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Posted by: Mariette Lobo, 13 May 2008 10:31AM
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Disabilities and Therapies

Has anyone any experience of teaching therapies (Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, and Body Massage) to people with physical disabilities? For example, what special adaptations have to be made to enable wheel chair users to participate in body massage courses. At our college most of the couches are of fixed height. How is this overcome? I'd be very interested to hear of other lecturers' thoughts on this whole issue of disability (ref The Disability Discrimination Act) and it's effect on students with disabilities who want to learn to do massage.


Andrea Clarke
19 May 2008 9:33AM

Hi Mariette. I only have one experience with a disabled (wheelchair bound) student who I taught Indian head massage to a couple of years ago. i think I am right in saying she had previously completed Reflexology (Stephenson College, Coalville, Leics for both). What I found was the need to constantly adapt the treatment routine so that she was able use it, without causing herself to be in discomfort, including chair height for clients, also a backless chair (which for the client is far from ideal. A way around this was for the client to be leaning forward onto a couch infront (to ease any possible back problems). To an extent, it was not ideal, but if a student wishes to take a course, really we need to ensure that they are able to do so. At the college, we also had a couple or electric couches, so the height could be changed, and i think really that is a neccessity if you are to be inclusive. The student did complete and pass, and I think that it was a very personal and necesary journey for her. She had suffered an accident a number of years before, and had no movement below mid spine. You do have to be prepared to adapt, change, and re-evaluate all the time, so it does make more work, but the end result makes it all worth while!! I am not sure that massage would be possible, I think it would need to be looked at on an individual level, taking their disabilities into account.The main issue would not be their capabilities, but their comfort~really there is little point in giving treatments if it causes you pain to do so. Just as a matter of interest, I no longer teach at the college, too much red tape, too much standardisation and too many lecturers who have too little clinic/private client experience. I hope this has been useful ~ the best of luck Andrea Clarke
Mariette Lobo
19 May 2008 9:53AM

Thank you so much for your reply, Andrea. It's most helpful.
Bridget Kennedy
21 May 2008 11:45PM

Dear Mariette, In response to your question re teaching somebody with phys.disabilities. First of all my background is in Manual Handling Back Care Instructor- risk assesments, ergonomics; Dip Vocational Education & Training, program writer/ teacher/ presenter, T.C.M Acupuncturist, Reflexologist, Aromatherapist, Orthopaedic Massage & Pain Management. Sweedish Body Massage. As a suggestion I am suggesting the teacher and the pupil both have the work area adapted to suit their needs, to have to adapt the body to the environment is poor ergonomics. So therefore the physical disibility of the student is assessed as to what may be done to make it possible so they can operate. Suggestions, a height adjustable couch - I would recommend an electronic one, and the one that is able to electronically raise and lower each ends. The student must be able to reach comfortably areas of the body without overstretching, or putting her body into a compromised position. It is best to support the limb or body part of the client by some means other than the student supporting this part. The arms are not the strongest muscles in the body ( thigh muscles are)and will fatigue easily if expected to hold any part for a length of time. It could be useful for the student to have arm rests on chair. To use a rolled up towel or something similar if needed under wrists. Basically I say to anyone - whatever job you do the muscles of your body should not be kept in a contracted position without the rest phase. Adapt cusions, towels, etc to make it as possible for your student, It's late and i am tired, i may have left out sometning, so contact me again if any query, bridgetkennedy01@hotmail.com Best of luck,, Bridget Kennedy
Mariette Lobo
22 May 2008 6:47PM

Thanks very much, Bridget. Will contact you if need to.
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