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Qigong May Treat Tactile Impairment in Young Children with Autism
 
January 13, 2014 -
Evidence has emerged showing that tactile abnormalities in young children with autism are severe, universally present, and directly related to delay of early self-regulation milestones required for social development. Parent touch is the most effective means of stimulating early self-regulation, yet parents of children with autism avoid touch because their children respond abnormally to it. This suggests that tactile abnormalities pose a barrier to parent touch in autism, and that treatment of tactile abnormalities may improve developmental outcomes.

Two researchers from Western Oregon University have developed a Qigong massage treatment for tactile abnormalities in young children with autism. They evaluated whether tactile abnormalities would decrease following treatment, and whether the treatment would result in improved self-regulatory outcomes.

They retrospectively analyzed their Qigong massage database for treatment effect on tactile abnormalities, self-regulatory delay, and parenting stress. Five-month interval data were available for 129 children with autism aged 3-6 years. Of these 129, 97 received the treatment and 32 were in the wait-list control condition. There were no differences between the treatment and control groups by age, gender, or severity of tactile impairment.

The treatment resulted in significant decreases of tactile impairment, self-regulatory delay, and parenting stress. Results were significant compared to controls. In the pretreatment data, tactile impairment was directly related to self-regulatory delay; post-treatment, both variables decreased proportionally.

The results demonstrate that tactile impairment in young children with autism is treatable with a Qigong massage protocol. The direct relationship between tactile impairment and self-regulatory delay pretreatment, and the proportional decrease of both following treatment, suggest that tactile impairment is a cause of self-regulatory delay, and that Qigong massage is a promising avenue to improve developmental outcomes in autism.

This study is published in the December 2013 issue of the International journal of therapeutic massage & bodywork.

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