August 19th 2005 -
Article 3-Alternative Therapy for Today’s Children
As a Special Needs teacher, therapist, and mother, I have been especially interested in what sorts of alternative therapy worked with kids who have problems of various sorts. There has been a great upsurge in recent years of children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders and other types of challenges. I have had the opportunity to work with many of these children.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have found the following therapies particularly useful: Reiki, Aromatherapy, Hypnotherapy, Brain Gym and Social Stories. A brief overview will give some idea of how they can be utilized.
Hypnotherapy is surprisingly effective with children, particularly bright ones. Many brighter children are anxious, have difficulties focusing (especially if they have ADHD or ADD), have sleep problems or enuresis (bed-wetting.) The way that hypnotherapy works is by getting the unconscious mind (where phobias, bad habits and irrational responses reside) “on the same page” with the conscious mind, so to speak. The conscious, rational mind likes to think it is in control, but as any adult smoker or dieter knows, our impulses are not really under the conscious control of “will power.” Yet everyone –certainly all bright children-has had the experience of being so fully entranced by a TV program, video game, daydream or other interesting activity that they literally did not hear the call to dinner, or respond to some other cue from the exterior or interior everyday environment (this might lead to wetting the bed, for example.) A trance is precisely what hypnotherapy induces.
Children are particularly easy to hypnotize because the stories which are used to relax them have much in common with fairy tales. That is, they are specially written scripts which tell of the child’s issues in a metaphorical manner.
An example of the use of metaphor: The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a metaphorical story of sibling rivalry, in which baby bear has his food eaten, chair broken and bed slept in by a superficially attractive and rude intruder. However, at the end she is chased away.
Similar stories are written to help the child imagine themselves overcoming their current problem. It is NEVER directly alluded to; there is no statement like, ”You will no longer wet the bed. “
Children respond very well with hypnotherapy to help with test anxiety, eating disorders, enuresis, focusing in school, etc.
A second useful tool is Aromatherapy. Contrary to popular belief, aromatherapy is not all about the scent. It is true that the sense of smell is more directly connected to emotion and to memories than any other scent, as it is the only sense not mediated through the higher brain centers.
But aromatherapy also works through the healing properties of the essential oils, which are concentrated plant essences.
Specifically, peppermint is great for tummy upsets or headaches. (It needs to be diluted with a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil before application to the
Eucalyptus is great for congestion such as colds or flu. Here you need to boil water, bring a large towel and a bowl. Seat child at the table, place towel over head to form a tent, instruct child to close eyes. Then pour boiling water into bowl, add 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Encourage child to breathe in the vapors.
This will lead to a lot of coughing and nose-running and the congestion will ease.
Orange essential oil in a diffuser will make almost all children happy and giggly. Lavender(just a couple of drops on the pillow) help enormously in getting a safe, restful night’s sleep. It is also helpful as a burn remedy since it goes directly to the cellular re-generation level of the skin. Finally, Tea Tree is great on warts, cankers and cold sores, since it is a powerful anti-viral.
When I see anyone for an aromatherapy treatment, I make up a blend of up to 5 essential oils for a personal massage. I suggest to parents of young children that they use infant/young child massage. One mother of a child who was loud, aggressive and unhappy, found amazing results after she implemented regular massage using aromatherapy for a period of months. The child became much happier, calmer and much better behaved.
The third modality I have used successfully with children is Reiki. As a gentle, hands-on healing modality, it leads to a relaxation response in virtually everyone. It helps the body heal from virtually any physical or mental condition, most of which are caused or exacerbated by stress. Children can also learn how to give Reiki, and for those who are spiritually inclined it is a very appropriate endeavor.
Brain Gym is used daily with my special needs students. Brain gym was developed by kinesiologists and physiotherapists with the understanding that children with learning disabilities or even brain damage would benefit from the stimulation of new neuronal pathways in the brain. The exercises, which are simple and painless, allow the development of left to right, top to bottom and back to front connections in the brain. The multiply challenged children I teach enjoy the activities very much, as do mildly challenged children and even normal adults.
When children behave inappropriately, sometimes they need to be told in the form of a simple story, written just for them, about the social cues which they seem to be missing.
Social stories are widely used by teachers and other caregivers working with Asperger’s Syndrome children or those with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. The stories are written according to a very specific formula in order to allow children to learn what they need to in order to cope better socially.
Used in conjunction with more traditional form of therapy, alternative therapy can have a very beneficial effect on today’s children .
Christine Nightingale, B.A.,R.M.
Nightingale Natural Healing
72 Newbridge Crescent
Brampton, Ontario L6S 4B3