Massage Therapy and Autism
Can massage therapy help with clients who have autism? Yes, massage therapy can help with autism. The therapist must understand the level of autism the client is suffering from. We can do this through having the client intake form filled out. Have a guardian with the client in the room with us. Most clients will come in for relaxation massage of the tight muscles in the arms and legs. We can gain the clients respect by reducing the noise in the room, keeping the lights dimmed and talking in a whisper. This will keep the distractions to a minimum, helping the client to engage and participate in the massage. With Autism, deep tissue massage is more comfortable for the client as we want to get past the sudden irritation that the client would suffer when the skin is lightly touched. We want to decrease the sensations from the nervous system. The therapist should approach the client slowly, as sudden movements can cause the client to flee from the area and protect themselves. Most appointments will only last a 30 min. As too much simulation on the central nervous system, can cause an overload and the client will feel uncomfortable.
With massage therapy we have demonstrate to the client what we are doing. We can achieve this by allowing them to touch their own arm and show them that it feels good. Let them then touch the therapist or the guardian the same way. Once the respect is gained, move slow. Provide long strokes with moderate pressure. Mostly we want to focus on the arms first, move up to the shoulder and upper back, then the neck. Sometimes depending on the situation, it takes time to gain that respect from the client and some appointments may only be 10 min. Having a non-breakable mirror that the client can see what is always happening, may be beneficial. Using a weighted blanket may help some situations. You can also focus on massage legs as well, especially the calves and plantar surface of the feet. Monitor the client all the time, to see if something is feeling uncomfortable for them. Developing a signal that they can use to let the therapist know that they are feeling uncomfortable is necessary, whether it is the raise of voice, hand, or a slight kick. Will let the therapist know this is beneficial in the treatment.