As a Holistic and Beauty Therapist with a background in SEN, I was asked by senSI Limited to consider providing Complimentary Therapies for children they work with, with a population predominately having Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD). I was excited by this opportunity, as I recognise how massage can make a big impact on someone both emotionally and physically, and that few clinics and centres offer such treatments for children, with or without additional needs. Touch is an important influence on a child’s healthy development and in my opinion, whether you have a treatment for relaxation or to ease aches and pains, massage should be an essential for life for all ages.
Adapting Complimentary Therapy for children with Sensory Processing Disorders
I have applied my knowledge and understanding of Swedish Body Massage and adapted the approach for children with ASD and SPD. senSI complete an initial assessment and from this, identify whether massage, reiki, relaxation sessions etc would be helpful. Together we devise a treatment plan to incorporate their needs. I always discuss the treatment plan with both parents and the child, as it is very important to me that the child is comfortable and feels safe.
- We create visual aids to support the child, i.e. body maps to help them anticipate the touch, stop signs for children who struggle to express this verbally, pressure indicator to help them remain in control as to the amount of force they like.
- We use sandtimers if needed, to help with predictability so that the child is as comfortable as they can be before we start.
- Due to Olfactory sensitivity, I use non-scented products
- Due to Vestibular sensitivity/ gravitational insecurity, I am flexible in how I position the child, and understand if they cannot manage to tolerate backward space or a supine position.
- I use inflatable mattresses and equipment if this gentle vestibular movement helps the child relax
- I use white noise within sessions if the child likes this
- I use dimmed lighting for the child with visual sensitivity
- I use aromatherapy and scents for a child who is olfactory seeking
- I use weighted eye masks, weighted blankets and other equipment throughout sessions, and at the end of the therapy, which most of the children have positively commented on
- I use natural warmth, such as warm towels and hot water bottles to help promote the sense of calm
- I use the child’s motivators and special interests within my sessions i.e. Thomas the Tank Engine visuals and pillows for example
I only use relaxing methods and work on only hands and feet to begin with and over various sessions build to include additional limbs. Currently I am working with a 10 year boy who would only let me work on his hands, forearms, feet and lower legs however now, after his sixth session I have been able to provide massage on his neck and face. This is hugely encouraging for the child, parents and me. They were all surprised that he has let me provide such a thorough treatment. Furthermore, to watch their child lie for an hour and relax (almost to the point of being asleep) is something that his parents thought they would never see. This makes my job extremely rewarding.
We have found that for some children with ASD and SPD, massage seems to often provide relaxation, stress reduction and calm muscle spasms. Over time, touch therapy also helps the child to become more accustomed to tactile stimulation and really helps develop body awareness. Often by incorporating massage therapy into daily routines, children with ASD may experience improved sleeping.
Here a few other reasons why massage therapy can be beneficial;
- Better sensory regulation
- Better self regulation, with children more able to identify feelings of stress and strategies that can help them relax
- Improved motor skills, especially for children with ADHD we have found
- Body awareness – touch and proprioception feedback
- Emotional development
- Enhanced Attachment, especially when we teach the caregivers certain techniques to apply to their child, rather than be therapist led
- Improved Self-esteem / confidence
- Self awareness
- Improved daily living skills, particularly washing and dressing
- Ability to recognise the difference between good and bad touch
- Improved bonding with one case, where I have taught the parents basic massage principles and they have been facilitating this with their child
I hope you have found this useful and should you be interested in a treatment for your child in East Anglia, please contact me at; firstname.lastname@example.org or via senSI at email@example.com