Massage is a great treatment option as it is not only low cost but helps facilitate and nurture a stronger bond between child and parent. The many benefits that may come from using massage are: improvements were seen in sleep patterns, on-task behavior, parent and child communication, increased positive responses to being touched, positive social interaction, motor skills, sensory function, language function, and general health. There are a lot of scientific data that backs up all of the benefits but results can still vary on each individual child..
Sleeping is a monumental issue with children of all ages, and something that parents can attest to after a long night of walking their child back to their room! A study done introduced the use of Touch to several families with ASD children, not only did the parents feel more in control and closer after the Touch training was done but also gained the perception by parents of the children as having improved sleep patterns, children were more relaxed after receiving the massage and appeared more open to touch1.
Children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) can often have trouble with attention behaviors which impact development of social interactions and relationships with others. In a study aimed at exploring how aromatherapy massage could increase shared attention behaviors, Steve Solomons, assistant head teacher at Rectory Paddock School and Research Unit in London set out to explore these issues. The children's responses were observed through the introduction of Aromatherapy. The results indicate that the children's shared attention behaviors increased during aromatherapy massage and other positive behavioral changes2.
Alternatively, standardized tests showed a decrease in common autistic behaviors, improvement in motor skills, sensory function, general health and language development in children. Using medical Qigong massage twice weekly from the physician and adding in daily massage from parents for a five week period created these results.
Multiple studies have shown that through the use of massage, children with ASD have seen improvements in wandering, more time showing on-task behavior, less time showing negative responses to being touched, and less time resisting the teacher than those in the control group4. Others reaffirm the use of massage as a way to improve social relatedness behavior during play observations at school, and fewer sleep problems at home5.
With all of the documented reasons why to start massaging there are some considerations to keep in mind. Similar to any medical treatment, consultation and guidance of a healthcare provider is a necessity! Important things to remember when massing your child is to always ask the permission, keeping the child involved is key, additionally adjusting and adapting your massage strokes for your child taking care and caution, making eye contact and continually using verbal and visual ques during the massage.
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