Massage therapy has been shown to benefit autistic children. Now statistics show rates of autism are rising in the U.S.

In fall 2009, a randomized, controlled trial showed Qigong Sensory Training, a massage intervention based in Chinese medicine, benefited autistic children’s social and language skills and reduced autistic behavior.

Autism and related development disorders are becoming more common, with a prevalence rate approaching 1 percent among American 8-year-olds, according to new data from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a dramatic increase in the number of kids classified as autistic or documented on the spectrum of similar disorders,” said Beverly Mulvihill, Ph.D., a University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor of public health and co-author on the study. “It is not entirely clear what is causing the rise, but we know major collaborative efforts are needed to improve the understanding and lives of people and families impacted.”

The study also found boys are 4.5 times more likely than girls to have Autism Spectrum Disorder, a finding that confirms earlier studies, said Martha Wingate, Ph.D., an assistant professor of public health at the university and study co-author.

Mulvihill said the new findings highlight the need for social and educational services to help those affected by the condition.

Editor’s note: “Building Bridges of Communication: Autistic Children Helped Through the Power of Touch,” ran in MASSAGE Magazine’s October 2007 issue. Read the article here.

Also read: “Qigong Massage Reduces Severity of Autism” and “Physicians Want CAM Education for Autism.”