How Can Learning Disabilities Be Treated?

Everyone learns differently, but some struggle more than others. For some, their struggles aren’t merely the result of personal differences, but diagnosable learning disabilities.

It should be noted that learning disabilities have nothing to do with intelligence, so those who suffer from them should not be misconstrued as being “less smart.” Learning disabilities are, in fact, neurological dysfunctions that disrupt the way a person’s brain processes information.

Unfortunately, there are no “cures” for learning disabilities. However, early diagnosis and treatment can reduce their negative effects. Having a learning disability does not automatically disqualify an individual from achieving academic success. Studies show that children who receive treatment for learning disabilities early in life are better equipped to cope with disabilities and often develop ways of “working around” them.

How can learning disabilities be treated? What are some common types of learning disabilities and childhood developmental disorders? And how can educational efforts be optimized to give our children the best chance at overcoming these obstacles?

Common Disabilities & Disorders

There are many different kinds of learning disabilities and developmental disorders with many different types of symptoms. Some of the more common learning disabilities are dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia.

Dyslexia is a disability that makes reading and writing difficult by affecting how a child’s brain processes language. It is not always expressed through spelling issues, as many people assume; it can also manifest as issues with person-to-person communication, grammar, and reading comprehension.

Dysgraphia is related to dyslexia in that it specifically inhibits a child’s writing ability, although unlike dyslexia, it does this in part by affecting their motor skills. It shares this with dyspraxia, which can inhibit a child’s coordination and balance, leading to difficulties in writing and typing, speech problems, and hypersensitivity to sensory data.

Finally, dyscalculia affects a child’s ability to comprehend numbers and solve math problems. This can be expressed through difficulties with things as simple as basic counting, number recognition, and times tables memorization.

Each of these disabilities can manifest differently from child to child, and they’re far from the only information processing and developmental disorders that make learning problematic. Other conditions, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even Tourettes syndrome, can qualify as learning disabilities.

The Role of the Educational System

Since 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has entitled all U.S. children with learning disorders to free special education services through the public school system. Ideally, each child is evaluated individually so that their unique issues can be pinpointed. An individualized education program can be drafted to help develop their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

Unfortunately, this process often requires special training that can be expensive. Many schools don’t have the resources to fully accommodate children with learning disabilities.

If possible, parents should try to build their child’s confidence and self-esteem by finding what they’re good at—whether it be a school subject, athletic activity, or creative endeavor—and encouraging them in it. Looking for ways to relate other academic lessons through the “language” of something your child already understands is a good way of helping them learn.

Ultimately, though, treating learning disabilities is not something any parent can do on their own. Parents need to be willing to seek outside help, especially from experienced healthcare professionals.

Recommended Forms of Treatment

Treating a child’s learning disabilities as early as possible is essential to providing them with the best possible chance to improve their abilities despite neurological dysfunction. It can even go a long way towards reigning that dysfunction in so it doesn’t become worse.

Both prescription medications and behavioral therapy can help certain children. However, at the Carolina Brain Center, we know that other forms of treatment can be just as effective, if not more so. Our unique holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to treatment focuses entirely on functional neurology, biochemistry, and nutrition. In other words, instead of treating just individual symptoms and conditions, we work to treat the underlying causes.

Often, childhood learning disabilities such as dyslexia, OCD, and ADD result from weakened neurological pathways in either the left or right hemisphere of the brain. By identifying specific these weakened pathways, we can create a customized treatment plan—including neurological stimulation and dietary recommendations—to help strengthen them. In conjunction with specialized education efforts, this form of treatment can help make permanent, positive changes in your child.

Don’t waste thousands of dollars on expensive but ineffective treatment options that never get to the root of the problem.  If you have a child who requires dyslexia, OCD, or ADD treatment in Raleigh, NC, or help with any other developmental disabilities, the Carolina Brain Center can help. Contact us today for more information.


How Screens are Bad for Developing Brains

Two children looking at a tablet on the floorComputers. TVs. Mobile phones.

We spend a lot of time interacting with digital screens every single day—even more so now that COVID-19 has necessitated a rise in teleconferencing and distance learnings—but how often do we consider the effect such interactions have on our brains? What about the brains of our children, whose minds are still growing and maturing? When should you introduce screens into a child’s learning process, and what are the effects of doing it too early?

At the Carolina Brain Center, we’ve made it our life’s work to study and treat neurological dysfunction in patients, both young and old. As technology becomes a bigger and bigger part of our everyday lives, we believe it is crucial for parents and patients alike to be well-informed about the consequences of spending too much time in front of a screen. Digital devices of all kinds are a powerful tool for learning and communication, but they can also disrupt vital neurological progress.

Below, we’ll explain why and how screens are bad for developing brains, as well as what steps parents can take to protect their child from the effects of too much social media, television, and video games.

Neurological Effects

Although not yet believed to be among the leading causes of developmental disorders in children, excessive screen time has been found to have a profound effect on their neurological maturation.

The National Institute of Health’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study found that children ages 9-10 who had more than two hours of screen time each day got lower scores on thinking and language tests. Furthermore, MRI scans of children with more than seven hours of screen time a day showed premature thinning of the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain that allows for critical thinking and reasoning.

We all know how addictive smartphones and social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat can be, but using the word “addictive” isn’t quite the hyperbole many assume. Another study, conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Diego, found that adolescent social media use triggers the brain’s dopamine reward center. This creates a feedback loop wherein the more time a young person spends using electronic devices, the more they want to continue doing that.

Children who experience this kind of “tunnel vision” often suffer developmental shortcomings, as the time they would typically spend building neural pathways through other types of interactions is instead spent repeating the same digital interactions over and over again. This can impede their ability to learn new things, communicate with others, stay focused on other tasks, and even sleep properly.

Parenting Advice

As worrying as the above research findings can be, the fact is that any child growing up in modern society cannot avoid coming into contact with digital screens. Nor should they. As with anything, a key component in staying healthy, both physically and mentally, is moderation. When leveraged correctly, electronic media can be a beneficial tool in one’s life, especially with the current environment of social distancing and quarantines.

To help parents concerned about how screens are bad for developing minds, here are some helpful tips and guidelines to make moderating your child’s screen times easier:

For children aged 18 months of younger, avoid introducing them to tablets, smartphones, and TVs altogether. This is when a child's brain is at its most sensitive and malleable, and normal cognitive development depends on freedom from digital distractions. Children older than 18 months up to two years old should similarly have their screen time kept to a bare minimum.

Between ages 2-5, a child’s screen time should be limited to about an hour each day unless absolutely necessary—such as in the case of pandemic-mandated online classrooms—and parents must be present throughout, both to ensure that the programming/interactions children are exposed to are high-quality and educational and also to help them understand what it is they’re seeing and doing.

From ages 6-12, parents should institute specific times when screen usage is appropriate and when it is inappropriate, such as during family meals, designated homework hours, bedtime, and the like. Ensuring that a child balances their screen time with adequate physical activity, social interaction, and undisturbed sleep is essential.

The Carolina Brain Center Provides Holistic Healthcare in Raleigh, NC

With more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Dane and the Carolina Brain Center are committed to helping patients achieve the highest standard quality of life through a unique multi-disciplinary approach to neurological treatment.

Whether you or a loved one suffers from epilepsy, Parkinson’s, ADD, developmental disorders, or the aftermath of a stroke, concussion, or another traumatic brain injury, we can help. For more information about receiving holistic healthcare in Raleigh, NC, contact the Carolina Brain Center today!


What is Functional Disconnection Syndrome?

Child playing with blocksEvery child develops at a different rate. Sometimes, a delay in development can occur and may require early intervention. While many of these delays improve over time, a child may also be diagnosed with a developmental disorder or disability. When a child is diagnosed with a developmental disorder, such as ADHD, Asperger’s, or Autism Spectrum Disorders, it can be a significant adjustment for the child and their family.

Though these developmental disorders are all complex and offer their own host of symptoms, they all share a common root cause: a brain imbalance. This imbalance often results in a diagnosis of functional disconnection syndrome. Functional disconnection syndrome is where the right and left hemispheres of the brain are developing at different rates. Due to this difference in maturation, the brain is unable to connect, communicate, and share information appropriately.

Symptoms of Functional Disconnection Syndrome

The symptoms of functional disconnection syndrome vary depending on which side of the brain the imbalance is on. Learning disabilities, social disabilities, behavioral disabilities, and attention problems are all different symptoms that may manifest from a disconnection in the brain. These symptoms can include:

  • Difficulties paying attention
  • Impulsiveness
  • Negative behaviors
  • Anxiety issues
  • Inability to quickly process information
  • Reading issues
  • Social awkwardness
  • Failure to pick up on non-verbal cues
  • Unable to read people well

Treating a Hemispherical Imbalance

At Carolina Brain Center, we will conduct a thorough neurological evaluation to determine which hemisphere is underdeveloped. This may include testing primitive reflexes, cranial nerve functions, cerebellar function, frontal eye fields, and routine bloodwork. These symptoms affect multiple systems of the body, so a comprehensive assessment is essential.

Once we have collected the necessary data, a treatment plan will be developed to stimulate and promote hemispheric integration and synchronization. We will tailor this treatment plan to each patient’s needs to ensure the brain can work as a whole.

Treatment for a hemispherical imbalance is crucial. Otherwise, the weaker side will continue to get weaker, and the stronger side will take over as the dominant part of the brain. Our goal is to get both hemispheres working together to ensure the patient can access all parts of their brain.

Improving Communication in the Brain

The brain responds best to environmental stimuli, such as movement, sound, touch, and taste. To treat functional disconnections, the first step is to identify where the functional weakness is occurring. By using primitive reflex assessments, we can get to the underlying cause of the disconnection. Then, if a child has a weakness in auditory processing, for example, we can utilize auditory stimulation to help improve this disconnection.

As the best neurologist in NC, we provide a variety of treatment approaches depending on what the patient needs. These approaches can include:

Hemispheric Integration

Hemispheric integration is a rehabilitative therapy that incorporates stimulation and training of certain parts of the brain. This approach works to strengthen the weak and under-functioning neurological pathways that are not communicating with each other. The process encourages neuroplasticity, resulting in improved academic and social behavior.

Neurosensory

The neurosensory approach stimulates sensory pathways to improve motor and cognitive behaviors, focusing on environmental stimulation to improve the weaker areas of the brain. Primitive reflex training, movement stimulation, and other specific stimuli are utilized in this method.

Functional Biochemistry

Functional biochemistry is the use of natural compounds that are proven to support neurological, immunological, and digestive processes. As a more holistic approach, functional biochemistry helps us find the underlying cause of the disconnection, not just treat the symptoms caused by it.

Nutritional Counseling

Eating habits affect your entire body, and patients with functional disconnection syndrome are no different. Through nutritional counseling, we will help you implement the best diet for your child’s needs to promote optimal brain function. Our team will conduct clinical research and tailor a nutritional plan based on the results.

When your child is experiencing developmental challenges, contact Carolina Brain Center for an evaluation. We understand how difficult this time can be, and will help treat your child’s brain imbalance so you can watch your child achieve their full potential at school and home.


Dr. Dane Published in Health & Healing's November 2019 Issue

Woman practicing yoga on the beachDr. Dane’s article, Balance: What Do You Want to Be, Do, Have? has been published in Health & Healing. This article is about physical and mental balance and what you can do to be content with your life.

In the article, Dr. Dane starts by explaining the vestibular system and how she evaluates a patient experiencing physical balance issues, such as dizziness, vertigo, and unsteadiness. She then goes on to state that mental balance is just as important. When people talk about balance, we often refer to the harmony of our lives. Are we happy? Do all critical aspects of our lives feel aligned? When our lives are imbalanced, much like our physical balance, we tend to think that something is not right.

In a seminar that she attended in her fourth year practicing, she was presented with a question that still resonates with her today: Are you willing to do what it takes to be who can have what you want? Twenty years later, Dr. Dane has boiled what she learned that day down to one thing: contentment — being content in your circumstances and the changes happening within them is how to find real balance in your life.

Read her full article at HealthandHealingOnline.com.


Carolina Brain Center Featured in CBS17 News!

X-ray image of a brainWhat You Didn't Know About Concussions and How Much Goes into Treating Them

CBS17 News featured Carolina Brain Center in their October My Carolina post about concussions and their treatment. Click the link to read this great post and learn more about how Dr. Dane can help if you've experienced an injury. If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion, contact us today to schedule a consultation.


Dyslexia and the Brain

Dyslexia and the Brain

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the US, affecting somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population.

 

 

That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students. These services can be expensive and many schools simply do not have the resources to provide these accommodations for struggling students.

Dyslexia used to be referred to as “word blindness” because people with dyslexia don’t naturally process the written word. They cannot easily break it into smaller units that can be turned into sounds and stitched together. This makes reading a laborious and often exhausting process.

According to a new study from MIT neuroscientists, a distinctive neural signature found in the brains of people with dyslexia may explain why these individuals have difficulty learning to read. The researchers discovered that in people with dyslexia the brain has a diminished ability to acclimate to a repeated input. This trait is known as neural adaptation. For example, when dyslexic students see the same word repeatedly, brain regions involved in reading do not show the same adaptation seen in typical readers. This suggests that the brain’s plasticity, which underlies its ability to learn new things, is reduced. When presented with new information that was shown in a previous trial, individuals viewed and processed the information as if it was completely new.

Experts and parents say there are key things that can help.

The sooner you intervene, the better.

Research suggests early and intensive reading help is most effective. By the time many children are formally diagnosed with dyslexia, often valuable time has passed. Early literacy screening programs, beyond those standardized tests administered, can be pivotal in helping identify at risk children. Starting specific reading programs at a young age has proven successful.

Find something else your child excels at.

Experts say that children with dyslexia are at a higher risk for depression. Cultivating another passion – where there is a more direct link between effort and success – is helpful. Whether it’s sports, computers, music, art, or baking, help your child find something they enjoy doing that takes skill and builds confidence and pride.

Make a financial plan.

Ideally schools are supposed to help children with dyslexia, but many don’t have the resources to do so. That means parents who can afford it often bear the cost of outside testing, specialized treatment. Often this forces families to have to dip into or even deplete college savings funds to pay for the more immediate need for services. Having a long term financial plan can help guide these difficult decisions.

Carolina Brain Center.

We are equipped to test and treat children and adults with dyslexia. Treatment results in improved ability to read and comprehend material, improved performance in math, and an overall feeling of empowerment because learning becomes easier.


Exercise for Brain Health

Which Type of Exercise is Best for the Brain?

 

 

A new study indicates that some forms of exercise may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain. Scientists compared head-to-head the neurological impacts of different types of exercise: running, weight training, and high-intensity interval training.

The surprising results suggest that going hard may not be the best option for long-term brain health.

Researchers know that exercise changes the structure and function of the brain. Studies have shown that physical activity generally increases brain volume and can reduce the number and size of age-related holes in the brain’s white and gray matter.

Exercise has also been shown to aid in the creation of new brain cells in an already mature adult brain (neurogenesis). In studies with animals, exercise, in the form of running wheels or treadmills, has been found to double or even triple the number of new neurons that appear after in the animal’s hippocampus, a key area of the brain for learning and memory.

Researchers found varying levels of neurogenesis depending on the kind of exercise performed.

Those rats that had run on wheels showed the highest levels of neurogenesis. In people, the greater the distance that a runner had covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain contained.

There were far fewer neurons in the brains of the animals that had completed high-intensity interval training. They showed somewhat higher amounts than in the sedentary animals but far less than in the distance runners.

And the weight training rats, although they were much stronger at the end of the experiment than they had been at the start, showed no detectable increase in brain volume. Their hippocampal tissue looked just like that of the animals that had not exercised at all.

While rats are obviously not people, the results of the study do suggest that sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health in humans as well.

So, if you currently weight train or exclusively work out with intense intervals, continue. But perhaps also add in an occasional run or bike ride for the sake of your hippocampal health. And if you don’t exercise, this is persuasive evidence to get moving!


Free Apps to Simplify Your Life

These mobile apps help even the busiest people boost productivity and stay organized.

 

  • SavingStar

E-coupon app SavingStar gives you coupons for the things you need and want (diapers, soap, snacks) at your favorite grocery and drugstores. You pay the normal price in the store and the savings from the coupons you choose add up inside the app. Once you reach $5, you can choose to put the savings in your bank account, redeem them for an Amazon gift card, or even donate them to charity. Think of it as a modern and more fun version of the spare change jar.

  • Key Ring

If you live by rewards cards, then you’ll love the simplicity of this app, which stores all your rewards information and lets you scan your phone in the store instead of carrying around those bulky cards on your key ring. Even if you are not a rewards junkie, you can put your gym membership on here for easy scanning.

  • Cozi

Cozi makes it easy to manage your family’s busy schedule. Through the calendar feature, you can input everyone’s appointments on your family’s shared Cozi account and set reminders so that no one misses a game or doctor’s appointment. The app also helps you create grocery shopping and to-do lists to keep you super organized. There is also a recipe box to help get dinner on the table and a journal to share family photos and memories.

  • ZipList

ZipList streamlines your grocery shopping by allowing you to search the app’s recipe database (there are over 300,000 recipes from popular sites like Martha Stewart and Food.com) and add the ingredients directly to your shopping list. It also allows you to email the list to others.

  • RedLaser

A helpful comparison-shopping app that lets you scan barcodes for various items to see how much they would cost if you purchased them from a competitor. The app pulls up comparative prices from almost anywhere online, including Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, as well as local stores. In addition to price comparisons, it also shows you nutritional information for different foods and even the nearest library stocking the book you have been wanting to read.

  • BigOven

Named “Best App for New Moms” by Time Magazine, BigOven aims to take the effort out of cooking and meal planning. It offers a database 200,000 delicious recipes to help you do so. Need to meal plan? Drag and drop recipes onto a calendar for a day, a week, or a month. You can also share recipes via email, Facebook or Twitter and scan in written recipes that the app converts to digital text. This app emphasizes basic, easy-to-cook meals and ingredients and is guaranteed to simplify mealtime.


May 2017's Gluten-Free Recipe of the Month

Mango & Cilantro Guacamole

The mango brightens up the guacamole and adds a hint of sweetness. This easy guacamole is perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration!
3 Hass avocados
1 ripe mango
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips, for serving
Directions:
Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit from the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin, and place the avocado flesh in a bowl.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin of the mango. Using a sharp knife, slice the wide, flat part of the fruit off to one side of the pit. Repeat this process on the other side of the mango. Transfer the 2 mango slices to a cutting board and cut into ½ inch pieces.
Add the mango, lime, cilantro, red onion, chili, lime juice, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mash with a fork until half smooth and half chunky. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

 

 


April 2017's Gluten-Free Recipe of the Month

Gluten-Free Recipe of the Month

The Masters Pimento Cheese

Of all the many things golf fans rave about after attending the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, one of the most popular is the famous pimento cheese sandwiches that sell for just a $1.50.  The Masters Pimento Cheese recipe is a classic southern tradition, full of creamy cheddar and parmesan cheese mixed in with just the right amount of pimentos. If you are eliminating gluten from your diet, serve on gluten free bread for a sandwich or with gluten free crackers and vegetables for an appetizer.

¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup Dukes mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup diced pimentos

Whip cream cheese until smooth. Add in mayo, sour cream and garlic salt. Whip until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to serve.