A complex developmental disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms appear early in childhood and affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact socially.
According to the Autism Research Institute, ASD is defined by a specific set of behaviours such as delayed language, difficulty with social interaction, and repetitive patterns of behaviour that affect children to various degrees.
Many children with ASD are characterized as having difficulty with sensory integration and may be co-diagnosed with other diagnoses such as SPD (Sensory Processing Disorders). Families and health care professionals often report that children might have an aversion to touch and tactile stimulation. Many people hold the belief that children affected by autism may not like to be touched. This is not always the case, but rather how touch therapy is applied.
Although it is commonly reported that children with autism are opposed to physical touch, it is interesting to note that many parents as well as massage therapists, are finding great success in the use of massage therapy. All children require nurturing touch to thrive, and for those on the autism spectrum, specialized touch therapy is required. Using specialized touch, massage therapists are able to meet these children with care and affection where they are.
The child must feel safe, and that respectful connection takes time. Take your time to allow the child to become comfortable with the environment and you. This is especially important if you have entered their safe space. Never insist that a child participate in the massage session. Speak calmly and lovingly, take your time and introduce slowly.
For many children with an autism spectrum disorder, there is susceptibility to sensory overload, and they may lack feeling or awareness. It is important to begin with still hands and gradually work deeper.
No two children with the same diagnosis will likely present exactly the same. Slow down, take your time, and enjoy connecting with these kids.
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