Academic Difficulties: Dyslexia, A.D.D?

Is it A.D.D., is it A.D.H.D, is it the
Executive Syndrome, or is it dyslexia? But does the label
solve the problem? Only by looking in the past may we begin
to understand the present, and develop a strategy to enhance
the future.

Birth is one of the most traumatic
events to which many of us may be subjected. In a study of
1250 newborn babies, 10% were found to have optimal
physiologic function of their primary respiratory mechanism.
That is the underlying structural and functional
manifestation of life itself. The outward manifestations of
this dysfunction apart from the observation of distortion in
the facial features, the shape of the head, or the posture
favored by the baby at rest are: –

Difficulty learning to suck
effectively

Vomiting or spitting up

Frequent inconsolable
crying

Sleep difficulties

Any of these problems should alert a
parent to seek an osteopathic evaluation and treatment for
this baby for this is prevention.

As growth continues does the baby roll
over in both directions and when prone (face downward) does
he begin to crawl, army style, in an integrated cross
pattern keeping the body on the floor? Does this progress
to creeping on hands and knees with such precise integration
of opposing arm leg movements that only two clear sounds are
audible? Frequently however a pitter-patter of four sounds
may be heard because the arm and leg are not precisely
synchronized in their movements. Pulling to a standing
position, cruising along furniture and finally walking alone
complete the next chapter in mobility development. These
stages in the development of mobility are also contributing
to visual and auditory function. When crawling prone, one
eye and one ear are utilized, as the arm and leg are
advanced on that side. Creeping on hands and knees
stimulates binocular vision coordinating two eyes to provide
a clear single image in all directions and binaural hearing
whereby sounds are localized from all areas. Standing
introduces the vertical dimension to vision and the tracking
of eyes in all directions. Language has been developing
simultaneously from the reflex cry of the newborn through
meaningful sounds to expressive vocalization and eventually
spoken organized language. Recollection of deficiencies in
any of these stages indicates some developmental
neurological inadequacies which may still be manifested
today if tested.

In other instances however, these
difficulties may not be recalled and a happy, healthy
infancy may be reported. But perhaps an accident occurred
like a fall down stairs, off a tricycle, or off some piece
of furniture and there was only momentary loss of
consciousness if any, no fracture and no apparent
neurological disturbance, but gradually over a period of
time certain deterioration in behavior was noted, attention
was more easily distracted and the child became less
cooperative.

But now the children in these
respective groups are promoted to Kindergarten. It is
reported that they do not sit still, they talk when they
should listen, they do not complete a task, they have
difficulty learning letters or numbers. The pediatrician
cannot provide an explanation. Eventually first grade
challenges them to read, to color within the lines, to
participate in group activities in the classroom or on the
playground. The teacher suspects a visual problem. The
ophthalmologist finds healthy eyes and 20/20 visual acuity
and urges more discipline at home. Psychological stress
intensifies and the child is blamed and punished when
homework is a problem and school sends bad reports. As the
months and years go on the academic and the psychological
conditions deteriorate, self esteem goes down and an aura of
hopelessness gathers. Something must be done. A stimulant
drug such as Ritalin is prescribed. Performance and
cooperation may improve while the drug is used, but the
underlying problem has not been addressed.

Consider the second child described
above. An osteopathic physician evaluates the neurological
developmental status and considers there is no major
inadequacy. But structural changes in the head, neck, spine
or pelvis may be identified and attributed to that traumatic
episode. Osteopathic manipulative treatment corrects those
structural problems and the behavior and academic
performance improve rapidly. Such injuries may occur later
in a child’s life. Grades deteriorate, behavioral problems
may be attributed to approaching teenage years and stress in
the family grows. Osteopathic manipulative treatment will
reverse this downward trend and restore optimal
performance.

Now consider the child who did have a
difficult birth and exhibited the difficulty sucking, or
vomiting or inconsolable crying. His developmental
performance was less than adequate but described as
“normal.” His eyes are healthy, his pediatric status is
described as satisfactory yet he is a problem in school and
a challenge at home. The osteopathic physician will make a
thorough evaluation. Problems during pregnancy,
difficulties during delivery, and the immediate state after
birth will be considered carefully. Developmental
milestones will not only be considered historically but
their performance today will be observed. Classroom
activities require integrated function of the eyes in
tracking a horizontal line of print or a vertical column of
figures and in accommodating the focus from the writing on
the board to transcribing it on the desk.

These skills will be tested and visual
perceptual dysfunction will be recognized if
present.

A thorough physical and structural
examination will be made and the consequences of a long
labor or difficult delivery will be identified. Another
area requiring close attention is that of nutrition for many
foods included in the typical American diet also contribute
to the learning and behavior problems. A consultation may
be recommended with a neurological developmentalist and a
developmental optometrist as well as a program of
osteopathic treatment to address the structural
inadequacies. As a result of this multi-disciplinary
approach very gratifying changes may occur without the use
of the standard stimulant medications, and this child will
be on the way to achieving optimal well-being and
performance.

Avatar Written by Viola Frymann DO FAAO FCA

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