Tina Allen posted an article titled Autistic Children and Oxytocin, suggesting that massage can help kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
Given that autistic children have been reported to be opposed to physical contact, it is interesting that many massage therapists, and parents, are finding great success in the use of massage therapy with autistic children.
Research has found that these children show less autistic behavior, are more social and attentive after receiving massage therapy. Regular sensory integration and safe, nurturing touch are beneficial in reducing touch aversion, inattentiveness and withdrawal.
Unfortunately, Allen doesn't offer any studies or information backing up this claim.
Nevertheless, even if it's only anecdotal, it makes sense that massage could help because it probably does encourage the release of oxytocin in the person being massaged. There aren't any studies showing specifically that massage leads to this release, that I know of.
Allen says, "Numerous studies have proven that oxytocin is released in our bodies during, and after, receiving nurturing touch." That, too, has not exactly been proven, but, again, it seems likely. However, this release is not automatic, and, in fact, a disruption in that cause/effect could be the root of some aspects of ASD.
Because of this, massage may not help some kids on the spectrum; some may reject the feelings altogether. Nevertheless, it's something well worth trying, whether parents offer massage themselves, or work with a licensed therapist who specializes in infant and child massage, as Allen does. Allen is a certified infant massage instructor, and head of Little Kidz, an organization that provides information and training.
See also "Baby Massage."