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National Autistic Society (Surrey Branch)

Cranial Osteopathy

by Julia Muggleton

When I discovered that cranial osteopathy is sometimes used to treat autistic children, I decided it might be worth trying it with our five year old son, Jack,who is autistic. As a baby, Jack's head had been quite misshapen, and as cranial osteopathy involves gentle manipulation of the skull I thought it might be particularly appropriate for him.

The theory behind cranial osteopathy is that the 26 bones making up the skull are intricately jointed in such a way as to permit very slight motion. This is to allow for the rhythmical and very slight expansion and contraction of the brain inside, and permits the cerebrospinal fluid to ebb and flow as it washes away the brain's waste products. Skilled manipulation of the skull can result in the release of fluids inside the skull, can stimulate various areas of the brain, and can relieve strain patterns. It seems to be particularly helpful in treating learning and concentration difficulties, behaviour problems, and hyperactivity.

An initial consultation with the cranial osteopath involved giving her a clear description of Jack's particular difficulties, and answering some questions about his birth and subsequent health. She also gently examined his head and back. A half hour session of cranial osteopathy once a fortnight was recommended, with a review after the fourth session to see whether any progress had been made. The initial consultation cost just under £30, and subsequent sessions cost £24, so the whole thing came to about £125.

The actual treatment involved using very gentle pressure over various parts of Jack's skull; it almost looked as if the osteopath was trying to locate a pulse. Jack was reasonably happy to co-operate with this if I took a stock of Thomas the Tank Engine books along to look at with him. However sitting still for half an hour could be a problem for a hyperactive child.

At the end of the course of treatment I saw no big changes in Jack's behaviour, though he had become more willing to stay up in his bedroom in the evenings watching 'Thomas the Tank Engine' videos, rather than insisting on staying downstairs with us until he finally fell asleep on the sofa.

In all, I was slightly disappointed with Jack's lack of progress. It seems that, as with most of these therapies, Cranial Osteopathy is very helpful for some autistic children, but makes little difference for others. It may depend on the particular nature of the autistic child's difficulties.

A list of some Cranial Osteopaths in Surrey is here:

Also The Cranial Osteopathic Association can put you in touch with local practitioners. Contact : The Cranial Osteopathic Association, 478 Baker Street, Enfield, Middx EN1 3QS Tel 0181-367-5561.

© Julia Muggleton 1997

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