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Opportunity to Participate in Parent Massage Study - Free Treatment for Participating Children

Western Oregon University’s (WOU) Teaching Research Institute (TRI) is currently recruiting children with autism under age six for a parent massage study. Participants are being recruited from the Portland, Salem, Albany/Corvallis, and Eugene areas, and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

TRI has received a three-year award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau to conduct research on parent-delivered massage for young children with autism. The award extends research conducted through TRI that has focused on the impact of parental massage on young children with special needs.

Parent touch is the oldest and most effective means to calm young children, help them focus, and regulate their behavior. It is far more effective than verbal or visual means. Yet many parents of children with autism begin to avoid using touch because their children don’t respond normally to it.

For the past decade, TRI at WOU has been involved in training parents to give a specific 15-minute massage to their children daily. Results show that the massage is effective in reversing the difficulties with touch. Children become calmer, more comfortable, are better able to learn, and have improved behavior.

The massage is based on Chinese medicine. There are specific techniques for each area of difficulty (e.g. the head, fingers and toes). Families receive support to help them learn the program. After a few months, the massage becomes relaxing and enjoyable, and parent touch comes back into use to effectively help the child self-regulate. After five months, studies show promising improvements in social development and behavior. The daily massage program is continued for a year for full effect. According to one parent, “When we believed that autism was permanent and unchangeable, we didn’t think of trying to improve it. Now we believe autism is treatable; we do the massage every day.”

One hundred twenty Oregon families will have the opportunity to participate in the study. Children with autism under the age of six will be eligible. Families enrolled in the study will receive free treatment. Those interested in learning more about the study can visit, send an email to or call 503-585-9239.