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Creating Better Outcomes For Autism Spectrum Disorder With Chiropractic Care

Overlooking the Avon Heathcote Estuary in the Christchurch suburb of Ferrymead, Connect Chiropractic has been offering community-focused healthcare since 2018. Founded by Dr Matthew Wild and his wife, Dr Alexandra Skjervheim, Connect offers a koha-based payment system to ensure that sustainable chiropractic care is accessible for anyone in the community who needs it. The principles of koha are embedded throughout the practice, with its foundation of reciprocity, exchange and giving apparent in everything Connect does.

To support those values, Connect chooses three community organisations to spotlight each month. Patients are each given a token to support the organisation that most resonates with them and the winner receives 1% of that month’s revenue as a donation. Recently, Autism New Zealand was featured and received overwhelming support from Connect’s patients, many of whom indicated that a friend or whānau member had been impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Seeing the need for greater support for these families, Connect got to work on how to tailor their care for patients and whānau of patients with ASD. Seed the Change recently sat down with Matt to learn more about this journey and how Connect is supporting the ASD community during Autism Awareness Month in April.

“We see a lot of patients in the practice who have a friend or family member who is directly affected by Autism,” Matt says. “These are people we know well; we’ve looked after them since we opened. And we’ve seen the additional challenges that families face around ASD with financial constraints and potential job loss in order to care for the family member who has been impacted. Ultimately, a better functioning or moving spine means a better functioning nervous system which is as beneficial to patients with ASD as it is for everyone. And what we understand of Autism Spectrum Disorders is that outcomes and functional changes improve when there is greater support, intervention and a more conscious effort to approach health challenges at an early stage. With families who have little or no expendable income, healthcare often loses out. ASD can significantly exacerbate this.”

To better support families impacted by ASD, Connect has removed the fixed fees it typically charges for the first two consultation sessions for new patients, with their koha system applying to all subsequent visits. The practice is also making adjustments to tailor their care, Matt says, and ensure that any ASD patients are given optimal respect and comfort when they come in to be treated.

“ASD understanding is part of standard training for chiropractors but we’re lucky to have some additional expertise through Alex who has completed post graduate study with the MINDD Foundation which trains health practitioners to find the right approach to treat patients with a range of conditions. ­­This knowledge has enabled us to modify as needed to best support our ASD patients,” he says.

“We communicate closely with the family prior to any appointments so we can ensure that there are no negative triggers or anything that causes the patient discomfort during treatment. This also allows us to provide useful information about the layout of the practice and what to expect on the day. Initial consultations are always done in a closed room and appointments are scheduled during less busy periods so we can offer a quieter environment with less audio stimulation. We can also dim the lights to accommodate light sensitivity and offer additional consultation time to make the process feel as relaxed as possible. We understand that there is a huge range of challenges associated with ASD and it’s our goal to make sure we are able to look after those patients with the utmost care and respect.”

This is just a natural extension of the work Connect has always done, Matt says, and he’s eager to show the wider healthcare community that the koha system works. “Since opening two years ago, we’ve taken on 4 new chiropractors and a second space for our practice.” Since taking on the lease next door at the beginning of lock-down last year, Connect has been providing their former practicing space as a space for community meetings, fitness and workshops which align with their values. “When there’s financial turmoil, those community organisations get less funding and fewer donations. We’re happy to provide them with a space to use when funds are tight. It all ties in with our mission of accessibility. Finance should never be a barrier to healthcare and pre-existing conditions like ASD which worsen those financial challenges call for even more of our support.”

For more information, or to book an appointment for chiropractic care, visit or ring Connect on 03 376 4610.

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