As those of us with children who are on the autistic spectrum or who have sensory processing issues know, there is a mirage of causes for autism and therefore a mirage of cures. It is because each child can have sensory processing disorders for a different reason that each child can react to each type of therapy in a different manner. We have all heard about the brushing program, auditory training, sensory integration therapy, the removal of Gluten and Casein from the diet, and CranioSacral therapy. As a Physical Therapist I have received training in and have implemented all of these approaches in my treatments, as well as, at home. I have come to find that CranioSacral therapy is an integral part of the puzzle. As the restrictions in a child’s body are released, their autistic characteristics tend to diminish. Do not misunderstand me. I do not feel this is a “cure” for Autism, but it is another approach that can help decrease some symptoms.
Numerous brain structures have been linked to autism, including:
Amygdala- responsible for emotional feelings, primarily fear and aggression; related to smell, emotions and memory; self preservation activities; critical site in learning, especially related to environment adaptation
Brain Stem — responsible for unconscious control of the internal state of body
Cerebellum — responsible for motor coordination, movements, and memory; stores memory for simple learned responses or movement patterns; involved in speed and rhythm; lets us know when enough is enough
Frontal Lobes — responsible for fear of unknown and need to know; planning for future actions and controlling movement; deals with emotions
Hippocampus — responsible for memory and emotion, learning and memory; playback neural activity that occurs during sensory activities
Limbic System — responsible for association with smell and memory; sense of home and family; emotions — to give and receive love; mood and memory; perceptions of emotions and response to them
Parietal Lobes — responsible for orientation in space; smell sensation and body image
Craniosacral Therapy and Sensory Processing
CST can help to relieve tension in the fascia surrounding the brain and spinal cord. By relieving this tension or restrictions in the membranes, the body is able to improve the motor to sensory communication in the body.
As stated under the Intracranial Membrane System, the Dura mater is attached to the internal sides of the parietal bones of the skull. Tension from anywhere in the Dura Mater can change the shape of an entire structure and even be transmitted throughout the body. Fascia is the connective tissue that hold us together. It spreads throughout the body in a three dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. Every structure in the body has its own fascia sheath, from nerves to bone. We can travel from one place in the body to another without leaving the fascia. The fascia covering the brain, pia mater, and the fascia attached to the skull, Dura mater, come together to form a protective layer around the spinal cord. Nerves exit the spinal cord passing through the Dura mater and travel to end organs or muscles.
It is this fascia connection that allows us to affect the Central Nervous System (CNS). Brain function and development are driven by sensory input. By releasing restrictions in the bony and membranous structures of the CranioSacral system we can improve the motor input to the sensory system. For example: By releasing the tight fascia in areas where biomechanical manifestations are occurring, for example the hippocampus for self stimulating behaviors, one might be able to diminish some of these autistic behaviors or characteristics.
We know the CNS is the circuitry that connects the individual to the senses and the senses to reflexes. If we can recognize how the sensory system gathers information to regulate sensory input and knowing how an individual responds to particular sensory stimuli, we can suggest a biomechanical approach to improve communication between body structure and function. CST helps us to access the body’s circuitry to reduce and remove the interference upon it.Back to top of page
For more information on Sensory Integration; including sensory integration development, definitions, and CST, please follow the link.