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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why do some autistic kids reject cuddles and kisses?

    I know my child loves my husband and I but she pushes away from us if we try to cuddle her and turns her head away if we try to kiss her. Why?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 14


    Assoc Prof & Reader Cheryl Dissanayake is the Director of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre. She is also an Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology … View Profile

    Many children with autism, although attached to their parents (as shown in much research to date) do not like certain types of tough - soft kisses, stroking etc. This is an outcome of idiosyncratic sensory difficulties common to ASDs. Not all chidlren show have this sensitivity, but many do.

  • 6


    Mandy Case (Mabarrack)

    Occupational Therapist (OT)

    Developmental Play Therapy is an occupational therapy practice for children 0-6 years who have a developmental delay or autism spectrum disorder. Mandy takes a play-based … View Profile

    The trick is to find something she really likes and will come back for more! Some children like deep pressure (firm stroking or ‘squashing’) through their arms or feet, some like tickles or rasberries on the tummy - will she let you kiss her on her feet or somewhere less close to the face? 
    It is very difficult as a parent when your child does not appear to find comfort in a cuddle - does she like you to sing? To be gently bounced on the knee (even facing away)? Try experimenting with all the other ways we show attention and affection….

  • 5


    Sarah Wellham

    Occupational Therapist (OT)

    I have a strong passion in the field of Paediatrics with 8 years of clinical experience. I have worked internationally for the past 3 years … View Profile

    Your child may have tactile defensiveness and if this is the case there are certain tactile experiences or touch experiences she finds particularly difficult to respond to, as she is experiencing a heightened response to the senses. The Sensory Processing Measure can identify if your child has low sensitivity or high sensitivity to all the senses and an Occupational Therapist can devise an individual program for sensory processing which will aim to desensitise her to tactile responses and help her adapt to touch and your loving cuddles!!!!!!

  • 2


    Aimee York

    Occupational Therapist (OT)

    Aimee is a fully registered occupational therapist, with a special interest area in paediatrics and mental health. She is experienced in the assessment and intervention … View Profile

    It can be common for some children with autism to also have associated sensory processing challenges. As touch (or tactile) input is one of our senses, kisses and cuddles as a sensory input can be 'misinterpreted'. From a sensory point of view, the light touch of a kiss or cuddle may be poorly modulated by their sensory system. This can also be called 'tactile defensiveness'. Many children with this type of sensitivity may benefit from consistent deep pressure. In conjunction with this, you could try to use visuals or social stories to show the process of how to socially accept a hug or kiss, and how what language to use if your child does not want to engage in this. 

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