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Autism Awareness Month 2023: The Connection Between Autism and Orthopedic Health

  • Apr 17 2023

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the most common developmental disabilities, affecting 1 in 44 children. April marks World Autism Month, also called Autism Acceptance Month by the Autism Society. This is a time to build awareness, create change, and foster understanding and acceptance for people with autism.

As leaders in general and pediatric orthopedics on Long Island, South Island Orthopedics provides exceptional care for all patients. Knowing there is a connection between multiple orthopedic conditions, like autism and scoliosis, our providers are committed to supporting patients with autism and their specific orthopedic needs.

South Island Orthopedics is Committed to Awareness and Acceptance for National Autism Awareness Month 2023

Autism is most widely known for the variety of cognitive and behavioral issues that it causes. However, those living with autism spectrum disorders may also experience one of several different musculoskeletal and orthopedic problems.

Autism and Scoliosis

Two boys and two girls pull on a rope during a game of tug-of-war. With scoliosis, autism is not exactly a cause, but research shows that people with ASD are more likely to have this curvature of the spine. Other common orthopedic conditions among those living with autism include:

In some cases, identifying orthopedic issues can even help doctors make an ASD diagnosis.

Autism and Joint Pain

Joint pain occurs more often in children with autism than in the general population, usually as a result of hypermobility. This means that the joints are more flexible than normal, which can cause pain. A child with autism might also suffer from amplified musculoskeletal pain. Communication difficulties can exacerbate the issue.

A little girl in pink pants stands on her toes. Walking on Balls of Feet in Autism

Other times, toe walking is a sign of an underlying condition like autism. It could also be due to other diseases like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or a short Achilles tendon that doesn’t allow the heel to reach the ground.

The variety of possible causes for toe walking underscores the need for early intervention for any child who shows signs of an orthopedic issue. Most of the orthopedic concerns associated with autism are also linked to other underlying conditions, which can be treated and managed to reduce pain and complications.

Is Knee Walking a Sign of Autism?

Children with delays in motor development, including walking, might benefit from an orthopedic intervention. A child with autism will not necessarily have these delays, although they are more common. Studies have shown they may be slower to transition from crawling to walking, so a child might knee walk or crawl longer than seems normal.

Treating Pediatric Orthopedic Conditions

Pediatric orthopedic treatments can help improve mobility and quality of life. Orthopedic providers can also provide information, tools, and resources for caregivers to help better understand and support their child’s care.

Leg braces and splints help promote a normal gait, or the doctor may suggest a series of casts to help bring the toes and shin into proper alignment. Physical therapy is another common treatment for pediatric orthopedic problems associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Scoliosis may also require wearing a brace for treatment. Although small curves are often left untreated, as they can correct while your child grows, more extreme spinal curves might require bracing. Extreme spinal curves that don’t respond to bracing may require surgery.

Preparing Your Child for a Visit to South Island Orthopedics

A family, including a mom, dad, boy, and girl, runs and laughs in a park. Our staff and team of providers will work with you to ensure that your child is as calm and comfortable as possible during their visits. To help us make the experience as positive as possible, keep these tips in mind:

  • Discuss your child’s needs with the staff and doctor before the appointment. We can make accommodations as needed.
  • Talk to the doctor about previous experiences, and share what has been positive and what has caused negative experiences.
  • Ask for an overview of the typical visit procedure so you can prepare your child beforehand with social stories and role-playing. Practice at home.
  • Prepare a list of questions before your visit so you can keep the visit focused.
  • Bring necessary comfort or sensory items.

We want to know what works best for you and your child, so let the team know about the strategies you use at home. It may also be possible to make changes to the environment or flow of the visit to ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible.

Get the Orthopedic Treatment You Need at SI Orthopedics

We are committed to helping autistic patients of all ages live healthy, fulfilling lives and providing care that recognizes them as individuals and accepts them as they are.

We have three convenient locations in Woodbury, Cedarhurst, and Rockville Centre staffed by expert orthopedists. If you or your child needs orthopedic care, contact us online to request an appointment.

Posted in: Awareness Month, General & Pediatric Orthopaedic Care