Sounds, sight, touch, taste, smell. It’s all different for James. This little boy is on the Autism spectrum, and the way his senses and brain work is very different from mine. He loves touch, but has trouble with coordination. To James, emotions don’t work the same either. Most of the time he doesn’t know what the fuss is about when someone else is upset. It just doesn’t quite make sense in his mind.
My name is Dr. Sean Carey, and I am a chiropractor in Northeastern Massachusetts with a focus on children with neurodevelopmental disorders. I believe that in general, our health care systems focus too much on what is wrong with a person, instead of the actions we can all take to make our bodies and brains work better.
I have been blessed to work with many children who struggle with various neurodevelopmental challenges, or autism. With current autism rates quoted to be between 1:36 and 1:68 children, we all have experience with children who are on the spectrum.
It’s really important to understand that a day in the life of an autistic child is very different than a day in the life of a child without autism. The way they perceive the world is different. They way they process information is different. And their needs are very, very different.
We are taught that we have five basic senses, but that’s not quite true. Our most important sense is one that you’ve most likely never heard of before, and it’s something called proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of where our body is in space, and it is a more important sense than sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell. The reason this sense is so important, is because it allows us to understand where our body is in relation to the world around us. It literally tells us where we are, and where everything else in the world is.
The sense of proprioception is also incredibly important in regards to optimal neurological development. We are all familiar with developmental milestones. The reason these milestones are so important is because every milestone we hit in our development provides new proprioceptive input which leads to the development of new neural pathways. This sense is quite literally the neurological foundation to further learning.
One of the most common unique behaviors we see with children with autism is something called ‘Stimming.’ Stimming refers to when someone does an activity that creates stimulation to their brain. Hand-flapping and body rocking is so popular with children with autism, and they do this specifically to provide proprioceptive information to the brain.
When you have a child who is struggling with different areas of development (this could be emotional learning, intellectual learning, coordination, etc.); it is so important to make sure that this most important sense is working optimally. Proprioception drives healthy neurological development, and our bodies need a great amount of it!
Chiropractic care is one of the best things that you can do for your child to help optimize this sense. The highest concentration of proprioceptors in our body are located in the joints and small muscles around our spine. When this is working optimally, it is like rocket fuel for our brain!
Yoga is also an incredible way to boost this most-important sense in our body. Not only is yoga incredible for the body, it is even more amazing for our brain. This practice builds confidence in children, helps to develop inner peace and compassion for self and others, and it also helps the brain make healthy new connections. This is a practice that will help children across the board, whether that child has a diagnosis of autism, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, or has no diagnosis at all. Every yoga session helps our brain to acclimate to the world around us, and creates a foundation for healthy neurological activity.
Children with autism are simply different. In some ways that brings incredible gifts, and in some ways that brings significant challenges. These children need their brains and bodies working as well as they possibly can. By optimizing this function, we can make their (and our) experience in life so much better. Our children deserve to have a life in which they can be their very best, and this is one of the most importance ways on how to get there.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Sean Carey
Dr. Sean Carey is a practicing chiropractor in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He helps people of all ages and conditions, and helps many chronic and difficult cases. Dr. Carey is a graduate of the University of Maine, as well as Parker University. Please feel free to visit his website at www.precisionchiroma.com to learn more about the practice, as well as to download a free eBook on Childhood Neurodevelopmental Disorders.