Part One: Understanding the Minds of Disconnected Kids
When I began my practice over eight years ago, a mom of a special needs child strongly recommended that I read the book Disconnected Kids by Dr.Robert Melillo, a world-renowned chiropractic neurologist, professor, and researcher in childhood neurological disorders. The groundbreaking ideas which Dr. Melillo shared became one of the pillars of my practice. Instead of viewing each neurological disorder in isolation, I began looking for the tie that binds. It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children.
What do an apple, orange, peach, and banana have in common? Correct – they are all fruits. What do dyslexia, ADHD, autism, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and Tourette syndrome have in common? According to Dr. Melillo, they are all the same problem - a brain imbalance - manifesting with different symptoms. In his book Disconnected Kids, Dr. Robert Melillo coins a term to describe this brain imbalance: Functional Disconnection Syndrome (FDS).
Human brains were designed to function as a whole – in harmony. The left and right hemispheres of the brain perform different functions which allow us to communicate and interact with the world. This communication takes the form of continuous electrical impulses between the hemispheres. If, however, the right and left hemispheres do not mature at the same rate, Dr. Melillo contends that the electrical impulses between the two sides get out of balance; thus, the two hemispheres cannot effectively share and integrate information. Thanks to the advent of new evaluative capabilities and diagnostic imaging, neuroscientists now know that “virtually all of the conditions that adversely affect behavior and learning are actually related to one problem – an imbalance of electrical activity between areas of the brain, especially the right and left hemispheres.” So what is the significance of this finding? In FDS, the brain itself is not damaged. Dr. Melillo concludes, “If the brain is not injured, then the disconnect can be fixed.”
Disconnected children are different from other children because they feel different than other children. Dr. Melillo explains that these children are disconnected in four major areas: they are disconnected from their bodies, their senses, their emotions, and other people. The lack of focus, emotional outbursts, impulsive actions, learning difficulties, and social isolation are windows into the electrical disharmony within the brain.
The wonderful news is that the brain can change! This ability to change and correct improper growth patterns is known as brain plasticity. According to Dr. Melillo, “If the brain is given proper stimulation, it has the ability to both physically and chemically change. The brain begins functioning again as a whole. In essence, disconnected children become reconnected children.”
(Part two in this series will address how the developing brain is wired.)