Caring For Children With Autism – A Conservative Approach

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition growing rapidly in the United States.  According to the CDC, 1 in 68 American children are on the Autistic spectrum – a ten fold increase over the past 40 Autismyears.  What is the reason for this exponential growth?  There are more than likely many factors.  However, one major reason appears to be environmental factors that affect brain and nervous system development.  Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments of growth and development of the brain.

Children on the spectrum also tend to have many traits that correspond with sensory processing disorders.  The STAR institute suggests that at least three quarters of children with autistic spectrum disorders have significant symptoms of sensory processing disorders (SPDs).  These conditions are the result of poor communication between the brain and body.  The proper operation of your body depends on the billions of nerves that send electric signals to and from your brain.  There are receptors for light touch, deep touch, pain, temperature and much more.  If these signals are disrupted anywhere in the system, it is possible that an individual will struggle to process the information correctly.  For example, a child who struggles to process pain may leave their hand on a burner not knowing that they are injuring their body.  What can be done to help children and adults who may suffer from these disorders then?

Addressing environmental toxins that may contribute to autism

Toxins that affect your brain, spinal cord, and nerves may contribute to a number of neurodevelopmental diseases and SPD’s.  Some of the toxins known to affect these systems are:autism

  • Heavy metals
  • Food colorings
  • Preservatives
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Aspartame

These neurotoxins interact with nerve cells and either kill them, or interrupt their communication.  Basically, everyone should avoid them.  However, exposure for someone suffering from a neurodevelopmental disorder is like lighting a match in a field of dead leaves.  Their nervous system is already under abnormal stress and these toxins just compound the issue.  It is definitely worth the effort to remove as many of these as possible from the environment of an autistic person.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Is it possible that gut health may contribute to Autism and other similar disorders?  Research suggests that as many as 9 out of 10 individuals with the condition may suffer from problems such as inflammatory bowel disease or “leaky gut syndrome”.  This condition is characterized by increased permeability of the gut lining which allows the contents to leak into the blood stream.  When this happens, the immune system may initiate a response against a normally harmless material.  This is one of the concepts behind food allergies.

A leaky gut also results in impaired nutrient absorption.  Have you ever heard you are what you eat?  That is not exactly accurate.  You are what you absorb!  If an autistic child suffers from leaky gut syndrome, they may not absorb all of the vitamins and minerals necessary to help repair the body.  The goal should be to find out if food allergies are present and remove them from the diet.  After that, probiotics and other “gut healing” remedies should be administered to help the gut repair itself.

How Does Chiropractic Care Factor In?

Contrary to common belief, chiropractic care is not strictly about treating low back pain.  Rather, the goal is to examine the spine and determine if abnormalities are present.  After correcting these abnormalities, certain conditions like back pain typically resolve.  After all, the pain was secondary to abnormal alignment of the spine.  However, there are other consequences of abnormal alignment.

Abnormalities of the spine, particularly in the upper neck area, transmit neurologic degenerative strain to the spinal cord and nerves via a number of mechanisms including but not limited to:

  • inflammation
  • direct mechanical tension via dentate ligaments
  • indirectly via abnormal proprioceptive input to the brain

As discussed previously, many children suffering from autism and SPD’s suffer from disorders of the brain and spinal cord.  Essentially, somewhere in the system a problem occurs that obstructs the communication between electric wires.  Abnormal spinal alignment can contribute to this obstruction.  It should be said, chiropractors do not treat conditions like autism.  Rather, by conservatively guiding the spine back to normal, they relieve tension that affects the spinal cord and nerves.  When this is reduced, the body can function closer to optimal.  This will certainly help a condition like this, but a comprehensive plan is often necessary to address the many potential factors contributing to the autism spectrum.

To Sum Everything Up:

Neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and sensory processing disorders are on the rise.  There are undoubtedly multiple reasons for this.  However, there is agreement that the issue typically revolves around abnormal communication between parts of the nervous system – the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.  We need to optimize their function.  This can be done by removing toxins, creating a healthy gut environment, and addressing any structural abnormalities of the spine that may obstruct their function.  Research continues to evolve.  However, until their is a definitive answer, this is a great start.


References are pink hyperlinks in article.

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