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Autistic Kids Who Hate To Be Hugged

“I have two sons. The older son (age 9) is very loving and always has been. Lots of hugs and snuggles. Very verbal and social. Well here comes son #2 (age 4) who has high functioning autism. Not a word. He doesn't like hugs or kisses. Anytime I ask for one, he runs away. Anytime I give him a hug, he struggles to get loose. His main method of communication is an irritating SCREAM. He does have his moments of being affectionate, but they are few and far between (usually when he is not feeling well). Of course I love both of my kids, but it saddens me that son #2 just doesn't seem to reciprocate most of the time. Anyone else have a fiercely independent child that you just have to learn to love.... differently?”

First of all, you’re not alone. This is a common issue. Most youngsters with asD level 1 or High-Functioning Autism have a lot of difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. Even in the first few months of life, many do not interact or make eye contact. They seem indifferent to others, and often prefer being alone. They may even resist parental attention, hugs and cuddling – and seldom seek comfort or respond to a parent’s displays of affection.

Even though a youngster with ASD is attached to his mom and dad, his expression of this attachment is unusual and difficult to “read.” To caretakers, it may seem as if their youngster is not attached at all. A mother or father who has looked forward to the joys of cuddling and playing with their youngster may feel disappointed by this lack of the expected and typical attachment behavior.

Youngsters with autism also are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues (e.g., a smile, wink, or grimace) may have little meaning. For example, to the youngster who misses these cues, “come here” always means the same thing, whether the parent is smiling and extending her arms for a hug, or frowning and planting her fists on her hips.

Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world is confusing. To make a bad problem worse, the autistic child has difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective. “Typical” kids understand that other people have different thoughts, feelings, and goals than they have. However, the autistic child lacks such understanding. This inability leaves him unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.

Although not universal, it is common for children on the autism spectrum to have difficulty regulating their feelings. This can take the form of “immature” behavior (e.g., verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them). These kids may also be disorderly and physically aggressive at times, making social relationships even more problematic. 
They have a tendency to “lose control,” particularly when they're in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when angry and frustrated. They may at times break things, attack others, or hurt themselves (e.g., bang their heads, pull their hair, bite their arms, etc.).

Consistency and repetition are crucial to kids on the autism spectrum, and this applies to the “lack of displayed affection” issue as well. Trying to figure out a puzzling disorder like autism can be a lifelong challenge. For many moms and dads, the affection issue may be the biggest obstacle to overcome. But, with patience and learning to go by your youngster’s cues and not your own, you will be able to connect with your son in a deep and meaningful way.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

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