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I work in a centre that provides a service for both residential and day attenders with Learning Disabilities.

On site there are sixteen residential houses catering for one hundred and forty one clients and the day service have eighty four clients attending from community based houses and home.

The Reflexology service was commenced by approaching the Director of Services with a proposal for a one year Pilot Programme. Research on the effects of complementary therapies on people with learning disabilities was carried out and approval for the programme was granted.

Referral forms for staff and service users were sent out and it was found the main demand was to work on people with digestive problems (e.g. constipation) and behaviour problems.

An overall evaluation of the service was completed in the last eight months. Clients received "six-week sessional treatments" and some have continued to 12, 18 and 24 weeks if the therapy was proving effective and if the service user or staff requested same.

Thirty questionnaires were sent out to staff and service users and twenty-five completed questionnaires were returned (return rate 87.5%).

On this sample the feedback was positive as outlined below:

  • Positive feedback from 21 replies 84%
  • Treatments were benefiting relaxation for 21 service users 84%
  • Treatments benefit 13 service users for behaviour problems 52%
  • Treatments benefit 8 service users for digestive problems 32%
  • Treatments benefit 3 service users for pain 12%
  • Treatments benefit 2 service users for other reasons including P.M.T. 8%
  • Reflexology Treatments were not suitable for 4 service users 16%

These figures show that some service users were benefiting on a number of dimensions.

I have enclosed two case histories as examples of:

  1. Effectiveness of Reflexology on Digestive Problems.
  2. Effectiveness of Reflexology to increase Relaxation.



CASE HISTORY 1 - Effectiveness of Reflexology on Digestive Problems

Client: John (name changed for confidentiality). Male, 34years

Diagnosis: Cerebal Palsy...Blind... Epileptic... Profound Intellectual Disability Chronic constipation requiring regular Phosphate enemas and manual evacuation of faeces


  • Liorasyl... Tegretol... Valium... Eye Drops...
  • Duphalac changed to Movicol sachets 28/05/01.
  • P.R.N. Phospate Enema

Other Treatments: None

Reason for Reflexology: Recommended for severe constipation & relaxation.

Duration of Reflexology: Four Months

March: Two treatments given. Areas worked intensively; Intestines, Duodenum, Liver, Adrenals, Ileocaecal, Lower Spine, Diaphragm, Solar Plexus.

Outcome: No real change.Phosphate enemas continued to be given every 5 days with manual evacuation on all but one.

April: Three Reflexology Treatments given.

Outcome: Phosphate enema's every five days and two manual evacuations required. (60% reduction )

May: Five Reflexology Treatments given.

Outcome: No phosphate enemas and no manual evacuations. Bowels open every one or two days. ( 100% reduction )

June: Four Reflexology Treatments given.

Outcome: No phosphate enemas or manual evacuations required. Bowels opened every one or two days.

Conclusion: Weekly treatments are the most effective for John. Fourteen treatments reduced the need for phosphate enemas and manual evacuations of faeces every five days to ZERO



CASE HISTORY 2 - Effectiveness of Reflexology to increase Relaxation.

Client: Mary (name changed for confidentiality), Female, 34 years

Diagnosis: Moderate Intellectual Disability, Underlying Psychiatric Disorder, which presents with paranoia, obsessive behaviour, and /or depression.

Physical Health: Generally good, but poor skin.

Medication: Respiradol Lithium

Other Treatments: Advice on Diet and Nutrition from Reflexologist.

Reason for Reflexology: Recommended for relaxation and to improve self-esteem.

Duration: Five Months

November - December

Five treatments given between 15.11.00 - 20.12.00.

Feet had a lot of crystals in the head and back of neck area.Reduced after the third treatment and very little remained after the fifth treatment.

Mary felt relaxed after treatment and "she felt good in herself".

During this time Mary reduced her intake of caffeine and increased her intake of water. Skin condition greatly improved .

January - February:

Weekly treatments given.

She reported that "she coped with things better".

Houseparent reported that "Mary continues to be more relaxed and positive in her outlook".

Skin condition excellent.


Fortnightly treatments this month.

She started preparing for a job in the community.

Feet had very little crystals present at this stage.

Mary felt positive and relaxed and her skin was excellent.

Conclusion: Mary now works out in the Community two and a half days per week and gets paid the minimum wage for same. Over the past five months her skin condition has improved. She is more relaxed in her daily life. She feels this herself and staff working with her have noticed this also.



Overall Conclusion:

Reflexology has been effective in the areas which have been researched i.e. behaviour problems, digestive problems, pain and increased relaxation on people with learning disability.



Catherine Ryan, M.I.R.I.L. / I.T.E.C. Reflexology