Massage could help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) get in touch with their senses. A new study shows that a massage treatment for children with ASD diminished the severity of autism symptoms by one-third in the first five months after diagnosis. Dr. Loiusa Silva, founder of the Qigong Sensory Training institute and visiting professor at Western Oregon University, developed the treatment, which is administered by parents and helped strengthen the parent-child bond. The findings suggest that massage treatment for ASD is an effective treatment for high-functioning and low-functioning children on the spectrum.
Parents of 103 preschool-aged children with ASD received instruction on administering the massage treatment. The treatment involved parents giving their child a 15-minute whole-body massage. The researchers assessed the children’s autism severity using screening tools like the Autism Behavior Checklist.
After five months of the massage treatment, the children’s overall autism severity decreased by 32 percent, which resulted in improved behavior and language. There were specific improvements in the following areas:
- Sensory problems improved by 38 percent.
- Sensitivity to touch and texture improved by 49 percent.
- Receptive language—the ability to understand and appropriately respond to language— increased by 18 percent.
- Parental stress caused by communication and sensory difficulties in children decreased by 44 percent.
Parents also reported stronger parent-child bonds after the treatment.
This type of massage treatment could be used as an early treatment for young children diagnosed with ASD. Massage treatment may offer one of the few treatment methods for low-functioning children with ASD.
The researchers are beginning a second trial to explore how well the effects of the massage treatment persist over time.
This research is published in the journal Autism Research and Treatment.
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