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How Chiropractic Care Can Benefit Children with Autism

Published Date: 
July 3, 2023
Young boy with autism sitting at desk writing in notebook.

Chiropractic care benefits people of all ages and situations, including children with autism. It might surprise some to learn that chiropractic treatment can be vital to managing autism. 

Chiropractic care:

  • Offers early intervention
  • Improves quality of life
  • Increase immune system function
  • Provides relief and improvement of various areas of concern, including language delays, cognitive and behavioral concerns, and social skills

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) 

Autism, officially called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Researchers believe there are varying causes for these differences that might be associated with external and internal factors. 

People with autism have challenges that include:

  • Communication
  • Behavior
  • Interaction with others and their environment
  • Learning

Autism is typically recognized early in life, between one and three years of age, although this is not always the case. Most of the time, autism is diagnosed when a child fails to meet certain developmental milestones. 

Symptoms last throughout a person’s life. 

Challenges Faced by Children with ASD 

Children with ASD face several common challenges, including:

  • Anxiety: The vast majority of people diagnosed with autism meet the criteria of having an anxiety disorder. Issues might manifest as social phobia, excessive worry, obsessive or compulsive behavior, hypervigilance, or avoidance.
  • Dealing with change: Change is very stressful for people with autism. They prefer predictable routines and activities. Planning ahead for everyday changes, transitions, and long-term changes as someone moves from one phase of life to another all help people with autism deal with change.
  • Bullying: It’s common for children with autism to deal with bullying. This exacerbates other problems, including anxiety and the ability to deal with their environment. 
  • Constipation: Constipation can be an issue for all kids, but kids with autism are especially at risk due to their sensory processing and communication challenges. 

Impact of Neurological Imbalances on Overall Well-being

Neurological imbalances have an impact on a person’s overall well-being. This includes pain and sensory processing issues, which are common among people with autism. Some believe that physical pain or uncomfortable sensations are linked to changes in a person’s brain and mental health. 

It’s no secret that chronic pain is linked to anxiety and depression. Ongoing issues with how the body feels affect a person’s mental health. When the brain experiences long-lasting and intense signs of physical discomfort, it might diminish the neurons in the prefrontal cortex. This reduction in neuron activity makes it more difficult to modulate intense emotions. 

Supporting Neurodevelopmental Challenges with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care supports neurodevelopmental challenges. Adjustments stimulate and regulate the two automatic nervous systems: 

  • Parasympathetic, which regulates a rest and recovery response
  • Sympathetic, which regulates the fight or flight response

Chiropractors also help parents and other healthcare professionals identify delayed motor and sensory nervous system development. 

A young mother sitting with her autistic son, playing with blocks on mat.

Chiropractic care helps the brain stay stimulated by keeping the spine in alignment. Adjustments increase or reduce activity in the nervous system. They create harmony and help children with autism better handle their environment. When paired with other therapies, chiropractic care helps children with autism feel less overwhelmed and hyperactive.

Holistic Approach to Addressing Neurological Function

Chiropractic care is holistic and all-natural. It offers a functional approach that helps improve the health of the spine, brain, and nervous system without medication or surgery. It can be used in conjunction with other therapies to provide the most comprehensive treatment for children with autism.

Chiropractic Adjustments and Their Impact on the Nervous System

Chiropractic adjustments impact the nervous system.

Spinal manipulations regulate the autonomic nervous system. They create a positive effect overall on health and the nervous system. This might play a role in correcting nervous system dysfunction. Regular adjustments benefit brain health in many ways, including pain reduction, improved muscle function, and healthy brain support.

Seeing a chiropractor has a therapeutic effect on the nervous system, which benefits everyone, especially those with autism.

Common Chiropractic Techniques Used for Children with Autism

Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to treat children with autism. For example:

  • Manipulative care: Neurological interference might contribute to autism in some cases. These issues hinder childhood development. Correcting chiropractic subluxation improves neurological function, which supports overall improvement in function.
  • Spinal adjustments: Misalignments disrupt communication between nerves in the body, affecting how the body functions. It also impacts the immune system and digestion and causes emotional and social issues for many. Correcting misalignments restores neurological function, which can help alleviate constipation and relieve sickness. It also promotes sensory and emotional health.
  • Massage therapy: Massage can be very beneficial for people with ASD. It offers comfort and helps with sensory integration. There is anecdotal evidence that it reduces social, behavioral, communication, learning, thinking, and problem-solving challenges. 
  • Dietary guidance: Chiropractors work with patients to improve their diets by recommending food changes and nutritional supplements. They can also help autistic patients who are over or underweight. Many patients begin with an elimination diet, helping them identify gastrointestinal issues and foods that contribute to or exacerbate autism symptoms. There are also recommendations for supplements shown to support autism management, including probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Children with ASD

Regular chiropractic care for children with ASD offers many benefits.  

First, maintaining healthy spinal alignment helps with a variety of common autism challenges, including:

  • Digestive disorders
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep disturbances

There might also be a chance that chiropractic care helps with food issues that are common among people with autism. For many, food sensitivities are linked to autoimmune issues, common among people with some forms of autism. Chiropractors can work with patients to identify food sensitivities and manage symptoms of their food intolerances. Chiropractors also work with patients to design healthy diets and dietary supplements to support optimal health.

Young boy smiling while getting back massage.

Case Studies & Success Stories

One case study showed that a 16-year-old autistic child experienced successful outcomes following diversified manual adjusting, pelvic blocking, Upledger cranial methods, dietary supplementation, and trigger point therapy. 

A study involving 26 autistic children treated by orthospinology upper cervical care also showed favorable outcomes. 

Collaborating with Therapists and Healthcare Providers for the Best Results

Woman holding child's hands in shape of heart of autism awareness puzzle pieces.

Collaborative care is essential for treating mental or complex physical health diagnoses. It involves sharing perspectives, even if everyone involved does not agree. Together, healthcare professionals familiar with a patient can develop the best and most comprehensive treatment plan for the individual.

Autism requires multidisciplinary management. Chiropractic care is just a part of this. Chiropractors who suspect a pediatric patient might have signs of autism should refer parents to other healthcare providers. Additionally, when seeing a patient with autism, chiropractors should be open to working with therapists and other healthcare providers for the best results.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

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