Often it is asked, how can chiropractic help my special needs child? Chiropractic directly influences the functioning of the nervous system, and it is this connection that often helps children with special needs.The central nervous system acts as the master control system for the entire body, but this is a simplistic and basic answer. Since the central nervous system connects the brain to the rest of the body it is partially responsible for the way we interpret the world and what information we take in. We will see why this is so important later in the article. Due to recent developments in the fields of chiropractic and chiropractic neurology are leading to better explanations to this link and this is creating better implement it in a clinical stetting. With modern instrumentation and research techniques there is new information coming out on a regular basis.
What is this new information? First we must understand Sensory Processing Disorders or SPD. What are Sensory Processing Disorders? Sensory Processing Disorders are “a neurodevelopmental disorder resulting from the brain’s inability to integrate everyday sensory information revived from the five senses: touch, vision, sound, smell and taste.” (Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, Issue 19, pg 19) SPD is also includes the two lesser known senses, the vestibular and proprioception systems. The vestibular system located in the lower part of the brain called the cerebellum and the upper spinal-cord called the cervical spine and is the master regulator of all incoming sensory information ( Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, Issue 19, pg 19). It is at this point that we start to see the development of the link between chiropractic care and SPD and it is through these links that individualized treatment can be developed thorough testing of all of these sensory systems. Once the sensory systems involved determined they can then be addressed directly and indirectly.
Sensory deficient are defined as ether hypo or hyper sensitive. Children who are hypersensitive are bombarded by sensory information and will often appear withdrawn from society because the constant bombardment of sensory input makes their brains uncomfortable (Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, Issue 19, pg 19). This is due to the fact that the brain is unable to filter out much of the incoming information from that set of senses. The Brain will usually only let a fraction of the sensory information enter the conscious mind while the rest of the input is processed by the subconscious mind or disregarded all together. A child who is hyposensitive will seek out sensory experiences to stimulate their brains due to lack of sensory input (Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, Issue 19, pg 19). There are many other symptoms depending on which sensory pathways are involved and to which degree but this can be sorted out using a complete history and a thorough examination. After the information from the exam and history is obtained it is possible to implement a treatment protocol which customized to that child’s needs.
Sensory Processing Disorders is often misdiagnosed in children as ADD, ADHD, and other neuro-developmental disorders (Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, Issue 19, pg 19). To complicate maters Sensory Processing Disorders can also co-exist with many of these conditions including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, and Traumatic Brain Injury as well as others and can persist if untreated into adult hood and follow the child for the rest of there lives. The medical approach is to diagnose these children with conditions such as ADHD and then prescribe psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin (Buerger, Monika DC, Pathways, winter 2005, pg 3). It is important that parents educate themselves on the side effects of these medications and realize that if the child is misdiagnosed many of these medications may have the opposite effect.
So how is the chiropractic approach different? “In 2004, Dr. Melillo published a textbook titled Neuro-behavioral Disorders of Childhood – An Evolutionary Perspective, which describes what he believes to be the primary neuro-physiologic mechanism that produces many of the most common neuro-behavioral disorders. Applying this neuro-physiologic mechanism to chiropractic, he focuses on three main areas: sensory/motor systems, biomechanical/nutritional, and neuropsychological, with the main concept revolving around hemispheric balance.” (Claudia Anrig, DC. http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=51097&no_paginate=true&p_friendly=true&no_b=true) From the chiropractic perspective postural imbalances caused by vertebral misalignment and nervous system involvement (subluxations) are sought out and treated. This treatment removes the effect on the neurological system from a structural stand point allowing for improved neurological function. This is accomplished trough standard chiropractic modes of treatment. The nervous system if further address through addressing the sensory deficiency and directly retraining these systems to mature and function correctly. Finally some of the nutritional components are considered such as hypo or hyper glycemia and the effects that sugar and other allergens may have on the system.
This is by no means a complete understanding of how chiropractic may affect sensory processing disorders and the treatments are often very individualized for each set of circumstances. After reading this article it should start to become obvious way a chiropractor might be a great addition to the team used to treat and improve the quality of life for your child. This is a brief understanding of how the chiropractic field can bring a novel new approach to children with SPD as well as other nuro-sensory disorders such as ADD, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
By: Paul R. Mahler Jr. DC
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