Future Reflections                                                                                                           Fall 2004

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Massage: A Feel-Good Treat That Works Wonders— Resources and Tips for Blind and Multiply Disabled Children

by Linda Zani Thomas

Editorís Note: Linda Zani Thomas, one of our NOPBC parent leaders in New Jersey, recently forwarded the following article to me. She wrote it for her own publication, Lifestyles of the Fun and Special: A Newsletter About Relaxation, Recreation and Entertainment for Children with Disabilities, but wanted to share it with Future Reflections readers, too. Information about Linda Zani Thomas and how to subscribe to her newsletter follows the article. Here is what she says:

Aaah, massage. We all want one! Itís the perfect way to relax and melt away stress. But a massage for a child with disabilities does that and a whole lot more: it increases range of motion and sensory tolerability, promotes learning social skills through bonding with the massage therapist, encourages communicationónot to mention pain relief and complete relaxation for a sense of total well-being. With all the tedious and frightening physician visits, physical therapy, and the medication side effects our kids endure, donít they deserve a break? According to several studies, massage therapy has been found to help children with autism, ADHD, cystic fibrosis, and cerebral palsy (www.miami.edu/touch-research/index.html).

Many of our children see orthopedists, neurologists, and physical therapists on a regular basis. They are all excellent sources for recommendations for massage therapists to work with your child. Often, a physicianís prescription and a letter of medical necessity will suffice to get insurance company coverage. Funds available from your state Division of Developmental Disabilities may also be used for massage therapy costs.

There are many types of massage therapy, with Swedish massage as the basis for most. This combination of strokes and passive stretching benefits most people. Neuromuscular therapy, trigger point therapy, and active release technique are just a few other options. Active Release Technique (ART) is a soft-tissue management system created by Dr. P. Michael Leahy. Jody-Lynn Reicher, NCMT, ART, AMTA of Fine Tuning Therapy in Waldwick, New Jersey, is one of the few massage therapists in New Jersey certified in ART. She is well versed in Neuromuscular and Trigger Point Therapy as well. Reicher reports that these two therapies along with ART can be used for children who have gone through surgery, as it helps decrease scar tissue. When choosing a therapist, Reicher recommends finding one who is well versed in a number of techniques and has a good knowledge of pain disorders and dysfunctions.

Children who are bedridden, in wheelchairs, or suffering from catastrophic illnesses often have stiff necks and backs. According to Reicher, ďThey rarely complain. In my experience, children appear to be more accepting of the discomforts and pain of their illnesses or disorders. Massage can give them sorely needed relief.Ē Jody-Lynn Reicher can be reached at (201) 493-9310.

Many children with disabilities (especially cerebral palsy) experience irritable bowel syndrome and/or constipation caused by a disturbance in the natural peristaltic movement of the intestines. Gentle touch to the abdomen encourages normal peristaltic movement and can help calm gastrointestinal distress.

If you donít have access to a massage therapist, there are techniques you can do at home. Trigger Point Therapy (TRP) works on the afferent nervous system by using ischemic compression. TRP techniques can be tried at home; a qualified professional can show you, with your doctorís permission, how to apply ischemic compression using a simple tennis ball.

Peggy Jones Farlow, M. Sp. Ed, LMT, specializes in Healing Touch for Children with Special Needs, an interest that grew out of twenty-seven years of experience as a speech pathologist. She developed a program called Touch to T.E.A.C.H for primary and professional caregivers. This ten-minute modified massage routine combines acupressure with Swedish massage strokes and is used by Peggy in her classroom. To read more about Touch To T.E.A.C.H. online, go to <www.TouchtoTeach.com>. Peggy can be contacted at <circleofhealth98@aol.com>.

Editorís Note: Here is information Linda Zani Thomas about her newsletter and how to subscribe to it:

As the mother of a fifteen-year-old, multiply disabled girl, I have tried many things to get my daughter to relax, play, and enjoy life. This newsletter, Lifestyles of the Fun and Special: A Newsletter About Relaxation, Recreation and Entertainment for Children with Disabilities, is dedicated to getting useful information to those who need it most: the caregivers of these remarkable children.

I will produce four issues annually and take no advertising sponsorship, thereby assuring you of completely unbiased information. I am charging a small fee to cover the costs of this publication and Web site. To subscribe, please mail a personal check or money order for $ 9.95 made out to Linda Zani Thomas and mail to PO Box 644, Ringwood, New Jersey, 07456. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and stories about your relaxation, recreation, and entertainment experiences with your children. Please email me at <lfsnewsletter@aol.com> or drop me a line at the address above. Linda Zani Thomas, Editor/Publisher.

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