The impact of osteopathic manipulative medicine on autism, ADHD and beyond

Kid Doc PicDr. Jay Roop performs osteopathic manipulative medicine for patients of all ages at HSC Health — the patient-facing clinic at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth — but his favorite patients are the kids. Roop, a DO, said OMM can be used to improve everything from tongue ties and latching issues to ADHD and autism.

“I find great joy in working with families and the relationships that form over time,” Roop said. “The younger the patient, the greater the impact to their lifelong health OMM can have.”

Karmen Morales has witnessed the benefits of OMM firsthand. Her sons, Antonio Sanchez, 6, and Alberto Sanchez, 4, have been HSC Health OMM patients for the past 6 years since the oldest was an infant.

Morales sought out a specialist at the encouragement of a lactation consultant.

“Since Antonio was a baby, we were able to have a two-and-a-half-year nursing relationship, which I credit to coming to the clinic,” Morales said.

The family worked for a time with Dr. Kendi Hensel, OMM medical director, who connected the family with Roop about four months ago.

“We were still seeing Dr. Hensel for bodywork, and I shared with her some of our struggles being neurodivergent, being autistic and some of the things we were having issues with,” Morales said. “Dr. Hensel knew Dr. Roop is very popular with the neurodivergent crowd, so we saw him.”

Morales shared that she doesn’t feel confident that her son can identify and communicate everything he’s feeling, and he may have headaches or other body aches that he can’t effectively explain.

“With such a sensitive provider like Dr. Roop, he can actually feel the imbalance in Antonio’s body, and when his body feels better, he can feel better overall,” Morales said. “I don’t know what he did, but we have lots of changes since we started seeing Dr. Roop. Antonio’s going to the toilet independently, sleeping better, and his speech has gotten so much better. Some of those kinds of skills are things we had been working on for three years.”

Jay RoopRoop begins by collecting the patient’s full medical history, including pregnancy and birth history, to identify potential sources of tension or trauma that could be affecting the child’s body. He then performs a full exam and addresses any significant dysfunctions that would benefit from manipulation. A follow-up is usually scheduled in the next week or two to measure the impact of that initial visit.

“Evaluating any child after delivery, at any age, is a good idea,” Roop said.  “The earlier significant somatic dysfunctions are addressed, the less likely they are to become more permanent issues later in life.”

A recent retrospective study of nearly 600,000 children found an increased risk of autism after pregnancies with a history of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or even horizontal or breech positioning of the infant.

“It should be clarified that I do not treat autism or sensory processing disorders,” Roop said. “But I can help children with those conditions to feel better with OMM. If somatic dysfunctions or restrictions within the patient’s body are contributing, by helping eliminate those, the patient’s symptoms will improve. As each patient is unique, so will be the plan that I develop for the patient and their family.”

Morales and Roop began to customize Antonio’s treatment from their very first visit. Another provider recommended a supplement to Morales, but she saw negative behavioral changes in Antonio and brought those concerns up with Roop, who suggested a limited break to see if things improved.

“I trust Dr. Roop enough to have that relationship — to bring things up about my child and try things so that everything we do from an educational approach and a medical approach for Antonio’s quality of life is very tailored to his individual, biomedical, personal needs,” she said. “I feel like Dr. Roop really gives each patient that individualized treatment.”

Morales said that beyond relieving Antonio’s physical pain, Roop puts her son at ease and validates her questions and concerns, which has improved their patient experience.

“It’s encouraging to be able to share with Dr. Roop as a mother and have my concerns validated,” Morales said. “Dr. Roop just has so much input and knowledge to share, too, and tips and things he can identify from his end. It feels so validating as a parent to have help navigating this world that I’m not familiar with. From the very beginning with feeding to now, lots of things are better.”

The results with Antonio encouraged Morales to bring her other son, Alberto to the clinic as well. While Morales is still determining if her other child may also be neurodivergent, the behavioral benefits that come from feeling pain-free are beneficial for anyone.

“Antonio is very closed off to a lot of people, but the first time we saw Dr. Roop, he was holding his hands, so I could just tell he felt it was a good fit,” Morales said. “I feel really like he’s one of the best doctors we’ve ever met. He’s just such a great person and also a really effective doctor. I just can’t say enough about how good it’s been for him.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Roop, call 817-735-2235.

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