Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders

When you think of treatment options for autism, do you think of massage?  I know I didn’t. So when I was offered the opportunity to read Virginia S. Cowen’s book, Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Caregives, I readily agreed.

Massage as a Complementary Therapy
Virginia Cowen is a massage therapist, exercise physiologist, and Yoga and Pilates instructor. She is not asserting that massage is THE treatment option for autism, but rather, she believes it can be used to complement other treatment options. Massage can address sensory, motor, and touch issues; all of which can be problems for children with autism.

What is Massage and Bodywork?
Cowen defines them both in her book as:

By definition, massage is a general term used to describe manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that is done for therapeutic purposes. This manipulation can include techniques such as stroking, pressing, kneading, along with joint movements such as stretching. It can also include efforts to manipulate the human energy biofield. Bodywork is a term that is used to describe different types of energy and movement-based styles. Some forms of bodywork include breathing, stretching, and conversation and are used to engage the client as an active participant in the therapeutic process. (pages 19-20)

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Danette Schott, M.A. About Danette Schott, M.A.

Using her research background, Danette founded S-O-S Research to provide information on "invisible" special needs to parents, teachers, and other professionals. Currently she is Executive Editor at Special-Ism, focusing on the challenges or the -Isms experienced by children with various special needs, such as high functioning autism, ADHD, anxiety, mental illness, and Sensory Processing Disorder.




  • Sharilyn Nestor

    Wow, great blog. Thanks for the post.

  • Phillip Lawrence (Massage Therapist)

    Thanks for the post. I heard about the benefits of massage for Autism when i did my course and wanted to look further into it. This sounds like the book i’ve been looking for.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/JudyEndow Judy Endow

    I use massage as a tool for sensory regulation, but the therapist needs to use minimal pressure, which at first seemed counter intuitive since I also use deep pressure for sensory regulation. Turns out my body can’t take both deep pressure and massage at the same time! I find these sorts of seeming contradictions interesting.

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