Just how important is touch when assisting persons with developmental disabilities? Vicki Leeper of the DAC Moscow office interviewed Christine Dopke, a Licensed Massage Therapist. The following is her report.

Massage for people with developmental disabilities can make a huge difference in their lives. When an individual is encouraged by touch, range of motion improvements can be made to areas of long held contractures (permanent shortening of a muscle or joint). And results can be immediately seen after a session.

Many individuals with developmental disabilities exhibit behavior problems, the most severe being self-injurious. This activity is performed without thought, like nail biting. The problem can be attributed to neurological development, and may be triggered by physical or emotional pain. It can manifest itself as scratching, picking, gouging, hair pulling, biting or head banging. To curb this behavior, a massage therapist can offer an abundance of sensory input. Dramatic results occur over time, but each session improves the person’s quality of life immediately.

Often times the human touch that people with developmental disabilities receive regularly is more incidental, such as when they are getting medical attention. What professional massage offers is loving, calming, and caring attention that is beneficial in their lives.

Christine Dopke has had many memorable clients. One client was blind, deaf, and unable to speak and used a wheelchair. She was strong and compact and willful. “When I would press into her back muscles she would lean back with all her might into my fingers,” said Ms. Dopke. “At first I thought she was trying to make me go away, but I soon realized she loved the massage and wanted me to use more pressure.” In this person’s case, touch was really the only sense she could enjoy.

Christine also spoke of a client who was in his 30’s and his body was severely constricted from his Cerebal Palsey. His sessions were administered in his bed, with him lying on his side. He would actually giggle during the massages because it felt so good for him to have some relief from the constant tightness he lived with.

Christine is offering this service to the Moscow area, with sessions that can be conducted right in the individual’s home. She has experience in this field since 1996, having worked with hospice and developmentally disabled adults in Corvallis Oregon before moving to Moscow in 2013. She can visit in the home or in daytime activity centers and provides custom half hour massages. She is able to work with clients in Idaho and Oregon, but not in Washington. Contact her for more information at 208-874-4738 or by email at :

If you live in another location in Idaho, Google this type of service in your area!