WOU's Teaching Research Institute received two important grants totaling nearly $1.5 million. A three-year award from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research for $600,000 was received to develop and implement a program to assist those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to generalize problem-solving strategies to everyday environments. The second grant is also a three-year award; one from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau. This $842,382 grant will enable research on parent-delivered massage for young children with autism.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.2 million Americans are permanently disabled as a result of a traumatic brain injury and approximately 1.7 million are subject to brain injury yearly. Extending the work of TRI’s Center on Brain Injury Research & Training (CBIRT), the TBI program will employ rigorous qualitative and quantitative experimental methodologies to address the growing need for accessible, evidence-based interventions for persons with traumatic brain injury. Approximately 150 adults with traumatic brain injury will be involved with the study.
The autism award extends research conducted through TRI that has focused on the impact of parental massage on young children with special needs. One hundred and twenty Oregon families will have the opportunity to participate in the study.
Children with autism suffer severe developmental delays and behavioral problems. Often they have abnormal responses to touch such that they avoid physical contact on some areas of the body, yet do not seem to notice injury on others. According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, about one in 88 children are identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Oregon Department of Education reported 8,694 school-aged children with autism in the 2011-12 school year.
A parent's touch is the oldest and most effective means of calming young children, help ing them focus, and regulating their behavior, far more effectively than verbal or visual means of communication. Yet many parents of children with autism begin to avoid using touch because their children don’t respond normally to it.
For the past decade, TRI has been involved in training parents to give a specific 15-minute massage to their children daily. Results demonstrate that the massage is effective in reversing the difficulties with touch. Children become calmer, more comfortable, are better able to learn, and have improved behavior. The massage is based on Chinese medicine. There are specific techniques for each area of difficulty (e.g. the head, fingers and toes). Families receive support to help them learn the program.
After a few months, the massage becomes relaxing and enjoyable, and parent touch comes back into use to effectively help the child self-regulate. After five months, studies show promising improvements in social development and behavior. The daily massage program is continued for a year for full effect. According to one parent, “When we believed that autism was permanent and unchangeable, we didn’t think of trying to improve it. Now we believe autism is treatable; we do the massage every day.”