AutismMassageProf. Ernst

Massage therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder

Prof. Ernst and colleagues have reviewed the evidence.

First, the details.

  • Of 132 articles, only 6 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria.

And, the results.

  • 1 study found that massage plus conventional language therapy was significantly better than conventional language therapy alone for symptom severity and communication attitude.
  • 2 studies reported a significant benefit of massage for sensory profile, adaptive behavior, and language and social abilities compared with a special education program.
  • 1 study showed significantly beneficial effects of massage for social communication.
  • 2 studies suggested that massage therapy is effective.
  • All of these studies had a high risk of bias due to small sample sizes, predefined primary outcome measures, inadequate control for nonspecific effects, and a lack of power calculations or adequate follow-up.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Limited evidence exists for the effectiveness of massage as a symptomatic treatment of autism. Because the risk of bias was high, firm conclusions cannot be drawn.”

4/3/11 21:23 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.