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by Dr. Mark Flannery, D.C.
“Is my child normal?”
It’s a gnawing question a mother can’t escape, that sinking feeling something is “off” with your child. The doctor says your child is fine, your friends and family say you worry too much, and yet the thought burrows into your gut, sitting like a lead weight, until the heartbreak kicks in: “My child is not developing normally.”
Childhood developmental milestones are more than how soon your child walks and talks. They offer important insight into whether your child’s brain and body are developing appropriately. Delays in sitting, walking, or talking could mean an increased risk of such brain development disorders as autism, Tourette’s syndrome, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) later.
The right and left hemispheres of the brain develop at different times and different speeds throughout childhood, and it is important that this development happen at the right pace. If areas of the child’s brain grow too slowly or too quickly, and if milestones are missed or a child is stuck on one longer than normal, a child may have delays in walking or talking, be very clumsy, not look others in the eye, be prone to multiple allergies or ear infections, be an exceptionally precocious learner, have an odd gait or poor posture, and many other symptoms outlined in the book Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo.
“My child is great! She’s developing so fast!”
While parents worry about delays, reaching a milestone too early, or skipping it altogether, can also be a red flag. For instance, if a child can read or do math exceptionally early, it may mean the left side of the brain is developing prematurely, while the right hemisphere is falling behind. A child who doesn’t crawl before learning to walk may miss out on important brain development.
How do you know if your child’s brain is on track? The My Child Without Limits Advisory Committee website offers a chart with important milestones. Click here to view it. .
Of course, general guidelines are just that – general. Some children will be ahead of the curve, while others are a little behind. And despite official charts, expert opinions on milestones vary.
Problems with behavior, health, or learning can also provide important clues as to whether brain development is an issue. Parents of children with developmental problems like autism, ADHD and anxiety often report they were colicky as babies, or suffer from chronic allergies, ear infections, yeast infections, asthma, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, or behavioral issues, to name a few. These children often have trouble sleeping, may have multiple food intolerances, or can be extremely picky eaters.
“While the baby is still in the womb, the nutritional status of the mother and the health of her immune system profoundly affect the development of the fetal brain,” says Dr. Martin Stites, an owner of the Brain Balance Center of Encino, a center that uses non-pharmaceutical, integrative neurological based approaches to help children with neurobehavioral disorders. “Children today face more health challenges than ever before. Environmental toxins, lack of proper nutrition and poor food quality, skyrocketing rates of autoimmune diseases and inflammatory disorders affecting mothers, and the stress and hectic pace of modern American life can directly and indirectly impact the neurological development of the fetus.”
With one in 88 children now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an almost 80 percent increase in the last 10 years, childhood brain developmental disorders are clearly a modern concern. Fortunately, even though a brain issue typically starts in the womb, a child’s brain is highly malleable and there is a good chance to make up for missed stages of growth. Experts can now synchronize the developing brain’s hemispheres by:
This approach is based on a thorough understanding of the integration between brain development, physical and cognitive skills, and behavior. It can fully restore, or at least largely rehabilitate, brain function in many children and teens.
Dr. Mark Flannery, D.C., is a member of the founding team for the Brain Balance Achievement Center in Encino (http://www.brainbalancecenters.com), which helps children overcome functional disconnections responsible for a host of difficulties ranging from behavioral, academic and social challenges, such as ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s, Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
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