Most autistic children also have a condition called sensory integration disorder. This neurological condition results from the brain's inability to integrate certain information from the five basic sensory systems in the body. Body brushing replicates movements or stimulus and stimulates the immature primitive reflexes and calms and soothes the nervous system in an autistic child.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Seek specific training on body brushing from an occupational therapist. Body brushing should be followed by another technique called joint compression in which gentle pressure is used to squish the shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles, wrists, hips, fingers and feet. The occupational therapist should teach this process as well.
Buy a soft surgical brush for the body brushing technique. This type of brush is plastic with many soft bristles and will not scratch the autistic child's skin. Initially, the child may resist body brushing for the first few days, but will soon begin to look forward to the process.
Brush the child's arms, back, legs and the soles of the feet with the surgical brush, using medium firm pressure and long, deep strokes. This is called the Wilbarger Brushing Technique.
Hold the brush horizontal to the body. The fingertips should apply firm pressure along the entire brush. Use long even strokes in a firm up and down motion. Too light of a touch will be aggravating to the child, not soothing.
Continue body brushing the autistic child for three to five minutes. The effects of the body brushing last about two hours. Brushing should be done six to eight times a day. This technique calms and soothes the nervous system, allowing the nervous system to integrate more experiences.
Tips and warnings
- Remember to body brush the child at least six to eight times daily. The time needed for brushing is reduced as the child responds more normally to touch.
- Learn the correct brushing technique and use the correct type of brush for this method to work optimally.
- Never brush the stomach, chest, head or neck.