For most people, hugs are as natural as breathing. But for people with autism, being touched can be of the of the things that make them extremely uncomfortable. In the book How to Build a Hug, Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville do a really lovely job of explaining some of the frustrations that people with autism go through by telling a story from Temple Grandin’s life.
As many people know, Temple Grandin is an amazing scientist who focuses on animal behavior. She also speaks out about autism. Autism is something that we are all acutely aware of these days, but when she was a child, no one knew what autism was. People didn’t understand when Temple had sensitivity to sounds, smells, and things that would touch her. According to the story, when she was a child she wanted to experience the love and comfort of a hug, but couldn’t get past the physical discomfort that she felt from them.
During a summer on her aunt’s ranch in Arizona, Temple saw how the people on the ranch used a special apparatus to hold cows during necessary appointments with the vet. It was a squeeze machine and it worked wonders. Temple had a inquisitive and bright mind and when she saw this, it got her thinking about whether it would work for her. So she invented her own hug box. It turned out to be just the thing to get her through trying times until she was finally able to accept a true hug.
The story was told in such a wonderful way that it makes the difficulties of a child with autism easier to comprehend. The descriptive details about how noises and things touching her made her feel can bring it home to even the youngest listener. When they explained that hugs felt like being “stuffed inside the scratchiest sock in the world,” not only did I laugh, but totally could imagine how that would feel. Giselle Potter’s illustrations went along fabulously with the text. This is an important book about autism, creativity, and perseverance. I also really appreciate how it tied in Dr. Grandin’s love of animals and thoughtful way she has always considered their well being and watched their behaviors. A great book for elementary school.