Many children with autism are sensory-defensive, which means that if you try to hug them or take their hands in yours, they run away screaming. It is very hard to create a sense of safety, love, and security for these children. However, massage therapy might help many kids with ASD. This may surprise you, considering the amount of pressure and touch involved with massage therapy, but once you see how it works for these children, you understand. If you want to try massage therapy for your ASD child, here are a few things you need to know first.
No Light Touches
Kids with ASD shy away from touch because there is a sensory overload going on inside them. You would think then, that light touch was all that was included with massages for these kids. However, quite the opposite is true.
Despite being sensory-defensive, the really deep pressure massages are the most therapeutic because the deep pressure is very calming to the child with autism. It is so calming in fact that a number of products exist to apply deep pressure to these children so that they can sit, engage in activities near peers, and even fall asleep. Weighted vests and weighted blankets are examples of this deep pressure sensory integration therapy for kids on the spectrum. Ergo, the deep pressure types of massage are the ones you should attempt.
Know Your Kid
It helps to know how much touch and how long your kid will tolerate the touch. You can relay this to the massage therapist. Some massage therapists are also very patient and will try to teach you, the parent, how to apply deep pressure massage to your own child. This approach might be beneficial in two ways. One, you learn how to use massage to calm your child at home, and two, your child may respond better to this type of therapy when it is not a stranger applying it in the massage clinic's rooms.
Rule out Other Stimuli
Typically, adults who seek therapy via massage love the lights turned down low, candles burning, spa scents in the air, and soft, relaxing music playing. However, this experience is too overwhelming for children on the spectrum. The lights down low may be fine, but the candles, the smells, and the music are too much. Stick to just the massages and low lights for the best results with your ASD child.