Neurodevelopmental Conditions


ADHD, Autism & Sensory Processing Disorders
The prevalence of neurodevelopmental conditions in children has been increasing steadily. In 1975, the prevalence of autism was 1 in 5000. In 2008, it was 1 in 88. There has been a 16% increase in ADHD since 2007. As of 2011, approximately 11% of all children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD. 3.4% of preschool and elementary kids have been diagnosed with some sort of sensory processing disorder and 13% of all kids are enrolled in special education classes. These statistics are shocking and sadly as of now there have been no concrete evidence as to what the possible causes may be. There has been widespread speculation of everything from food to pesticides to medication use.

Studies have shown that parents with children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder notice developmental problems before their child’s first birthday. Concerns about vision and hearing were often reported in the first year and differences in social, communication and fine motor skills have been evident from 6 months.

Some of the red flags of Autism include:

• no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter
• no back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by 9 months
• no babbling by 12 months
• no back and forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reacting or waving by 12 months
• no words by 16 months
• no meaningful 2 word phrases by 24 months
• any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

As of 2011, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD. The CDC reports that roughly 6.1% of all children in the U.S. are on ADHD medications. That means there are 3.6 million children in the US who are currently taking mind-altering drugs, most of which are controlled substances. Recent studies suggest that these stimulant drugs could alter the structure and function of the brain in ways that may depress mood, boost anxiety, and could lead to cognitive defects. Animal studies are suggesting that Ritalin may alter the brain in ways similar to that of cocaine, and that after only two to four weeks of taking amphetamines, similar to Adderall, baboons showed evidence of amphetamine-induced brain damage.

Many parents who decide to put their children on ADHD medications do so with a heavy heart because they are not aware of what else they can do to help their children. ADHD is a neurological disorder and great care must be taken to not only improve the overall function of the nervous system, but the neurosensory system in particular.

When chiropractors evaluate children with ADHD, or any type of Sensory Processing Disorder, we try to determine if there are any neurosensory dysfunctions involved. The neurosensory system is primarily made up of the five senses, plus two lesser known systems called the vestibular and proprioceptive system. The vestibular system is the sensory system that responds to accelerated and decelerated movement. It is through the vestibular system that we learn directions and are aware of our body position in space. This input helps us to form a basic reference for all sensory experiences. This system has interconnections with many parts of the body and influences many different functions, for example muscle tone, postural control, balance, eye and neck muscles. The proprioceptive system gives information/sensations from muscles and joints. Proprioceptive input tells the brain when and how muscles are contracting and stretching and how joints are being compressed or stretched. It helps us to know where our bodies are in space and how they are moving. Proprioceptive input provides a calming effect. It works along with the vestibular system. Since humans perceive everything as a result of impulses received through our nerve systems, and our responses come as a result of our interpretations of the information received. Although these sensory systems develop normally in most children, it is becoming more and more common for one or more of these sensory systems to become delayed or impaired. When this happens, the sensory system as a whole begins to break down, and the result is that the brain is not able to process sensory input correctly. As a result, symptoms may manifest that look like ADHD or other learning difficulties, such as reading comprehension or spelling, as well as behavioral problems.

To improve the function of the nervous system a multipronged approach is needed, including removing nerve interference with chiropractic care, neurointegrative exercises created based on the specific neurosensory needs of the individual child and addressing his or her toxicity or dietary issues. Chiropractors look at ADHD as evidence that the nervous system of the child is in a state of dysfunction and needs to be improved. With this approach, the goal is to improve neurological function from the inside out, instead of temporarily manipulating symptoms from the outside in. While not a treatment for ADHD, the correction of vertebral subluxation through chiropractic adjustments has been shown to result in improved nervous system function and improvement in ADHD symptoms.

There are several dietary modifications that have been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD:

Other treatments can include:

The best case scenario for parents of children with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorders and/or Autism, is to find providers that can address all three components of neurological improvement: removal of nerve interference (subluxations), neurosensory integration and nutritional optimization. Dr. Stephanie has taken several advanced courses in the specific area of Neurosensory integration and dietary modifications to help in the treatment of children on the spectrum, and has had good success treating children with ADD, ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders.