Friday, 13 April 2018

Autism & Reflexology

There are two types of people in this world.
There are normal, lovely people who enjoy a nice foot massage...
.... and then there are those who would prefer to be flayed alive while performing eternal sound checks for Big Tom &The Mainliners (who would possibly benefit from a stint in rehab, judging by their name) than to have anyone come within spitting distance of their bunions.
(I'm aware that this is the second time I've dissed Big Tom in this blog... I'm  recklessly courting danger seeing as I live in Co Monaghan.  Hopefully I'll be allowed three strikes before  I'm executed without trial on the shores of Lough Muckno.  
Totally worth it, though)
A foot massage is one of the few things that briefly stops me worrying about autism, the futility of existence and why bananas catapult from green to brown at light-speed, with only a thirty second window in which they won't kill you.
It's a loving narcotic, that can make all the dark stuff go away for a little while.
But when a foot rub decides to re-brand itself as a therapy, the pressure is on to make good it's promises.

There is evidence that some form of reflexology was practised in ancient China and Egypt, but it was modernised and made popular by Eunice Ingham (who was a physiotherapist) in the 1930's.
The idea behind reflexology is that the entire body can be mapped out on specific points on the feet.  Manipulation of these points are believed to identify and treat 'blockages' of energy on these points.  These 'blockages' (which are felt as tender, sometimes bumpy areas) are thought to represent ill health, which can then be restored by unblocking the energy channels through massage.

Couple of things;
If anyone presses on your feet hard enough, it's going to hurt.  So the pressure your therapist uses may depend on whether she is at one with the universe, or if the cat pissed on her cornflakes that morning.  If she's in a bad mood, she's going to press harder to make you atone for the sins of her incontinent kitty, giving the impression that you have more problem areas than you actually have.  Also, if you have the pain threshold of  a hungover kitten you will experience discomfort differently to a woman who could comfortably make the dinner and do a spot of ironing while in labour before popping off to the hospital to produce a perfectly baked baby by teatime.  What I mean is, pain is subjective and isn't always a reliable indicator that something is awry.
Also, reflexology charts vary quite widely depending on the source; the kidney point in one map might be the transverse colon in another.  So one therapist could believe she is treating your  Merlot-induced incontinence while another thinks she is unblocking six months worth of Big Macs from your large intestine.... there's enough excrement right there to smudge the validity of their claims if they can't even agree on where the shit is happening.
Various websites claim reflexology can treat the usual alternative health suspects of muscle and joint pain, insomnia, stress, hormonal imbalance, MS, cerebral palsy, autism, fibromyalgia etc etc.  It's like a drunk three year old found a medical index and highlighted the fun-looking words with a crayola.  In fairness, some websites are clear in that they don't diagnose or cure, but these are rare and most of them seem pretty cavalier with their curative wish-lists.
A number of years ago I did a course in reflexology and was taught by a lady who insisted on calling organisms orgasms.  It brightened up an otherwise tedious class and it also made me really wish I was a virus...  yeah, they might be murderous, pandemic-causing creatures, but they were definitely having  way more fun than me.   I met a lot of lovely people on this course and I believe that therapists who work in this area (for the most part) are kind, well-intended souls who want to spread a little love and comfort.   But as with other alternative therapies, there is a risk that people can delay proper medical attention for potentially serious conditions.  There is also no scientific evidence to support it's inclusion in healthcare, so if you're looking for a foot rub to cure your child's autism, you might as well roll yourself in pork and flour and call yourself an silly sausage.  It just doesn't cut the mustard.

That said, there is no getting away from the fact that reflexology is lovely.  My son loves a deep foot rub and will often wave his less-than-lovely size 9's in my face when he's feeling sleepy.  It really soothes him, and it's nice to see a bit of self-regulation going on as he actively seeks out it's comfort.  It's not so nice if he has only had a nodding acquaintance with soap and water for a few days, as he has definitely developed that uniquely teenage boy thing of having feet that smell like blue cheese dipped in battery acid.  Then, rubbing his feet is less an act of love and kindness and more an exercise in superhuman endurance.  I expect immediate access into heaven when I die.

So reflexology could benefit your child in that it might help him to relax; it might be useful when winding down for bedtime, or before a potentially stressful situation like having a haircut.  But if you're hoping it will cause a reduction in autistic behaviours, all the evidence points towards a short trip to disappointment.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Miss Lynch. I'm glad you didn't put me in the bold corner xxx

  2. As it promotes relaxation, maybe it could have a minor role in reducing anxiety? That would be good!

    1. I completely agree. As long as no one has unrealistic expectations it's really lovely. Thanks for dropping by xx