If you are a parent of a child with autism, no matter where along the spectrum, then you know firsthand the daily strain it can place upon your family. You have also likely been told many times that there is just little that can be done. You’ve been given all sorts of ‘coping strategies’. While these are good to know, it doesn’t help change the course of your child’s condition.
Many parents look to alternative health care practices seeking more proactive solutions to the underlying cause or causes to their child’s autism. Unfortunately, we are not in the position to know exactly what causes autism, but we do know that there are factors that affect your child living with this condition. You know your child better than any ‘operating manual’ for how to treat them and what causes them to have particularly bad days.
However, there may be some things that you haven’t tried or thought about. Dietary modifications are definitely high on the list of ‘alternative’ approaches. It strikes me as a bit odd that we would even consider changes to diet as an alternative, but that’s where our culture is currently. In this regard, things like wheat products (gluten), diary and food colorings are the most commonly avoided substances.
There is speculation about how these might actually exacerbate or bring on symptoms, but there does seem to be a correlation between ‘leaky gut’ and other gastrointestinal issues in children with autism-spectrum disorders. Studies have looked into these issues more specifically and they are a bit beyond the scope of this article. You can find out more at sites like our local one here in Phoenix at the Southwest Autism Research Center http://autismcenter.org/.
Some theories back the idea that there is also some neuro-immunological link. In this model, there seems to be a type of auto-immune related issue. As mentioned, since no clear causality has been made to date, more research following these theories and others is the best way to finally discover the underlying reason why this disorder is on such a huge rise.
The Autism Epidemic
Like childhood asthma, autism has been on the rise in the past decade or so. Estimates put autism at a rate of 1 out of every 110 children, boys are more prominently affected. In the early 1990s, the rate was 1 in 10,000! There must be some causality that we just are not fully aware of, no amount of greater screening or discovery could lead to such huge spikes in rates of the disorder. Because of this near epidemic status, at the time of this writing, autism now has the distinction of being the most prevalent childhood development disorder in the United States.
Genetics and environmental factors are sure to be involved. But in what way and how can we make a difference? This is where many parents have taken the care of their children into their own hands. Many have given up on traditional medical practices because there are no solutions offered beyond those referred to above. Alternative methods at least offer possible routes to try. Again, there have not been any clinical research studies that shown definitive proof or evidence that these practices help, but there are personal testimonials and anecdotal stories from parents. Without the formal study, this is at least encouraging for parents.
Are Vaccines to Blame?
This topic has been argued proficiently by both the academic and scientific circles as well as the lay public. Suffice it to say that the conclusive evidence does not exist to ‘blame’ vaccines as the underlying cause of autism. Arguing the point further from one side or the other doesn’t seem to be changing the dialogue or debate.
But, what would we have to see in order for this to be proven? What rate would we need to see among vaccinated and non-vaccinated children in order to draw conclusions? I don’t have the answers to this, but I think we should alter the WAY we are looking for the answer. Personally, my argument would be to study the schedule of vaccines and the assault that we have created by having so many vaccines introduced into childrens developing nervous systems, rather than just the mercury or other preserving agents. Yes, we should get rid of the mercury, but we can do better to study how introducing all of these agents into a child’s body within the first year or two of life may have potential affects of which we are still unaware. We don’t know, because we don’t study this. We should.
You can find all sorts of arguments for or against vaccinations. In the end, it is your personal choice (at least for now) and being informed health care consumers is really what we should strive for. You can start at the National Vaccine Information Center’s site at http://nvic.org.
Methods You May Wish to Consider
Acupuncture is an ancient healing art that pre-dates our Western medical model by hundreds if not thousands of years. Surely, there is a benefit beyond what we have studied in terms of pain relief. If we understand acupuncture to be a discipline that is characterized by balancing of the body’s energetic centers or meridians, this may have an effect that can benefit children, too.
Again, not that I would consider this an alternative approach, diet is something that is a vastly important piece to healthy living, regardless of one’s health condition. This is just immediately more obvious when our child suffers with food allergies, sensitivities or other disorders that are seen to be made worse following specific foods or food groups.
Some of the more common nutritional practices involve the elimination of wheat products, namely gluten, sugar, artificial flavors and colors, dairy and other inflammatory foods. The purported idea here is that all of these may cause the intestinal tract to become inflamed, which can lead to a sort of allergic response as the gut ‘leaks’ molecules into the body. The response to this can cause a sort of auto-immune response that can cause damage to the nervous system.
While not necessarily a cure for autism, per se, it is a way of helping your child develop a greater ability to sense and feel. Many children with the ability to pet or play with animals have found a greater comfort in their bodies, expressed themselves differently and have been seen to communicate a bit more with their parents. It is much like the idea of bringing dogs into the hospital to help people recover faster as animals tend to activate some ‘healing effect’ in us.
There are many forms of chiropractic, not all include a ‘popping’ or ‘cracking’ sound that alarms some parents. In fact, the style that we offer in our office is very gentle, involves none of the twisting or forceful maneuvers you might traditionally associate with chiropractic. It is called Network Spinal Analysis, and it involves light touch contacts at specific places along the spine that cue the nervous system to make corrective changes in function.
This approach was developed in the late 1980s and has been growing within and among the chiropractic field ever since. It provides the chiropractor an exciting opportunity to work with children who have a variety of neurological and developmental challenges. The gentle touch is something that children with autism can handle in most cases. Children with extreme sensitization to touch may need additional care and support to allow for this care to be possible.
What we are working with is the ability to help the nervous system to adapt to and deal with information coming from the world around one more effectively. The nervous system can go into a state of ‘panic’ or continuous cycle of stress, tension and release, stress, tension, release, etc. This pattern just further strengthens itself within the neuro-immuno-biological perspective of the body. By creating new and novel input into this viscous loop, the potential for creating change is profound.
A 1995 study involving 2,800 people from all ages and backgrounds showed marked improvements in musculoskeletal, emotional, lifestyle and other well-being factors. Their ability to adapt to and cope with stress was also remarkably enhanced. We have reason to believe that children living with autism and autism-spectrum disorders may benefit as well.
There is no downside except for the time and financial restraints that bringing your child for an evaluation and care would create. The care will not create any side effects and the upside is tremendous. If you’d like to learn more about our office or Network Chiropractic, please click the appropriate links or contact us and we’d be happy to talk with you further about what we do and why we love it. It will be an honor serving you and your family. Best wishes to you!