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Posted on 03-28-2017

Welcome to our first Blog Posting! Every month we are going to focus on different hot topics, what is happening at the office and any important events that we don’t want you to miss! The first topic for discussion is on Autism Spectrum Disorder in honor of Autism Awareness Month. This disorder is affecting 1 in 68 children in the United States! With 2 cousins on the spectrum, and several close friends that have children on the spectrum, it is especially important to me to raise awareness and support these beautiful individuals and their families!

“Never did I think that the simplest things in life such as eating, bathing, dressing, talking, playing and so on would be so difficult. No one could have prepared me for what was to come. How our family was going to change.”Corrina shared with me when I asked her about her story with her oldest son, Damian. Can you imagine? You go in for a check up or a childs’ physical and get a diagnosis for your son or daughter that they are on the spectrum. Heart stopping, mind swimming with questions, fears and concerns…It is so hard to fathom.

She continued reflecting, “My first pregnancy I did everything by the book! I didn’t have any ‘problems’ or ‘complications’ with my delivery, it was fast and relatively easy. Had a healthy 6 lbs 8 oz, 21 inch, strong, precious baby boy. Damian was never a quiet baby, he would cry uncontrollably. Soon…late nights became a regular thing in our house. I felt useless! Nothing I would do would help comfort him. As he got older (about 6 months old) he started hitting his head on things. His crib, walls and even the floors sometimes. I knew it wasn’t ‘normal’ for him to do that but I just thought it was him throwing a tantrum, just like any other child who is upset does. I thought he would grow out of it with time, little did I know that him hitting his head made him feel better. Never did it cross my mind that Damian was going to have a disorder of any kind, let alone to be autistic. I didn’t know what to feel..SO MANY emotions at once… I felt lost…Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong? What do I do now? Where do I START? Who can help us? Will it go away? Will he every have a normal life?”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges that are different from most other people. It affects boys 4 times more frequently than girls. Almost 1% of the total world population has ASD. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability and its prevalence has increased by 6-15% each year between the years of 2002-2010. For the first time, between 2014-2016 there was no increase, the numbers held at 1/68 children according to the CDC. There is no “cure” for ASD. Early intervention services including: chiropractic care, physical therapy, speech therapy and behavioral therapies can substantially improve a Childs development.

On average, it costs a family $60,000 a year to support their loved one. About 40% of children with autism do not speak. About 25-30% of these children have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. Not only is this a financial burden on a family who is trying to do the best they can to support their child and get them as many tools as possible, it is extremely emotionally taxing. Not getting the same experience of connection with their child. Not being allowed to just come up and hug them or get them to engage in an activity with them. Sports are often not possible and often even going to school is an extreme challenge.

Some common presentations for children or adults with ASD might include but not limited to:

  • Not pointing at objects or showing interest
  • Not look at objects when another person points at them
  • Have trouble relating to others or having any interest in other people at all
  • Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
  • Having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or it must be their decision for cuddling
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Can be very interested in people, but not able talk, play, or relate to them
  • Repeating or echo words/phrases said to them, or repeating words/phrases in place of normal language
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or hand gestures
  • Will not play “pretend” games
  • Repetitive actions over and over again, like rocking or head banging
  • Have difficulty adapting when their routine changes
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • Lose skills they once had
  • Demonstrate bursts of violent behavior

Even though there are a ton of things that people on the spectrum have in common, not one of them is presenting the same way. No one can predict their families future, we can only take it one day at time and do our absolute best for these lovable, unique individuals who communicate differently than the rest of us.

What now!?

I wanted to know from Corrina what she thought she needed the most when she first found out about Damian’s diagnosis and as he has gotten older. She said, “When you feel like you can’t take anymore, remember that God wouldn’t have given you something that you couldn’t handle. There is a reason why you were chosen for this little angel. They are truly a blessing. You will change and grow as a person just as much as your little bundle of joy will. If you know of someone that is going through this you can help by just being present through the good days and bad ones too. The headturning tantrums at restaurants or stores to the mellow movie nights at the house. If you are not the one to protect, love and care for him/her, who will?”

Bottom line is that help can come in many forms! There are many organizations that have started to provide information, tools and support for those on the spectrum and their families. There are some great therapeutic riding courses available, as well as support groups, and Applied Behavior Analysis therapies. I, as a chiropractor, help these kids by adjusting their spine, which takes the pressure off their nervous system so that they have every opportunity for healthy growth and expression. Along with giving the parents specific instructions on dietary concerns and rehabilitative exercises to encourage proper motor development. Let us spread the awareness and take the fear and judgement out of the equation. These children become adults and it is our responsibility as a community to love and support them. Help me help them by sharing this blog post and reaching out to those friends/family that you know are navigating the unknown territory of ASD. Do not be scared to talk about this! Big thank you to Corrina for sharing her story with us. Keep on Keepin on!

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