Pediatric Massage

A Focus on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Learning Disabilities (LDs)

At Massage Therapy of Oak Park, we have an extensive background in helping children and adolescents. Owner Rick Halle-Podell received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After graduation, he worked for over three years as a childcare worker and mental health professional, helping kids deal with ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory integration and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in group and foster home settings. This experience was instrumental in helping formulate Massage Therapy of Oak Park’s approach to pediatric massage.

While children and adolescents with symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity are commonly referred to family physicians, pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, osteopaths, child psychiatrists and child psychologists, Rick Halle-Podell has also seen his share of patients fitting this description. And they have all benefited from massage therapy.

“I feel that it is very important to empower people, especially children, by teaching basic skills that enable them to have a positive response to difficult situations,” explains Rick.

A Unique Therapeutic Approach to Working with Children

Rick has studied child development, worked professionally as a behavioral management therapist and has advanced training in pediatric craniosacral therapy. He utilizes a combination of techniques when working with children, including craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, massage, somato emotional release, stress management, visualization and relaxation. As a body worker, Rick feels strongly about respecting each child as an individual.

“While diagnoses are incredibly helpful, by no means do they define a child,” Rick explains. “I have found the most beneficial way of working with children with sensory integration/sensory processing disorders and autism spectrum disorders is to settle the nervous system and remove restrictions so that healthy development may occur.”

When asked about working with Massage Therapy of Oak Park, a mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Integration Dysfunction said, “I have noticed that after a session with Rick, my son appears calmer and better able to deal with his life. It seems as if he is functioning more efficiently and that he is able to pick and choose (modulate) the information that surrounds him, and does not become as easily overwhelmed.”

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Who Benefits from Pediatric Massage and Pediatric Craniosacral Therapy

Pediatric massage and pediatric craniosacral therapy can be an effective adjunctive treatment for children dealing with a number of developmental issues. Craniosacral therapy gently and non-invasively works to release abnormal tensions deep within the head, spine and body. This action makes it a very effective approach for plagiocephaly (i.e., misshapen heads) and toriticollis (i.e., a twist in the neck that often accompanies plagiocephaly). This type of therapy can intervene to safely restore symmetry and facilitate health and healing, at virtually any age. We believe that it is never too late to make a difference in a client’s life. You can learn more by downloading an article by expert Rebecca Flowers, O.T.R., B.C.P., C.S.T.-D.

Other childhood conditions that benefit from pediatric massage and pediatric craniosacral therapy include:

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
  • ADHD
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Dyspraxia
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Impulsivity
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sensory Dysregulation/Modulation
  • Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS)
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD) or sensory integration dysfunction (SID)
  • Sports injuries
  • Strabismus

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ADHD and When to Switch Therapy

Rick has found that adding hands-on therapy, rather than outright switching ADHD therapy, can yield results. Early onset of ADHD often occurs in conjunction with other disorders, or mimics symptoms of anxiety, mood disorders and learning disabilities. Therefore, adjunctive therapies like pediatric massage and cranial sacral therapy can be excellent components to an overall integrated treatment approach.

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Massage Therapy Improves Mood and Behavior of Students with ADHD

Research as far back as the early 1990s showed that non-medication-based intervention for children with ADHD had positive effects in helping them feel happier and doing better in school. A 2003 study similarly found that massage therapy improved mood and behavior of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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Benefits of Pediatric Craniosacral Therapy, Myofascial Release and Somato Emotional Release in Treating ADHD and Learning Disabilities

Both children and adults need to experience the feeling of stillness. Not only is the sense of relaxation important, but they also need the knowledge that they have the power to recreate this sensation for themselves.

“When working with children I utilize an integrative approach, meeting them wherever they are at that particular moment in their lives,” states Rick. “Often children dealing with ADHD are easily over stimulated resulting in poor impulse control. Craniosacral therapy incorporates a variety of hands-on techniques ranging in pressure, each geared towards releasing restrictions within the nervous system, decreasing stress and stimulating the relaxation response.”

Massage Therapy of Oak Park has customized programs for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system to engage the relaxation response and teaching stress management techniques such as breathing exercises. After working with one eight-year-old boy for 45 minutes, he opened his eyes, looked at Rick and reported, “I have never felt relaxed before in my entire life.”

This was a profound moment for everyone in the room.

More Treatment Options

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Our son has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder and Sensory Integration Dysfunction. I have noticed that after a session with Rick that he appears calmer and better able to deal with his life.

G. J.

Mother, Oak Park, IL

I have found the most beneficial way of working with children with sensory integration/sensory processing disorders and autism spectrum disorders is to settle the nervous system and remove restrictions so that healthy development may occur.

Rick Halle-Podell LMT

Owner, Massage Therapy of Oak Park