Kids are back in the full swing of things with school and we sat down with Dr. Joshua Conzo to discuss how to help them thrive in the classroom.
Dawn: So, what are the most commonly diagnosed childhood developmental disorders you work with?
Dr. Josh: There are a number of different developmental disorders but the 5 most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders are ADD/ADHD, autism, dyslexia, tourettes, and obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. I would also throw anxiety and depression into the mix since they can stem from having a brain chemistry imbalance and we are seeing them a lot more now.
Dawn: How do these disorders develop and why are we hearing so much about them in the last few years?
Dr. Josh: Well, the brain as it begins to develop, especially in the womb, is very sensitive to different outside influences. The signaling and firing parts of the brain, called neurons, must fire together for the brain to process information and grow. The saying, “things that fire together, wire together,” is very true. If they don’t, brain development can be delayed or may never happen! Things that can disrupt this development include: infection, pregnancy stress, birth trauma, and nutrient deficiency – both in the womb and in the first 2 years of life. When babies are born their dominant lobe they use is the right hemisphere until about age 3. Did you know that babies only have about 25% of their brain at birth? Most of this is the brain stem which houses our primitive reflexes or early childhood reflex which are vital for life. By age three to five, 90% of our adult brain is developed.
Dawn: What are some of the main differences between these common neuro disorders?
Dr. Josh: All of these disorders are similar in the sense that they are a brain imbalance/disconnection, but differ in that they stem from different imbalances in the two hemispheres of the brain. This is what causes them to manifest with different symptoms. Typically ADD/ADHD, autism, and tourettes are all mostly developed by a right brain deficit. Anxiety/depression and dyslexia are left brain deficits. We do testing to determine the inferior or underfiring lobe and then decide on what course of treatment we are looking at. The thing they all have in common is that most stem from early childhood imbalances like early reflexes sticking around and the brain stem not allowing the upward development of the hemispheres as efficiently as it should.
Dawn: How do these disorders affect kids in school and throughout their life?
Dr. Josh: The disconnect between the hemispheres of the brain can present in many different ways. Some kids may have issues with reading and comprehension, others could have issues sitting still and paying attention. Aggressive behaviors, poor body awareness, poor eye coordination, poor social skills, even emotional regulation can all be derivatives of brain imbalances.
Dawn: How is your treatment strategy for neuro-developmental disorders different from what parents might be used to with Western Medicine?
Dr. Josh: We start by doing a neurological and physical exam on the child. There is an extensive questionnaire and health history form that helps me have an understanding of how the brain is firing in order to determine the best tests and diagnostics to get to the root of where the problem stems from. The physical exam is an important part to help determine how the brain is signaling and how each lobe of the brain is communicating. I start with looking at primitive reflexes developed during childhood, which gives me an idea of if the brain is stuck in some of those reflexes that may be holding the brain back from fully developing. It’s not just about what is going on in the brain, it’s about what can we do with it and how can we correct it and allow the brain to communicate properly. We are not by covering up the symptoms, rather we are getting to the root and truly changing neurochemistry without the use of medication.
Dawn: How can any parents support their child’s neuro-development right now? Any inside tips?
Dr. Josh: Diet is one of the key pieces that impacts the firing of the brain. Putting the right fuel into the engine helps it to run smoothly like it’s supposed to do. Healthy fats are a key part of supporting the brain since the brain is a large fatty tissue – think: avocados, nuts, olive oil, and grass-fed butter. Proper gut health plays a key role, as well in the brain development because the brain and gut develop from the same embryonic tissue. So, when one isn’t working like it’s supposed to, neither is the other. Introduce good probiotic-rich foods to help build a healthy microbiome. Too much screen time is one of the major factors that negatively impacts how the brain can process information, so keeping screen time to a minimum.
Making sure our childrens’ brains are firing properly can make the difference between them struggling or thriving in school…and the rest of their lives.
I love talking about the brain and neurodevelopment, so if anyone has questions or just would like to see how their childs or even their own brain is functioning, set up an evaluation with me.