Effects of Early Multisensory Massage Intervention on Visual Functions in Functions in with Down Syndrome

This study explored the effects of infant massage on brain development, in particular, on the development of the visual system in a group of infants with Down Syndrome (DS). A small sample size of 20 infants with DS aged between 1 and 3 months of age were recruited and randomized into two groups: A group of massaged infants with standard care support, and a control group, where only standard care was received without infant massage.  The standard care consisted of bi-monthly parent counselling and infant massage was performed by the parent once per day, up to the age of 6 months. Parents were to perform infant massage for approximately 15 minutes per day (tactile stimulation), followed by 5 minutes of kinesthetic stimulation.  The head, neck, shoulders, buttocks and legs bilaterally were stimulated while the infant was quiet or in an active state of alertness. To study the effect of infant massage across the groups, the researchers recruited blinded clinicians who evaluated visual acuity and stereopsis at 5, 6, 9 and 12 months.

The results of this particular study revealed, early enrichment, based on infant massage was reported to be very effective in increasing levels of standard environmental stimulation. Infant massage influenced visual system maturation whereby the massaged infants demonstrated faster and a more continuous trend of development of visual acuity than the control group of infants. Cognitive and social-communication development has a relationship with the visual system during infancy.

This study supported the importance of early intervention programs in children with congenital disabilities, in a period of high plasticity during infancy, and in a completely non-invasive manner.

Written by Carla Vescio, Chiropractor

Purpura, G., Tinelli, F., Bargagna, S., Bozza, M., Bastianni, L & Cioni, G. (2014) Effect of early multisensory massage intervention on visual funcitons in infants with Down syndrome. Early Human Development. 90 (12), 809-13. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.08.016


Tac Pac

Tacpac is an activity resource for helping people with sensory or neurological impairment, developmental delay, profound and multiple learning difficulties, tactile defensiveness, and limited or pre-verbal communication. It provides a structured, emotionally safe framework for the 'receiving partner' to make contact with their own bodies, their environment and other people, and develop a relationship with these. The 'giving partner' ensures that each tactile experience is well organised and sensitively offered, and adjusted to suit the receving partner's responses.