Proprioception in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

All April, we have mentioned how many times we've seen the lives of countless children and adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders improve using our approach of salutogenesis, or creation of health. This blog will focus most on the physical/structural contributions to autism.  Since autism is primarily a disease of the nervous system, disturbances on the areas of the nervous system absolutely can contribute to the severity or intensity of symptoms.  These disturbances can put pressure on the brain stem or autonomic nervous system, disrupt blood flow or cerebrospinal fluid flow to the brain, or alter sensory information that feeds that brain (all the things our senses are constantly telling our brain!).

How does a child develop a nervous system disturbance?  Most often, they  occur after a long, difficult, or intense birth (studies show up to 80% of births are traumatic for a young child's neck!). Other reasons include: head injuries, a car accident, a fall from bed, sports injuries etc. Symptoms after nerve system interference occur can include:  an infant who prefers to nurse on one side or turn his head one way, colic or reflux in a young baby, a flattened or asymmetrical head, a young child who falls down and looks more awkward while moving than her peers, missing developmental milestones, or frequent immune system problems.

So why does a nervous system disturbance have such different symptoms in an infant? The nerves in the upper neck are highly specialized. The nerves that exit the brainstem and run to the body affect the automatic nervous system, which controls the heart, lungs, hormones, movement patterns, sleep patterns, digestion, etc. Nerve information going TO the brain sends a specific type of sensory information, called proprioception, which tells the brain where each bodily joint is in space. The brain thrives on this specific type of sensory input, and a lack of it or a change of information can cause clumsiness, lack of pain or sensation, or unusual movement patterns that are often present with autism and other spectrum disorders.

Because the developing structures of a child are malleable, if a small or large misalignment is not checked and corrected, the child's nervous system develops in this misaligned way.  As a twig is bent, so grows the tree.

The great news about working with children with nervous system disturbances is also this... their nervous systems are flexible and malleable.  The three alternative therapies that we have noted to make incredible improvements in many lives include OT (Occupational Therapy), CST (Craniosacral Therapy), and Chiropractic care.  OT works with helping the brain integrate primitive reflexes so it can understand sensory information better and develop more complex ways to move and think... such as we see in toddlers and preschoolers - an increase in focus, coordination, and fine motor control.  Craniosacral therapy helps the position and shape of the cranial bones. This can remove pressure from the cranial nerves, helps cerebrospinal fluid flow more easily, and can increase blood flow to the brain.

Our chiropractic care works specifically on removing the interference of the spinal cord and the nerves that exit it. When gently done in the proper areas (ie especially in the upper neck), this improves proprioception, helps sensory information improve, restores balance to the automatic nervous system, and improves blood flow and cerebrospinal fluid flow in the brain.  The many and amazing benefits in children and adults with NDD's have been: improved sleep, better digestion, fewer tics, increase in happiness, improved speech, better focus in school, and more.

Please email or call us if you would like to attend one of our Unraveling Neurodevelopmental Disorders workshops.  If you would like to read our studies, testimonials, or set up a consult, reach out to
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    Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.