Teaching Yoga to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders? A Piece of Cake!

By Michael Chissick, primary school teacher and qualified yoga instructor, and specialist in teaching yoga to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and author of Frog’s Breathtaking Speech.


Exciting New Training Project

An exciting new initiative which delivers the benefits of yoga to hundreds of children with autism will be the cherry on the cake. The project will be in action at a Special Needs Academy in Lincolnshire, UK, after Easter with more to follow.

Over the past thirteen years I have developed a model of how to teach yoga to children with autism. The model can be used by class teachers and teaching assistants with no previous experience of yoga. The structures, activities and postures are easy to learn and are safe to teach. The model is suitable for children across all key stages.

Special schools that have a high proportion of children on the autistic spectrum will use the model. The advantages are that teaching and training are geared to the specific needs of their pupils, and staff can be trained economically without time away from school; and the icing on the cake is that staff can use the model immediately.

How did we reach this point?

I have been teaching Yoga to KS1, 2 & 3 pupils as part of the integrated day at Special Needs School for thirteen years. Many of the children I teach have autism and sensory processing disorders. During each thirty minute session I work with the whole class, class teacher and teaching assistants. Time restraints make it impossible for me to teach all classes in my schools, so I tend to alternate classes every half term.

I had noticed that when I returned to a class to continue after a 5/6 week break there was a need to start over again, which can be frustrating. For many years I simply regarded it as part of the job of teaching pupils with ASD.

However over the last couple of years I have noticed that some classes had retained what I had taught them and were as enthusiastic as ever for their yoga. So what distinguishes the ‘ready-for-more-class’ from the ‘let’s-start-again-class? The answer is that the class teachers and teaching assistants have been teaching their pupils yoga without me… and doing a brilliant job at it too!

Why does it work?

The answer also lies in the fundamentals of my highly structured approach. For example, the children are seated on chairs in a circle. I use a visual timetable and posture cards to keep my verbal input to the minimum. Within the structure I target several layers or elements simultaneously; it’s like a multi-tiered cake. These layers are easily recognised by colleagues who are already experts at working with children with ASD and are using similar models in other curriculum areas.

 

The Layers

  1. Engagement tactics are, for example, encouraging children to choose from posture cards hanging from an umbrella; or children throwing tiny bean bags into the holes on a colourful board as a means of choosing a posture.
     
  2. Fun is key! Children eagerly get out of their chairs and into the posture because it’s fun; if it continues to be fun then they will want to stay in the posture.
     
  3. Repetition of postures over the weeks is a crucial; as children become more at ease with the posture leading to improved skills and greater confidence.
     
  4. Every child Achieves in the lesson.
     
  5. Social Skills like waiting, listening, speaking, helping each other, taking turns and following rules are targeted.
     
  6. Fitness Flexibility and improved co-ordination are the layers that tend to hit the news.
     
  7. Sensory is the sweetest layer. The vestibular system ‘tells us if we are moving or still, while our proprioceptive system is the unconscious awareness of our body position’ (Yack et al 2002). A combination of both systems gives us vital information about movement and where we are in relation to, for example, the floor. I teach many children whose vestibular and proprioceptive systems are dysfunctional. Using yoga postures I help to regulate those dysfunctions.

Feedback

Feedback from the Academy in Lincolnshire was wonderfully positive describing the day as excellent and staff commented that the model:

‘…does away with many pre-conceptions and prejudices – it helps make different types of movement accessible to all.’

It is early days in Lincolnshire, but soon the children and staff will be enjoying their yoga while I’ll be teaching 175 miles away. Seems like I’ll be having my cake and eating it.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

“Although fatigue may persist, it can go away” – An interview with Lucie Montpetit

Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit
Photo: Singing Dragon author Lucie Montpetit (Credit: Jackie Fritz)

Lucie Montpetit is an occupational therapist with over 25 years’ experience working in a variety of hospital settings. She runs workshops on managing fatigue, stress and pain using the approach she has developed incorporating a number of different techniques. She has personally suffered from debilitating fatigue and restored her health through the methods she now teaches others.

She is the author of Breaking Free from Persistent Fatigue – new from Singing Dragon.

In this interview, Lucie recounts her personal experience with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and how overcoming this condition through a combination of occupational therapy techniques and Eastern health modalities inspired her to help others to do the same.


Can you please tell us a bit about you and your personal and professional interest in improving the lives of people with persistent fatigue?

First, I’d like to explain that I chose the expression “persistent fatigue” because although fatigue may persist, it can go away. A frame of mind open to hope is important in healing.

When I started working as an occupational therapist, I was interested in understanding the drops in energy of my patients. Despite people’s motivation to get better, a lack of energy became apparent in rehabilitation. I encountered different types of lack of energy, whether patients were suffering from major depression in an acute psychiatric setting; war veterans suffering from late onset diabetes leading to leg amputation; or young mothers who just encountered their first major energy drop from multiple sclerosis or a rheumatoid arthritic attack. Personally, I went to see a neurologist at the age of 29 because of sudden energy drops and my GP thought I had multiple sclerosis, but nothing was found and it went away within two weeks. Then, after my second child was born, I had multisystemic symptoms that my GP did not understand. He said I must be stressed. But I did not feel I was more stressed than my co-workers and friends who had to conjugate career and family life.

Book cover: Breaking Free from Persistent FatigueEventually, despite my relatively healthy lifestyle, I had to find another doctor who put me on sick leave with the diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis. It took me about two years to recover from the persistent debilitating fatigue. After that I started to do workshops for patients suffering from similar daily challenges. My book reflects in part my own findings to regain my health as well as the work I have done as an occupational therapist with patients suffering from debilitating fatigue associated with different diagnoses. So it is not a book about disease but about finding solutions according to different ways of gaining back one’s physical, emotional and psychological energy balance. For many, it is also a path towards empowerment and finding a new meaning in daily activities.

Can you paint us a picture of what the person with fatigue goes through on a daily basis?

Once the imbalance is severe, here is what I observed in my patients: Sudden energy drops at fixed time during the day or after physical exercise; poor sleep of different kinds (inability to fall asleep, waking up many times during the night with an urge to urinate and/or unable to feel refreshed even after a good night’s sleep); food and environmental intolerances; exacerbation of known allergies or new allergy appearances; dizziness; mood swings; foggy thinking; no buffer to deal with stress; having a hard time doing little things around the house, such as washing dishes, due to lack of energy and reduced capacity to organise and plan; having projects in mind and interests to pursue but the inability to do so due to lack of energy; not being able to lift grocery bags without shaking like a leaf and needing to go to bed right after; preferring to be alone but not necessary being depressed – essentially just needing to use as little energy as possible to “survive another day”.

What causes this debilitating condition?

One thing for sure is that long standing exposure to stress is a cause of this debilitating condition, but not only psychosocial stressors like your work environment, a conjugal separation or the death of a close relative. These can also include viral infections, postural stressors that leads to jaw misalignment and lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies that prevent the production of energy at the cellular level, candidiasis, and long term exposure to moulds, endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, allergens, electromagnetic smog and other environmental pollutants.

The accumulation of stressors leads to the imbalance of your psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine (PNI) super system, known by researchers as allostatic overload.

What makes it worse, and what makes it better?

Continuous exposure to stressors of any kind – insomnia, not respecting one’s limitations and forcing oneself to do more – makes things worse. To make things better, get rid of the stressors when possible; eat energising foods rather than energy draining processed foods; modify daily habits to optimize the natural chronobiological hormonal cycles of one’s body; learn to change one’s mode of reacting into a more energising way of responding to daily life challenges; and make informed choices while honouring one’s strength and limitations. Choosing the right physical intensity of exercise to regain one’s capacities is crucial, while choosing key nutrients to optimise cellular energy production is also important in the process. Learning how to breathe efficiently through the nose in order to optimise the oxygen input is also very important.

What is the book about, and what motivated you to write it?

For many years, I have been dissatisfied with medical answers that purport to address the debilitating fatigue suffered by my patients with auto-immune diseases. Lack of resources and understanding, finding quick fix medications such as antidepressants for patients clearly suffering from musculoskeletal symptoms such as fibromyalgia, and having difficulty finding answers with the variety of health professionals I personally consulted inspired me to write the book. I needed to find answers firstly for myself, and then got the urge to share my findings and what I had learned with others facing similar prejudices among some health care practitioners. So the book is about finding personal solutions, different for each reader because of their own type of debilitating fatigue and personal way of over-spending their energy. People will learn how to make an energy balance sheet like one would do financially when consolidating debts. From their findings, they will figure out how to save energy in their daily lives and regain their inner mind-body balance towards health.

Can you talk about how your work and approach is influenced by Chinese medicine and other practices?

As an occupational therapist I was trained to view my patients from a holistic perspective, which is in accordance with my personal understanding. People require a meaning in the activity they are doing in therapy; they need goals of their own to reach in addition to those of my rehabilitation treatment plan for them. From my perspective as a martial artist of many decades, I am also influenced by the efficiency of energy expenditure, the need for the energy to circulate through the meridians and the influence of the breath during outer and inner Qi Gong and martial practice.

For me, the autonomous nervous system (ANS) follows the yin/yang principles. Patients I treat, for different reasons, have lost the balance of their PNI super system. This has direct repercussions on the ANS as it reverts to a constant “fight or flight” reaction mode as a result of too many stressors that leads to a narrow, skewed perception of daily life. In these circumstances, the ANS becomes too much yang.

I teach patients to reconnect with their bodies through their senses, the awareness of their body and posture in space and their breathing pattern. Then I use different Qi Gong exercises according to the level of energy of my clients or Chan Ssu Chin Tai Chi exercises (known as Silk Reeling Cocoon exercises) to reconnect further with their breath and body and the body’s ability to heal itself. Sometimes I use Neurofunctional reorganisation – Padovan’s Method® (NFR) with the patients to regain the balance of their autonomic nervous system and sleep rhythm: it is a powerful tool that follows brain plasticity principles. I had used NFR mainly with patients suffering from neurological conditions that follows brain plasticity principles in the past. Many of the NRF exercises help my clients suffering from debilitating fatigue as well because it helps reorganise posture, breathing, and ANS functions and rhythms.

Once the body starts to regain its natural rhythms, I encourage my patients to implement what they found useful in therapy into their lifestyle. I teach them about chronobiological rhythms so they can choose for themselves the minor changes in their daily habits that can help foster the natural flow of hormones and chi. Finally, when the patient starts to get out of the constant “fight or flight” mode and is ready to respond in a new way, I make use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles to help make changes to the energy draining perception of daily life to energising life habits that are better suited for the recovery process. All of those life changes follow the yin/yang principle to break free from persistent fatigue while restoring the inner balance called homeostasis in Western medicine.

How does the book reflect your general philosophy about health?

For me, health is a dynamic equilibrium within oneself. Equilibrium takes place in the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of our lives in relation to our environment. If a person is disconnected from one aspect of his or her self, the imbalance will eventually be reflected in the other dimensions of his or her life. I believe that every person who comes to consult me is in part responsible for restoring and then maintaining his or her PNI super system dynamic balance that we refer to as health. People are amazing at finding ways to change their lives in ways that make sense to them. Once they realise from a new point of view how they were living, they have no interest of returning to their previous lifestyle.

Our environment has never had such a strong negative impact on our health. Depleted soils and foods, pollution of all senses, the intrusion of technology in every aspect of our daily lives and having to deal with the compound effects of so many hundreds of chemicals even before we are born are also major stressors that health professionals too often neglect. These are also consequences of living in a world that is too “yang”. There is an implicit false belief that we have to be busy and multitasking most of the time. We can be proactive in maintaining or restoring our health once we gain knowledge of those relatively new phenomena. Knowledge is power. Feeling empowered rather than feeling a victim of a disease changes your outlook on your condition. This frees your body-mind and it starts to heal itself faster. Allowing a few minutes per day to be rather than to do is sometimes sufficient to maintain one’s inner balance.

Finally, how should this book be used by the reader?

The book is to be read and applied according to your level of energy. As a start, people who have low energy would benefit from knowing how to nourish their bodies to optimise energy production. Then they should go to the chapter that appeals to them. Usually, a gut feeling leads people to what they need. If a reader is too exhausted to concentrate on reading, I recommend bringing the book to a true friend or the health professional he or she is working with to do some of the exercises with the assistance of the health professional.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2012.

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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“I so want to see people flourish at work through supervision” – An Interview with Robin Shohet

Robin Shohet has been teaching supervision through the Centre for Supervision and Team Development for 30 years. He lives with his family at the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community in the North East of Scotland. He is the author of a number of JKP books, including the new Supervision as Transformation: A Passion for Learning.

Here, Robin shares some thoughts on the profound ways in which supervision can facilitate change that enriches individuals and organisations.


You are well known for your work on supervision – what attracted you to this area of work as a specialism? Who supervises you now, and how do you continue to grow through these experiences?

I mentioned in one of my previous books – Passionate Supervision – that my first experience of supervision was so good and helped me to keep growing that I wanted to pass it on.  I am sure I would have burnt out without it, and I see people now very stressed and I would love them all to have good supervision.  It was in a therapeutic community for people who had come out of psychiatric hospital and supervision was one of the cornerstones of our work. It was the mid 70’s and the emphasis on supervision was quite unusual at the time and we developed a reputation in residential social work. When three of the core staff, myself, Peter Hawkins and Joan Wilmot left to go freelance we just continued with the work we had already been doing and developed it over the years.

I love doing the work. Someone once said: If it moves, Robin will supervise it. It suits my personality – slightly detached and yet as you have noticed also passionate about it – passionate about wanting to see people flourish at work and supervision can play a huge part in that.

As for the now, I am in a new peer group; the last one lasted seventeen years.  I really like the idea of being accountable to peers and this formed the basis of my helping to set up something called the Independent Practitioners Network which is a form of peer group accreditation.  I also get excellent supervision on the hoof from my partner – perhaps the most challenging supervision as she knows me so well – and I regularly do at least one CPD event a year. As I write this, I am also doing a mythodrama workshop with one of the contributors, Richard Olivier which is really stretching.  I will put in a plug for him here.  He takes you on a journey using Shakespeare as a starting point.

Can you talk a little bit about your development as an author, and how this new book sits in relation to your others?

In terms of my work, my big breakthrough came when I was asked to co-write a book on supervision by the late Brian Wade of Changes Bookshop. He dropped out and so I asked Peter [Hawkins] to do it with me. We had no idea the book would do so well. We just wrote up what we had been doing and we were very lucky with the timing because it was one of the first books of its kind.

How I came to do my latest book, Supervision as Transformation is an interesting story. It started with a group of homeopathic doctors/veterinarians I was supervising. Their training, which at the time was pioneering, was losing out to competition and I suddenly blurted out: You need to write a book about what you do! The result was a book called Passionate Medicine, which I edited. The format gave me the idea for my next book, Passionate Supervision, and that was such a delight to do that I wanted to do another. Hence Supervision as Transformation: A Passion for Learning – I wanted to keep the word ‘passion’ in.

In the new book, I have tried to broaden the scope of the contributors to include more of an organisational aspect – how supervision has been introduced into the organisations that the contributors are part of. I think the first book had a more individual flavour.

Can you talk about the wonderful contributors to your book – how did you come to choose them for this project?

They were all people I knew personally whose work I respected. I could have had enough material for a third book, but the ones I chose were from a variety of professions. Michael Carroll (author of “Chapter 1:  Supervision – A Journey of Life-Long Learning”) is well known in the supervision and coaching field – we started about the same time and he writes well so I was delighted to have him. The second chapter (“It’s at the Heart of our Practice at the Family Nurse Partnership.”) is by Ann Rowe who was a pioneer in something called the Family Nurse Partnership, which supports pregnant teenage mothers during their pregnancies and the first two years of the baby’s life. Brilliant work and they put supervision at the heart of their work. And I could go on and describe each chapter. I loved getting all the authors together and their reading each others’ work which I think adds some cohesion to the book.

In his chapter, Michael Carroll lists 11 insights about the learning journey in supervision, one of which is the importance of flexibility to learning styles on the part of the supervisor. Can you talk about this from your own experience?

I liked what Michael wrote very much – it spoke to me as I have enormous problems learning.  My learning style is having to trust and feel in relationship with the person teaching me – it is as if I am absorbing their energy.  I remember having to change skiing classes because I could not learn from the head coach. He was considered to be a better teacher, but I went with someone else because I could feel a relationship.  My stepson on the other hand does not care about the relationship, but wants someone who knows their stuff and puts it across clearly.  So flexibility is key. Michael explains the whole question of learning very succinctly and it is central to the book.

What do supervisors struggle with the most in facilitating change for themselves or their supervisees, and how can this latest book help them?

There is a whole chapter in Supervision as Transformation on resistance (“Chapter 9: Resistance is a Natural Path – An Alternative Perspective on Transformation”), written by Christina Breene.  I know we have all experienced obstacles in ourselves when we want to change and this chapter takes a very compassionate view on understanding these obstacles.  I believe that something can only be changed when it has been fully embraced first and then it seems to drop away.  Trying to change by will does not work and is a kind of violence because it is imposed, even if it is ourselves that is imposing it.  So in order to facilitate change, we need to listen and accept first.

In the final chapter of the book, you reflect that the process has enabled you to ‘hear yourself think’. Do you think that the process of ‘putting into words’ is essential to growth as a human being?

Now that is a huge question. I do think having the space to think clearly is very important, and supervision can play a vital role in that. But I am not sure what is essential to growth as a human being. Good early attachment perhaps, and a deep sense of spirituality, which I touch on in the book.

You are part of the Findhorn community. What originally took you there? What affect has the spiritual community had on your work in supervision, or vice versa?

Another huge question. It seemed like a complete accident. I wanted to do a writing week there but I had to do this thing called an Experience Week first. I did it with very bad grace, hated virtually every moment of it, thought the leaders were second rate and half an hour before leaving out of the blue I had a ‘road to Damascus’ experience of unconditional love. It has never happened since by the way. When I suggested moving, the family were quite shocked (‘After all you have been saying!’, they said) but were also receptive and so we gradually moved up and are all very glad.

Through Findhorn I have met some wonderful teachers and speakers who have had a big impact on much of my life, but not specifically supervision. Joan Wilmot and I were very instrumental in introducing supervision to Findhorn which makes it unusual in spiritual communities, so perhaps we have influenced the supervision the community does rather than vice versa.

Finally, ‘passion’ is a word that recurs frequently in your work, and ‘creativity’ is another. Would you like to say something about why these words mean so much to you?

Well. as I mentioned above I so want to see people flourish at work in the same way as I did through supervision, that is why I still love giving it, receiving it, teaching it, lecturing on it. For the same reason I like going into staff teams and working with their conflicts and helping to resolve them. I trace this to so wanting my parents to get on and needing to create happy families – a creative use of a not so functional family of origin.

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.

How meditation can help people with Asperger’s Syndrome release tension and recognise body language

By Chris Mitchell, author of Asperger’s Syndrome and Mindfulness: Taking Refuge in the Buddha.

Positive feeling from within radiates beyond: Chris trekking around Mount Cook (or Aaoraki, as the Maori call it), the highest mountain in New Zealand.

Body language, or non-verbal communication, is an aspect of life that many people with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle with. As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome myself, I find that as well as being able to interpret non-verbal signals, being aware of your own body language – both intentional and unintentional – can also be difficult. I have found, though, that developing a mindful awareness of the body is helpful in being able to recognise this more effectively.

Having practiced meditation for almost six years, including going on meditation retreats and monastic stays, naturally the next level was to try and integrate qualities experienced during practice into everyday life, not only in relation to right or appropriate action through applying a non-judgemental approach. To try and enable this, I recently undertook an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) course, based on the work of mindfulness practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The Buddha taught us to see the body within the body. This includes noticing and becoming aware of different sensations through the body that are consistently present within us that we don’t often notice. Activities covered by MSBR, including body scans and stretching exercises, enabled me to gain a stronger understanding of how different feelings and sensations in particular parts of the body in turn affect the body as a whole, as well as how different body movements have after-effects throughout the body. These sensations are so difficult to notice in normal life for anyone, not just a person with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The even greater difficulty for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to overcome, though, is being able to notice how sensations from within reflect on the outside, whether positive or negative. Quite often, certain areas of the body, particularly the stomach, become ‘reservoirs’ for feelings of tension and stress which radiate within the body and outside of the body. Often in my life I have found not being able to control such tension a problem in terms of how it affects the way I come across to other people – in other words, how my non-verbal presentation can affect others, when I least know it.

Techniques used in MSBR involved noticing your breathing while focusing on different parts of the body, and imagining if the breath could reach there, to different areas of the body so often taken for granted. Then, when stretching, one begins to notice the after-effect on parts of the body that are not involved in the stretch. When doing the exercises you are encouraged not to compete with yourself or with others, but rather to notice and acknowledge the limitations of your physical make up, allowing for acceptance of yourself as you are.

Something that I am beginning to find from the practice is that being able to acknowledge such feelings within the body helps me to feel more comfortable, enabling me to radiate a positive feeling within myself, thus giving me more freedom within rather than being constrained by tension. Hopefully, with continued practice, I can bring these positive effects to my work, including when giving talks seminars and training on Asperger’s Syndrome.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.