Autism & The Benefits of Touch

As we prepare for our "KindTree" exhibit and fundraiser tonight we thought we would give you a little bit of information about autism and the possible benefits that therapies such a massage can offer.

According to Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization, "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for 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."  For some with ASD symptoms include reacting defensively to physical touch. 

Though research is limited, an analysis of existing studies was published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in March, 2011.  The analysis found six studies which indicated strong benefits to clients with ASD in the areas of social communication, adaptive behavior, and sensory profile.  However, the authors of this analysis point to a need for studies with larger sample sizes and tighter controls in order to make better use of this data.

Many therapists who have been working with those affected by ASD say that they see benefits to their clients lives through therapy.  Michael Regina-Whiteley, in an article from Massage Today in February of 2005, says that after 33-years of working with this population he believes that massage therapy can help to meet the need for human touch that is often assumed to be absent.  He notes, however, that patience is very important: "You can't expect that things will change overnight, but in time, changes and improvements in a person's quality of life and activities of daily living can be assisted through massage therapy."   

For more information on ASD or organizations that support those affected please visit:

Autism Speaks