Pioneering massage therapy for autistic children

Five-year-old Dale Bisset getting a massage from therapist Jen Wood.' 'Picture:  Anne Johnston.
Five-year-old Dale Bisset getting a massage from therapist Jen Wood.' 'Picture: Anne Johnston.
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A PIONEERING massage therapy is helping to treat disabled children and young people across the city.

The service, based in The Yard, Bonnington, is thought to be the only one of its kind in Scotland available to children with conditions such as autism.

And parents have claimed the treatment is helping to make their children calmer, happier and more manageable.

Now the centre is set to be given a therapy room thanks to an award of more than £3000 from The Screwfix Foundation.

The cash boost will provide a quiet space where parents and children can receive massage, reflexology and reiki.

Anna Robinson, fundraising officer at The Yard, said: “We have been delighted with the feedback we have received from parents who have all said that using therapies on their children has a very calming and soothing effect.

“This new space will enable us to offer more therapies to different groups and further extend the benefits this gives to our children and families.”

Complementary therapist Jen Wood has been working with families at The Yard, initially providing treatment for parents.

However, following research into the benefits of massage on youngsters with autism, a programme of therapies for children and young people aged five to 25 was launched.

The service is now used by around 100 children with conditions including deficit hyperactivity disorder, Down Syndrome and autism.

“Massage techniques have been shown to help young children with autism improve social skills, language and 
behaviour,” said Ms Wood. “Children feel more comfortable and more receptive to connecting to others. Parents have found that their children now understand what it means to relax.

“It’s great that parents and young people can have massage at The Yard as it provides support for the whole family.”

The Yard has also run workshops so the parents themselves can learn simple message techniques.

Celine Sinclair, chief executive of The Yard, said: “We are not aware of any other group that offers this service for the children, and it is possible we are the only ones in Scotland. It helps the children relax and at the same time helps the parents get some much-needed time to themselves. It is very good for the children’s general health and wellbeing.”

The treatment has proved so successful that even children with behavioural problems remove their shoes and socks without being asked and wait patiently for their massage.

The Yard is the only indoor and outdoor adventure play centre for disabled children and young people in the east of Scotland.

It offers play and youth work sessions to around 1500 individuals of varying ages and is open six days a week throughout the year.