Autism and REST Float Therapy

Float Therapy is being noted as a positive therapy for people with Autism, as well as a form of psychological therapy. This is due to the reduced stimulation and low sensory input required by the brain. The amount of information that has to be received, monitored and processed is significantly reduced in a sensory deprivation tank (float tank) and is being used as treatment to regulate the biochemistry of the brain and nervous system.

Q: What does Floatation REST stand for?

A: REST was an acronym coined by the research team of Dr. Peter Suedfeld and Dr. Roderick Borrie. It has two usages: Dr. Suedfeld preferred Restricted Environmental Stimulus Technique while Dr. Borrie preferred Reduced Environmental Stress Therapy, a term which is easier for laymen to understand and speaks more to the practical applications of floatation therapy.

REST as a Treatment for Children with Autism

Several studies suggest that average levels of stimulation may be too high for autistic children (C. Hutt, S. Hutt, Lee, & Ounsted, 1964; Margolies, 1977; Schechter, Shurley, Toussieng, & Maier, 1969; Suedfeld & Schwartz, 1983). Alternatively, others attribute the problem to a deprivation of sensory input (Moore & Shiek, 1971; Williams & Harper, 1974). Theories and evidence from clinical observations converge on a characterization of autism as an abnormal reaction to environmental stimuli or a dysfunction in the ability to adequately process average levels of stimuli (American Psychiatric Association, 1987; Fein, Waterhouse, Lucci, & Snyder, 1985; Ornitz & Ritvo, 1976; Wing & Gould, 1979). Bartak, Rutter, and Cox (1975) have shown that individuals with autism have limited or restricted interactions. Theories consistent with this evidence suggest that exposure to average levels of stimuli results in a cognitive processing breakdown and an abnormal (restrictive) response to the environment (e.g., Hermelin, 1976; Rutter, 1983; Shah & Wing, 1986). If these theories are correct, one would expect a reduction in the amount of stimuli these individuals are required to process to result in a reduction of autistic symptoms and a desire for stimulation.

Restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) as a treatment for autistic children.

This study explored the usefulness of 48 hours of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) as a treatment for autistic children. In order to provide quantified objective measures for evaluating the effects of this treatment, a battery of psychological tests was developed which would be useful and practical for the assessment of these children in regular diagnostic settings. Several positive changes in learning, social and play behavior, and cognitive functioning were noted.