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Chiropractic Research & Autism


As we wrap up the month of April, we want to emphasize that Autism is a growing epidemic. Only 25 years ago the prevalence of autism was 1 in 500. About 45 years ago 1 in 5000 were diagnosed with Autism. Currently, the CDC reports that 1 in 59 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and in certain parts of the country like New Jersey, as much as 1 in 35 kids are diagnosed. According to an article in Neuroscience News, Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School says, “It’s very likely that the next time we survey autism among children, the rate will be even higher.” [1]

Autism is categorized as a sensory processing deficit. In other words, people with autism do not process sensations and information gathered from the environment the way someone without autism does. Due to this abnormal processing of information in the brain, children experience a variety of challenges as they develop into adulthood. These challenges typically involve social, behavioral, emotional, and physical delays or dysfunctions.

With autism growing at an alarming rate, there is so much controversy on what the cause of autism is or isn’t. Our focus is not to get into that debate, but rather investigate effective strategies that can truly help this growing population in need. With that being said, there has been a growing body of evidence suggesting that chiropractic care benefits children with ASD.

Chiropractic is concerned with the relationship between the spine and the central nervous system. The central nervous system’s entire job is for the brain to communicate efficiently with the body. Historically, the developer of chiropractic B.J. Palmer explained this cycle with a safety pin. Much like the cycle of the heart pumping and receiving blood, the brain receives information or sensory input from the environment and body, interprets the information, and then transmits an action or output back to the body. When the spine shifts, especially at the foundational level (C1), it obstructs the normal flow of information that keeps the body functioning. Think about how similar that process is to the sensory processing deficit experience in Autism. The premise is simple – by maintaining the spine in a normal healthy alignment, the brain in a child with autism can receive and process information in a much more efficient way. In return, these children experience improvements in communication, language, social behaviors, emotional stability, sleep, learning abilities, and physical bodily functions.

The Journal of Vertebral Subluxation has published over 50 articles on neurodevelopment disorders, many of which involve ASD, highlighting the benefits of chiropractic care in those with the disorder. [2][3] There has been enough compiled research showing improvements in autism and chiropractic to create a systematic review of the literature! This is considered among the highest level of evidence on the totem pole in the scientific research world. [4] [5]

One last interesting tidbit found in the research has to do with the specific type of chiropractic care administered to children with autism. An RCT (randomized clinical trial) was published reporting on 14 kids assessed over the course of 3-5 months. [6] Half of them received chiropractic care focused on foundational correction (the alignment of the top segments in the spine), while the other half received traditional chiropractic care. The clinical effects were evaluated using the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) questionnaire answered by the parent. The total average improvement in the ATEC score was 32% in the foundational correction group while only 8.3% in the traditional group. Two autistic children under the foundational protocol no longer met the criteria to be considered autistic following the intervention. Pretty amazing to say the least!

Nonetheless, plenty of research has shown benefits in children with ASD through chiropractic care. Autism can be devastating for both a child’s development and their family. If you have been struggling to find solutions for a loved one with autism, have them evaluated by a chiropractor focused on foundational correction. It could be what truly changes the trajectory of their life.

[1] https://neurosciencenews.com/autism-rates-new-jersey-11067/?fbclid=IwAR04m6yzb-kT4Aqzlb0brqfo_hzYGeIH4DZieT6uqzaIjhEPlCHsNda-kEQ

[2] https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2017/01/01/improvement-in-a-child-with-autism-following-chiropractic-care-to-reduce-vertebral-subluxations-case-study-selective-review-of-the-literature/

[3] https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2018/03/22/improved-health-outcomes-quality-of-life-in-a-10-year-old-child-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-following-chiropractic-care-to-reduce-vertebral-subluxation-a-case-study-selective-review-of-the-lite/

[4] https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2017/09/10/neurodevelopmental-disorders-and-chiropractic-a-systematic-review-of-the-literature/?fbclid=IwAR0RAPBiNtv6GajAP-B2xSduy2oceuww-vAWK3kXCVJoTaOp1kJu6JBrB9g

[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550830711002308

[6] https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2017/09/05/clinical-efficacy-of-upper-cervical-versus-full-spine-chiropractic-care-on-children-with-autism-a-randomized-clinical-trial/?fbclid=IwAR2yU-P97QhEm3UUigsgQ4CFSt8eqBjmijkzB8YzcBamJppj0n4lTTusf10

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