The rates of children who are diagnosed with autism is skyrocketing. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 children is on the spectrum of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Boys are significantly more likely than girls to be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. One of the benefits of the increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism is a corresponding increase in the amount of research being done and an increase in the understanding we have of (ASD).
What exactly is ASD? The National Institutes of Health defines it as, “a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD.” Behaviors manifested by those on the spectrum include social impairment and communication difficulties. They often have difficulty interpreting social cues and carrying on conversations. They have difficulty making eye contact and exhibit inappropriate displays of emotion or lack of emotion. Infants and toddlers are usually diagnosed with autism when they fail to show the normal development of language such as babbling and pointing by age 1 and using single words and two-word phrases by age 2. They also frequently exhibit a loss of language they have already required. Children with ASD also display obsessive behavior such lining up toys or other objects. ASD is usually diagnosed based on a range of those behaviors.
There are therapies and techniques that can be of some help. Parents and caregivers have used these techniques to help autistic children communicate and to exercise some control over obsessive behavior, angry outburst and difficulty with socializing. Most of those techniques involve controlling the environment around the child and understanding the stresses (such as crowds and loud noise) that trigger episodes of difficult behavior.
Chiropractic services are an emerging method for helping those on the spectrum cope with autism and other special needs. Chiropractic services involve targeted pressure on muscles and nerves as well as realignment of the spine. Vertebral subluxation is the misalignment of the spine that results in a variety of issues. Many chiropractors believe that proper alignment of the spine can help to relieve a variety of symptoms. This is still a controversial contention but many people have experienced some relief from pain and other conditions through chiropractic services.
Recently some effort has been made to determine if the use of chiropractic services can help with the treatment of autism. One case was recently published in the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research. A three year old received subluxation-based chiropractic care after being diagnosed with ASD. The researchers wanted to determine if this would benefit her. After a month of this treatment, the child showed improvement in eye contact, attitude and language development. She has also suffered from headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. These symptoms were reduced as well. The case indicates some promise for using chiropractic therapy in similar cases. The authors of the study believed that chiropractors could work together with doctors and other therapists to manage the root cause of many symptoms of autism.
The power of touch has been proven time and again in other healing therapies. There have been many studies that show that children’s physical, mental, social and emotional development benefits greatly from touch. This can be a bit problematic in the case of autistic children because many of them have sensory issues and, as a result, they have an aversion to touch. This is also a challenge that might be helped by exposure to therapeutic touch. The fact is that the core of autism is abnormal sensory processing that results in the well-known symptoms such as impaired social and communication skills and repetitive behavior. The use of chiropractic techniques to treat the symptoms of autism is still new and untested but it has some promise. When used in conjunction with other traditional medical and psychological treatment it could be helpful.