Rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have reached epidemic levels in the United States, continue to climb and tend to affect boys more than girls based on Mayo Clinic and CDC information.
To properly treat the symptoms associated with ADHD, not only do you need a comprehensive neurologic and metabolic assessment but you will need to know what is actually going on in the brains of someone with ADHD and how to identify changes in the brain regions before starting any treatment plan.
A simplistic way to explain developmental disorders, is individuals who suffer from ADHD often have a decrease in connectivity and integration in the right hemisphere, specifically the frontal lobe. Conversely, in Dyslexia the left hemisphere is involved. More on that later.
During childhood, a parent may often notice a change in behavior as the first symptom. This may be impulsivity or lack of focus, are easily distracted and in general don’t appear to be able to turn off their brains. The right brain tends to act more like a brake pedal, and the left brain more of a gas pedal in this case (with lack of activity in the right brain aka less brake pedal, you get too much activity in the left brain aka over-firing in the left brain as an example).
Other common presentations of right hemisphere delays are poor body movement and coordination aka clumsiness, inappropriate or awkward social skills, extremely picky eaters and poor nonverbal communication.
What is ACNC’s approach to working with ADHD?
Think about a fire alarm going off in your house. Instead of simply clicking the “off” button on the alarm, our approach would be to locate the source of the smoke, perhaps a fire, and extinguish the fire.
Most standardized treatments for ADHD are solely based on symptom management, which would be like the example described above of the button on the alarm. Central nervous system stimulants are often prescribed to mitigate inattentiveness and hyperactivity related to ADHD. The area of the brain responsible for focus, isn’t firing appropriately, or isn’t integrating with other regions
Our approach to ADHD is comprehensive, and multimodal. We start with a comprehensive history and neurological examination including primitive reflex testing, and specialty diagnostic testing that looks at eye tracking, balance, coordination and heart rate variability. We often run specialty testing like Organic Acids Test (OAT) and Leaky Gut or Food Sensitivity testing. All this helps us determine the areas of the brain and body that may be involved in any particular case. Once we identify the areas that aren’t working or integrating properly, we apply neurological therapies that are specific to regions of the brain involved in our findings, and promote repetitive stimulation to help create neuroplasticity in those networks of neurons. By doing this stimulation it helps these different networks in the brain integrate more efficiently. Whatever is found on labs is addressed, most commonly overgrowth of bad bacteria, and poor utilization of vitamins and minerals or lack thereof.
According to the International Dyslexia Association, 13-14% of the students suffer from some sort of condition that will qualify them for special education services. Of these students, 6-7% will be diagnosed with a learning disability. There are also a large percentage of students who will struggle with reading, writing and mathematics yet will not qualify for the help that they need.
A common pattern of poor brain integration we see clinically with children who suffer from dyslexia is a decrease in connectivity and integration within the left hemisphere.
The left hemisphere is where the speech and language centers integrate, as well as logical and math/arithmetic integrate neurologically. Plenty of students are able to get the help they need from speech language pathologists and reading specialists, both of which we work closely with, but some may not receive their desired results. When these specialists are performing their duties and the children should be progressing at a faster rate, we know there are fundamental brain development issues that are contributing to the learning disability. When this is the case we know it is not necessarily a “learning” problem, but a “brain integration” problem. From our exam, we are able to devise a therapeutic plan that aims to reintegrate the child’s foundational neurology. This consists of remediation of primitive reflexes, left brain sensory-motor stimulation and dietary/lifestyle changes.
By optimizing normal adaptive physiology, many children and educators see changes on their academic achievement tests and report cards. Once the brain is functioning at a higher level, we also recommend that care is continued with another practitioner such as a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, or reading therapist to optimize function since the therapies will now be more appropriate.