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How CST helps with a diagnosis of Autism and Apraxia

Do you ever wonder what happens during a CranioSacral Therapy session?  My friend and colleague, Staci Copses, recounted this session to me. As a Pediatric OT and diplomate CranioSacral Therapist, Staci was working with a 13-year old boy with a diagnosis of autism and apraxia. Her story inspired me to share it with you, as it is a great example of how CST can help children with this diagnosis plus demonstrates the powerful effects within the structures in the mouth.  The photograph was taken at the end of a CST session.

During a six-month period, Staci had treated Brendan with 60-minute CranioSacral therapy sessions every two weeks. Brendan had a difficult time expressing his wants and needs at home and on the therapy table. Mom had heard CranioSacral therapy could help with speech. She was hopeful CST could improve Brendan’s oral motor skills and, in turn, help his speech and communication.

During Brendan’s CranioSacral therapy sessions, Staci would work with some of the structures in his mouth but often times Brendan could not tolerate it.  As a result, he would remove her hands from his mouth or move around on the table to avoid this technique.

Six months into his treatment Brendan had a very different session. He heard the waiting room door open, ran to the door, walked past Staci down the hall, and straight into the therapy room. He removed his shoes and socks and lay down on the therapy table.  

Prior to beginning the session, Brendan’s mother told Staci that he had been pressing into his face with his hands, pressing his face into pillows, and taking his parents' hands and placing them on his face for pressure over the last several days. His mother also stated Brendan has struggled with allergies and sinus issues.

After Staci did her usual evaluation she placed her hands at his chest level.  Brendan kept taking her hands from his chest and placing them on his face. She gently removed her hands and returned them to his chest. She repeated this a couple more times.

Suddenly, Brendan started pointing at the side table, grunting and making various sounds. One by one, she picked up items from the table and Brendan communicated that wasn’t what he wanted. Finally, Staci showed him a box of gloves and Brendan started pointing and making sounds to indicate he wanted the gloves.  She removed gloves from the box and presented them to him. He opened the gloves as if to place them on his hands, but instead attempted to place them on Staci's hands.

Following his lead, she placed the gloves on her hands. No sooner than she had them on, Brendan was placing her hand in his mouth. Each time she removed her hands from his mouth to give him a break; he picked up her hand and tried to place it back in his mouth. Staci decided to ask him where he wanted her hands placed and he opened his mouth, lifted his tongue, took her hand, and placed it under his tongue.

The next time she asked, he took her hands and placed them inside his mouth along the biting surfaces of the teeth. She did exactly what he wanted. When given a break from being inside his mouth, Staci asked Brendan if he wanted more. His response was a sound close to YES! Again, she asked him to show her where he wanted her hands placed. This time he placed one of her fingers at the roof of his mouth. He pressed his tongue on the finger as if to apply pressure to the roof of his mouth. Following the release of his vomer (a small bone on the roof of the mouth) and several still points, the session came to a close. Brendan’s parents were elated that Brendan was so expressive. They said they had never seen him so directive in expressing his wants and needs.

This session was so exciting for Brendan, his parents, and Staci! He had been suffering from a sinus flare-up, lots of drainage, sneezes, and a stuffy nose, along with some coughing for about 7-10 days prior to this session. He ended up feeling better, and since then his nose is slowly clearing up, too.

It always brings a smile to my face when CST is able to help someone heal and make progress.  Do you have a story about CST and autism and/or apraxia?  I’d love to hear about it.

Kate xx 


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