Pediatric massage instructor Tina Allen, L.M.T., C.P.M.M.T., C.P.M.T., C.I.M.T., is teaching and promoting healthy touch to child-care providers in Oklahoma’s Native American nations. Providing a space for safe touch and healthy boundaries, she says, will help empower native children to have a better future.
“Clinical research has shown that massaging a child can aid in [children’s] physiological and neurological development and function, help soothe common discomforts, promote restful sleep, and increase healthy attachment and bonding,” Allen told MASSAGE Magazine. “Additional studies have demonstrated that with the use of massage and healthy touch, children may learn to have better self-image, increased self-worth and improvements in appropriate emotional, cognitive and physical development.”
The nine nations she is working with in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, are: Ottawa, Seneca, Modoc, Miami, Eastern Shawnee, Shawnee, Quapaw, Wyandotte and Peoria
Poverty and health disparities are challenges experienced by some Native American people in Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).Twelve percent more Native American adults live below the federal poverty level, as compared with Caucasian Americans, the CDC noted, and geographic isolation can also contribute to economic and health disparities.
During Allen’s pediatric massage classes, participants—caregivers and Early Childhood Educators—learn about the benefits of infant and pediatric massage therapy; when not to massage; simple techniques that can be applied at home; and nurturing touch techniques that can be used in early education settings, Allen explained.
“The [massage] information provided not only includes evidence-informed data and simple tactile techniques, but also a strong theme of storytelling usage in children’s massage,” Allen said. “With the permission of the nations, I am using Native American stories and cultural information, to adapt traditional tribal stories into massage stories [spoken words combined with touch] that are a developmentally appropriate blending of healthy touch and cultural storytelling.”
Allen, who is a tribal citizen of the Wyandotte Nation, is continuing the teaching to the nations through mid-September. She is also is founder and director of the Liddle Kidz Foundation (www.liddlekidz.com), and has written for MASSAGE Magazine on topics including massage for children with autism spectrum disorders and father-baby bonding through infant massage.
Allen said the nations’ educators in the toddler-care arena have begun implementing story massage as part of daily curriculum, and noticing they can help babies and young toddlers get to sleep more quickly at naptime by using massage.
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief.
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