Autism is one of the fastest growing serious developmental disorders in America. The most recent surveys estimate that autism affects 1:45 kids! I have developed a niche helping these kiddos break out of their locked in world, and I am excited to share what I have learned!
Most people, including therapists, neurologists, and pediatricians, view autism as a disorder of the brain, and therefore use traditional treatment methods such as psychiatric medications and behavioral therapy. It is easy to associate the clinical symptoms of autism with brain dysfunction because appears as though the brain is sending improper signals triggering inappropriate behavior. What I have learned, however, is that this is only half of the equation. There is a reason why the brain appears to be triggering aggressive, picky, dis-connected behavior. Autism is a whole body disorder-a brain body disconnection.
In order to understand, I need to give you a bit of a background in CNS (central nervous system) neurology. Starting with the basics, the brain is the master computer, and the spinal cord is the communication pathway between the brain and its environment. The brain relies on constant feedback from various receptors (such as touch, taste, smell, vision, and sound receptors) in the body to put together a complete picture of its surroundings (sensorimotor integration). As input changes, the brain adapts by making changes in the body to better suit the new environment. For example, when you start to run, your heart beat increases to meet the new demands. There are certain receptors that affect the brain more drastically: mechanoreceptors in the spine. These detect and transmit joint position sense(proprioception) to the brain. When the joint is moving properly, a “normal” impulse is sent to the brain. When a joint is improperly moving, or is stuck in an improper movement pattern destructive to the body, they send an “abnormal” impulse to the brain which triggers a cascade of neurobiological adaptations. The body is sent into “hyper drive” and its receptors become ultrasensitive in order to protect itself from further injury. Unfortunately, this pattern cannot be broken until the mechanoreceptors begin sending “normal” impulses to the brain indicating proper joint movement and alignment. Because this issue is rarely addressed, the brain continues this vicious cycle thus promoting systemic inflammation. In summation, when the brain receives abnormal impulses from is mechanoreceptors, the body activates a sympathetic response (hyper drive). This, by default, suppresses the parasympathetic tone. These intelligent adaptations are necessary for short term survival, but devastating for the long term because of the buildup of inflammation. When the body is inflamed on the inside, it makes outside stimulation seem much more intense. For example, the ticking of a clock may sound like a jackhammer; regular clothes feel like Velcro; sugar is like crack cocaine; and a minute feels like an hour. Typical autistic symptoms are actually adaptive behaviors by the brain to its perceived environment.
When we see autism, ADHD, ADD, Asperger’s, and other spectrum disorders through this light it is easy to see how there is something most doctors and therapists are missing in their care plans. Medications only serve to manage symptoms and behavioral therapy, although extremely important, will never uncover and heal the true causes. We can help the brain perceive its environment better which will naturally influence behaviors and symptoms and the secret is with the mechanoreceptors. The spine is responsible for 60% of all proprioceptive sensory information that reaches the brain. The highest concentration of mechanoreceptors resides in the top joint in your spine between your occiput and atlas. If there is a lack of “normal” impulses and an increase of “abnormal” impulses from this area because of mal movement of the atlas, the brain will respond by activating the sympathetic response and won’t stop until the problem is resolved. Humans as early as birth can develop this problem called the vertebral subluxation! While spectrum disorders usually cannot be diagnosed for a few years, there are other symptoms I have come to recognize as early as a few weeks, such as: colic, constipation, ear infections, improper sleeping, torticollis, acid reflux, and abnormal body tone that can tell me if they might already have spinal problems! While the subluxation might not always result in the development of a spectrum disorder, the battery of other procedures and medications for the above symptoms can seriously hinder proper neurodevelopment.
If your child is experiencing a spectrum disorder, or pre-indicators of the vertebral subluxation I encourage you to sign up for the free webinar titled “Sensory PRocessing Disorders: What I Wish Every Parent Knew” that will go further into depth on how the vertebral subluxation is developed and what you can do about it to help your family heal and avoid unnecessary medical procedures and medications. Feel free to email me with any questions and connect with me on Facebook!