Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eva Goes To Brain Balance

Eva with her main coach, Miss K

April is Autism Awareness month. All of us probably know a family that has been impacted by autism. Although almost unheard of just a decade ago, it is estimated that 1 in 150 children are somewhere on the autism spectrum disorder today and those numbers continue to climb. In this post I want to share how Brain Balance has helped our daughter, Eva, who was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) which is on the ASD. {You can read about our journey with Eva here}

While studying autism and talking to others about it, I felt overwhelmed by how many different therapies we would need to employ to get our daughter the help she needed. Mainstream treatment utilizes various therapeutic approaches that seek to improve the problems associated with the child's development and behavioral problems. There are behavioral therapies, occupational therapies, social skills therapies as well as language/speech therapies and all of these require daily or weekly sessions. I am so thankful that a friend told me about Brain Balance. Right from the start I felt like the staff understood what was going on with our daughter and they were confident that they could help. For the first time in Eva's life, we felt hopeful.

What is Brain Balance? Brain Balance is the groundbreaking program for children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and other Neurological Disorders. The majority of professionals today don't take a whole body approach to seeking a solution to childhood neurological dysfunctions. Instead they focus and treat each individual condition, focusing on things like attention, learning, socialization, tics etc. Dr. Melillo, the founder of Brain Balance, however, looks at all of the body systems involved, not just the brain...

“These disorders may manifest with different symptoms but they are really one and the same problem; a brain imbalance. There is even a name for it- Functional Disconnection Syndrome, meaning areas in the brain, especially the two hemispheres of the brain, are not electrically balanced, or synchronized. This electrical imbalance interferes with the ability of the two hemispheres to share and integrate information, meaning the brain cannot function as whole. The result is that a child with a brain imbalance has normal or even unusually good skills associated with the higher-functioning area or side of the brain, and unusually bad skills associated with the underactive area or side of the brain. The problem seems to come about because one side of the brain is maturing at a faster rate than the other. As the child develops, this imbalance becomes more significant and the two hemispheres can never fully function as one. The brain is functionally disconnected. Fix the disconnect-that is, get the immature side of the brain to catch up to the other side-and the symptoms go away. So does the disorder.” (taken from Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo, page xi)

What the Brain Balance program endeavors to do is stimulate the slow side of the brain to develop properly without affecting the other side. This is done through daily sensory, physical and academic exercises that are selected to target the troubled areas. These exercises work at eventually integrating the two hemispheres of the brain, getting them synchronized. The popular approach today is to work on the child's strengths, which constantly makes the already strong side of the brain stronger. This is really causing the weaker side to become weaker and is in essence making the problem worse. Brain Balance does just the opposite- it focuses on the "broken" side, or weaker hemisphere, to catch up to the stronger side. 

Part of the program includes limiting screen time of all sorts- including TV, movies, computers and other electronic devices. All of these produce a slowing down in the brain. Thankfully we don't watch TV and Eva wasn't exposed to computers or other electronic devices very often. We really tried to limit her movie time to one a day, if any at all. Ironically, most of these children have an amazing aptitude with the computer. Whenever Eva got her hands on someone's phone or iPad, she just seemed to know what to do! The tendency for parents, then, is to allow their child to spend hours on the computer, because their child is brilliant with one. But this really hampers the weaker side of their brain even more and ultimately accentuates their problems.

Another big component is diet. All children that enter the program are sent for blood work to test for food sensitivities. Although we are all familiar with food allergies which can cause things like hives and breathing problems, food sensitivities can come on slowly and produce symptoms that can cause behavioral problems. Food sensitivities produce inflammation in the body, so eliminating the food culprits will reduce the inflammation, heal the gut, and ultimately help the brain to function properly. I wasn't too worried about Eva's blood test because we had already eliminated both gluten and all dairy from her diet and seen great results. Boy, was I in for it! Her tests revealed over 36 foods that she was sensitive to! This showed that food was also playing a major part in Eva's behavior. On the list were things she consumed almost daily- bananas, garlic, vanilla, onions, strawberries, rice, limes, cocoa, tea, egg whites, soy, chicken, turkey, beef, pork and many others. She could, however, eat shrimp, lobster and oysters- although I don't know too many 5 year olds that like those! To say I was overwhelmed, was an understatement. Thankfully I had several sessions with a nutritionist as part of the program, and she helped me figure out a balanced diet for Eva. I learned how to make things out of garbanzo bean flour and how to make carob chips from scratch! Eva cooperated amazingly well and we are slowly incorporating some of the foods back into her diet. Part of the diet also includes adding probiotics, healthy fish oils (which Eva still dislikes) and digestive enzymes to aid with digestion. As I've mentioned in a previous post, it is vital that these children are on a whole-foods diet, free of sugars and artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives.

We did many things to stimulate Eva's brain to allow it to catch up. Eva had a right brain weakness. Children with a right brain weakness don't feel their bodies very well. This shows up in the way they walk and they are often clumsy and fall and bump into things a lot. They have poor gross motor skills including balance, rhythm and coordination. They struggle with non-verbal skills, have poor social interaction, and are often impulsive, anxious and display poor attention. Children with a right brain deficiency have immune systems that are in overdrive- their immune systems speed out of control and remain in defense mode often causing allergies, asthma and/or chronic food sensitivities. {Left brain weaknesses show up with different symptoms, which I won't go in to- but Dr. Melillo's book Disconnected Kids does an excellent job explaining all of this}

Eva did lots of exercises to strengthen her core and to help her become stronger, both during her Brain Balance sessions as well as at home. Every movement we make stimulates our brain! We also really tried to increase aerobic exercise with the mini trampoline, playing outside and even doing workouts with mom.

They did a lot of visual therapy during her sessions to improve Eva's eye movements. I also work with Eva several times a day using finger puppets to encourage her eyes to track properly. This was probably the hardest thing for Eva to do and she really resisted these in the beginning. Her eyes tired quickly. It still isn't her favorite, but she has improved so much. I now see her glancing sideways using only her eyes, which she couldn't do in the past. She still is unable to cross her eyes which is supposed to be the last exercise she will master which also requires the most muscles to perform. (Incidentally, our eye doctor never caught on that Eva had huge visual processing issues).

We also did daily smelling exercises. I never realized that she had trouble inhaling properly to smell. She has a bin full of spices and essential oils that she loves to smell. We also regularly applied peppermint oil to her right shoulder to stimulate her brain. Do you know that there are certain areas of the brain that can only be stimulated by smell? (As the daughter of a perfumer, I find the sense of smell fascinating!)

Music therapy was another aspect of our daily routine. Eva has her own playlist of music that is geared to stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain using low frequency sound. We cut the wire to her right ear so she would only hear the music in her left ear. Here she is listening to her music while coloring just before bed.

Probably Eva's favorite exercises were the vestibular exercises. In Brain Balance she would spin around in a tire swing and chair. At home we used a bar stool in the kitchen that spun all the way around. Just a few days ago the little girls were dancing in the living room. Eva was spinning around and around- and she never stumbled or bumped into anything! She may just become a ballerina yet!

In Brain Balance they also did academic stimulation with Eva. Here she is holding a chain of her rewards for moving up a grade level in various areas. I think in one area she is even at a first grade level! At home I was finally able to begin working on school work as well. She is now doing Kindergarten workbooks and able to sit through a short chapter book. I am amazed at how eager she is to learn!

We have been so encouraged by how Brain Balance has helped Eva. We have also met other families whose children have also benefited in so many ways. (I haven't met a parent yet who hasn't seen some good results in their child). I have also read dozens of incredible testimonies that all testify of the same thing. Dr. Melillo's book "Disconnected Kids" also has many profiles with amazing stories of how autism and other disabilities have been turned around completely. Most parents are told there is no known cause for their child's problem and, even worse, that there is no cure. But Dr. Melillo says he has seen astounding results with his program. In Dr. Melillo's own words:

"The Brain Balance program is based on my clinically proven findings that the way your child's brain functions today is not necessarily the way that it has to function for the rest of his or her life. My research and the research of others has found that many children can recover from disorders such as autism, ADHD, Asperger's syndrome, dyslexia and others when their unique developmental needs are met and the underlying causes of these disorders are addressed. Even children with the severest forms of these disorders have the capacity to improve behaviorally and academically and learn skills that will enrich their quality of life." (Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo, page 5)

In my next post I hope to share the positive changes we have seen in Eva after going through the Brain Balance program...

1 comment: