Where Do You Work? Massage and Autism

Tami Goldstein presented "Massage Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders" at the AMTA 2016 National Convention in Milwaukee. Learn more about Tami and her work with clients on the autism spectrum.

What drew you to the massage profession?

My daughter was seeing an occupational therapist for sensory processing disorders related to her autism and the OT facilitated bodywork. I became very intrigued by the Upledger CranioSacral Therapy facilitated to reduce seizures, anxiety and touch sensitivities. With the anxiety reduced we saw other improvement in behaviors. For example, she made better eye contact, her OCD reduced and she was more connected and engaged. The OT was also facilitating other bodywork techniques and all were incredibly helpful for my child.

As a parent living in the world of autism, to see these improvements when years of traditional pharmaceutical medication did nothing, I went back to school for massage therapy with a goal to help other families dealing with autism spectrum disorders.

How long have you been practicing massage?

I have been practicing massage and bodywork for 12 years.

Describe your education?

My initial education was in early childhood education and I worked as a travel agent for over 20 years. I attended massage school in my early forties. Since graduating from massage school I have taken extensive continuing education classes, over and above the 24 hours required every two years. Currently, I am certified in U-CST and have training in lymphatic drainage, Reiki (Master-Teacher) and myofascial release.

What is your current massage work setting like?

I currently work out of two offices, both of which are larger than the average massage room. Working with the autism population I have learned to be creative—there is room to spread out, work on the floor in a bean bag chair, or while the clients is constantly moving. With the intake form I gather information to better control the environment, like lighting, climate, smells and movement opportunities—all tools to offset sensory issues. One of my offices is located within a chiropractic facility while the other is private office space.

What do you enjoy? 

What I enjoy most about my current position is helping the children and their families. The first time a nonverbal child spoke during a session, I couldn’t help but cry tears of happiness along with the parents.

As a business owner, I love the flexibility and the creative part of establishing your practice. My office is a reflection of peace and simplicity that can easily transform to the sensory needs of my clients. It’s a privilege to work with these individuals every day. Some have a savant of intellect that’s astounding, while others are suffering mentally and physically in ways we can’t fully understand.

The challenges?

The challenges are on the business end: keeping up with the paperwork, maintaining your schedule and marketing to perpetuate new clients. I’m at a place where I truly need help, but can’t figure out how to generate enough new business to offset that expense.

How has AMTA impacted your massage therapy career?

AMTA has impacted my career by providing guidance and opportunities to enhance my business services and expertise.

I am grateful for Massage Therapy Journal! It’s a goldmine of helpful information, including business insight, tax information, bodywork techniques and AMTA benefit information. This information’s allowed me to incorporate what was best for my business and move it forward.

I remember when AMTA announced Square - Credit Card Reader as a new member benefit! I signed up immediately. Prior to that I had paid for the service to accept credit cards, but the expense and the monthly payout schedule made it impractical for a small business, and I lost clientele because of it.

I furthered my education through continuing education courses and met great colleagues and friends all through AMTA.

What will we learn at your session at AMTA National Convention?

Massage therapists should attend my session at AMTA National Convention because this course will give you the tools to help the fastest growing underserved population in this country. One in 45 children currently fall on the autism spectrum, 1 in 25 by 2025 (according to Dr. Stephanie Senneff of MIT). Some communities have extensive waiting lists for services and those services come at a great expense. We, as massage therapists, are already trained to look for signs of increased anxiety with in tissue structures of the body. With training in autism, we can effectively change the current situation and provide much needed access to therapy.

What are some takeaways that attendees won’t read about in the session description?

As part of my instruction, I use role-playing games to mimic what some children may be experiencing as part of their presentation with autism. I am a parent of a child with autism, therefore I bring a unique perspective to the class. I understand autism in a way a person not living with an individual on the autism spectrum can understand. You will take away tools to easily and quickly incorporate into their practice, as well as basic neuroanatomy differences between the brain of a neurotypical child and a child with autism.

And a sentence of advice to newcomers in the profession?

Education is essential. The more education under your belt, the more tools in your toolshed.

Breaking Through: Massage & Autism 

Massage therapy is showing positive results in affecting some of the symptoms and behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder. Continue reading in Massage Therapy Journal »

"AMTA and my chapter have already given me back so much
that I cannot believe I ever considered another group."

Chris B., AMTA member since 2012