BENEFITS OF MASSAGE IN CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
Symptoms of autism include insufficiency in cognition, social communication and language, and children can require special care and attention to help them develop further. There is a variety of treatments used for autistic children and massage therapy is a treatment that parents can look into, either to be given by a therapist, or to learn how to do it themselves, if their child is more comfortable with this. Autistic children respond positively to massage treatment due to its calming effect and allows parents to connect to their children at a deeper level through touch. Research has shown that massage can also lessen the severity of autism after a few months of treatment.
The main benefits of massage for autistic kids are:-
• reducing anxiety and fatigue
• improve sleep and energy levels of the child
• develops their thinking and creative abilities
• helps them to improve their attention span and become more active
• Calm muscle spasms
• helps the child to become more accustomed to tactile stimulation
• improves body awareness
• can improve social interaction and reduce withdrawal
• can improve communication (both verbal and non-verbal)
• can reduce repetitive behaviour
• May help the child to express love more through hugs or facial expressions
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN MASSAGING AN AUTISTIC CHILD
Many autistic children are susceptible to sensory overload, and they may lack feeling or awareness. So, the treatment begins lightly and gradually works deeper, while being very aware of all non verbal cues the child is giving you, as they may not use the same verbal skills as other children. It may be that massage is barely even attempted at the first session and this is normal. The pace and pressure can be changed, while recognizing the child’s needs. Deeper pressure is often better received by children who have been diagnosed with ASD. Skin-to-skin contact may not be immediately well received by the autistic child, so touch can be initially over clothing, and beginning with the hands and feet may be more comfortable. Parents can feel frustrated at trying to provide appropriate loving and nurturing touch for their child, with little or no reaction. By teaching the parent massage techniques, and through gradual introduction of tactile stimulation a healthy bond between parent and child can be encouraged.