Babies who do not receive adequate touch do not thrive and in some instances, a lack of touch can even be fatal. A child’s sense of touch is the primary interface between the child and the world. Touch gives children valuable information through twenty different types of nerve endings that lead directly to the brain. Positive, healthy touch conveys a sense of security to a child, and helps them establish trust. Children of all ages can benefit from the healthy touch offered by massage therapy.
Children who cannot tolerate massage therapy
However, there are children who cannot tolerate massage therapy, such as children with tactile sensitivity. Tactile sensitivity is a heightened sensitivity to touch in which the child feels strange, nauseous, or in pain when touched. It can range from a mild version to an extreme version that involves avoidance of all touch. Researchers under the leadership of Reuven Dar, Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University see a correlation between tactile sensitivity in children and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).
Their study showed that children with tactile sensitivity often times developed ritualistic behavior to allow themselves to be more in control of their environment. This ritualistic behavior is a defense mechanism to the feelings the child feels when certain types of touch or smells make them feel as if they are under attack or being threatened.
Both children and adults can have sensory processing disorder. Persons with this disorder even struggle with finding clothing that does not set off the disorder. Many children and adults with Aspergers have tactile sensory disorder. Massage therapy can generally not be used with anyone with tactile sensitivity.
Massage therapy for children with special needs
The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has done research on the impact massage therapy can have on autistic children. Jonathan Clark has substantiated some of this research at the Matthew Reardon Advanced Academy in Savannah, Georgia. Findings indicate that massage therapy can help autistic children focus. Further, massage therapy mediates fits of rage, anxiety, yelling, screaming, hand biting, and side to side rocking behaviors in autistic children.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is found in 3% to 5% of school age children, has symptoms of distraction, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity that interferes with social skills and academic functioning. A 2003 study by Maddigan, et al, showed that massage therapy offered the children with ADHD in the study the ability to better control their anger, a more positive mood, and better sleep. The study also found an improvement in their social skills after massage therapy.
Massage therapy has been used successfully to help children with diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis and even cancer. A lessening of stress is very beneficial to a child’s immune system and helps the child’s body cope with illness.
Massage therapy with non-special needs children
LiddleKidz.com offers an internationally accredited Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist Training. Pediatric massage therapy incorporates:
• Attention to a child’s physical development
• The cognitive development of each child
• The child’s prior experience with touch
• A comprehensive massage therapy plan developed with the child’s input
Massage therapy can help children:
• Focus better in school
• Develop better athletically
• Reduce stress and improve their developing immune systems
The days of Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, and other TV shows that depicted childhood naively have long since passed. Childhood is very stressful for most children in today’s high tech, competitive world. Massage therapy can help reduce stress, and even potentially help children avoid drugs and alcohol overuse in the future.
It can successfully be used with all but children with tactile sensitivity disorders.