Learning Difficulties, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia and Brain Power
Learning difficulties, poor memory and concentration, as well as behavioural problems may stem from a range of underlying conditions that mimic or cause the difficulties experienced. These conditions may include the following and need to be checked to assess the nature and extent of the learning or behavioural difficulties experienced:
- Brain/Head trauma during and after birth (long labour)
- Brain damage by toxins (bacterial, viral, heavy metals, external, fetal alcohol syndrome)
- Allergies from food and environment and nutritional deficiencies
- Hearing impairment
- Anemia (iron deficiency)
- Mental retardation (can also result from heavy metal toxins)
- Sensory and sleep disorders
What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
This condition is usually characterised by serious and persistant difficulties resulting in:
- Poor attention span
- Weak impulse control
There is a subtype which includes hyperactivity (ADHD), and both forms occur in approximately 6-8 percent of the population, and in 70 percent of children having one or both parents diagnosed with the condition. It occurs more frequently in boys, who outnumber girls by 3 to 1, but girls may be underdiagnosed, as they frequently present without the hyperactivity. This is not a new disease and has been known by other names such as Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD) and hyperactivity or conduct disorder.
What are the common symptoms of ADD/ADHD?
- Excessive fidgeting, squirming and difficulty remaining seated.
- Difficulty sustaining attention and is easily distracted.
- Often talks incessantly, interrupts and blurts out answers to questions.
- Difficulty following instructions, playing quietly and shifting from one activity to another or awaiting turns in games.
- Often loses things and engages in dangerous activities, like playing with fire.
How is it diagnosed?
To qualify for a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, a child must exhibit a number of the above symptoms for a period longer than 6 months and have appeared before the age of 7 years, and the underlying causes need to be identified and treated.
Are there other complications of this disease?
While some children may outgrow the disease by puberty, many other problems can interfere in adulthood. A recent survey in the USA found that 75 percent of untreated children had addictions to alcohol and drugs as well as being sugar junkies, which may lead ultimatly to diabetes. There may be Central Nervous System (CSN) complications leading to:
- Learning disabilities
- TIC disorders
- Gross and fine motor control delays, such as co-ordination (may be accident prone) in 50 percent of ADD children and other developmental delays such as speech
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
What does the treatment involve?
There is no simple treatment, and each child needs to be assessed individually. The medical history, previous illnesses and medication received need to be checked as well as food preferences, checking for allergies, intolerances and heavy metals, thyroid function, cranial function and nutritional deficiencies and a treatment plan will be prepared.
What is the treatment plan?
The treatment plan addresses many factors and is an individual program for each person concerned. It includes the following aspects:
PHYSICAL, Cranial function and head injury, Processing of visual and auditory material Equilibrium and centering, reading, writing and numbers, cross patterning and crossing midline, brain integration and temporo-mandibular (TMJ) function.
NUTRITION, Allergy testing and correction, establish correct individual diet, test for nutritional supplements if needed and natural medicines.
BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS, daydreaming, difficulty making decisions, time management, concentration, motivation and difficulty following or giving directions.
EMOTIONAL, self image and self worth, confidence, sabotage, addictions and motivation.
The treatment plan consists of 6 to 8 weekly sessions initially, depending on the severity of the problem. Regular check ups are required thereafter as the child is growing or has had an injury or fall. This may be from 1 to 4 visits a year.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is really a group of conditions dealing with the inability to process language, whether it is spoken, written or symbolic. It presents as a”glitch” in the brain’s computer, whereby the afflicted person has trouble understanding words in normal conversation “seeing” or analyzing and understanding letters, words or numbers, remembering names, has a poor time concept and directionality, needs to re-read many times, has poor co-ordination and balance and takes a long time to learn things.
This complex disability is a combination of disorganizations in the central nervous system, and there are many deficits: digestion, scoliosis, allergies and intolerances, posture, gaits and cranial bone patterns.
This disorder does not stem from a brain disorder or trauma, in fact, brain scans of the cerebrum have been shown to be perfectly normal, if not extraordinary, as the dyslextic brain has the ability to “think outside the box”, in other words, can perform many functions simultaneously, even though the neuronal wiring of dyslexics make reading difficult. Many famous people, scientists, artists and business people are/were dyslexic (Einstein, Thomas Eddison, Agatha Christie, Tom Cruise, Walth Disney, Whoopi Goldberg). As their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, arriving at solutions in a novel way. However, the struggle that dyslexic children have to overcome language problems, can cause them to drop out of school, withdraw from family and friends or even attempt suicide, if self confidence/self worth is low.
The dyslexic brain tends to think in pictures and concepts, which is much faster than thinking in words. So, if the brain cannot make a picture of the word, it is hard to recognise the word.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
Your child may be behind in reading and wrting, reading and writing words or letters backwards, i.e “was” may be written as “saw”, the letters “b” and “d” may be reversed, and the child may may be having poor handwriting. The child may be memorizing rather than reading a book or trouble rhyming words. If a teacher is finding difficulty with reading, this should be brought to attention as early as possible. If caught early, the problem can be reversed. If not treated or diagnosed in childhood, it is not too late to treat as adult, and many adults benefit from treatment or have found other technology such as voice recognition software to help with study and exams. However, dyslexics may have to work harder to become skilled readers.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging has been able to determine which areas in the brain are active during reading and speaking. The frontal lobe of the left hemisphere of the brain is active in vocalizing words (silent or out loud), while the parietal lobe of the left brain analyzes the word. The occipital lobe of the left brain is involved in automating the process of recognizing words (an automatic detector). In the dyslexic brain, the neurological “glitch” prevents the brain from easily accessing the regions involved, the word analyzer and the automatic detector, and may recruit areas in the right brain that process visual clues, such as a picture accompanying the word.
What does the treatment involve?
As for ADD/ADHD, early intervention gives the best results for dyslexics, and ideally, children should be screened in kindergarten to minimize educational delay and to preserve self confidence.
Many of the physical, emotional and cranial factors as for ADD need to be addressed for dyslexia and in addition, special exercises will be given to create new nerve pathways in the brain, to be able to “see” the letters or words correctly.
The number of sessions may be very few or many depending on how well the program is adhered to and if the exercises are done regularly at home. Any other medical and cranial patterns will need to be addressed as well.
Do you find that you forget important appointments or dates? Or cannot remember what you did yesterday?
Do you want to be a super learner?
Brain power is useful at any age, and the old saying “use it – or lose it” is very much applicable for mental function. Brain aging does not occur with age, but with lack of use.
An assessment of memory and concentration will be done at the first session. Frequently, it is not lack of memory, but no focus, attention to, or awareness of what is being said or done.The brain, just like any other part of the body needs particular nutrients, water and oxygen, and there may be brain allergies that prevent full function or cause psychological disturbances. Therefore, nutrition, allergy testing, brain integration and cranial work will be carried out to enhance brain power. An individual program will be made to suit each person’s requirements, integrating visual, auditory and sensory processing.
Special study techniques and exercises may form part of the program.