Neurodevelopmental disorders are caused when the growth or development of the brain or nervous system is impaired. These disorders take many forms including ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, processing disorders, and learning disabilities. In order to understand the treatment options for neurodevelopmental disorders, it’s important to understand how they develop and what markers to look for.
The brain develops from the bottom up. First we develop the more primitive areas of the brain like the brainstem, limbic system, and basal ganglia and then to higher order areas of the cortex and prefrontal cortex.
We must lay a proper foundation for neurodevelopment early on to ensure proper function later in life. Paying attention to milestones is important such as: primitive motor patterns of lifting the head, playing with hands and feet, cross crawling before we stand or walk, etc. All of these milestones hold important value for proper neurodevelopment.
In addition to milestones, we want to make sure appropriate primitive reflexes are present and integrated at an appropriate time. This is important to ensure proper emotional control as our kids develop into school age and adolescents.
Primitive reflexes are part of our survival mechanisms in infancy to about 1-2 years of age. Almost all children (and adults) with neurodevelopmental, behavioral and learning disorders present with primitive reflexes that have not been integrated. The most common reflexes we see in our patient population are:
- Moro Reflex – Hypersensitivity, poor impulse control, social and emotional immaturity
- Rooting Reflex – Picky eater, oral fixation, speech and articulation problems
- Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex – Poor hand-eye coordination, handwriting difficulty, trouble crossing midline, poor visual tracking, reading and writing problems
- Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex – Poor posture, poor muscle tone, poor hand-eye coordination, inability to sit still
- Spinal Gallant Reflex – Bedwetting, fighting, poor posture, concentration and memory problems
- Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex – Toe walking, poor balance, motion sickness, poor muscle tone, poor spatial orientation
- Palmer Grasp – Difficulty with fine motor skills, poor manual dexterity, messy handwriting
When any number of these reflexes are still present past 2 years of age, we know there is a faulty foundation for higher order functioning and a higher risk for development of ADHD, learning disorders, dyslexia, ASD, tic disorders, etc.
Emotional regulation issues are a common problem we hear from parents of kids with attention issues and other developmental disorders. We look at this from two angles with our patients.
- If they have a faulty foundation of development then they are unable to have appropriate limbic control. As kids get older, we often see that they have emotional outbursts that they cannot control, but after they feel remorse for their bad behavior – this is very common.
- If they have a faulty foundation and primitive reflexes are not integrated, they are running in a ‘fight or flight’ mode because their brain is still wired for survival and they are unable to shut it off.
This piece to the puzzle can oftentimes be more difficult for the families than the attention deficit, and we work closely with our parents to help them fully understand how their child is feeling and what is going on in their brain. Most often your child is a good kid who just needs some help rewiring their brain and restructuring their foundation so they are fully equipped to handle the world they are living in.
Once we understand if the brain’s foundation is set or faulty, then we want to look at how this has impacted posture, balance, vestibular function, eye movements and higher cortical functioning and reasoning. Some of these higher order functions may be intact for some kids, but others may be faulty as a result of a poor foundation. This looks different for every child (and adult), so a full neurological evaluation is needed to understand the individual needs of each patient when it comes to neurological rehabilitation and creating neuroplasticity.
We live in a toxic world and are exposed to many physical, emotional and environmental toxins, that even a healthy brain sometimes has difficulty processing everything. When we evaluate anyone with neurodevelopmental and attention issues we also make sure to evaluate them for toxic exposure from food, chemicals and heavy metals. We work to eliminate anything in their environment that could be contributing to or exacerbating their neurodevelopmental delay.
We strive to understand each child’s specific needs and neurodevelopmental problems. We start with a neurological evaluation to understand where their development is currently and identify potential toxins that are contributing to the child’s symptomatology. We then create an individualized plan to bring about healing. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to schedule a free phone consultation where you can talk with us about your child’s symptoms and possible treatment options.