FOCUS on Neurodevelopmental Disorders

by David Spoelstra

Neurodevelopmental disorders are disabilities associated primarily with the functioning and development of the brain. The term “neurodevelopmental disorder” refers to disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, Asperger’s syndrome, learning disabilities, and undiagnosed problems with hyperactivity, inattention, or an unexplained lack of productivity. These disabilities may be caused by deviations in normal development and have a huge impact on an individual in the short term, as well as the long term, if not corrected.

There is a program called FOCUS that is now available in the Coeur d’Alene area that is fighting back against neurodevelopmental disorders without the use of medication. FOCUS joins three of the most powerful, drugless tools available today in the management and correction of these disorders. Those tools are chiropractic, nutrition, and brain/body exercises know as Neurological Integrated Movements (NIMS).

FOCUS takes a “whole to part” approach to the management of these disorders with the understanding that there are numerous ways in which normal neurological development can be delayed, stunted, or deviate as a person ages from an infant to an adult. Deviations away from normal neurodevelopment can manifest a vast array of symptoms such as hyperactivity, social challenges, emotional challenges, learning disabilities, and create life-long problems.

Too often we fall back on the notion that there are two main options in dealing with a neurodevelopmental disorder; medicate or live with the problems. This is not true. Proper neurological development, which was once thought to only take place in our childhood years, can be attained after childhood. Neuroplasticity is the term associated with how our brains are able to adapt and change throughout our life in response to our environment, injury, and learning. With the knowledge that our brain continues to adapt and change throughout our lives, we can look at treatment options, like medication, in a whole new light.

While medications cause chemical changes in our brain that serve to mask the symptoms of a problem, they do not actually fix the problem. These medications may grant a person short term relief from their outward symptoms, but they do nothing to spur on the healthy neurological development and function that is needed for true change. If the option not to medicate is chosen, certain coping strategies can be employed to deal with the symptoms of a disorder, but once again, proper neurological development is still not taking place and the symptomology will continue, possibly for life.

With this understanding, the most common two choices in dealing with these disorders are effectively doing nothing to address the root of the problem, which is improper neurological development. In order to address the root cause of the symptoms, we must know how to identify where, when, and how a person’s neurological development was derailed and work towards restoring that function.

FOCUS employs chiropractic, nutrition, and neurological integrated movements to restore and rejuvenate proper neurological function and development. The three tools used to effect this change are not utilized in order to mask symptoms over the short term as happens with medications. Instead, FOCUS concentrates on removing neurological interference in the body through chiropractic, eliminating harmful contaminates in our diet that cause inflammation in the brain through nutrition, and restoring proper development through specifically targeted neurological exercises. When these three tools are used in conjunction, we can effectively address the root cause of neurodevelopmental disorders and see true, measureable change.

To uncover when improper development may have occurred, it is vitally important to understand the order in which proper development occurs as we age from a baby. We can look at this development in stages; auditory (hearing), tactile (touch), and vision (cognitive ability). If you have ever been in the presence of a baby, it is easy to observe that their main way of gathering information from the world is through sound. There is, of course, tactile sense, primitive response, and visual ability. We can think of auditory, tactile, and visual senses as three tools in a tool belt for understanding the world around them.

As an infant grows and the brain continues to develop, they will move into a more tactile phase. We often associate this phase with the term, “the terrible twos!” In boys, it can often be more like the terrible threes or fours. In this stage, the use of tactile function (touch) is the main tool being used and developed from the tool belt. While there is also visual function, it is not greatly relied upon for information. This is the stage when parents often go crazy wondering why their child must touch everything with their hands, run around every room, and even put many things into their mouth. It is simply because, at that stage of brain development, it is the primary way in which a child learns about his or her surroundings and stimulates development of different parts of the brain.

The last of the tools to develop and ultimately rule them all is vision. It is important to understand that we are not talking about visual acuity. We are instead talking about the highest level of thinking in the brain and the proper usage of the occulomotor muscles of the eyes which are the finest of motor skills. Once this developmental stage is reached, a child can begin to “think visually”. Humans are primarily visual thinkers. If a visual thinker is asked to think of a chair, they will picture one in their mind. If asked to think of the word “because”, the visual thinker can simply picture the word. If you ask a child without visual dominance, and therefore a lack of complete neurodevelopment, to spell “because”, they will either try to avoid the task outright or they may begin to form a maladaptation which will allow them to use the strongest tools they do possess (auditory and tactile) to answer. For those children, the word “because” becomes “bekuz” by sounding it out. Visual dominance is the most crucial step in full neurological development.

With an intimate knowledge of these stages of development, we can begin to understand where a person has been delayed and created maladaptation to cope with difficulties. The FOCUS program uses a variety of clinical tools to assess where a person may have been affected along this pathway of development. By using the information gathered during an initial exam process, the FOCUS program can then be tailored to each individual person’s needs in order to remove all developmental roadblocks and begin the push for proper neurodevelopment. This will allow an individual to stop the maladaptation to their environment with symptoms such as hyperactivity and inattention.

It is important to remember that each individual is different and will therefore cope and adapt differently over time. With the understanding that all behavior is present for a reason, it is critical not to miss the red flags when they appear in an individual’s behavior. ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, Asperger’s syndrome, learning disorders, dyslexia, hyperactivity, and inattention are all indicators that there is an underlying neurodevelopmental problem.

In a world that often appears to only offer two choices in dealing with neurodevelopmental disorders, FOCUS is taking a different approach. It is important to know that you have options. The FOCUS staff provides a free bi-weekly informational meeting and we invite anyone to attend and learn more about the program.

If you would like to attend a FOCUS meeting, call the FOCUS team at 208-667-7434.