Play the Frog’s Breathtaking Speech Game

Image from Frog's Breathtaking SpeechBring the benefits of yoga and yogic breathing techniques into the classroom and the home with this game from Frog’s Breathtaking Speech author Michael Chissick. Based on the book, the game is a fun way to help children to recognise negative emotions and lean how to turn these into positive ones.

Simply download the game board, card set and instructions from the links provided and with some simple steps you’ll be ready to roar the house down with Lion, shake the walls with the Woodchopper Breath and more.

The game is at its most effective if used with the book, Frog’s Breathtaking Speech – find out more about the book here.

© 2013 JKP blog. All Rights Reserved.

Yoga breathing techniques to help children deal with anger and stress – An Interview with Michael Chissick

Michael Chissick has been teaching yoga to children in primary mainstream and special needs schools as part of the integrated school day since 1999. He is a primary school teacher as well as a qualified yoga instructor. He is also a specialist in teaching yoga to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Michael trains and mentors students who want to teach yoga to children.

Michael is the author of the forthcoming children’s book, Frog’s Breathtaking Speech, which is published by JKP imprint Singing Dragon and teaches four yoga breathing techniques in a fun and interactive way and shows how they can be used to deal with anger, anxiety and tension.

In this interview, he shares the story of how this beautiful book came to be and the rewarding experiences he’s had teaching yoga to children; why he believes children nowadays need tools to cope with life’s stresses more than ever before; and how the breathing techniques in the book can be used with all children, including those with special needs.


Tell us a bit about you – how did you get into yoga, teaching yoga and teaching yoga to children?

I first came to yoga in 1974, and although I practised regularly it was not till 1990 that I consciously stepped up my practice and interest.

In 1990, following the death of my wife Jill, I decided to give up my business and look after my children. I made up my mind that Jill’s death would not be wasted and that I would do something meaningful with my life. I signed up to an Access Course, which got me back into studying and prepared me for University. As a mature student I simply thrived on the course and it unleashed a creative side of me that I had never known before. I went on to take a four year degree course in Education, (BEd Hons) and eventually took up my first post as a primary school teacher in Old Harlow, Essex, UK at the age of forty-six.

It was during my four year degree course that I established my deep interest in children’s self-esteem – specifically how it can be damaged and how it can be improved. Of all the areas that I studied this was for me the most important and I determined to make enhancing children’s self-esteem the core of my approach to teaching.

In the nineties yoga was such an essential part of my life that soon I had completed my yoga teacher training with the British Wheel of Yoga, and was able to begin my new career teaching yoga to adults. It was an obvious next step to merge my skills and experience as a primary teacher and qualified yoga teacher, and thus I become a children’s yoga teacher. I set up an after school club but found the work frustrating primarily because of my realisation that yoga needed to be taught as part of the school day for children to benefit most.

Nevertheless word of my work had spread and one day I was asked to teach yoga to children in a Special Needs School in East London. That day was a turning point in my life. Despite all my experience I stood there not knowing what to do while this group of children were going absolutely crazy, at one time cussing at me and throwing shoes around – it was chaos. I tried various activities, all to no avail. Then, amazingly, with one specific activity (it was Sun Sequence), they were suddenly hooked… and I even got them to do a relaxation. The transformation was astounding. I came out of there that day, sat in the car and cried tears of joy that I could make such a difference. That was a Tuesday Morning in 1999 and I have taught there every Tuesday ever since. Over time the school has become a beacon school for teaching children with autism. This means that for more than a decade I have been developing teaching approaches for teaching yoga to children with autism. I am now regarded as a specialist in teaching yoga to autistic children. I am very proud of that.

In the last few years I have been fortunate to have taught continuously in the same nucleus of schools. This means that I am there on a specific day every week, every term, every year. It also means that I have had to be creative and develop fun and interesting activities or risk the children’s boredom. I have taught yoga in schools as part of the integrated school day for more than a decade now and have developed many approaches and activities that the children love.

One of those activities has now been turned into a book called Frog’s Breathtaking Speech. Now my enthusiasm for writing knows no bounds and I am busy with three new books that will enable me pass on my considerable expertise to others. Frog’s Breathtaking Speech – and incidentally The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, and Going on a Bear Hunt – all make terrific stories to embed yoga postures in.

What inspired you to write this wonderful book?

I have been using Frog’s Breathtaking Speech in children’s yoga lessons for many years. The story grew out of the need to increase children’s awareness of their breath and, more importantly, how to apply it in stressful situations. Situations such as dealing with exams, spelling and table tests, being bullied, tension, headaches and anger, and of course performing or presenting to their peers and parents in assembly.

Although, as an adult, I had experienced the benefits of yoga breathing techniques I had honestly found them dry and unexciting. If I was to grab the children’s attention I needed to teach breathing techniques in a way that was fun and relevant. My strategy was to use the story in a yoga/drama format and it was an immediate success.

I would set out the yoga mats in a circle in the hall. As many children as possible would be given the opportunity to be Frog. I would ask for sad faces and then ask for less sad faces as the story unfolds. The other characters, Crocodile, Lion, Humming Bee and Mr Gumble the Woodchopper, would be played by the whole class. To keep the “chorus” in unison I would hold up placards in pantomime style saying, “Why so sad Frog?” and “I know an interesting way to breathe”. We have also performed Frog on stage to great applause.

I think there are several reasons why this approach worked well, including:

  • there was sufficient repetition for everyone to be able to join in;
  • it was obviously great fun;
  • the children were learning the techniques in a fun and relevant context;
  • children found the characters interesting.

Looking back I think that one of the main factors that inspired me to turn the yoga play into a book was the feedback from the children. I have lost count of the amount of times that children would tell me how they had used the techniques to deal with incidents in their lives. Problems ranging from being angry at siblings who stole their sweets or broke their toys, to being the calming influence in big family arguments. My two favourites will always be: the nine-year old boy who was terrified of the dentist and who quietly sat in the waiting room, and ultimately the dentist’s chair, practising his Crocodile Breath to calm himself; and the ten year old girl, who was angry with her parents, who would go to her room and practice Woodchopper Breath every day for three weeks, who eventually came and told the class teacher and me that that she had Haaaa’d out her anger.

The other main factor that inspired me to turn the play into a book was, simply, to get it out there. If this story helped the children that I taught it would help all children.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with the illustrator,
Sarah Peacock?

I have worked with Sarah Peacock in her Hertfordshire Primary School for five years. Sarah would come into in the yoga lesson with her class and over the years had been involved with Frog’s Breathtaking Speech on many occasions. She knew the story very well and how much the children liked it.

Examples of Sarah’s amazing illustrations were displayed around school. Often over lunch she had talked about her dream of being an illustrator. When I finally wrote the story as a book, I asked her to illustrate and she came up with the wonderfully timeless and charming illustrations that make the book so readable.

Where did the character of Frog come from?

Frog came about for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, children can stay in Frog Posture easily for longish periods without too much discomfort (and it’s great for their knees and hips). Secondly, I like Frog characters – they make me laugh; and thirdly, there is a long history of Frogs (and Toads) in children’s literature – for example, The Frog Prince and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher.

I saw Frog as a character that boys and girls could relate to because he was honest about his fears. I think they could also relate to his courage in taking action, facing his fears and achieving a victory.

I suppose he is based on many of the children that I have taught and if I am being honest there’s a lot of me in Frog. (Well, even grownups need to calm themselves and get angry sometimes.)

Can you describe scenarios in which the different breathing techniques would be especially useful?

I think that being a child nowadays is stressful. I have already mentioned my two favourite examples of how techniques from the story have helped. However as educationalists we are constantly aware that the children in our care are travelling through a minefield of emotional problems in different areas of their lives.

For example children are dealing with major blows within the Family like divorce; separation from parents; death of a family member or friend or pet; worries about family’s financial situation; worries about a family member’s health; or perhaps a new baby brother or sister has arrived.

At school children are often anxious about their lack of specific skills, being bullied, tests, SATs, how to deal with an overload of activities, a belief that they do not have enough friends, lack of self-esteem, fear of failure, and even fear of success.

On the social side, children can be anxious because they may see themselves not “in” with the right crowd, too fat, too thin, too tall, too small, too ugly and so on.

I believe the social pressures on children – in or out of school – are immense today and we need to teach them all manner of strategies to help them deal with the pressure. Yoga and breathing techniques being at the top of the list.

The four strategies that are taught in Frog are:

  • Crocodile Breath. Situations where children could apply the technique are: tests, exams, sports day, making speeches to peers and parents, going to the dentist, finding courage.
  • Humming Bee Breath. Situations could include: headaches, feeling tense, panicky in the middle of a busy shopping centre at Christmas.
  • Woodchopper Breath. Situations could include: venting anger or frustration.
  • Lion Breath. Situations could include: strengthening voice or loosing tension.

How can this book be used with children with special needs?

Frog can be used with all children and that includes many children with special needs.

Used purely as a story, Frog is highly engaging, the illustrations compelling, and there is sufficient repetition to help reinforce readers and invite anticipation. There are also ample opportunities to compare the Frog’s experiences to the children’s if the children are at a suitable level.

On a higher level, if you are reading the book to children and encouraging them to practice the postures there is a lot to be gained. Firstly, the children will benefit from increased flexibility and better muscle tone. The big reward, however, is that yoga postures can help children with Sensory Processing Disorders.

Many children with autism, for example, have Sensory Processing Disorders which affects their Vestibular, Proprioceptive and Tactile systems. This is a vast subject that I will deal with elsewhere. Suffice to say that yoga can go a long way to identify any extremes in a child’s sensory behaviour and provide strategies to help regulate their nervous systems away from those extremes.

Using the story in a yoga/drama format also creates opportunities to work on speaking and listening skills and other communication skills like, for example, projecting the voice. Also social skills such as taking turns, waiting or applauding another child will come up when you use this story.

One massive benefit of using the story with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for example, is the opportunity to be acting out different emotions. Frog becomes less sad as the story progresses. In fact, emotions range from sad to happy, scared to brave, beaten to successful. A great excuse to give those face muscles a good workout.

Finally, if you are using the story in a yoga/drama format and including the breathing techniques then you are encouraging the children to be “in the moment” – a well hackneyed yoga term, I know, but totally appropriate for children on both extremes of the hyperactivity scale who need to find “that middle ground of alert interest where they are not overwhelmed or underwhelmed” (Sher, B. 2009 p. 22).

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

Compassionate care through touch – An interview with Niamh van Meines


Niamh van Meines
is a nurse practitioner, currently self employed as a nurse consultant. She is also a licensed massage therapist, and a skilled clinical leader and educator in oncology, homecare, hospice and palliative care. Together with Barbara Goldschmidt, she has written the new book, Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand, published by JKP imprint Singing Dragon.

Here, Niamh explains why touch is so essential to care.


Can you tell us a bit about the paths that led you to massage therapy, and to its applications in integrative health and palliative care?

I was a homecare nurse and wanted to offer therapy that would be comforting to my patients in ways that nursing did not routinely provide care. While massage therapy is within the scope of practice for nurses, I did not feel prepared to perform massage effectively, especially with patients who had chronic and terminal illness. I decided to go to the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy and my interest in incorporating massage into nursing practice came from there. There are multiple studies that show the beneficial effect of massage therapy on the symptoms associated with disease, so I believe massage can be utilized as a symptom management technique. This is very useful in palliative and hospice care where multiple therapies, treatments and modalities are used to alleviate the distress that patients experience.

How did the new book come about, and what is it about, generally?

Barbara asked me to join her in writing this book as she had developed the hand massage protocol and implemented it in a nursing home. My expertise in hospice and palliative care and perspective on providing comfort for patients through multiple avenues resulted in a wonderful collaboration with this book. We both had an interest in providing ways for caregivers to help and to feel that their efforts are effective in providing comfort, so teaching hand massage to caregivers is a great opportunity to change not only the patient’s experience, but also the caregiver’s experience too.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about care?

I believe that caring for any person who is ill begins with compassion which can be delivered in many ways. Touch is one of the most fundamental ways to offer support and caring and is often underestimated or disregarded in healthcare settings. Touch is often mechanistic and task oriented, so teaching healthcare practitioners to incorporate hand massage redirects their actions to that of a caring activity, which also has an affect on their perspective on helping to “heal”. A hand massage is a wonderful, easy introduction to using touch. From a caregiver’s perspective, they often feel disconnected from the person who is ill or weary of touching them, so it’s a wonderful way to approach the ill person and provide care in a manner that is satisfying to the ill person and to the caregiver, and safe. The hands are the most logical place to start as it often is the first place that we touch when communicating with and meeting people for the first time.

What are the benefits of touch as a way of connecting with people, as opposed to other methods of communication?

Touch can convey so many things that other forms of communication do not. Touch can be directed in many ways. It can have a calming effect or a stimulating effect that can be tailored to the goals of the touch experience. The hands are one of the easiest ways to approach someone; merely by shaking hands, you can have a dramatic effect. Touch can be more powerful than other forms of communication especially when someone is sick. Touch directed in a caring way can have more meaning than words, which makes it a useful tool when teaching caregivers to express through touch what they cannot often express through words.

What are some common obstacles people encounter when trying to use hand massage?

Caregivers often feel inadequate or unprepared to do massage. They have fears of being awkward or ineffective. They are not sure if they are doing it right. The beauty though, is that any touch whether awkward or not, can positively influence the giver and receiver. People often have difficulty slowing down and paying attention to energetic influences. This also comes with practice, so people need encouragement to keep practicing and over time, how they feel about the massage will change.

How can the book help caregivers overcome this and other obstacles?

This book touches on many areas that most people do not think about, especially from an energetic perspective and from an eastern approach to touch. It teaches people about the simplicity of touch and how it can have a dramatic effect. We hope that the framework in the hand massage protocol allows people to take the first step towards incorporating massage into their everyday caregiving.

This book can be used as a guide to doing a hand massage protocol. We encourage caregivers to have the book with them when doing massage, so that they can reference the steps and view the illustrations. It can also be used as a teaching tool in a classroom setting.

What are some examples of best practice?

Best practices always put the receiver’s needs first. Safety and comfort are a priority, so the giver must ensure the receiver is not suffering or in distress before performing massage. We also encourage caregivers to discuss the use of massage with the healthcare team to obtain permission, but also to find out if there are cautions and contraindications to massage. Because the receivers often have significant illness, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and pay attention to the receivers reaction to massage. This is truly a client-centered approach. And lastly, don’t take it too seriously. Massage should be light-hearted and friendly, an experience to be enjoyed not just by the receiver, but by the giver too.

Next blog post: Encountering the Radiant Sea – An Article by Barbara Goldschmidt »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Touch as a way to share the radiant energy of care

By Barbara Goldschmidt, teacher, researcher, licensed massage therapist, and co-author with Niamh van Meines of Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand.


My passion for integrative health care began 30 years ago, when I travelled to California to recuperate from a car accident. I was a seeker, looking for solace and a new path. Southern California offered warmth, reasonable rents, and ways of living that seemed open to many possibilities. It was commonplace there to focus on fitness, and easy to find gyms, yoga teachers, health food stores, and book shops filled with Eastern philosophy and self-help. Then there was the Pacific Ocean, like a big glittering mirror, reflecting who you were and at the same time inviting you to look deeper.

This was all very different from life in New York City at the time, where a focus on fitness was not so commonplace. In fact, friends on the East Coast often looked down on some of these pursuits. They’d ask, ‘Why is California like a breakfast cereal?’ Answer: Because it’s full of fruits, flakes and nuts! Maybe they thought it was foolish, but I felt I was finally becoming sensible.

During my seven years in Los Angles I completed my bachelor’s degree at UCLA, but my most meaningful studies were outside of traditional academia. I explored ‘alternative’ therapies, as they were called back then, because they were not part of the mainstream. Fortunately, I found reliable teachers who were masters in their field. I practiced yoga every day in Bikram Choudhury’s classes. Thanks to Jack Gray, whose energy work was studied by Dr. Thelma Moss at UCLA’s Parapsychology Lab, I learned how to direct my thoughts to help the healing process and to use my hands to do what Mr. Gray called ‘transfer of energy’. Dr. Grace Brunler demonstrated how she had used color light in her medical practice with her husband Oscar Brunler. With Jon Hofferman, a grad student from the UCLA film department, we made a short documentary about her work.

It was an exciting time, because it felt like a real movement in personal well-being was taking place. It wasn’t being led by doctors, but by ordinary people who were looking for more than symptom relief. They wanted therapies that were natural and non-toxic, and a way to be involved in the healing process. That was a key—becoming an active participant in wellness and illness instead of being a passive recipient of care. The quest for ways to be involved in the healing process, and for tangible ways to share it, became the continuing thread of my studies, writing and teaching.

When I moved back to New York City I wondered if I would be able to maintain the gentle practices I’d learned. As it turned out, I discovered deeper and more specific ways of practicing. With Catherine Shainberg, director of the School of Images, I studied body-centered imagery for many years. Dr. Shainberg doesn’t give answers, but leads students to the answers within themselves. My sessions with her led me to study massage therapy at the Swedish Institute, a college of health sciences in Manhattan. This allowed me to go from just writing about this field to becoming a practitioner.

After working for a few years as a licensed massage therapist, a desire for a more effective ways to engage with the body led me to Jeffrey C. Yuen and the study of Chinese medicine. I began to understand that energy, or Qi, infuses all of life, and that it is fundamental. Qi is our energetic program; it creates the body and directs our growth, development and everyday processes, including healing.

While I appreciate that there exists some controversy around the idea of Qi—it has no standard definition, it’s not readily visible, and can’t be quantified—I embrace its usefulness as teachers and practitioners have done through the ages. Directing Qi through the use of meridian points became the foundation of my practice, which often included teaching people to move their Qi from within through imagery.

Today, ‘alternative’ therapies are not just for Californians and even in New York City there are plenty of gyms, as well as stores selling organic food. Yoga, massage, meditation and acupuncture are now part of an integrative approach to cancer care, palliative care or chronic conditions in medical institutions around the world.

Comforting Touch for Dementia and End of Life Care: Take My Hand, is an integrative approach that will hopefully inspire people to explore touch as a way to share the radiant energy of their care. I was fortunate to have as co-author Niamh van Meines, who brought in her expertise and passion as a massage therapist and nurse practitioner working in hospice and palliative care. In the book, we introduce people to the idea that their touch involves the physical aspects of skin, muscles and bone; the energies of warmth, electromagnetism and Qi; and the inner quality, or spirit, which they bring to it. All will have beneficial effects for both the giver as well as the receiver. And in the spirit of integrative care, we encourage caregivers to become part of a team—whether with a doctor, nurse, social worker, psychologist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or pastoral advisor—so they will not feel alone, inhibited by initial awkwardness, or unnecessarily fearful.

I was happy when our book proposal was accepted by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, because they are so dedicated to the healing arts and to books that people can use to help one another. When Lisa Clark, our sponsoring editor, told us we would be part of the Singing Dragon imprint, it seemed especially fitting, because the energy of nature and the Eastern philosophy that teaches ways to engage with it have been a big part of my life. I hope that this book will be useful for the many people caring for someone with dementia or at the end of life, and that it will provide a meaningful way to discover both a tenderness and a power that we all have in common.

Next blog post: Compassionate care through touch – An interview with Niamh van Meines »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

JKP at the Frankfurt Book Fair

JKP is exhibiting at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week.

Jessica Kingsley took a few minutes between meetings to talk about why we attend this major international event, and to highlight some of the things we’ve been talking about.

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Qigong Massage for Your Child with Autism – An Interview with researcher and author Louisa Silva

Dr Louisa Silva has a medical degree from the University of California, a Masters in Public Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. She is director of the Qigong Sensory Training Institute, Oregon, where she has completed multiple research studies into the effects of qigong massage on young children with autism.

Here, she answers some questions about her new book and DVD, Qigong Massage for Your Child with Autism: A Home Program from Chinese Medicine – publishing by JKP imprint, Singing Dragon.


How did you become interested in traditional Chinese approaches to health, and in working with children with autism?

I am trained in three disciplines that are of equal importance to my work: Western medicine, Chinese medicine, and public health. My interest in Chinese approaches to health began when I was in Medical school at UCLA. Nixon had gone to China, and the nation had just heard about acupuncture being done on his aide. My Medical school invited a team from China to come over, and together they did a radical mastectomy under acupuncture anesthesia. At that moment, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Chinese medicine was powerful, but was too buried in my medical studies to begin to study it. It wasn’t until I had been out in practice for a few years, that I began to hit the wall with allopathic medical understanding and treatment of chronic conditions that I turned to Chinese medicine and began to study it. I found that Chinese medicine offered a way to strengthen the body so that it could throw off illness, and that it had much to offer to help improve general health and vitality. I saw the research showing that chronic conditions could be improved or cured. Over the years, I integrated what I had learned in medical school about Western diagnosis and treatment of illness, with the ancient Chinese techniques for improving health and removing illness. My interest in public health led me to pursue Chinese medical approaches to chronic illnesses that are natural, non-invasive, and easliy available to families.

My interest in autism began in 2000, when the son of a dear friend was diagnosed with autism, and I realized how little there was to offer parents of newly diagnosed children. At that point, I decided to teach a qigong massage protocol that I had learned from my Chinese medicine professor to the boy’s parents, and we found that it was helpful. This began a whole new career path for me in research, as I knew that for qigong massage to be accepted in the West as a treatment for autism, the research studies would have to be carefully done and published in scientific journals. I joined Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University, and now, 11 years later, we have published many research studies showing that the massage is effective, and explaining how it works.

What is Qigong Sensory Training (QST), and what are the benefits of QST for young children with autism?

Qigong Sensory Training is the name that we chose for the qigong massage methodology that is described in the book. It is a five month program of daily parent-delivered massage, and it has shown improvements in behavior and social and language skills in controlled studies. Not only does autism become less severe, but the child has general improvements in health in important areas like sleep, digestion, ability to calm themselves down, and toilet training; there is less aggressive and self-injurious behavior, and parenting stress is considerably lower.

How did the book/DVD come about and what is the idea behind it?

Our research suggests that behind the delays seen in children with autism lies a sensory nervous system that is out of kilter – the child’s skin, eyes and ears aren’t perceiving the world around them the way others perceive it. The senses are hypersensitive or hyposensitive or both. Many children have problems recognizing gentle touch and pain, some children don’t seem to notice when they are injured, and the senses don’t seem to work together – they don’t turn their head to look at someone’s face, and coordinate listening at the same time. Ordinary events can be confusing and upsetting for the child, and in the end, the brain doesn’t reflect accurate information about the world around them.

The hallmark of autism is a delay in social development that is apparent by age three. However, before age three, the important self-regulation milestones must be achieved for social development to proceed. The self-regulation milestones of the first three years of life are the foundation for healthy development. They are: 1) the ability to have a regular wake/sleep cycle, 2) the ability to have regular digestion and elimination, 3) the ability to self-soothe when upset, 4) the ability to regulate orientation and attention, 5) the ability to toilet train, and 6) the emerging ability to regulate emotions and behavior in response to social cues. Without these milestones, social development is delayed.

We know that all self-regulation takes place in response to sensory input. There was never a self-regulatory event that was not in response to sensory input. When sensory input is faulty, then self-regulatory output is also faulty. When sensory input is severely faulty, as it is in autism, then there is global delay of self-regulation milestones. Our research shows that children with autism have severely abnormal sensory responses, expecially of touch, and globally delayed self-regulation milestones before the age of three.

The massage works three ways: 1) it improves the circulation to the skin and normalizes touch pain responses. 2) it triggers the self-soothing response, and allows the child’s nervous system to learn to self-soothe. 3) it improves the health and vitality of the body so that digestion, elimination, toilet training and the body’s ability to remove toxins are improved. The child becomes stronger, healthier, more aware, and better able to pay attention at home and school, and to learn.

In our research, we used trained specialists to teach parents the massage, and work with them and their child over a period of months while the child overcame their barriers and difficulties with touch. We have trained a number of therapists on the East and West coast of the US, but the vast majority of the world has no trained therapists in this method. The book came about in response to many requests from parents the world over who did not have access to a trained therapist to learn the massage, and were asking for information about how to give the massage at home. It contains the full curriculum that the trained therapists impart to the parents over the months that they work with them.

Who is the book for, and how much do you have to know about TCM to use it?

This book is for families of young chldren with autism. They do not have to have a background of TCM to use it. We have explained the important ideas that they will need to use when they give qigong massage in ordinary, everyday language.

In the book you talk about the Chinese medicine explanation for the (behavioral and physiological) symptoms of autism as blockages of energy. Can you explain a bit here?

Chinese medicine considers health a state where there is abundant, free-flowing energy and circulation, and illness a state when there are blocks in the energy flow, which interfere with the free flow of the circulation. According to Chinese medicine, there is a block of the circulation to the skin, which results in the sensory nerves being over or under-sensitive. The massage normalizes the circulation and the sensation returns to normal. When the skin feels normal, many self-injurious behaviors simply disappear. The brain receives normal information about the surface of the body, and motor skills improve. For example, very quickly after sensation on the hands becomes normal, fine motor skills increase; after sensation on the feet improves, gross motor skills increase. Constipation is another example of a block of energy in the bowel, so that it does not eliminate normally. The massage quickly restores strength and energy to the bowel, and constipation resolves.

What are some challenges that parents face when attempting this kind of intervention, and how can your book help to overcome them?

At first, it can be challenging for parents to establish the massage in the child’s daily routine, as there are many parts of the body where the child is uncomfortable to touch. Often, the part of the massage that they like the least is the part where they need the most help. For example, many children with autism refuse touch on their ears. These are often the same children who do not listen or have language. Once touch on the ears becomes normal, they begin to use their ears to listen, and we see language pick up. Overcoming difficulties in particular areas is where it can be extremely helpful to have a therapist to work with. The book contains many ways to approach difficulties with touch on the different areas, as the most direct way for the child to overcome these difficulties is for the parent to continue to work with the massage. The techniques are also demonstsrated on the accompanying DVD. Our program is a minimum of five months, and by the end of the first month, the majority parents have been able to help their child overcome their difficulties with touch, and both parent and child are enjoying the massage as a nice part of the daily routine.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

How to Incorporate Wellness Coaching into Your Therapeutic Practice – An Interview with author Laurel Alexander

Laurel Alexander is a complementary therapist, coach, trainer and widely published author with over 20 years of experience in the wellness industry. She runs Wellness Professionals at Work, providing business coaching for healthcare professionals and a range of accredited wellness courses. She is a qualified reflexologist, nutritionist and stress manager and is currently the business coach for the Association of Reflexologists, the International Stress Management Association and the National Council of Psychotherapists. She is based in Sussex, UK.

Here, Laurel answers some questions about her new book,
How to Incorporate Wellness Coaching into Your Therapeutic Practice: A Handbook for Therapists and Counsellors – published by JKP imprint, Singing Dragon.


How did you come to the field of wellness?

When I left school, I wanted to be a nurse (that was either my mother’s fantasy or mine). With the contrariness of teenage years, I became a window dresser in a fashion shop instead. Over the following years, I developed an interest in self development and this became my working life. The next few years saw added work with career management and a fading link with self development. At 39, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and this reconnected me to my intuition and passion for wellness. For the past 13 years, I’ve worked solely in the area of wellness; writing, teaching and as a therapist/coach.

What experience(s) motivated you to write the book?

Much of my working life as been as a wellness professional. Many moons ago, my students suggested I added the teaching of life coaching to my courses which I did. Over time, this has evolved into teaching of wellness coaching. Writing of course is another way of teaching – so here I am today.

The book is designed to be used as building blocks in terms of underpinning knowledge and skills development. Therapists can take ideas from the book and develop themselves both personally and professionally.

I would hope therapists would take away information, ideas and inspiration for their own wellbeing and that of their patients and clients.

What are the key characteristics of wellness coaching that make it a useful addition to a counsellor or complementary therapist’s toolbox?

As healthcare professionals move into the 21st century, coaching offers a highly effective skill set which can complement a therapist’s practice. Key characteristics include:

  • being non-directive (thereby empowering clients);
  • questioning and listening skills (useful to gain information so that we are better informed);
  • integration of coaching skills into a variety of therapeutic approaches (offering an eclectic toolbox approach to healthcare)

Let’s not forget we are in the “business of healthcare”. We may come to wellness as a vocational calling. We may feel motivated and inspired to work with others in a healing capacity for the highest good. However, we are business people and if we are to stay in business, we need a range of transferable skills which are marketable and useful. Coaching is one of those key skills.

Can you describe a typical client who would benefit from wellness coaching techniques, or a particular case in which the use of these techniques has proved effective?

The best of scenarios with a wellness client is someone who is pro-active in their healthcare, who is a seeker of self knowledge and who is willing to embrace all possibilities.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about wellness?

My philosophy about wellness is multi-faceted. There is rarely one route into, and out of, wellness. There are often several contributing factors including lifestyle and mindset. We also need to bear in mind that wellness may not mean “no disease” or “less pain”. It may mean pathways of acceptance or transition.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

NEW resources on Using Massage with Children on the Autism Spectrum

This week the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) has been holding events across the UK to promote baby massage as part of its National Baby Massage Week initiative (16-21 May 2011).

According to the IAIM, the many benefits of massage include parent-child bonding, better sleep, body awareness and sensory stimulation. These findings are also reflected in two new resources from *Singing Dragon which combine research and practice to give parents and carers the skills they need to use massage with their young children on the autism spectrum.

Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Dr Virginia Cowen is practical guide explains how massage works, how the body senses touch, and how touch therapy can benefit children with ASDs. As Dr Cowen said in her recent interview:

“In children with autism spectrum disorders, massage research noted fewer displays of self-stimulating behaviors, better sleep patterns, improved receptivity to touch, and less aggressive behavior. As a practitioner, that helps me understand that massage can help a child become more self aware and relaxed.”

The book goes on to describe exactly what each type of massage entails and covers anatomy-oriented massages, energy-based massages and therapeutic bodywork, helping readers to tell Reiki from reflexology, a Swedish from a sports massage, or tuina from a Thai massage, and includes recommendations for selecting the right style of massage, advice on locating a practitioner, and tips on preparing a child with an ASD for massage.

Qigong Massage for Your Child with Autism: A Home Program from Chinese Medicine by Dr Louisa Silva is a book and DVD set that teaches parents a simple 15-minute Qigong massage programme which has been developed specifically for the needs of children with ASDs, and is based on the author’s extensive clinical research. When performed regularly, this massage programme been shown to greatly improve mood and behaviour, sleeping patterns, and language and social skills.

In this video, Dr Silva demonstrates some of these benefits discussed in the book:
 

Also included in the book is information on diet, advice on reading a child’s body language during massage, and helpful progress checklists.

Click below for more information on these new titles.

*Singing Dragon is an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders – An Interview with Dr. Virginia Cowen

Virginia S. Cowen, PhD is a massage therapist, exercise physiologist and yoga and Pilates instructor. She is Associate Professor of Massage Therapy at Queensborough Community College, The City University of New York, and also maintains a small private fitness and bodywork practice in New York City and Bergen County, New Jersey.

Here, Dr. Cowen answers some questions about her new book, Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, published by *Singing Dragon.

Tell us about your background in massage – how did you start working with children on the autism spectrum?

I graduated from the Swedish Institute in New York City where I took courses in Swedish massage, medical massage, and Shiatsu. After graduation I studied Thai massage in the U.S. and in Chiang Mai, Thailand and took more continuing education in a variety of techniques. Including reflexology, trigger point therapy, myofascial release (to name a few.) I became interested in working on children with autism spectrum disorders after my nephew and a friend’s son were diagnosed with autism. The more parents I spoke with, the more I began to understand that they needed help understanding how touch was related to the child’s sensory issues.

How does massage therapy help with sensory issues, and what are some positive results?

A child who displays aversion to touch can be taught how to understand touch—essentially learning to differentiate between normal and painful sensations. I have found that a systematic approach to massage is very important for children with autism spectrum disorders. When they learn what to expect, they are better able to relax and receive massage. In practice the idea that massage helps people feel better is pretty consistent. General research on massage has consistently found that massage can help reduce stress and anxiety. The body of research on massage has included a variety of massage styles and techniques, but the findings are consistent. In children with autism spectrum disorders, massage research noted fewer displays of self-stimulating behaviors, better sleep patterns, improved receptivity to touch, and less aggressive behavior. As a practitioner, that helps me understand that massage can help a child become more self aware and relaxed.

Probably the most dramatic change I’ve witnessed was when a little boy with feeding issues consistently ate after his massage sessions. He even tried new foods. I suspect that his food aversions were somehow connected to texture and massage helped him better understand how to interpret or understand texture.

Trust is obviously important in massage therapy. What are some ways that you gain clients’ trust in your own practice?

I feel that honesty and patience helps build trust. My practice is small in relation to teaching and writing, so I am not in a position of having to convince people to become clients. My background in exercise science, massage, and yoga has given me a broad toolkit to use in practice and also use as a source of reference. Some parents lump massage into the “alternative” therapy field along with riskier therapies. This is unfortunate, so I try to educate parents about the many options in massage. Helping them understand touch and sensation has been very beneficial to help them make informed decisions.

What are some other considerations when practicing or seeking out the right kind of massage therapy, especially for children on the autism spectrum?

No single type of massage is “right” or “the best” for autism spectrum disorders. The many possible presentations of autism indicate many possible variations in treatment. Finding a massage therapist or practitioner who is adequately trained in massage is important. In places where massage is licensed, using a licensed practitioner is important. After all, most parents would not opt to receive services from an unlicensed teacher, doctor, or occupational therapist. Interview the practitioner about their approach. A massage therapist who is trained in multiple techniques is usually a good option because a change in the massage treatment will not mean introducing the child to another practitioner or new setting.

What do you think about the classification of massage as a CAM therapy? What are some misconceptions or common concerns about massage? How will your book contribute to a better understanding?

Massage is CAM because it falls outside the scope of conventional medical care. So does exercise. I am very interested in active and passive forms of movement. Both offer benefit to individuals on the autism spectrum. Massage does not usually take the place of conventional medical treatments, but it can be a useful addition.

Common misconceptions about massage are that it could be harmful or somehow counteract the effects of sensory and play therapy. There are several challenges in research on massage and specifically in analyzing the effects of massage. The standard model in research is a randomized controlled trial that uses a specific treatment protocol compared to some type of control group. It is difficult to create a true control group for massage because a person knows if he or she has received a massage. Specific treatment sequences can be developed, but actual touch cannot be duplicated unless the same massage practitioner delivers all of the treatments.

For individuals on the autism spectrum, a standard massage protocol cannot likely benefit everyone because of the different reactions to touch. But rubbing and pressure offer sensory benefits and general research supports that. Translating it into practice by using a flexible approach is probably the most consideration in treatment. I hope this book will successfully dispute that by helping parents understand the sense of touch, how massage can be helpful, and the myriad of options that are available.

*Singing Dragon is an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

Lisa Spillane on How Qigong can help children who feel ‘pushed and pulled’ by their emotions

In this interview, *Singing Dragon author Lisa Spillane answers some questions about her new book, Six Healing Sounds with Lisa and Ted: Qigong for Children, which teaches young children how to transform negative feelings into positive ones by using simple breathing techniques that are based on ancient Chinese Qigong exercises.

Tell us about your background and your experience of Qigong.

While I’m thankful for the many happy times I enjoyed as a child, it’s mainly the challenges I faced in my early years that have led me to write this book. I was born in New York and lived there until my father died shortly before my eighth birthday. After that we moved to Ireland where my parents were from. My father died from a brain tumor which he suffered with for two years, and the trauma of that and subsequently moving to a new and very different country was a lot to deal with for a little girl. In time, those experiences gave me a desire to pursue a career in education with the aim of helping children to express themselves.

I qualified as a Teacher of Art and Design, and for my Master’s Degree in Education I researched and developed programs for children from at-risk backgrounds and for young offenders. Nearly twenty years ago, along with two artists, I co-founded Artlink, a charity located in the Northwest of Ireland that provides opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn and experience art. My childhood experiences coupled with what I’ve learned through teaching have reinforced my view that children need to be taught techniques to manage their emotions so they can develop lifelong habits to protect themselves from the consequences of stress.

I was introduced to Qigong meditation by attending classes taught by Grandmaster Mantak Chia three years ago. Since then I’ve continued to learn through local trainers in Brussels, where I live, and through self-research. The first time I did the Inner Smile and Six Healing Sounds meditational exercises it occurred to me, when I was being shown how to rub my liver, that previous to that moment I hadn’t given much thought to its location. My organs were like abstract objects that I was connected to on a very superficial level. And, it dawned on me how ridiculous it was that even though I’d had this body for so many years and took an interest in health and nutrition, I was unable to confidently point to my spleen, pancreas or liver. I thought to myself that if I’d learned these exercises as a child, not only would I have known more about my body but I’d have been able to help myself in those dark times when I felt pushed and pulled by my emotions. Qigong techniques can help children to understand their emotions better and to have more control over them by showing them that they have the power to transform negative ones into positive ones through utilizing the body-mind connection.

What are the Six Healing Sounds and where do they come from?

This book combines the Six Healing Sounds and the Inner Smile Qigong meditational exercises. Qigong is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The exercises were developed thousands of years ago in China to help people to purge toxic negative emotions from their bodies. Doing them combats the dangerous effects of stress by activating the body’s own healing systems through a combination of: deep breathing, smiling, touch, gentle movements, sound vibrations and positive thoughts. Many of the elements we do instinctively, which is how the doctors of ancient China became aware of them. They created the healing sounds from observing the noises (sighs and groans) people make for different ailments because they realized that these sounds cool and detoxify the body’s organs. In the practice, each organ has its own healing sound, color and set of positive and negative emotions. Also, each organ has a season and associated elements. For example, the season for the liver is spring and its element is wood. To avoid information overload, I’ve only suggested the seasons and elements through the stories and illustrations so that children can absorb them with less effort.

Why are they so beneficial?

Although the exercises are simple and easy to learn, there are many complex scientific reasons for why they work. A good number of those reasons have only become evident to us in recent years through advancements in brain scanning which, for example, has proved that smiling, even when we don’t feel like it, produces endorphins in the brain which help to reduce stress and support the immune system. Neuroscience has also shown that thoughts of gratefulness and appreciation calm the nervous system and protect the heart. We instinctively know that using the breath to calm down is very effective. And, deep breathing also increases the amount of oxygen rich blood in the body which is needed for energy and healing and it boosts the lymphatic system helping it to get rid of toxins.

Is there a “right way” to do them?

There are many variations to this practice. This book demonstrates the exercises I learned from Grandmaster Mantak Chia. I’ve tried others but these are the ones I prefer. That said, I felt it was necessary to make some alterations so they’d be more accessible for children. In the second story I chose to refer to just the stomach, even though it should be the stomach, spleen and pancreas because I didn’t want to overwhelm young readers with too many new words. And, it’s good for them to focus on the stomach at this stage in their lives because there’s so much temptation for children to comfort themselves through eating junk food. This gives them an alternative to trying to numb their feelings of worry with food. I’ve also made alterations to the Triple Warmer exercise. This exercise doesn’t relate to a specific organ, but because it aims to even out the body temperature by bringing hot energy down from the head and cooler energy up from the feet it made sense to me to describe the hot energy as the chattering, busy thoughts in the brain. The exercise ends with Ted resting his hands on his stomach which is roughly the Dan Tian area, which relates to this exercise.

For readers who’d like more clarity regarding the sounds: “haaaww” rhymes with “saw”, “whooooooo” is like the sound an owl makes except longer, “sssssssss” is like the sound a snake makes, “tchewwwww” is like a sneeze sound “achoo” except made slowly and without the “a”, the “shhhhh” sounds like you’re telling someone to be quiet and finally “heeeeee” rhymes with “pea”. And, although you should try experimenting with the volume it’s recommended that the sounds be made softly and slowly.

It’s best to do all the organs in the order they are shown in the book, making the sound at least three times for each one, but you can concentrate on just one or as many as you like as long as you do them in the right order. The more you do this the more you will make it your own. If you get caught up in trying to do it perfectly then you won’t get the most out of it. There are also postures and movements as well as other emotions for the organs to be learned but what’s in this book is more than enough to make a good start with. Learning this practice should be seen as a continuous lifelong process that taps into our inherent abilities to heal ourselves.

Undoubtedly we could all gain something from these exercises – why did you decide to write it for children?

There’s an abundance of information on the internet and many excellent books and videos that teach adults how to do these exercises but from what I see there’s very little on the subject for children. Firing up the imagination with colors and beautiful imagery, smiling and making different sounds are all things I knew would appeal to young readers and the earlier we can learn tools to deal with our emotions the better. The format of a children’s picture book is a great learning tool because it allows for a lot of the information to be presented visually. When we use our eyes to dart around the page to look at all the different elements it helps the brain to create meaning and record images, thoughts and feelings together which in the future help us to remember the sequence of the exercises with all the associated information. And, I think many adults will find through the experience of sharing the book with children that they’re benefiting from the practice too.

What do you hope readers, including parents and teachers, will gain from the book?

When my son Dualta was a little boy, it was usually when I was reading him a bedtime story that he would decide to tell me about the ups and downs of his day. Mindful of this need to “offload” at bedtime, I’ve written the stories short enough to give children the space to bring up any negative feelings that may be troubling them. Also parents can choose to just concentrate on one or two stories depending on what particular emotions are raised. For example, if a child is grieving over the loss of a pet it might be more appropriate to just do the lungs and the heart. Using this book as a guide, it’s my hope that readers are led through a process which soothes away troubling emotions so they feel calm and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Teachers can use this book to encourage children to learn about their bodies and to consider how their attitudes and behavior effects themselves and others. Learning through stories is a fun way for children to absorb information and they can relate the scenarios to challenges they face in their own lives. It can be used to prompt children to share their experiences and in so doing they will learn that emotions and feelings are a natural part of life and common to everyone. More importantly, the exercises will help them to see that they can learn ways to manage their emotions and cultivate a sense of peace within themselves.

*Singing Dragon is an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Visit www.singingdragon.com for more info.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.