Balance Blog

May 4th

Massage for Children With ADHD

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is on the rise in the U.S.  A Center for Disease Control survey of parents found that approximately 9.5%, or 5.4 million children between the ages of four and seventeen have been diagnosed with ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD, mainly inattention, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity, can last into adulthood.  Often a child with ADHD has difficulty in school, in peer and family relationships.

Mary in Louisville writes, “I think the most challenging part about ADHD for my son is that he wants to please, but very often behaves in ways that frustrate the adults in his life.  He knows he should ‘do better’, but often does not have the capacity to think before he acts. “

According to researchers at the University of Miami Touch Research Institute, ADHD in kids can be treated effectively by receiving regular massage therapy.  In one study, children ages 7-18 received massage for twenty minutes, twice a week. These kids experienced immediate improvement in their moods, and their classroom behavior improved over the long term.

In another study by the Touch Research Institute, adolescent boys with ADHD received ten fifteen-minute massages daily.  Their teachers observed these children to be able to focus more readily on their schoolwork, and were able to sit quietly with less fidgeting.

In both studies, the kids themselves reported feeling happier, and among the 7-18 year olds, their teachers found them to be more attentive in school.

Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to calm the massage receiver and stave off the fight-or-flight response.  Massage has been shown to help with academic performance, alertness, and focus.  Massage can help depressive and anxiety disorders, which may help some children struggling with ADHD.

Because children with ADHD can have difficulty staying still for long periods, they may better tolerate shorter massage sessions.  The therapist may start out with thirty minutes, and shorten or lengthen the following session based on the child’s reaction.  The child may receive massage fully clothed if she or he desires, may choose to wear just shorts, or shorts and tank top.  Generally a child with ADHD will benefit from massage to the back, neck, head, arms and legs.  The child can be massaged lying on a massage table, or if fully clothed, may feel more comfortable seated on a massage chair.

For parents and caregivers interested in doing the massage themselves, some massage practitioners may offer training either in their office, or in your home.  Parents can then choose to give the massages themselves, or to alternate sessions with a licensed massage therapist.  Creating a routine time for massage can be a special bonding time for parents and caregivers and their children to look forward to and enjoy.

C.A. in Louisville writes, “I really dislike the term ‘Attention Deficit DISORDER.’ Because my brain is different and faster than most doesn’t mean I am defective.”  Chuck in Colorado agrees: “In retrospect, as a child and an adult with ADHD, I’ve had to deal with not only the special way my brain works, but also the non-acceptance of ADHD by society.”  He goes on, “I think the name ADHD is an observer’s perspective and not a true description of what the condition is. I don’t have a deficit of attention, I have an excess of it.”

Understanding the needs of a child with ADHD can help the massage practitioner, parents and all caregivers provide the best care possible.  Massage therapy can be a powerful tool to help ADHD children develop self-confidence, inner organization, physical grounding in the world, and overall healthy balance.

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