I can't wind anyone up & no one can wind me up'. I really feel for her.

Anonymous said...

My aspie son is the opposite. Sometimes it's too warm out and he still wants to be hugged. He tends to get into other kids faces too much and then they turn him away which he doesn't seem to understand those personal boundaries.

Anonymous said...

My 4 y.o son is a mixture. He doesn't like interacting with other kids at daycare and when he hugs he usually turns around so you are hugging him from the back but he also likes to be carried, and swung, and can show spontaneous affection by wanting to kiss. Usually contact is on his terms and no one elses.

Anonymous said...

sounds a lot like my son, only he hugs from the side, never face to face. He likes interacting with the kids at school, but once he gets home, that's it. He likes to be alone. Almost like all that interacting at school wears him out, or overwhelms him. He doesn't like to go anywhere after school either. If he comes him and I tell him we're going out to eat or to WalMart, or even to Dairy Queen for a cone, he becomes highly upset. He's been away from home all day and this is HOME time.

Anonymous said...

it's not about a lack of affection - it truly is about sensory processing's, overload/stimulation, it just doesn't feel good to them. gentle touch may actually be more "painful" and deep pressure may feel better. Squishing them in a beanbag chair or laying on top of them (safely!), or letting them sit on your lap w/o you touching, caressing them may be tolerable. Try different things and learn to accept other forms of expressing love. maybe a high five or knuckle-to-knuckle bump instead of a kiss or snuggle? Working with an OT (make sure they are a caring/loving soul) may help with the touch issues eventually too.

Anonymous said...

My 9 year old aspies son is very affectionate even with his brothers but has his moments when he wants to be alone but he also has trouble with understanding person space. It has taken alot of work for me as I struggle with bipolar disorder and ADD. Our biggest struggle still with him is his destructive behavior which he is teaching his two younger brother, anyone know how I can help him to respect his surroundings and belongings.

Anonymous said...

as my son gets older, we have started doing a lot of high-fiving and knuckle-bumping. He does prefer that to hugging the older he gets. But then, that's true of just about any pre-teen nowadays (he's 12). Ha.

Anonymous said...

My son is 8 doesn't mind being touched by me or his mum but no one else and never gives eye contact while talking to anyone

Anonymous said...

My 11 year old doesn't like kisses or hugs and when I tell him I love him he doesn't say it back. I really have spoiled my 6 yr old because of this he always tells me he loves me and wants hugs & kisses and I eat it up because for 5 yrs I had a kid who didn't show any affection. @ Scott my son doesn't give eye contact and the older folks in my family don't understand it. It seems that as he gets older he's less affectionate.

sherryp said...

My son is the opposite as long as it is in private he loves being cuddled apart from when he's going to sleep but when he gets in with me he will cuddle me until he wakes back up. I didn't have. A diagnosis until 7 and has always been cuddly with him and like a previous poster the prob at school is he invade people's personal space when attached to the friendship with the child.

Anonymous said...

My son LOVES to hug and cuddle (he is 12..almost 13) no matter the weather.. Just don't give him pressure on the top of his head... He hates that being touched.

Anonymous said...

My 5 year old daughter loves being affectionate, if it's on her terms. When most family members approach her for a hug or kiss she refuses unless she's asked first. She also has a very cute what I would describe as ritual anytime I drop her off somewhere or put her to bed. She has to have a kiss first, then an Eskimo kiss, then a butterfly kiss. It has to be in that order and if she feels it wasn't done properly she has to start over. If you don't do this it would lead to a meltdown. But, she hates having her head touched, especially hair brushing. She flips every time. Maybe asking him permission first might help...
9 hours ago via mobile · Like

Anonymous said...

I finally figured this out when our 2nd son was born. Our aspie, age 5 at the time, would hug him so tight we thought he would hurt him. After learning about the sensory difficulties associated with Aspergers, we realized that's how a hug FELT to him! If you tapped him he would HIT you... that's how it felt to him! Aspie apple doesn't fall far from the tree; I really don't like to be touched either. I make the effort for the sake of my husband and children, but I'm an adult and realize what's going on and have "trained" myself?
8 hours ago · Like

Crymzn said...

My 14 year old son is usually the one who initiates a hug or any other show of affection. I've learned to approach him on his terms, and if he feels like a hug, he'll do it, if not, he usually smiles. I do agree the key is to go by their cues and not your own. But he definitely does show affection, just a little differently than most would.

Aspie Girl said...

There are other ways to show affection. It doesn't have to be through physical touch.

SmK1337Official said...

I was like this as child, im an adult now. i couldnt bare the thought of physical affaction. When i think back, i had an immens love for my family, and i guess i didnt have the same needs as my family did, for showing physical affaction, it was something i could feel deeply, her love for me, so i didnt need the physical affection. And i remember physical contact as intrusive. I started being able to recieve and show affaction as i got a little older (15-17ish around the time i started smoking weed lol), still having hard times saying i love you to my mom. "text no problem, saying it face to face, only did it once" but hugging is no problem anymore :)

The other day when i told my mother i loved herfor the first time she broke down in tears, honestly i had no idea it ment so much to hear i thought she could feel my love as i could her, but i was wrong.

I think some aspergers feels deeply, so they does not need the physical affection they can feel the feelings you feel. this is from own experiences. On the other hand some have a hard time telling what other people feel and their boundrys.

I am not comftorble calling myself an aspergers as i feel all the diffrent labels in our society does nothing but limit us and tell us what we cant do instead of what we are awesome at.

I hope you can use this for something,
Have a great day! Love you all :) said...

This is weird,because my 7 years old loves to be hug. He won't mind hugging you 50 times a day, that I have to sometime stop him.

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