Autism Brushing Protocol

autism_brush This autism brushing protocol is used by our family and Occupational Therapists for our loved one, as part of his "sensory diet" at home and at school. Brushing helps him to stay calm, focus better and learn to self-regulate. This practice is easy to perform and can quickly become a routine for your child. Once you get the hang of it.

The important thing to remember here is that this method must be repeated every two hours in order to be effective.

Please remember to consult an Occupational Therapist before using this specialized brushing protocol or technique as part of a sensory diet for your child.

Autism Brushing Protocol Example

1. Hold brush horizontally (across) if clothes are off, vertically (up/down) if clothes are on.

2. Hold right hand, brushing right arm in an up/down motion, turn child's hand to reach whole arm (5-8 times).

3. Brush right hand (5 times) each side.

4. Hold left hand, brush left arm, (5-8 times).

5. Brush left hand (3-5 times) on each side.

6. Brush child's back in random order (5-8 times).

7. Brush right leg in an up/down motion (5-8 times), and brush right foot (3-5 times) on each side.

8. Brush left leg (5-8 times) and brush left foot (3-5 times) on each side.

- Make sure to NEVER brush the stomach, neck or head.
- Brush with firm pressure
- Avoid all light touch
- Check brush each time (stiff – scratch, too soft)
- Repeat every TWO hours!

Add Joint Compressions to Autism Brushing Protocol

Use joint compression 5-10 times on major joints: right side then left side.

a. start at shoulder - one hand on shoulder other by elbow push towards back

b. elbows - one hand above elbow other below push together

c. wrists - one hand above wrist other on palm push together

d. fingers - pull then push fingers

e. hips - one hand on bottom other on knee push towards back

f. knees - put hands on top of knee and push towards floor

g. sternum - put hands on front and back and push in and down 3 times


Over time, MJ began to ask for massages instead of brushing. Particularly in the morning or whenever he's close to becoming over stimulated. Like after school and at bedtime. First we used a battery-operated hand-held massager then switched to a wooden one. MJ is learning to handle the environment better.

Autism brushing along with joint compressions and the use of GABA supplements as needed, he no longer has frequent meltdowns or temper tantrums.

Sensory Diet Research

J Autism Dev Disord. 2001 Oct;31(5):513-6.

Brief report: improvements in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy.

Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, FL 33101, USA.

Twenty children with autism, ages 3 to 6 years, were randomly assigned to massage therapy and reading attention control groups. Parents in the massage therapy group were trained by a massage therapist to massage their children for 15 minutes prior to bedtime every night for 1 month and the parents of the attention control group read Dr. Seuss stories to their children on the same time schedule. Conners Teacher and Parent scales, classroom and playground observations, and sleep diaries were used to assess the effects of therapy on various behaviors, including hyperactivity, stereotypical and off-task behavior, and sleep problems. Results suggested that the children in the massage group exhibited less stereotypic behavior and showed more on-task and social relatedness behavior during play observations at school, and they experienced fewer sleep problems at home.

PMID: 11794416 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Autism Brushing Protocol Resources

For more on sensory issues in ASD and potential need for a sensory diet, e.g. autism brushing protocol click here.

View the article Tantrum-Free Haircut Parent Tips to learn how we use this autism brushing protocol and other "tried and true" helpful tips with our loved one during a haircut or having his fingernails and toenails clipped.

These are useful books we use to learn how to help our family member process sensory information better, tolerate haircuts, and become more independent.

Books on Sensory Integration

Books on Activity Schedules and Visual Supports

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