Touch and Movement for Autism Spectrum Disorders




3 CE Credits for Massage Therapy, Athletic Training, NJ Chiropractic and NJ Physical Therapy

Conventional treatment approaches for individuals with autism spectrum disorders includes touch-based treatment and passive movement of the body (joint range of motion, stretching) as well as active movement (motor skill training and exercise.) The techniques used in these types of treatments are distinctly similar to—or the same as—techniques used by massage therapists, personal trainers, and other providers of fitness & wellness services. This workshop will provide an overview of the clinical presentation of autism spectrum disorders and treatment for associated symptoms. Specific examination will include how massage and movement techniques are used in treatment and the evidence-base for effects on associated symptoms. Strategies to include massage and movement modalities as integrative treatments will be explored.


At the end of this workshop, attendees will be able to:

  • Recognize the range of conditions on the autism spectrum and associated symptoms.
  • Summarize human senses and recognize how they present in symptoms that are associated with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify tactile characteristics and how they are presented in different massage and movement modalities.
  • Compare and contrast the effects of active and passive movement on sensory awareness and motor skills.
  • Draw information from research to initiate an evidence-based discussion about potential effects of massage and movement on symptoms that are associated with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Identify potential ways to collaborate through movement and massage treatment with individuals who have autism spectrum disorders and (where applicable) their parents/caregivers.

Course will include:

Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders

·         Clinical presentation(s)

·         Risk factors

·         Diagnosis and assessments

·         Conventional treatment approaches

·         Potential for integrative treatments

Review of sensory neurology

·         The special senses

·         Kinesthetic awareness and proprioception

·         Gross and fine motor skills

Passive movement in treatment

·         Touch and tactile stimulation

·         Range of motion

·         Stretching

·         Compression

·         Summary of research evidence

Active movement in treatment

·         Exercise

·         Motor skill training

·         Collaboration and communication through teamwork

·         Summary of research evidence

Practical approaches to integrative treatments

·         Identifying collaborations

·         Preparing summary materials

·         Summarizing theories, practices, and assessments

·         Drawing upon research evidence


·         Detailing treatments

·         Assessing effects of treatment

About the instructor:  Virginia S. Cowen, PhD

Dr. Virginia Cowen has over fifteen years of experience teaching health-related coursework at Rutgers University, UMDNJ, Queensboro Community College, Mesa Community College and other institutions of higher learning. In addition, she has presented a variety of healthcare topics at conferences and symposiums nationwide. She is the author/co-author of over 30 articles in medical journals, magazines and other forums, as well as several books, including Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers (2011) and Creative Arts in Humane Medicine (2014). 



Additional information


Wednesday, November 20, 2019 6:00-9:00pm, Wednesday, January 22, 2020 6:00-9:00pm