If you need help setting boundaries this year with someone who loves hugs and has difficulty understanding, that the AuDHD nervous system can have a completely different experience of a hug then I have something for you.
I could have handled this issue better with my late mother when my boys were little. My oldest son won’t hug anyone because that kind of touch is upsetting to him, while his brothers love bear hugs. Denying hugs to others is a way of protecting himself from dysregulation.
For this reason I’ve written the letter below as a guide to help you bridge the gap of understanding around this issue:
I want to chat with you about something important, and it’s about little Johnny. You know how much he loves and cherishes you, right? Well, there’s this thing about Johnny that makes him a bit different, but in a unique and special way. He’s autistic, which means his senses work differently than ours.
Imagine if the feeling of a sweater was so intense it felt like a bunch of tiny needles, or a hug felt like being squeezed in a vice. That’s how Johnny sometimes feels when he’s hugged.
These feelings can be so intense that he experiences pain or panic when he’s hugged. So it’s not that he doesn’t love or want to be close to you. It’s just that his body experiences these sensations in a way that can be really overwhelming for him.
It’s like how some of us don’t like the texture of certain foods, not because of the taste but because of how it feels in our mouth. For Johnny, it’s similar with touches and hugs. It’s not about not loving the person; it’s about how his body feels with certain types of physical contact.
So, when he pulls away from a hug, it’s not about you at all. It’s his way of coping with a sensation that’s too much for him. He loves you just as much, and there are so many other ways he shows it, like the way his eyes light up when he sees you or how he enjoys telling you all about his interests. Those are his ways of showing love, just as meaningful as a hug.
I’m sharing this with you because understanding Johnny’s world can help us connect with him in ways that make him feel loved and comfortable. Maybe we can find new ways to show affection that work for him, like a special handshake, a high-five, or even a secret signal that’s just between you and him. Let’s explore these together and see what works for all of us. Thank you for understanding.