Is Your Child with ADHD or Autism a Headbanger?

Uncategorized Feb 15, 2018

Long-term consequences of head injuries may be different in your child with an autistic spectrum disorder.

 In this article, I will show you why you should be extra cautious of head injuries in your child with ADHD and or autism spectrum disorder.

Injury to the head can further compromise a health situation that is already fragile. According to a recent study, 5 percent of school going children in the US reported having had a traumatic brain injury. Significant in this case means that they were unconscious for at least some time after the head injury.

 To be honest with you, these numbers shocked me for several reasons.

 I know that a significant portion of the children and adults that I see in my clinic have had some form of trauma and that the ones that suffered a head injury are much more likely to have long-term consequences. Consequences that we as parents and physicians are often not aware of.  More on that later.

 Secondly, I know from first-hand experience what it means for a child to have had a severe knock to the head, even without losing consciousness. Two of our children have suffered a head injury in the last two years. Not only can there be long-term effects on how your child feels, or how he or she performs at school there can be physical consequences that are often overlooked but if not addressed can have a profound effect on your child’s performance and musculoskeletal wellbeing.

 Also, and maybe the most worrying in my opinion, is the fact that injuries to the head can lead to long-term changes in the health of the brain and rest of the nervous system.

 The article quoting the amazing number of children that had suffered a serious brain injury is probably not exaggerating either. Let's not forget that the number of children that have had a less severe head injury is in reality much higher. It is even very likely that your child is one of them. Let's face it falling off your bike, slamming into a door, falling out of a tree, a ball hitting the head, slamming the head in a friendly fight, falling off the stairs….all of us have probably at some moment in time, been subjected to one of these.

 So what’s the big deal with this? Why should you and I be bothered with it? After all, most of us, our children included, seem to be alright with a minor head injury.

 It is at this point that you should brace yourself. Studies have also shown that even minor or repetitive knocks to the head can cause brain injury. You probably have heard of this, and it is the reason why neurologists worldwide have warned parents about the dangers of head-butting a ball, rugby crunches, and the likes, and why children, in particular, should avoid these activities.

 What you should be aware of as well, is the fact that a child’s skull is thinner than that of an adult, the neural networks/pathways are under formation and are more vulnerable than the more fixed ones in adults. As parent, you may underestimate what a knock to the head can mean for a child’s brain. The same jolt to your head will in most cases have a different, less profound, effect.

 It does, however, go further than this. We also know that recent studies indicate that injuries to the head can cause changes at the cellular level in the brain and cause low-grade inflammation that can cascade over the years. The point at which a person realizes that something is wrong can be years later. Pretty scary isn’t it?

 Luckily these grim facts also have opened doors to understanding intractable complaints where there are no hard, obvious, neurological signs.

 So what does this have to do with my child with Autism spectrum disorder or ADHD?

A lot! There are several things that you should be aware of when it comes to head injuries, long-term consequences and the possibility that your child will be subjected to this.

 Your child because of the ADHD and or autism may be more prone to accidents. These children often have more issues with balance, spatial awareness, stopping activities, judging situations and a motoric capacity that is slightly off. These are the facts, and unfortunately, these issues are overlooked and categorized as being less important than the behavioral trades that we see in our children.

 We also know that there are neurodevelopmental problems in these children. Meaning that the central nervous system, which includes the brain, has not developed as strong as it should and in a slightly different way. The result is a brain that is less stable and more prone to influences, like hits to the head (an optimally developing nervous system is more stable, also at the cellular level).

 Children within the autistic spectrum are also more likely to have underlying immune issues that can ultimately lead to low-grade brain inflammation. Some experts even indicate that this may be the main reason why children with autism display the problems they do.

 The last thing I want to mention in this part is that your child may not be able to relate, recall the fact that something happened, either because of his or her communicative skills or simply because they are not aware of what happened because of a diminished capacity to relate to their bodies.


 What can you do with this information? First of all, you should understand that all is not bad and every child is capable of dealing with some trauma up to a certain level. Our bodies have been constructed wonderfully and are not only able to cope with adverse vents but also can compensate in the face of more severe changes.

 What you should learn from this article is that you have to be aware that head injuries can have long-term consequences and that you have to heighten your alertness when your child with ADHD and or autism has had some knock to the head.

Note the date down in your agenda, notebook or whatever you use for note-taking, just like you have to do after a tick bite.

 What you should note is differences in mood, composure, alertness, clarity of thinking, reactions to situations, drive to do things, memory, changes in behavior. In other words, anything out of the ordinary, things that are unusual for your child should alert you to the seriousness of a head injury.

 Sometimes you may see changes in the motoric skills, handwriting that deteriorates, balance problems, clumsiness, delayed capacity to correct body movements, eye fatigue; all can be warning signs that more has happened than a minor shakeup.

 Also, increased sensitivity to sound, light, touch is something I see on a daily basis to be warning signals of increased vulnerability of the brain.

 The final thing I want to mention is the decreased capacity to deal with the school situation or events where novel information is presented.

 Having said all of this, I sincerely hope that in all cases where you suspect that the consciousness or reaction speed is changed after a head injury or where there are physical signs of injury, including wounds bruises you will immediately check in with a physician who then can rule out serious pathology.

 But please, do monitor your child, even if there are no immediate signs of brain injury, I hope that much has become clear after reading this story.

 The final advise I want to give about head injuries, especially when you have a strong sense that the problems your child is experiencing may be related to head trauma, is to get it checked. Make an appointment with, preferably a functional neurologist, chiropractic neurologist and or pediatrician that has specialized in head injuries or a practitioner of functional medicine who has experience with brain trauma. Why these?

 Although most physicians will look for obvious pathology (that is their job after all) often they will not be able to recognize the more subtle signs and symptoms that are indicative of adverse events in your child’s brain.

 In addition to what clinicians, who are more trained in the management of head injuries, can find out, they will in most cases also be able to advise in your child’s case what things will benefit recovery and stabilization of the situation.

 In a future blog post, I will discuss how you as a parent can do more when your child has hit his/her head badly.


Yours in health

Arjan Kuipers


Chiropractic neurologist

Neurodevelopmental expert








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