Growing a brain is similar to growing a tree. A trees strongest, and most important part is usually the roots. The roots are where the nutrients come from, and without them, a tree would just fall over and die. This can be compared to a brain in the way that a brains initial growth and development begins in the brainstem (like the roots). The brainstem is mainly under control when we are first born it holds reflexes to keep us safe, and aids in proper development. At some point the brainstem needs to hand over the controls to the rest of the brain to take over during the maturation process. 

As a tree begins to grow, large limbs reach out and eventually blossom into leaves, but this is all dependent on proper supply from the roots. A brain is the same way, initially growing from the brainstem upwards into an area called the motor cortex and then blossoming in all directions into proper development of a brain through connections in our brain cells called neurons. This process of development and neurologic expansion is all dependent on the idea that initial growth has properly been achieved, but the fact your child is in need of therapy indicates that somewhere during development something did not go as planned. 

Luckily this is nothing to be worried about, because proper development can still be achieved with the correct modalities. The problem is most therapies involve advanced tasks in problem solving, speech, advanced movements, and more. If a brain did not mature properly, areas of the brain that control these difficult tasks is not reachable. It would be much like trying to put leaves on a tree that has not grown limbs, it is simply not possible. 

Underdevelopment of the nervous system is many times held up by things called primitive reflexes. Some of these reflexes come online before birth, and help us in many ways to thrive when we are young. During the first two years of life our brains go through a specific sequence in growth with some reflexes going away, and new ones coming online. Many times abnormal development can be linked to just the persistence of these reflexes past their time frame. 

These reflexes may also return even if they did go away at their intended time initially. This is a protective mechanism that our brain goes through during trauma, both physically or emotionally. Our brains actually have the ability to “unhook” certain pathways in the brain to avoid remembering trauma or to salvage areas that are still functioning properly after physical trauma (I.e, concussion, stroke, etc). Similarly these reflexes need to be worked through again, additionally adding advanced therapies to promote growth of these pathways again. 

The goal of this write up, is not in any way to discourage therapy. Once proper bottom-up growth of the brain is achieved therapy is vital to continue growth and development of the brain for your child. This is simply to shed light on the fact that proper development must be ensured before working through issues, and can be a potential barrier if progress in care seems slow. Under development of the nervous system can cause more of a wrestling match then the synchronous harmony it should be and may cause; sensory processing, dyslexia, speech issues, behavioral problems, and nearly every other neurodevelopmental delay in children. Beginning with working through developmental milestones will lead to a smoother progression in learning advanced tasks, and overall progress. 

If your child or someone you know is experiencing issues in development, school, interacting with others, or have other concerns, reach out anytime for a free consult. We would be honored to come along side you in your child’s care to ensure they become the proper adults they aspire to be one day. 

Dr. Jake Boraas

Functional Healing Institute


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