Our Approach

What is QST?

Qigong Sensory Therapy (QST) is a touch-based program that parents perform for children in their homes. The care protocol is customized for each family, takes about 15 minutes per day, and is given for up to two years to support sensory development. Certified therapists provide hands-on support and coaching throughout this process and families typically need only 20-40 hours of support spread over 1-2 years to see profound, lasting benefits.
We all learn, grow, and bond by absorbing information from the world around us. Research shows the vast majority of children with autism have challenges receiving sensory information. Areas of the skin are often numb or painful in response to touch that would feel neutral or positive to a non-autistic person. QST helps a child’s sensory system to be more comfortable and more engaged. This care has been proven to significantly improve each child’s ability to take in and process sensory information in their own way.

Among sensory therapies, QST was recognized in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy for providing “the most robust positive outcomes, indicating strong evidence of effectiveness for young children with ASD.”

—BODISON & PARHAM, AJOT, JANUARY 2018
Qigong Sensory Treatment with Dr Silva

Benefits & Results

For children, benefits of QST begin as the sense of touch gets support. Areas of pain resolve. Areas of numbness become more receptive. Engagement, awareness, and bonding grow stronger. These are the foundation for easy, natural social-emotional reciprocity, verbal and non-verbal communication, and more satisfying relationships immediately and throughout life.

On average, caregivers participating in QST report nearly 50% reduced parenting stress within the first six months. As parents become less stressed and children become more naturally receptive and engaged, the family flourishes and a world of safe, meaningful social connection becomes more accessible.

Results are often apparent within 30 days. QST is unique among approaches to autism care because it focuses on sensory engagement as a precursor of social-emotional-behavioral needs, helps children feel comfortable and connected to others, and improves lifetime outcomes.

QST is not:

  • A behavioral training intervention that incentivizes children to comply with external expectations
  • A treatment program that views neurodivergent people as damaged or incomplete humans
  • An expensive therapy or one that requires 20+hours/week of clinical care

What support is available?

We offer direct parent support and professional training options.

QSTI provides books, video and online material to support parents who are interested in running their own home program. This material is available in our shop and written specifically for parents to help develop the skills to support a wide range of needs their children may be experiencing. We also provide a list of certified QST Therapists who can offer support locally or by video conferencing. Some parents interested in running their own home program find it helpful to enlist a few sessions of therapist as they are getting started.

QST Research

Dr. Louisa Silva was the lead researcher for QST and founder of QSTI. She hypothesized that if children with autism have challenges with the sense of touch, then supporting touch with QST should help children naturally access social-emotional-behavioral development and bonding/relationship building. Through 15 studies, Dr Silva’s team showed that Qigong Sensory Therapy promotes significant development in all areas commonly considered challenging for young children with autism.

QSTI partnered with The Research Institute at Western Oregon University and The Bureau of Maternal and Child Health to run a series of randomized controlled trials. An Evidence-Based Medicine Info Sheet and links to all of the major studies can be found here. The following is a synopsis of peer-reviewed, published data from these studies:

After five months of QST as a stand-alone service:

  • Sensory processing improved by 38%; comfort and awareness of touch improved by 49%
  • Self-regulation improved by 34% (social-emotional-behavioral challenges, as well as challenges with sleep and digestion)
  • Social skills and communication skills increased and children were more affectionate
  • Receptive language increased by 18%
  • Parenting stress decreased by 44%

After two years of QST as a stand-alone service:

  • There was a 100% recovery in comfort and awareness of the sense of touch
  • Social-emotional-behavioral challenges decreased by 44%
  • Over 50% of [high-functioning] children no longer met the criteria for an autism diagnosis

Overall Changes in Therapy Outcomes for 24 Month Cohort

Data from studies focusing on younger (under age 6) and older (6-12yo) children showed similar results.

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Qigong Sensory Training Institute (QSTI) is a nonprofit organization that developed and teaches Qigong Sensory Therapy (QST) to parents and professionals. Only organizations and individuals certified by QSTI are qualified to teach QST or offer QST services. See the list of Certified Trainers here.