A special populations massage therapy class from Minnesota School of Business spent two afternoons learning how to communicate and work on mentally and physically disabled individuals at Options in Big Lake, Minn., last week.
Options is a nonprofit organization that helps to employ and empower disabled workers by educating local businesses on the advantages of hiring their clients and offering workforce training to their clients.
Over the course of two days, the massage therapy students provided 25-minute chair massages to more than 40 nonverbal and high-needs clients.
Although the majority of these individuals are unable to verbally express their enjoyment of massage, massage therapy instructor Celina McKenzie said it is pretty apparent.
“You should have seen their faces,” McKenzie said. “If that isn’t pure enjoyment, I don’t know what is.”
McKenzie also expressed the importance of students engaging in applied learning projects such as this because it pushes massage therapy students to learn how to read body language versus depending on a client to verbally tell them how he or she feels.
“Projects like this where we work with special populations also help students find a niche career in massage,” McKenize said. “I always have a few students afterwards who say they only want to work on special populations because of the amazing experience.”
According to massage therapy student Abbie Stoll-Kedrowski, working on special populations is something she would like to do again and again.
“Volunteering at Options renewed my sense of purpose as a massage therapist,” said Stoll-Kedrowski. “Helping to fulfill the needs of the disabled was an enriching experience.”
Stoll-Kedrowski isn’t alone in her feelings on this experience. Student Lisa Turner also expressed her enjoyment of this project.
“The experience we had there as massage therapists was eye-opening, enriching, and something that I will take with me into my career proudly,” said Turner. “My heart tank has been sufficiently filled and I hope to further my experience with people of need.”