Monday, 11 February 2013

Why Not?

I mentioned in my last post that I am trying some new interventions with the boys.  Before I tell you about our latest direction I feel the need to clarify my feelings on being an "autism mommy".  There are parents of children with autism that feel that their child's autism is a "gift".  I am not now nor will I ever be one of those parents.  I would never choose to see my boys struggle in the ways that they do.  Yes they have taught me much about life, and yes I am a much stronger person for having been their mommy.  I would never want these things over seeing my children thrive.  So I will continue to try new things- again and again and again.  Some of the benefits may not be evident to others- I am here to tell you that the baby steps matter. 

So on that note...I received a book in the mail from my aunt last week.  I have been continually amazed by the amount of support our family has received, and it has come from unexpected sources as well.  My aunt lives far away, we don't see her very often, and yet she has become one of my biggest cheerleaders in this experience and I was very touched to receive this gift.  The book focuses on Chinese Medicine.  It relates to the same principles applied in interventions such as acupuncture and acupressure.  As you may well know, these techniques have proven effective for many ailments, so much so that they are often covered by insurance. 

The book is about an intervention called Qigong massage- specifically QST or Qigong Sensory Training.  To explain a little further I will give you some brief information from the book:

Chinese medicine in general is based on the electromagnetic field around each person's body, and the circulation from the top of our head down the outside of our body to our hands and our feet and then back up inside the body to our heads again.  In any situation that involves illness or pain, Chinese medicine makes the diagnosis of a block in energy and circulation and the treatment will open up the block and restore circulation.  The theory is that in autism there are many blocks in the energy channels, especially in the areas where the senses open to the world around us.  This prevents the senses from working properly and the child can't receive accurate information about the world around them.  The massage is meant to remove these blocks and fill these channels.  The person giving the massage works from the top of the head to the toes-  to follow the proper flow of energy in the body. 

So this was very intriguing to me.  I took several alternative medicine classes in nursing school including a therapeutic touch class.  It served me well as an oncology nurse- I saw the effects and I believe in them.  I have also used the wilbarger brushing protocol on the boys- which was recommended by their OT and seen the effects of this.  To me, all of this must be interrelated, so I had no problem accepting this theory.  Also, I am inclined to try interventions that "do no harm".  Things like dietary changes, vitamins, etc.  Things with very limited negative effects.  I think massage counts? 

What's the worst that could happen in this situation?  The protocol calls for me to give each child the massage daily for 5 months.  It takes approximately 15-30 minutes for each child depending on their reactions.  OK, so even if it does nothing for their autism, it's one on one time each day with each child, it's eye contact, it's loving touch.  So worst case scenario- we bond even more?  I can handle that.

The book describes various reactions that indicate blockages and/or lack of energy in a particular area.  The child will shy away if there is a blockage, in which case I should use lighter, quicker touch.  If the area is not blocked but lacks energy, the child will put their hands over mine and push, aka, wanting me to hold more pressure in this area.  Got it.

So we started 3 days ago.  I was told to expect resistance at first, and I have definitely had some- I mean they have to stay somewhat still, and for Nate especially this is a challenge.  That being said, BOTH boys have grabbed my hands and held them to a particular area already- Jack to the top of his head and his ears, Nate to his ears.  Giggling also indicates lack of energy- Nate laughs like a fool when I massage his pinky finger.  Crying indicates a block- my ticklish little Nate sobs when I massage his toes.  It's just astounding.  Also, today, a mere three days in, Jack came running upstairs at bedtime, upset to have to turn off a movie, and he yelled "Mom, I need my massage NOW".  Really?  We weren't supposed to have that reaction for several weeks! 

So in any case, I am giving it the old college try.  Clear benefits exist- a stronger connection with my boys and them becoming less sensitive to touch in areas like their ears.  And of course massage is relaxing- both boys have almost fallen asleep already.  If the other effects of increased concentration, better sleep and improved speech occur, it will just be icing on the cake.  So really, why not?


  1. I just wanted to let you know you helped me a lot today! I was having a very, very tough day with Janey. I read this post, and decided to try a little massaging with her. I don't know how to do it right, but since she was little it's something that has sometimes helped a lot when she is screaming. It did today---it seemed to reset her. She did both the pushing on my hand and the pushing away (she didn't like her nose or ears touched at all, or her knees!). We did that for a while, and then I wrapped her in a lot of blankets, and we played "musher machine"---kind of a Temple Grandin hugging machine imitation. You are so right---why not? I don't know if it's anything other than her just having some calming time with me, but if it works and doesn't have negative side effects---why not?

  2. you made my day! So glad it helped!

  3. I have read an OT study on qigong massage recently. I think it was on the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Perhaps you can have one of your children's OT to pull it up for you to read it.