Flotation therapy helped woman's son who is autistic, has severe anxiety

Nathan Tompkins at a float center in Seattle. He is autistic and suffers from severe anxiety....
Nathan Tompkins at a float center in Seattle. He is autistic and suffers from severe anxiety. The therapy has helped him become more calm. (KTUU)
Published: Jul. 9, 2019 at 9:54 AM AKDT
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Sondra Tompkins' son's name is Nathan. He's 16 years old. Nathan is autistic and suffers from severe anxiety. Tompkins said Nathan's anxiety started to get worse once he hit puberty and that his only way to cope was to self-mutilate.

After continuously watching her son suffer, Tompkins felt there had to be some way to help relieve her son's pain and that's when she discovered floating.

It's a type of therapy that's been around since the 1960s. Floating is essentially the perfect bathtub. The tanks vary in size, but the typical one is 8 feet long and about 4 and a half feet wide. Each tank contains about 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt, which makes it so salinated that all you do is float. Tompkins took her son to a float center in Seattle and said it only took one time to notice a big difference.

"I think after I saw my son get out and just the energy, he just lit up. He'd just like realized, probably for the first time in a very long time, what feeling good felt like, what it was to feel calm, to not carry on that, carry around that tension (and) anxiety that he'd been feeling. It was a huge relief for me."

Of course, as with any medical procedure, it's recommended you check with your doctor first, but for Nathan, his body was no longer fighting gravity. He wasn't managing his sensory input and his brain just had a chance to completely relax.

Studies have shown floating to help with physical recovery, meditative benefits, and even physiological benefits. In Nathan's case, his mom said it couldn't have come at a better time.

"I've reached a point a number of times where I was just ready to throw in the towel and give up and it seems like it's always at that point when something comes, there's an answer that appears," said Tompkins.

Tompkins and her husband are opening a float center in the fall in Anchorage called Float 49. You can find them on Facebook under Float 49.

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