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Does your child have ADHD, autism, Tourette’s, OCD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, or another brain-based disorder? Or are you having second thoughts about conceiving because the risks of giving birth to a child who develops autism, ADHD, or other brain development disorders is so much higher today?

Some couples today are choosing not to have children because the risk of autism, ADHD and other disorders is so much higher today. Autism and ADHD rates continue to rise and ADHD now affects 11 percent of children. Research shows environmental and lifestyle factors influence childhood brain development and many cases can be prevented prior to conception if parents tend to their immune health.

Environmental and lifestyle influences on genes

A parent’s diet, physical activity, stress hormone levels, immune health, and exposure to environmental chemicals can affect a child’s brain development beginning in utero.

This is called epigenetics—when environmental factors influence gene expression. It doesn’t mean genes are mutated, but instead diet and lifestyle determine whether genes turn on or off. If we turn off the genes for healthy brain development in the mother or the father before conception, those genes can pass on to the children in the turned-off position. Researchers have been able to trace this in up to 11 generations.

Simply improving the maternal diet before pregnancy can alter gene expression in the offspring and their susceptibility to certain diseases for up to four or five generations. Epigenetics means couples can reduce the risk of giving birth to a child who will develop a disorder by choosing dietary and lifestyle factors that favor healthy brain development.

Using functional neurology to help children’s brains

We can also positively influence genes after the child is born by removing inflammatory foods, supporting good nutrition and brain health, and activating specific areas of the brain to recover missed stages of development (such as learning to crawl) in functional neurology.

Early childhood milestones are vital to proper brain development and meeting them too late, too soon, or not at all is typical for many children with autism, ADHD, and other brain development disorders. Functional neurology is yielding unprecedented results in these arenas.

Dropped connections in the brain

The human brain is divided into two hemispheres that work together. It is the ability of the human brain to fire in both hemispheres simultaneously that distinguishes us from other species. The slightest disruption in the timing of this firing can have devastating affects on brain function. In autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, OCD, and other brain development disorders the brain is extremely good at firing short-range connections within one hemisphere of the brain, which may make a child gifted in particular areas, such as math.

However, we see poor simultaneous firing of long-range connections between the left and right hemispheres. This poor long-range firing is also evidenced by a smaller than normal corpus callosum in children with autism, the bridge between the left and right hemispheres across which communication travels. This poor long-range firing can begin in utero or during the first few years of life due to epigenetic influences.

The left brain is responsible for math, sciences, and language, whereas the right brain is responsible for art, creativity, and social skills. Brain disorders such as autism and ADHD are left brain dominant issues, which explains why a student might do well in school but have no social or relationship skills.

As a result of this lopsided stimulation, one side of the brain may become over developed while the other side never catches up to normal, which makes communication between the two sides difficult. It’s like a brand new computer trying to communicate with an old, outdated computer.

Imbalanced development of the autonomic nervous system, which governs our “fight or flight,” “rest and digest,” or “freeze” mechanisms is another factor that affects the development of the brain. These imbalances can be seen as early as in newborns by a practitioner who understands early brain development.

In autism, ADHD, Tourette’s, and OCD, we see a left brain that is overdeveloped compared to a weaker right brain. This explains why these children have unusually strong skills in some areas and unusually weak skills in others. Dyslexia or learning and processing disorders are examples of right brain over development. Researchers have been able to identify these imbalances by looking at how different areas of the brain vary in size, electrical imbalances, and concentrations of blood flow.

Although this is an overly simplified explanation, it introduces you the concepts of how subtle imbalances early in life can lead to significant brain disorders as the child matures.

Ask my office for advice on how functional neurology can help you improve your child’s brain before you even conceive, or help rehabilitate your child’s brain if you suspect a brain development disorder.