Millions of children have been swept up in a global epidemic of diagnoses of developmental disorders within the autism spectrum classification. Boys appear to be affected five times more than girls, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 1980, autism diagnoses were 1 in 5,000 children. Data indicates the rate now to be 1 in 88 children However, another recent CDC survey on U.S. children living with autism made quite the flurry online and in the press when it indicated many parents believing the rate is actually closer to 1 in 50 children affected.
There are numerous theories on the causes of autism. However, little is known of the causes of autism or its related disorders, such as Asperger’s disorder, an autism-like condition usually without language delay. In December, the American Psychological Association announced Asperger’s disorder will no longer be a separate diagnosis but instead be incorporated into the diagnosis of autism-spectrum disorder. Other diagnoses within the spectrum include Rett Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Not Otherwise Specified and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
According to the Autism Research Institute, autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most children with autism are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling behaviors that are markedly different from those of neuro-typically developing children.
Usually diagnosed by the age of 3, this complex developmental condition affects a child’s ability to develop normal language, form relationships or respond appropriately, and is characterized by early onset of a lack of attachment, failure to cuddle as an infant and an almost complete disassociation with the environment.
Autism as we know it, is incurable, and behaviors associated with the disorder persist throughout the child’s lifetime.
The common belief that children with autism do not like to be touched is false; however, autism is characterized by sensory malfunction and dysfunction of the tactile system, often making a child averse to certain sights, sounds, smells or touch.
Given that children with autism have been reported to be opposed to physical contact, it is interesting that many of their parents, as well as massage therapists, are finding great success in the use of massage therapy.
Part Two: Research and Benefits of Massage Therapy for Children with Autism will be posted to www.massagemag.com on April 17.
Learn more about Pediatric Massage and Massage for Autism: www.LiddleKidz.com.
Tina Allen, L.M.T., C.P.M.M.T., C.P.M.T., C.I.M.T, is the founder and director of the Liddle Kidz Foundation (www.liddlekidz.com), and an authority on infant and pediatric massage therapy. She has written for MASSAGE Magazine on topics including “Connected Touch: A Hands-On Approach to Autism Spectrum Disorders” (February 2013) and “Pediatric Massage” (October 2012) and “Father-Baby Bonding: Infant Massage Builds Bridges that Last a Lifetime” (February 2014).