What's Causing the Brain Disorder Epidemic?

Final in a Four Part Series

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 to look for the tie that binds.  It has revolutionized my approach in working with special needs children.  This is the last part in my series which addresses brain struggles in children.

Why did this happen to my child?  This is the heart cry of parents who have children with autism, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, ODD, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, etc.  Does anyone have the answer?  Neurobiologists, researchers, and scientists are working to find the key which will unlock the mystery surrounding the epidemic of neurobehavioral and neuroacademic disorders.  Dr. Melillo is one of those researchers. In chapter four of his book Disconnected Kids, he states emphatically that “the underlying causes of the vast majority of the problems we are seeing today can be found in the environment.”

Dr. Melillo believes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that negative influences in our environment are the culprits.  The following are a few of the major contributors: lack of physical exercise, obesity, absentee parenting, television and computer games, stressful pregnancies and births, stressful lifestyles, environmental toxins, and inadequate nutrition.   Dr. Melillo explains, “Each of these negative influences is interfering with the positive environmental stimulation the brain needs to grow and strengthen.  The most egregious is physical inactivity.”  Dr. Melillo clarifies that he is not discounting the role that genes play in all of this.  On the contrary, he posits that there is evidence of a genetic tendency; however, this tendency is epigenetic.  Epigenetic means that there are “environmental influences so powerful that they can turn on, turn off, or even alter a gene’s expression.”  In other words, in the presence of negative environmental factors, genes become more vulnerable.

Can we as individuals stem the tide of these adverse environmental factors?  Not entirely. But take another look at the list of major contributors.  Are there some factors on that list that we can alter?  Because of the brain’s plasticity and the body’s desire to heal itself when given the right conditions, Dr. Melillo’s four-pronged approach (physical, sensory-motor, and cognitive exercises coupled with sound nutrition) is working to change the lives of those impacted with learning, behavioral, and social disorders.