"Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida. Field and her associates at TRI have worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children. But this is not a new concept. Infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures. Many indigenous tribes use some form of bodywork to soothe, relax, and heal their little ones, sometimes including scented oils and herbal remedies as part of the experience.
A child is born. It is a miracle. For the first few weeks, the little one sleeps a lot, nurses, occasionally cries, and needs to be held and rocked. Her arms and legs move, and her body twitches—all involuntary movements. Soon her family notices she is doing things she was unable to do before. When she is picked up, she holds her head up by herself. She reaches out to touch her mother’s face. She clings to a parent’s finger or a small toy. She rolls over.
Cradled in his arms, children who rarely find a moment’s peace find a sea of calm, Jeff Bisdee has offered the aquatic body therapy known as Watsu at The Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh since 1997. As the manager of recreational therapy there for the past 17 years, Bisdee was impressed the first time he saw Watsu. “It was an epiphany,” said Bisdee. “I was always interested in doing aquatic therapy with patients and when I saw this being done, I knew right then and there it was something I should be doing.”
Jonathan Clark teaches children with developmental and communication disorders. He is also a certified massage therapist with a dream. “There are so many different things that massage helps adults with,” said Clark recently from his office at The Matthew Reardon Advanced Academy in Savannah, Ga. “I know it relaxes me to the point I can focus. I thought maybe it could help a child focus.”