Autism and Massage Therapy
The results of numerous medical studies have shown that most autistic children exhibit positive change from massage. The primary benefit that massage provides to autistic children is relaxation. After a massage, autistic children have shown significant improvement in mental focus, touch aversion and withdrawal. Relaxation can combat fatigue and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve energy levels, sleep, creative ability, and the thinking process. It is a wonderful complementary treatment as part of an overall wellness plan.
My teenage son is autistic. I understand the importance of touch to children with autistic spectrum disorder. My child receives massage therapy twice a week for 1-hour sessions. At the start of massage therapy, my son was hesitant and impatient. It took several sessions for my son to trust the process. Now he enters the studio and is ready to begin every session. What surprised me the most when I began the massage therapy was how tender he was. Many areas that I massaged were uncomfortable to him. During the first month of massage therapy, my son spent most of the time redirecting my hands away from these tender areas. I followed his cues only to return to the tender areas later in the session using a different technique. I needed to spend time applying gentle sustained pressure to the restricted tissues that had formed due to his inactivity, and poor posture. He has a condition call “Hammer Toes” which needed to be addressed.
The changes I in see in my son from massage therapy delight me. Because massage therapy reduces and frees up muscular adhesions and improves range of motion, my son is more “comfortable” in his body. I can see that he carries himself differently and moves with more ease. He is more aware of himself. His eye contact has improved. He is calmer and sleeps better on the days get has massage therapy. Through persistent yet gentle soft tissue manipulation his hammertoe condition has yielded to a less rigid position.
According to the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, regular massage decreases touch aversion in autistic children and helps minimize stress and anxiety. In addition, massage is linked to better social responsiveness, increased cooperative behaviors at home and in the classroom and improved sleep patterns. Although results are temporary, they are cumulative. That means making massage a regular part of your child’s routine extends its positive effects.