Linda Garofallou, MS, IMH-E®-III Clinical
Qigong Sensory Treatment for Children's Special Developmental Needs

Autism - Qigong Sensory Treatment

Certified Qigong Sensory Treatment Therapist 

    Massage for babies and children has been used for centuries by parents and grandparents to help their children grow and to soothe children who are ill or in distress. Healthy touch and the organizing power of integrated sensory experience is critical to children's development on every level—physical, cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral.

     Children with autism and developmental difficulties often have fragile sensory systems that are easily over-loaded, result in their rejection of contact and lead both the parent and child to experience touch, massage and physical contact as areas to avoid. However, integrated tactile experience is vital to growth. 

     It fosters the development of social contact, good body boundaries and a deep emotional bond between parent and child.

Individualized Training

     In individualized sessions with you and your child, you are guided to learn simple yet effective massage skills that will address your child's tactile hyper- or hypo-sensitivity and specific individual sensory needs.  In addition to our focus on your child’s physical, social and behavioral concerns, these skills will also enhance your abilities to read the subtle cues and needs of your child, giving them the feeling of truly being seen and understood at levels far more fundamental than any words can express. 

Benefits for Your Child 

  • Improved sleeping
  • Reduced hypersensitivity to touch
  • Decreased hyperactivity and increased attention 
  • More on-task and social relatedness behaviors
  • Development of trust and connectedness
  • Improved motor skills & sensory function
  • Improved vocalization
  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Better GI functioning/relief of gas and constipation

Benefits for Parents & Caregivers

  • Enhanced ability to read your child’s unique cues & rhythms of engagement
  • Fosters communication with your child
  • Decreased parental stress hormones
  • Increased confidence in parenting skills

University-based Research on Qigong Sensory Treatment & Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Results after 5-months—NIH MCH research study:

  • Improved sleep and digestion
  • Sensory problems improved by 38%, touch by 49%
  • Social skills increased and children were more affectionate
  • Decreased aggression and behavior problems, fewer meltdowns
  • Improved receptive language
  • Parenting stress decreased by 44%

Results after 2-yrs: all children continued to improve

  • Overall severity of autism reduced by 44%
  • Overall one-in-four children moved off the spectrum
  • Children participated more in family life and were more receptive to connecting with others

Please see  for parent videos, all links to 16 years of research studies and parent-instruction books including online instructional videos.                         


Silva, L, Schalock, M., Gabrielsen,K.  (2016).  One and Two-year Outcomes of Treating Preschool Children with Autism with a Qigong Massage Protocol.  Alternative and Integrative Medicine  5:216. doi:10.4172/2327-5162.1000216.

Randomized controlled trials have repeatedly demonstrated that treatment with a five-month qigong massage protocol significantly reduces the severity of autism. The treatment protocol is known as Qigong Sensory Training (QST) autism massage and is given daily by parents and weekly by therapists for five months. Treatment reduces the tactile abnormalities that are universal in young children with autism and results in improved social skills, language and behavior. At five months, tactile abnormalities are reduced by 1/2, autistic behavior is reduced by 1/3, autism severity is reduced by 16%, and 6% of children have moved off the spectrum. This observational study investigates outcomes with up to 24 months of treatment. 

Results: Continued treatment resulted in continued improvement. At 12 and 24 months, mean tactile responses normalized by 57% and 72%, with 24% and 32% falling into the normal range; mean autism severity decreased by 27% and 44%, with 12% and 26% of children moving out of autistic range.
Conclusions: Results demonstrated that longer-term treatment resulted in resolution of tactile impairment and continued improvement of social skills, language and behavior. The rate of coming off the spectrum (1 in 4 children by year-2) was far higher than the natural history of ASD would predict. Results support earlier recommendations to treat tactile abnormalities at the time of autism diagnosis in order to improve autism outcomes.  

Silva, L, Schalock, M., Ayres, R., Bunse, C., Budden, S.  (2009).  Qigong massage treatment for sensory and self-regulation problems in young children with autism: a randomized controlled trial.  Amer Journal Occup Ther, Jul-Aug;63(4): 423-32. 

 A randomized controlled study evaluates a 5-month Qigong Sensory Training (QST) protocol with 46 children with autism (< age 6).  Trainers administer the Qigong massage to the children directly 20 times over 5 months; and parents give the massage daily to their children.  Children were evaluated in two settings, in their school by their teachers (blind to group) and by parents at home.  Blinded teacher evaluations showed treated children had a reduction in autistic behavior and significant improvement of language/social skills compared to controls. Parent data confirmed the findings (Parent data also showed improvement in sensory impairment, including normalization of tactile responses to gentle touch and the remaining senses as well as improved sleep, appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and tantrums.  A model and supporting data for understanding and treatment sensory and self-regulation problems in autism is presented.  

Moyer, C.A.  (2008)   Research Section Editorial:  Affective Massage TherapyInternational Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education & Practice, Vol 1, No. 2.

Review of multiple massage therapy studies.  Individual studies examine the effects of massage therapy on infant growth and development, post-operative pain, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, migraine headache, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, asthma, HIV and breast cancer.  In addition to several condition- and population-specific effects.  

Silva, L, et al.  (2007).  A medical Qigong metholodology for early intervention in autism spectrum disorder: a case series.  American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 35(3): 393-406.

In clinical research, sensory impairment is considered one of the core deficits in autism and is associated with impaired socialization, behavioral disturbances and bowel and sleep problems.  The effectiveness of the Cignolini methodology, an original Qigong massage methodology, in treating sensory impairment in young children with autism was evaluated in a small, controlled study.  Thirteen children with autism between the (between ages 3-6)  received daily treatment according to the methodology for 5 months.  Compared with untreated children, treated children experienced significant improvement of their sensory impairment, demonstrated increased social skills and basic living skills on standardized measures.  In addition, all of the children with bowel and sleep abnormalities demonstrated improvement after treatment.

Silva, L. & Cignolini, A.  (2005).  A medical Qigong methodology for early intervention in autism spectrum disorder: a case series.  Am J Chin Med, 33(2): 315-27.  

A medical Qigong protocol was conducted with a group of eight autistic children under the age of six.  The children received medical Qigong massage twice weekly from the physician and daily Qigong massage from the parents for a five-week period, followed by daily parent massage for an additional four weeks.  Standardized tests showed a decrease in autistic behaviors and increase in language development in all the children, as well as improvement in motor skills, sensory function and general health.

Solomons., S (2005).  Using aromatherapy massage to increase shared attention behaviours in children with autistic spectrum disorders and severe learning difficulties.  British Journal of Special Education, Vol 32(3): 127-137.

This study investigated whether aromatherapy massage could increase shared attention behaviours in a sample of four children with autistic spectrum disorders and severe learning difficulties at St. Ann's School (London Borough of Merton).  Massage was introduced in the daily schedule and children's responses were observed.  Results indicate that children's shared attention behaviours increased during aromatherapy massage and that other aspects of the children's behaviour also changed over the course of the research project.  Family involvement enabled the positive changes to be transferred from school to home.  Steve Solomon (assistant headteacher at Rectory Paddock School and Research United, London Borough of Bromley)carried out this research project as part of his MEd in special education for which he received the prestigious Annie Deakins prize in 2003.

Cullen, L. & Barlow, J. (2002).   Kiss, cuddle, squeeze:  the experiences and meaning of touch among parents of children with autism attending a Touch Therapy Programme.  J Child Health Care, 6(3):171-181.

The aim if this qualitative study was to explore the experiences and meaning of touch between parents and children with autism before and after attending a Touch Therapy Programme.  Twelve parents participated (1 father, 11 mothers) of children (1 female, 11 male) with autism.  Parent interviews before and immediately after the 8-week program.  Pre-program results suggested that children were controlling the experience of touch.  Parents felt "hurt" in response to the "aloof" nature of autism, and natural parenting instincts (i.e. spontaneous cuddles) were restricted.  Post-program results suggested that children appeared to tolerate touch more.  Parents report routine tasks (i.e. dressing) were accomplished more easily and that children appeared generally more relaxed.  Parents report feeling "closer" to their children and feel improved communication between themselves and their children. 

Escalona, A., Field, T., Singer-Strunck, R., Cullen, C., & Hartshorn, K.  (2001).  Brief report:  improvement in the behavior of children with autism following massage therapy.  Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 31, 513-516.  

Methods: Twenty children with autism ranging in age from 3 to 6 years were randomly assigned to massage therapy and reading attention control groups. Parents in the massage therapy group were trained by a massage therapist to massage their children for 15 minutes prior to bedtime every night for one month while the parents of the attention control group read Dr. Seuss stories to their children on the same time schedule. Conners Teacher and Parent scales, classroom and playground observations and sleep diaries were used to assess the effects of therapy on various behaviors including hyperactivity, stereotypical and off-task behavior, as well as sleep problems. Results: Results suggested that the children in the massage group exhibited less stereotypic behavior and showed more on-task and social relatedness behavior during play observations at school, and they experienced fewer sleep problems at home.

Hartshorn, K., Olds, L., Field, T., Delage, J., Cullen, C. & Escalona, A. (2001)  Creative movement therapy benefits children with autism.  Early Child and Development and Care, 166, 1-5.

Thirty-eight children with autism were given movement therapy in small groups, led by a trained movement therapist.  After two months of bi-weekly sessions, the children spent less time wandering, more time showing on-task behavior, less time showing negative responses to being touched and less time resisting the teacher than those in the control group.  

Field, T. Lasko, D., Mundy, P., Henteleff, T., Talpins, S., & Dowling, M. (1997)  Autistic children’s attentiveness and responsivity improve after touch therapy,  Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 27, 333-338.

This study investigated the effects of touch therapy on three problems commonly associated with autism including inattentiveness (off-task behavior), touch aversion and withdrawal.  Results showed that touch aversion decreased in both the touch therapy and the touch control group, off task behavior decreased in both groups, orienting to irrelevant sounds decreased in both groups, but significantly more in the touch therapy group and stereotypic behaviors decreased in both groups but significantly more in the touch therapy group.