When parents hear that I am a licensed massage therapist as well as an OTR, they often ask how massage can help their child. They seem to assume that I would recommend massage only to calm a child on the spectrum, or help a child sleep. Actually, massage can be great preparation for getting a child moving as well, and supports focused thinking and communicating. Massage doesn’t just have to be about relaxation.
Massage techniques range from sedating to invigorating. Children with low muscle tone are especially helped by quick strokes and moving vibration. They need more information about where they are in space, and where their muscles are around their joints.
Children with spasticity certainly benefit from stretching and relaxing tight tissue, but the best results are when they get up and move purposely. Their brains note the changes in posture and range of motion, and build new neural connections for easier and efficient movement. Combining massage techniques with movement is like adding one and one and getting three!
Massage with children on the spectrum can range from quiet to more stimulating, based on their current state. These children get extra support to learn that touch can be acceptable and enjoyable. Reducing a fear response to approaching touch from another person is a worthwhile goal.
Massage is so many things to children, and can support all the other therapies they receive. Find a great therapist, and learn how to use massage on your own child to help them grow!