2002-01-12 / Columnists

Health and Harmony

Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity), Learning Disorders, Behavioral Disorders, Autism And Related Spectrum Disorders
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity), Learning Disorders, Behavioral Disorders, Autism And Related Spectrum Disorders

The topic is awesome in that AD(H)D and its related disorders, despite being at near epidemic numbers today, remains an elusive and difficult disorder to treat. No specific medical laboratory markers exist and the diagnosis is based on behavioral and clinical assessment, and observations from parents and teachers. Also, the criteria diagnosis varies substantially from location to location. However, there are tests, which should be considered and may be used to detect possible contributing factors and triggers linked to these disorders. Additionally, we need to make parents and teachers aware of what to look for, as early intervention is key to treatment of the problem and eliminating the stigma and low self-esteem associated with it. 

All this and much, much more was the substance of a graduate course of studies that I completed at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Pertinent diagnostic techniques were discussed and, most importantly, the multiplicity of treatments available and their efficacy. The single most important piece of information that I want to share is from Dr. Michael Merzenich, a brilliant researcher who developed the now famous program for dyslexia and learning disabilities called FAST FORWARD. He said that the brain is PLASTIC. Plasticity means that WE NEVER LOSE THE ABILITY TO LEARN. The brain is plastic throughout life. The brain wants and needs coordination and will respond when appropriately stimulated. What fires together, wires together. Events that occur simultaneously synch! IT'S NEVER TOO LATE! 

The brain always makes new connections. There are more synapses than stars in the Universe. The whole idea is to identify the areas of the brain that are uncoordinated and utilize the technique(s) that are unique for that person. This is the next most crucial piece of information.  Every person is unique. They may be diagnosed with a " learning disability"; i.e., auditory or visual processing problems or focusing, behavior or attention problems but we must assess each person individually and not fall into the trap of "pat" answers or the "silver bullet" consciousness. Proper treatment may, and usually does, include an interdisciplinary approach. Testing for a diagnosis is done either at school by the school based psychology team or by a private psychologist who will administer a battery of psycho-educational tests. Recommendations for treatment will ensue. Unfortunately, the treatment options to date have been woefully limited. Cutting edge research and clinical findings indicate that a variety of therapies are effective including but not limited to nutritional therapies, herbal therapies, chiropractic adjustments, homeopathic remedies, cranial therapy, light and sound therapy, biofeedback, behavioral therapy, neurolinguistic programming, "Brain Gym" -educational kinesiology, electrical stimulation, vibration, yoga, meditation, imagery, relaxation techniques, and life style changes where appropriate. Every case must be assessed for all the components before a comprehensive treatment plan can be implemented. It takes effort, repetitively, commitment and reward (emotional feedback). To build a whole person takes a lot of thought, work and love.  A whole person builds a loving family. A family builds a productive community where each person is valued and respected. A whole community creates a world where Health & Harmony prevails. It's a nice thought.  It's a goal to strive for.   What you believe, you can achieve. Please call me for more information on this subject and for a schedule of workshops for 2002.

May the Blessings Be!

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