Calm and Focus: The Potential Effects of Deep Pressure Touch

Calm and Focus: The Potential Effects of Deep Pressure Touch

Deep pressure touch has been found to be very calming to the nervous system.  I work with many students who struggle with sensory integration and moderation and sometimes deep pressure touch works to help them focus and/or calm down.  Please use this technique with caution, starting with a very non-evasive exercise such as the finger squeeze and then moving to the other  exercises once you have made careful observation of your child to see if she appears to like it and/or experiences benefit.

Guidelines for the use of deep pressure touch as a calming activity: 

  • apply steady, gentle, consistent and firm pressure.
  • always communicate with the child as you are applying pressure, check in frequently to ask how it feels.
  • always stop if the child reports that it hurts or is uncomfortable in any way, that means that the desired result is not happening.
  • the desired result is that the child experience increased calm, focus, and feelings of being “in your body”.


Arm Squish—Adult firmly squeezes arms to body, starting near the shoulders and working your way down to wrist level.

Shoulder Push—Firmly push straight down on top of shoulders (not squeeze, simply push down).

Hands on Head—Instruct student to interlock fingers and place on top of head, pushing down firmly.

Hands Together—  Place hands together, palm to palm and press together.

Knee Push—Place hands on knees, making sure knee is directly over ankle and feet are on the floor, and press down.

Feet into Floor—Push feet down into floor.

Finger Squeeze—squeeze each whole finger one by one.

Individual Finger Squeeze— knuckle by knuckle squeeze each part of the finger, working through all of the fingers individually.

Thumb Massage—Find the soft squishy part between the thumb and the hand and massage it.

Self Hug—wrap your arms across the front of the chest and “give yourself a firm squeeze”.

Hands Under Chin—interlock the fingers of the hands together to provide a “platform,”  place under the chin and push gently up while the chin is pressed down.

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