How Healing Touch Can Help Autism:
Research & Clinical Triumps To Help Your Child Succeed
by Nicole Kasemir, RN, HN, HTCP/I
Autism is “part of a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors”. www.autismspeaks.org.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. National Institutes of Health (NCCIH/NIH) has sponsored and gathered research on different energy therapies, including Healing Touch, which have similarities in affecting the human energy system to enhance holistic healing. Even though most of their research concluded that more studies need to be conducted before they will explicitly endorse the use of those therapies, they also state that their results are “a foundation for further research to test its benefits”. “After reviewing the studies, it is concluded that there is evidence to support the practice of Therapeutic Touch (the corner stone of Healing Touch) for the reduction of pain or anxiety”.
Quantitative research on therapeutic touch. An integrative review of the literature 1985-1995. Scand J Caring Sci. 1997;11(3):183-90. “Because massage therapy and therapeutic touch seem to elicit similar parasympathetic effects, therapeutic touch may be useful. There is insufficient evidence, however, to recommend its use in children without qualifications”.
Massage therapy and therapeutic touch in children: state of the science. Ireland M1, Olson M. “A key benefit gained by parents was the feeling of closeness to children. The key benefits gained by children were perceived by the parents as improved sleep patterns. Children were more relaxed after receiving the massage and appeared more amenable to touch”. The children continued to request massages after the study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2005 Aug;11(3):182-9, Positive touch, the implications for parents and their children with autism: an exploratory study. Cullen LA1, Barlow JH, Cushway D,. Also, “Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies are commonly used by parents for their children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders.”
These research abstracts and more can be found at ttps://nccih.nih.gov/health/ integrative-health#types.
Here is a personal anecdote that demonstrates how Healing Touch Therapy was beneficial for an autistic child and his family:
I was referred to a young couple who wanted to try Healing Touch (HT) with their four year old boy, diagnosed with autism/sensory integration developmental delay. The child was unable to fall asleep until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and was up running around the house by 5 or 6 a.m. every morning. He was very active, excitable, noisy and spoke only a few words other then numbers and colors. His therapy included speech and occupational therapy weekly and he attended pre-school. He was prescribed Ritalin 2.5 mg/day. The child required constant supervision. The parents were exhausted and it was affecting their family life – they also had a six years old daughter.
At our initial session at 9:00Pm, the child immediately ran to hide under the kitchen table when he saw that I was a stranger. Since he did not want to come out, I crawled under and sat quietly near him for a few moments to let him get used to me. Once he was coaxed to come out from beneath the table and lie in his bed, I put my hand on his forehead and hummed Brahms’ Lullaby, with the intent to calm him down. He did not shy away, but after five minutes, he sat up and took his book for his bedtime story. That was it.
At my second visit, he opened the front door, let me in and ran immediately in front of me to climb up the stairs to his bed where he laid down, stiff like a little soldier. I utilized my pendulum to distract him as I did an energetic assessment. He was captivated by the spinning and smiled. Since I knew he could associate with colors, as I started to scan his energy, I said “red” above his lower chakra and he continued slowly “orange…yellow…green…blue…purple” – the accurate color sequence of the chakras, in synch with my hands passing over each one of them. I was amazed that he could actually see the colors of the chakras. This confirmed the theory that young children see the human aura until exposed to adults denial of its existence. The assessment revealed much activity, mostly around his head. I gently applied HT techniques to open his energy system, clear the tension and balance the energy flow, moving my hands over and on his small body. He did not move except for his eyes, which were tracking my hands. He did not fall asleep as anticipated, but was calm.
What amazed his mother was that he stayed motionless during the whole 35-40 minute session plus an extra ten minutes for my exchange with her. She exclaimed “he has not been quiet like this for so long!” She also remarked that “he never lets any of his other therapists touch him like you do”. In our follow-up telephone conversations, she reported that he was sleeping by 10:00 pm and might later get out of bed once and then returned to bed for the rest of the night. His teachers noticed that he was much calmer, focused and cooperative for a few days after he had received HT.
Over time, I taught the parents simple Healing Touch techniques so they could help him calm down. His mother continued giving him light back massage, “brushing him” and reading with him at bed time and the whole family enjoyed a normal nights rest more often.