Zen Shiatsu: A Longitudinal Case Study Measuring Stress Reduction in a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Angela Burke, MA Ed, LMT Sunshower Healing Arts
Keywords: traditional Chinese medicine, autistic, health-related quality of life, massage, complementary therapies, PedsQL, Incredible 5-Point Scale


Introduction: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that manifests as impairments in social interaction, communication, and behavior.

Objective: The objective of this study is to determine if Zen Shiatsu can reduce short- and long-term stress levels in a child with ASD.

Methods: This is a longitudinal case study of a seven-year-old male with a diagnosis of autism who was given 20-min Zen Shiatsu sessions weekly for six consecutive weeks. Using a five-point stress scale designed for children with autism, the client indicated his stress level before and after each session. In addition, the parent was given the PEDS QL 4.0 Young Child Questionnaire to determine the child’s HRQoL (Health Related Quality of Life) prior to Zen Shiatsu treatment to establish a baseline. The parent completed the same questionnaire after six weeks of sessions to compare results.

Results: Based on the five-point pictorial stress scale, data collected before and after each Zen Shiatsu session indicated a decrease in stress levels after treatment. The PEDS QL 4.0 showed higher HRQoL scores in all domains, indicating that the child’s overall quality of life improved within the six weeks of receiving Zen Shiatsu.

Conclusions: Zen Shiatsu, a Japanese modality based on traditional Chinese medicine, provided meaningful and positive benefits for a child with autism. This case study offers preliminary evidence for the possibility of Zen Shiatsu providing a viable complementary therapy for alleviating stress in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, thereby potentially improving the overall health-related quality of life.

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How to Cite
Burke, MA Ed, LMT, A. (2014). Zen Shiatsu: A Longitudinal Case Study Measuring Stress Reduction in a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, &Amp; Practice, 7(4), 23–28. https://doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v7i4.246