Stories From the Heart: Qi for ASD

Traditional Chinese Medicine Provides a Research Based Approach to Using Medical Qigong to Help Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parents of special needs children often become advocates willing to pursue innovative approaches to helping their children.  In my case, my eclectic background as a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist and acupuncturist led me to pursue options offered by Chinese medicine for my own children, who have had sensory integration challenges.

Imagine my surprise in discovering that an American medical doctor trained in classical Chinese medicine had already charted this territory and come away with a comprehensive treatment approach that pulls forward ancient teachings of medical Qigong  to treat children with sensory integration challenges, and had published research to demonstrate that her approach supports significant developmental gains in children with ASD.

This Western MD had taken her initiative a step further and was actively placing Qigong in the hands of early intervention specialists and parents via a training program that honors the age old principle that Chinese medicine is fundamentally for families.  Dr. Louisa Silva has been publishing research for the past 6 years  showing that her intervention, “Qigong Sensory Training”, reduces sensory impairment and improves adaptive behaviors in children with ASD.

Her most recent publication draws on Chinese medical theory to suggest that Autism involves the interplay of impaired sensory development and delayed emergence of self- regulation.  Addressing this delay via Qigong can help children fill in missing developmental milestones.

My training provided a lens to review Dr. Silva’s research—which I found compelling enough to invite her to come to the Boston area for the first time to offer her thorough training to occupational therapists and acupuncturists. The training also teaches parents to deliver Qigong massage.  My experiences working with children and parents in the program contribute to my enthusiasm over this approach.  We are already seeing signs of reduction in sensory impairment in the children novice practitioners are treating.

Through ongoing outreach, Dr. Silva aims to expand the reach of this Qigong Sensory Training Intervention.  If you are an open minded parent who wants to engage hands-on in your child’s wellness, consider participating in a QST training near you!

Author Bio:
Maria A. Broderick, MAOM, Ed.D., Lic.Ac., practices Chinese medicine with a focus on child and adolescent health and development.  Maria is a member of the clinical faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture (www.nesa.edu), where she supervises acupuncture interns in the pediatric in patient unit and the adolescent outpatient clinic at Boston Medical Center. Maria holds a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture and a doctoral degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, where she previously served on the Faculty of Education. Maria is a Schweitzer Fellow for Life. She is the Director of Reservoir Family Wellness (www.reservoirfamilywellness), in Acton, MA, where she treats children with ASD with Chinese medicine.

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

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