Reiki is a Japanese healing technique utilized for wellness and stress reduction. There are many individuals exploring the use of Reiki to assist individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Although there is very little research on the use of Reiki for autism spectrum disorders, more general studies have indicated that Reiki may be an effective treatment for some of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders.
How can Reiki help individuals with ASD?
Studies and anecdotal reports indicate that there may be a number of different benefits to individuals who participate in Reiki sessions on a regular basis.
Some of these benefits may include:
- A chance for the individual to connect with another person in a different way: One of the most common struggles for individuals with ASD is social interaction. Often individuals find it difficult for them to connect to those around them. During Reiki sessions, an individual with ASD will have the chance to connect with his or her practitioner in a unique way. In one session with a nonverbal, highly agitated teenage boy with ASD, I witnessed that as the Reiki session progressed, he went from being unable to make eye contact with me, to maintaining eye contact for several minutes at a time. During these moments of connection, he appeared calm, relaxed, and at peace.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: Individuals with ASD are often fidgety and hyperactive. Studies have shown that exposure to Reiki may reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. This may in turn have a calming effect on the individual with ASD. In one session I held with a young client with ASD, they began the session pacing the room. By the end of the session, they were lying on the Reiki table relaxed. This client was not comfortable with physical touch, however at the end of this session, the client took my hand and placed their hand in my hand for several minutes.
- Healthier sleep patterns: ASD has been known to disturb sleep patterns significantly, leading to increased symptoms and stress. Reiki may improve sleep patterns, allowing the client to get a more restful, restorative sleep. After several sessions with an adult client with ASD, he reported that his sleep schedule had normalized and he was sleeping throughout the night without anxiety attacks disrupting his sleep.
- More control over the disorder: The parents of children with ASD, in addition to the children themselves, often feel that they have no ability to control the disorder. Reiki sessions allow both children and their caregivers to be proactive about dealing with difficult symptoms and improving their quality of life.
Despite some studies and reports indicating that Reiki may be beneficial for individuals with ASD, there can be challenges for a practitioner in performing Reiki on an individual with ASD. This is especially the case in young children as ASD makes it difficult for them to remain calm or still for the length of a session. Some ways to address this issue is for sessions to happen when a child is sleepy, or to start with shorter sessions and working up to longer sessions. As a practitioner, when working with individuals who struggle to remain still, I fill the room with Reiki energy and focus on giving distance Reiki to the individual. I have found that after several sessions like this, the individual settles into stillness. It is also common for autistic children to sleep after sessions.
What medical professionals are saying about Reiki:
“We have done a pilot study of reiki massage for autistic children. The preliminary results are encouraging, especially when the parents are taught the reiki along with visualization in between formal appointments with the therapists. The use of reiki by parents and therapist appears to encourage communication; especially non-verbal communication. Children are calmer and have less self-stimulation.” In an article in Autsim/Asperger’s Digest Magazine in 2000, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D., Coordinator for Integrative Psychiatry and Systems Medicine, Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tuscon, Arizona.
“The next big frontier in medicine is energy medicine.” Mehmet Oz, M.D., Director of Cardiovascular Institute at the Columbia University of Physicians & Surgeons
“In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.” Albert Szent-Gydrgyl, Nobel Laureate in Medicine
“Reiki is increasingly being incorporated into modern medicine because of one compelling reason. It works…” Larry Dossey, M.D., author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, and the New York Times Best Seller Healing Words.
If this sounds like a good fit for you and your child, please contact me to schedule an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 503-880-7190. I also offer Reiki trainings to attune and teach caregivers how to give Reiki to their children. Please contact me if interested.
I am a marriage and family therapist and Reiki practitioner. I received my Master’s of Arts in Counseling Psychology specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacifica Graduate Institute. I received my Reiki Usui/Holy Fire II and Master certification with The International Center for Reiki Training. I am trained in PCIT and am working towards certification. I am also trained in play therapy working towards certification with the American Play Therapy Association.