Autism: A chiropractic perspective
How can a chiropractor help an austic child
Chiropractors, as with other primary healthcare clinicians, are often
faced with a child whom they suspect may have symptoms of autism, often previously
undiagnosed. As such, it is important that there is familiarity with the symptoms,
primary of which are difficulties in communicating or relating to other people.
Although there is no known cause for autism, various potential aetiologies are under
investigation. A number of abnormalities are found in multiple systems and functions
in the autistic individual who presents a number of management challenges.
Some researchers have discovered a laterality of the atlas in children with autism
and there are various suggestions as to why removing upper cervical dysfunction may
have a positive effect on the symptoms of autism. This paper offers a systematic
review of the condition with emphasis on the elements pertinent to the manual
Autism is a life-long developmental disability,
which, in the United Kingdom, affects approximately
90 people in every 10,000. Put into clinical
perspective, this means that the average general
practitioner (GP) will have 18 people with autism on
Individuals with autism are affected in different
ways, but all seem to suffer from a triad of impairments:
difficulty in interacting with others, impairments
in social communication and difficulty
thinking imaginatively. An absence of play is often
one of the first obvious signs of autism.
Autism is a life-long developmental disability characterised
by impairments in social interaction, communication
There is still no agreement regarding the causes
of autism, in spite of the many years of research.
The areas currently under investigation include
anatomy and neurology, as well as the neurochemical
and genetic aspects of the condition. There are
no medications licensed to treat autism; drugs are
used to treat symptoms such as aggression and
hyperactivity and special educational techniques
are used to help autistic individuals to realise their
Many chiropractors and other manipulative
therapists report symptomatic improvements in
behaviour following treatment, particularly upper
cervical adjusting. However, whilst case studies and
anecdotal reports are encouraging, further research
in the form of larger, controlled trials are needed to
establish the role of manipulative care in the treatment
Elder cites a possible nutritional cause, where gluten and
casein may cause increased intestinal permeability to opiod
proteins, which, when metabolized by the brain, may effect
the endogenous opiate system and neurotransmission of the
brain. It has also been suggested that the rise in autism is
somehow linked to vaccinations containing Thimerosal,
which is an organic compound used as a preservative that
contains mercury. According to the FDA, as of 2005,
multiple vaccines, including those generally given to children
6 years of age and younger, contain traces of Thimerosal.
Treatment guidelines for children with autism.
Establish consistent treatment routines. Since many of these children are disturbed by change, it is best to
maintain a general consistency in the way each child is greeted, treated and sent home from visit to visit.
Avoid any loud disturbances during treatment. Hypersensitivity to a sound is a common problem and may even
interfere with therapy. A relaxed quiet environment will promote effective care.
Distraction is key. Having an assistant distract the child with finger puppets or story books for instance, may
allow the clinician to work more effectively.
Be alert for non-verbal cues of discomfort from the child; these may be areas in need of attention.
Question parents about changes in behaviour patterns. Significant changes for a child with autism may
include the cessation of curious behaviours such as headstands, spinning objects and tugging at clothing.
Positive change may also be indicated by an increase in the repertoire of foods the child will eat or an
improved use of vocabulary.