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This week’s question comes from Liz Allen:

My 3½ year old son, Phoenix, has autism. One of the things he craves is skin-to-skin contact. However, it’s not just any skin, it’s my skin, particularly my stomach and back. He calls it “tummy” and he prefers that he’s touching me with his feet. Because he’s so young, he’s never been able to explain this to us but you can see on his face that his anxiety goes away when he is touching me. We are trying to break him of this habit because it’s become something like a drug that he craves. I know it makes him feel better but I can’t lay in bed with him all day and night and allow this.

The other day he was talking about “tummy” and we started asking him why he likes it. He says it makes him feel warm.I asked him if there is anything that feels as good as tummy does, to which he replied, “Having warm water all over him,” AKA a shower.

So I began thinking about what I could do to recreate this feeling for him. Something warm, portable, and that has a similar feeling to skin. Which brings me to my crafting question: With all the great minds and readers of Craft, maybe someone would have an idea to help my son, something I could make or have made that he could sleep with and take in the car.

In the video above, I describe how you can make a “warm pack,” or fabric pouch filled with rice. You can pop it in the microwave and it will stay warm for about half an hour, or you can insert one of those hiker’s heating packs into the inner velcro pouch to keep it warm for up to eight hours while in the car, etc. I used Ultrasuede, a very soft microfiber (not actually leather), which feels very much like soft skin. You can find it at most fabric stores in the upholstery section; look for remnants specifically (here’s a site that sells swatches). I used sew-on velcro for the closure to prevent any adhesive fumes from being released when it’s microwaved. I hope this helps, please let us know how it works for Phoenix!

If you have a question for Ask CRAFT, shoot me an email at becky@craftzine.com, or drop us a note on Twitter! We’d love to answer your crafty questions on any topic: technique, projects, crafty culture, or anything else! Each week the answers are here; include your name, where you’re from, and your website or blog if you have one!

Subscribe to the CRAFT Podcast in iTunes, or download the m4v video.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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Comments

  1. 21centurydressmakers says:

    Phoenix has a beautiful smile. Thank you for sharing the project. Maybe a soft cloth with a special texture, will be more appealing to him.

  2. Katie Wilson says:

    These does not feel like skin, but maybe you can line it with something? It was developed in part for an individual suffering from cystic fibrosis. I’m not sure how this suit helped him — if he was cold from inaction or just had to lie around a bunch — but it’s pretty awesome!
    http://www.lazypatch.com/

  3. KYouell says:

    As the mom to a little guy the same age but with Down syndrome I just wanted to add that I think it’s so wonderful that Liz reached out and got such a fantastic response! I hope this works for Phoenix and provides both mom & son with some relief.

  4. Jessica T says:

    Hi Liz! What a beautiful boy! I know you are probably looking for a more crafty answer but have you tried an old fasioned hot water bottle? They are rubber and therefor pretty close to skin feeling and if he doesn’t like the feel of it you could make it a cover of something he does like (maybe pin or tape on various fabrics unil you find one he likes the feel of?) I have two kiddos with sensory issues, one of whom is autistic so I know it can be hard to find textures that work for them. My daughter is 13 now but she did the same thing (putting her feet on my back to calm down) when she was a wee sprog. It didn’t occur to me to find a substitute (too sleep deprived I think) so I slept with little feet on my back for a couple of years, lol! Good luck!

  5. Liz Allen says:

    Thank you for this! The warmed rice bag has been wonderful in the car. Also, we’ve been using Jessica T’s idea with a hot water bottle – duh! Why didn’t we think of that. It is perfect for bedtime and in the early morning. Phoenix says it feels just like “tummy”. Now I only with is was bigger (like pillow sized) and stayed hot! :)

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hi Liz,
    I thought seeings as I was here I would comment. Your boy is beautiful but you know that. I’ll keep it brief. I discovered a fabric called minky and it’s warm and soft… I don’t know if that helps but I thought better to share it than not.
    xo Steph
    http://www.moobeardesigns.com.au