By: Meghana Reddy
I heard shrieks and found seven-year-old Jack screaming and thrashing on the floor. His mother was sitting next to him, “tactically ignoring” his autistic behavior, trying to discourage him from continuing his yelling and hoping that he would calm down.
But there was so much noise around Jack, he couldn't calm down. With all the conversations going on nearby, between parents and the specialists at the autism center, there was too much information for his brain to handle. Jack was overwhelmed by this sensory overload; but, he was unable to communicate what he was feeling because of his autism. So, he continued yelling, drowning out the other sounds in the only way he knew how.
His mother, unable to console him, started tearing up. Seeing her desperation, and Jack’s frustrated inability to communicate, I felt like crying as well. But crying wouldn't cure anything.
I rushed to find a therapist, so we could do something about Jack’s unrest. A physical therapist brought Jack into another room, set him down on a bed, and gave him a cranio-sacral massage. I watched, amazed that after just fifteen minutes, Jack’s screams died down and he fell asleep. His mother smiled, and thanked the therapist for her help. She then carefully scooped him up, and brought him into the car for a nice, quiet ride back home.
New Jersey has twice the national average of autism (1 in 49, as opposed to 1 in 88)*, which got me interested in volunteering at an autism center, which provides medical and psychosocial care for autistic children. With these therapy sessions, such as the massage therapy that worked so well for Jack, we can provide relief and care for the affected children, as well as emotional support for their families. Autism is an on-going, patience-testing disorder that requires a lot of effort from both the children, and their parents and caretaker. But it's amazing to see how just one therapy session can affect people in such a positive way, even if it's only for a day at a time.