Parents of kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) know that organization, routines, and consistency lower the stress level of their children, and by extension the day is easier, because their child is calmer. It takes a lot of work and planning, but it can have a major impact on the quality of life of all involved. Parents attempt to eliminate anything that might stress or throw their child out of their normal routine, and that’s great, but there are some other reasons kids can feel stressed, and those reasons are biological in nature, coming from stress hormones that are secreted.
Are you familiar with the hormone Cortisol? It’s known as the stress hormone since it is released at higher quantities when we are stressed. It can lead to depression, weight gain, and a host of other things, including the stress-induced “behaviors” children on the Autism Spectrum display.. In this case, what we want to look at is Cortisol’s ability to make us more anxious. It is a vicious cycle. When we get stressed, our body releases a hormone that can cause even more stress and anxiety.
It turns out, there are a few parts of the brain that work together to generate this response. It is called the HPA Axis. You don’t need to remember that, you just need to know that when iit is stimulated, out comes the Cortisol. This area can’t really distinguish one type of stress from another. And I want to talk here a little bit about a type of stress you may not be aware of, which is caused by a misalignment in the upper neck.
An upper cervical neck misalignment can happen in the top two vertebrae in the neck, right below your head. These two bones are unique, so unique that they are the only spinal bones with names and not just numbers. The top bone is called the atlas (named after the Greek god that held up the world) and the second bone is the axis (it is responsible for most head rotation). These bones are the smallest in the spine, and also the most freely movable. Add that to having a big head on top of them and they are very susceptible to injury. The birth process is often difficult, and then as children learn to walk they fall many many times. Both of these things have the potential to misalign the upper neck and cause issues.
If one or both of these bones are misaligned, it causes a stress response which, as we learned above, can release Cortisol, and increase anxiety. Several studies have shown that ASD children have higher baseline levels of Cortisol throughout the day. The exact reason is still unknown, but this could part of the reason they ramp up so quickly and display “behaviors” when things aren’t on an even keel. Realigning their upper neck bones gently through the upper cervical chiropractic process I use in our office can lower Cortisol levels, reducing stress and providing a calming effect.
I have seen tremendous results with patients who are on the Autism Spectrum, and this is just one of the physiological reasons why. I have also noticed over the years, that once the upper neck is corrected, other therapies that are being utilized tend to show bigger improvement. A calmer child is able to focus and learn much more easily, as we all are.
If you have a child who is on the Autism Spectrum, I urge you to come in and let me provide you with a free consultation. It doesn’t take long to figure out if your child may have an upper cervical misalignment, and adjusting it is painless and easy. It’s a simple, effective way to alleviate the stress your child may be feeling and lower the baseline Cortisol levels in their body, giving them the opportunity to learn more easily and display less of the stress-induced behaviors. Call us today at 239-243-8810.
Dr. Lee Angle
Dr. Lee Angle is originally from southern West Virginia. After having his life changed through Upper Cervical Care he chose to pursue it as a career. He has been practicing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for over nine years. Dr. Angle previously worked as a certified personal trainer. This background allows him to educate his patients on proper movement and exercises to speed their recovery and enhance their Upper Cervical Care.