Autism and Insomnia
A frequent challenge for parents of kids on the spectrum is they have a tough time sleeping. The first time I ran across this was years and years ago. 10-year-old Karoline came to our clinic after her parents met us at the Autism 5k at Lake Calhoun. Mom and Dad were stressed to say the least. Not only had Karoline never slept more than 2 hours consecutively in her entire life, she also got stressed out in crowds. Both Mom and Dad were working full time. Because of this, one worked days and one worked nights so someone was always up with Karoline. That prevented the family from going out to dinner, going to Target, going to a movie…. pretty much all the family things that you and I don’t even think about.
Karoline was quite shy and went along with our examination as she could sense we were trying to help. Also, Karoline was nonverbal. She had just received an iPad with the app to tap out sentences and was just starting to communicate with her parents. She was sharing her likes, dislikes, wants and desires, with actual words.
There wasn’t anything particularly unusual about Karoline’s spinal subluxation compared to other kids. We just set about correcting what we found was misaligned and interfering/irritating her spinal cord. I called the next day to check on the family, as I always do. Mom was quite disturbed and questioning me about “what did you do to my child!”. After a few questions of my own, I learned that Karoline had slept 12 hours after her first adjustment. THAT was the source of mom’s agitation. She thought something was now WRONG. In fact, something was now finally RIGHT. Parents of kids not on the spectrum wouldn’t be troubled by a 12-hour sleeping stint at 10 years old. This mother of one child, Karoline, had never ever had this happen. She was rightly worried that something different was going on and wasn’t quite sure what it meant.
Once assured that this is how it works with kids, she’d just never experienced it, she was OK and we followed up with Karoline’s visits, checking and adjusting. The next week, Karoline’s father turned up in the office. I hadn’t met him prior because he worked as a baker so his hours were late morning and he was on sleep shift during Karoline’s first few visits. I came out of the exam room and he was sitting in our massage chair. A stocky Norwegian (literally, thick accent immigrant with Karoline’s mother), these guys are notorious for being stoic and little emotion. He waved me over to talk with him about Karoline. As I approached, he stood up out of the chair, I wasn’t quite sure if he was happy or not. The look on his face wasn’t happy. He said, however, “Whatever you did, this is the first time I know I have a daughter.” He pointed two fingers in a V and pointed to my eyes and then to his eyes…. “She looked me in the eyes! This is the FIRST time. I NOW know I have a daughter.!” He welled up in tears and as I write this, it makes me tear up again. It was quite emotional for both of us. For me, because I hadn’t counted the impact this situation was having on the parents. For him, because I think he realized he’d missed 10 years of his daughter’s life.
No matter. We move forward. That Walk for Autism was in the spring. It was cold and rainy. I took care of Karoline from that week forward and by Fall, their lives were nearing normal. Each week mom would come in telling us of some big achievement which typically, we wouldn’t be thinking was any great stretch. Like going to Red Lobster, taking a trip to a friend’s cabin in Wisconsin, going to the State Fair. Yes, any 10 year should be able to enjoy those things with her parents and now they were.
Sadly, this is still happening to many others and with the rate of ASD still climbing, it’s happening more and more often.
The Medical/Pharmaceutical approach:
If you take your ASD insomniac to the pediatrician, here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say, in a nutshell: “The first line is behavioral training. If you’ve ruled out organic causes, then pharmacologic therapy may be initiated. There are no FDA approved treatments for insomnia in children.”
Basically, there’s no safety testing but if your child isn’t sleeping, we will prescribe something for them. That just doesn’t inspire much confidence. At the very least, whatever drug prescribed should be tested for safety, if not effectiveness. Neither one of these texts exist. Still…. that’s the state of medical help.
Now, families with kids on the spectrum fall into a couple of camps and some in between. There’s the “My child is gifted but different” and the other camp is “My child has been damaged and needs a cure.” The gifted camp doesn’t think a cure is required, it’s just another version of normal. The damaged camp desperately seeks cures or treatments.
Chiropractic doesn’t fit either camp’s concerns. Everybody thinks their kids are normal and don’t need chiropractic… until they find out how much more “normal” they can be. Less sick days, less tummy aches, less problems overall, once they start getting regular adjustments. ASD kids who aren’t sleeping are no exception.
Chiropractic isn’t a treatment for insomnia, autism, ADHD, headaches or sciatica. It’s a tune up for your kids’ nervous system. So, their brain will be better focused on the test at school. Her foot will be better able to balance on the balance beam. His arm will be like a laser passing the football. His immune system won’t be searching for “invisible” threats and requiring an inhaler to keep breathing. THAT’s how it works.
Chiropractic works. It’s safe. It is common sense.
Don’t wait 10 years of your child’s life to find out how much better they can be!