Massage and Autism
Is massage positive for autism?
According to our knowledge, we would say yes. We heard results of our massage students that had very positive impacts when they massaged their children with autism.
First, a bit more background.
What is autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
There are so many different types of autism that it is difficult to speak about massage benefits for autism.
Often autism is accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, muscle tone problems as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
There has not been much research with massage and autism, but we must say that some of our students had amazing results massaging their kids who have autism. After giving regularly massage for some minutes every day at the same time, they told us they had a better bond with the kids. The parents felt they were finally able to touch their kids and caress them. Moreover, the kids were easier to soothe and more relaxed in general.
Some of our massage students told us that is was difficult for them as a parent that they were not able to touch their kids. Because of course touch is important, it starts already as a baby. Touch helps us to calm down when we are upset.
Most people with autism have a sense of touch that is disordered. It sends mixed signals to the brain which results in unexpected behavior. A touch, petting on the head or something simple as putting on a jacket can be very upsetting for people with autism. Moreover, the reactions of kids with autism can be at the same time very upsetting for parents, not able to soothe your child.
A research in the United States from Pacific Crest Childrens shows that children with autism who receive massage for 5 months have a reduction in symptoms by better than 30%. Moreover, parent stress levels go down by more than 40% in that same time.
So this is good news!
Fact of massage
Let’s look a bit deeper in how massage works. As said before people who have ASD, autism spectrum disorder might have the following challenges: problems with sensory sensitivities, medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, muscle tone problems as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Massage benefits for autism
When looking at the benefits of massage it is a fact that massage fights depression. Massage makes you happier amongst others reducing cortisol (the so-called stress hormone) and by increasing endorphins, the so-called happy hormones. Moreover massage fights insomnia. Massage makes you relaxed, diminishes anxiety. Massage improves intestines. And massage improves muscle tone. So just by naming some of the benefits of massage for everyone, we can clearly see that those benefits are as well the benefits that could help people with autism spectrum disorder.
So yes, we would say: massage helps with autism.
However, there is a challenge when we talk about massage and autism. And that is ‘the approach’. As we spoke about autism, we know that most people who have autism spectrum disorder have a problem with touching. So since massage is all about touching, there is the question… how to do it.
As always when you massage someone, you need to apply the pressure according to your client’s needs. When we talk about people who have autism it is very important to know about how to approach the person with autism. Therefore the massage therapist needs to have knowledge about autism and the approach for the specific client since everyone with autism can be different, which means also needs another approach.
That is why we recommend parents to learn to massage. So when you have a child who has autism, you know your child best. So it will be nice if you learn how to give massage to your child yourself. You then can approach your child the way it is best. In example every day at the same time during the same ritual applying super soft pressure and increasing every time if possible. The first times you will of course not be able to work on muscle tone – since this is a deeper massage – but working only on touch, on soothing, on experiencing massage, on bonding. And little by little you might be able to increase the time and pressure of the massage.
Take it slow
Remember, the most important is the approach, you want the one who you massage benefit the most. It might take a lot of time to get there and you might need to take it really slow. Even a couple of minutes a day of massage can make a lot of difference as we have seen during the years.
Hope it is clear…
Do you have stories about massage and autism? Let us know, we love to hear them!
Create a healthy and happy day!
Nicole & Manel
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