The power of qigong

Mar 26 • Newsroom • 1178 Views • Comments Off on The power of qigong

By Courtney Freitag

When her son, Joshua, was four years old, Jamee Homuth began administering an ancient Chinese method known as qigong massage to her son, hoping to alleviate some of his autism symptoms.

Homuth took part in a parent-led qigong massage program offered through a federal grant at Western Oregon University’s Teaching Research Institute.

Homuth says the improvements in Joshua have been profound.

“About a month into treatment, we experienced a huge jump in Joshua’s language ability,” the Washougal mother says. “He became conversational, understanding more and articulating more clearly. His improvement was so pronounced that people who didn’t know that we were doing the massage began to comment on how much his speech had improved in such a short period of time.”

Through a workshops focused on naturopathic options for autism, she was referred to Dr. Louisa Silva, founder of the Qigong Sensory Training Institute (QSTI) and co-author of a dozen studies on qigong that have appeared national reputable peer-reviewed publications.

Silva, a doctor of Western medicine, Chinese medicine and public health, has led a team of trained therapists for 14 years. In 2012, Silva was awarded a three-year grant totaling $842,382 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Part one of her two-part research has allowed Silva and her team to treat 100 children thus far.

Her passion of helping those with chronic medical problems led Silva to focus on how qigong and a parent-led daily massage program have been shown to effectively reverse sensory sensitivities and behavior improvement.

“When it comes to children with disabilities, I believe the parents are the child’s greatest resources and advocates, and must be empowered and helped to do what they do naturally,” Silva said. “When a close friend of mine had a child with autism, I started to see how devastating the diagnosis was, how little help was offered, and I chose to teach the parents a massage I had learned from Chinese medicine.”

Silva began seeing how qigong helped the children feel better and was compelled to begin research on it. At the time, all information coming out about autism was that it was genetic, she says.

“I knew that the research would have to be very good to convince people that something like daily massage could help to change the course of autism.”

The basic premise of Silva’s research is that some children with ASD have difficulties with touch, and that, in turn, interferes with development. The research shows that “all children with autism have problems with touch,” Silva says.

Sensitivities can be of varying degree, and include refusal to be touched on the hands and face; difficulty trimming fingernails and haircuts; clothing seams can cause aggravation; problems with food textures in the mouth; and many children can have a numbness in response to pain and very high pain thresholds for burns, cuts and bruises.

“Like with autism itself, the cause of the problems with touch is unknown,” Silva continues. “It was only last year that sensory problems were included in the diagnosis of autism, and so the cause of the touch problems has not yet been fully Evaluated. We cannot say for sure that there is no loss or damage to the sense of touch.”

Part one of her research is concluding this fall, with results being published early 2015. Part two of the research focuses on the qigong massage treatment that has been developed and shown to reverse the problems with touch. The team has carried out two randomized controlled trials: they demonstrate that when parents are trained and supported to give their children a daily qigong massage protocol, the touch problems return to normal, behavior improves and development starts to pick up.

The massage is called Qigong Sensory Therapy, a whole body massage that takes about 15 minutes to give, and is usually given at bedtime. Parents are guided through a three-hour group training in the massage, then practice on each other or on a neurotypical child first.

Families are then given weekly home visits for the first five months where the therapists work with them to perform the massage, and help them to learn to attune the massage to their individual child.

“It may not be easy to do at first, as there are areas of the body which are uncomfortable,” Silva says. “We teach parents not to avoid these areas but to find the techniques which make them comfortable. We have a number of different adaptations of the techniques, and a lot of success with finding our way through the children’s difficulties with touch.”

Homuth attended several hour-long training sessions at QSTI where the 12 steps of qigong massage was explained and broken down. The proper techniques for administering each step were taught, as well as how to modify the massage based on the behavioral responses ?of the child.

“Before the training sessions with QSTI professionals began, Josh struggled with frequent meltdowns and a lot of nervous system dysregulation,” Homuth says. “He had a significant speech delay—both expressive and receptive—anxiety and limited food intake.”

Joshua’s anxiety decreased slightly, and his food aversions began to lessen, allowing him to be more comfortable being exposed to new meals.

Marla Sheffel, a Troutdale mom to three-and-a-half-year-old Theodore, also participated in the parent classes and now massages Theodore five to six times a week. Diagnosed with autism, sensory processing disorder and born with Torticollis, a dystonic condition defined by an abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck position, Theodore began responding positively 45 days into the parent-led massage.

Sheffel also reports improved language, motor skills, mood, dexterity and regulation. The curve from his Torticollis has also improved. Before beginning the massage, Theodore was screamed often, was nearly ?non-verbal and had to be bounced or swung nearly all hours of the day.

Sheffel learned how to tailor the massage to meet Theodore’s needs and also practices it on her hyposensitive 5-year-old daughter.

“I understand all the intricacies of doing the massage in the right order, and how to realize if Theodore needs more of something or needs to just feel my presence or hand on his chest to know that he is safe and secure,” Sheffel says.

Silva and her staff began a pilot study in 2013 of children ages 6-11, and published results will be available in early 2015. She says that children show signs of “normalizing” within just a few months. At the same time, self-regulation begins to pick up, sleep improves, and tantrums decrease as the normalization of touch on the face and hands and eye contact improves, Silva says.

“Parents are not used to the idea that they can communicate directly with the child’s brain and body through massage,” Silva concludes. “But once they see that they can make a difference in their child, and start to see the first small signs of improvement, they start to understand that they have the power to help their child get better.”
When her son, Joshua, was four years old, Jamee Homuth began administering an ancient Chinese method known as qigong massage to her son, hoping to alleviate some of his autism symptoms.

Homuth took part in a parent-led qigong massage program offered through a federal grant at Western Oregon University’s Teaching Research Institute.

Homuth says the improvements in Joshua have been profound.

“About a month into treatment, we experienced a huge jump in Joshua’s language ability,” the Washougal mother says. “He became conversational, understanding more and articulating more clearly. His improvement was so pronounced that people who didn’t know that we were doing the massage began to comment on how much his speech had improved in such a short period of time.”

Through a workshops focused on naturopathic options for autism, she was referred to Dr. Louisa Silva, founder of the Qigong Sensory Training Institute (QSTI) and co-author of a dozen studies on qigong that have appeared national reputable peer-reviewed publications.

Silva, a doctor of Western medicine, Chinese medicine and public health, has led a team of trained therapists for 14 years. In 2012, Silva was awarded a three-year grant totaling $842,382 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Part one of her two-part research has allowed Silva and her team to treat 100 children thus far.

Her passion of helping those with chronic medical problems led Silva to focus on how qigong and a parent-led daily massage program have been shown to effectively reverse sensory sensitivities and behavior improvement.

“When it comes to children with disabilities, I believe the parents are the child’s greatest resources and advocates, and must be empowered and helped to do what they do naturally,” Silva said. “When a close friend of mine had a child with autism, I started to see how devastating the diagnosis was, how little help was offered, and I chose to teach the parents a massage I had learned from Chinese medicine.”

Silva began seeing how qigong helped the children feel better and was compelled to begin research on it. At the time, all information coming out about autism was that it was genetic, she says.

“I knew that the research would have to be very good to convince people that something like daily massage could help to change the course of autism.”

The basic premise of Silva’s research is that some children with ASD have difficulties with touch, and that, in turn, interferes with development. The research shows that “all children with autism have problems with touch,” Silva says.

Sensitivities can be of varying degree, and include refusal to be touched on the hands and face; difficulty trimming fingernails and haircuts; clothing seams can cause aggravation; problems with food textures in the mouth; and many children can have a numbness in response to pain and very high pain thresholds for burns, cuts and bruises.

“Like with autism itself, the cause of the problems with touch is unknown,” Silva continues. “It was only last year that sensory problems were included in the diagnosis of autism, and so the cause of the touch problems has not yet been fully Evaluated. We cannot say for sure that there is no loss or damage to the sense of touch.”

Part one of her research is concluding this fall, with results being published early 2015. Part two of the research focuses on the qigong massage treatment that has been developed and shown to reverse the problems with touch. The team has carried out two randomized controlled trials: they demonstrate that when parents are trained and supported to give their children a daily qigong massage protocol, the touch problems return to normal, behavior improves and development starts to pick up.

The massage is called Qigong Sensory Therapy, a whole body massage that takes about 15 minutes to give, and is usually given at bedtime. Parents are guided through a three-hour group training in the massage, then practice on each other or on a neurotypical child first.

Families are then given weekly home visits for the first five months where the therapists work with them to perform the massage, and help them to learn to attune the massage to their individual child.

“It may not be easy to do at first, as there are areas of the body which are uncomfortable,” Silva says. “We teach parents not to avoid these areas but to find the techniques which make them comfortable. We have a number of different adaptations of the techniques, and a lot of success with finding our way through the children’s difficulties with touch.”

Homuth attended several hour-long training sessions at QSTI where the 12 steps of qigong massage was explained and broken down. The proper techniques for administering each step were taught, as well as how to modify the massage based on the behavioral responses ?of the child.

“Before the training sessions with QSTI professionals began, Josh struggled with frequent meltdowns and a lot of nervous system dysregulation,” Homuth says. “He had a significant speech delay—both expressive and receptive—anxiety and limited food intake.”

Joshua’s anxiety decreased slightly, and his food aversions began to lessen, allowing him to be more comfortable being exposed to new meals.

Marla Sheffel, a Troutdale mom to three-and-a-half-year-old Theodore, also participated in the parent classes and now massages Theodore five to six times a week. Diagnosed with autism, sensory processing disorder and born with Torticollis, a dystonic condition defined by an abnormal, asymmetrical head or neck position, Theodore began responding positively 45 days into the parent-led massage.

Sheffel also reports improved language, motor skills, mood, dexterity and regulation. The curve from his Torticollis has also improved. Before beginning the massage, Theodore was screamed often, was nearly ?non-verbal and had to be bounced or swung nearly all hours of the day.

Sheffel learned how to tailor the massage to meet Theodore’s needs and also practices it on her hyposensitive 5-year-old daughter.

“I understand all the intricacies of doing the massage in the right order, and how to realize if Theodore needs more of something or needs to just feel my presence or hand on his chest to know that he is safe and secure,” Sheffel says.

Silva and her staff began a pilot study in 2013 of children ages 6-11, and published results will be available in early 2015. She says that children show signs of “normalizing” within just a few months. At the same time, self-regulation begins to pick up, sleep improves, and tantrums decrease as the normalization of touch on the face and hands and eye contact improves, Silva says.

“Parents are not used to the idea that they can communicate directly with the child’s brain and body through massage,” Silva concludes. “But once they see that they can make a difference in their child, and start to see the first small signs of improvement, they start to understand that they have the power to help their child get better.”

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