Many cultures have long valued the healing powers of the sea and the autism community is no exception. My older friends in France swore their daily ocean swim was the panacea for arthritis and said doctors there regularly prescribed it. The French learned the use of sea water as a treatment from the Greeks where Thalassotherapy (Sea Therapy) is still used today.
As a toddler and young child, my daughter was a different kid at the beach. Her gait would improve, her language (then nonverbal) would spike upwards, she slept well and ate well. Then, and even now, she will sit in the water for hours letting the waves crash over her. When I ask her what the sea does for her she says “my body doesn’t hurt when I’m in the water.” That’s powerful.
There are many explanations for the healing power of salt water in autism. A primary reason is the negative ions generated by the sand and salt water. Free radical damage is well documented in autism and negative ions attach to these free radical, rendering them harmless.
Salt is also antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Immune dyregulation and chronic infections are common in autism. A dip in the ocean can reduce the body’s burden of pathogens and provide quick relief for yeast infections.
Research has shown that sea water mimics plasma. Its rich in trace minerals, crucial to proper cellular functioning. People with autism typically have nutritional deficiencies due to impaired digestion and bathing in the ocean allows the body to absorb these nutrients through the skin, by-passing the gut.
A bi-product of trips to the sea is an increase in Vitamin D, another known deficiency common in autism. Vitamin D is a critical component in fighting off viruses and for calcium absorption.
Lastly, the ocean provides tremendous proprioceptive input to people with autism with sensory challenges. Many people with autism benefit from deep pressure and the ocean provides that pressure on every part of the body simulataneously.
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