What is Dyslexia/Learning Disabilities and Can They be Helped?

How a kid performs in school greatly affects the rest of their lives. This changes the outcome of career, confidence, and their ability to take on the world. It is reported that 1 in 5 students or 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning disability, most commonly dyslexia. Unlike many other neurodevelopmental problems such as ADHD, autism, etc. these learning problems affect males and females similarly in numbers. No matter how smart a child is during school a lot of the time if he/she has poor reading skills, they consider themselves to be “dumb”. With how high the overall affected population is, this is a scary problem affecting much of our population. 

So what exactly is a learning disability? In 2002 the IDA Board of directors created a definition used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or NICHD that follows. “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

There are six specific subtypes of issues that can be used to further define the specific dyslexia, but we will not get into those individually.

The ability to read and understand what is being read, is a greatly important tool for each person to have in order to learn effectively as well as interact with the world in a proper manor. The National Research council reported in 1998 that 40% of adult Americans did not feel comfortable enough with their reading skills to read a book from start to finish. This does not mean that these individuals are considered to be illiterate, but it does mean that their specific skills were not felt to be strong enough in order to enjoy reading.

Schools and government aid spend millions of dollars each year to help children that are falling behind and have lower than average reading skills. Although the extra attention does seem to help many of these kids, it is a very small gain that takes much extra help and still leaves the child far below their specific grade level skills. 

These issues all arise in the brain, how it is functioning, and even more specifically how it is processing input. A large emphasis is placed on the eyes, because they are the only part of the brain that extend outward of the skull and can be examined without any kind of special imaging. Although many of us take our sight for granted, it is one of the most amazing systems, and is infinitely complex. Very small muscles need to pull at specific angles, open and close to allow more or less light in, and work simultaneously together in order to follow objects, look at an object moving quickly towards us, or just simply be able to focus on another person during communication. 

Once information comes into our eyes, it is transmitted all over the brain to be decoded in order for us to interact with whatever the stimulus may be. We have a variety of different specialized cells in our eyes that are better at tracking things in our peripheral vision, see certain colors better than others, better at slow movement or fine detail recognition, and much more. Once again, all of these have to not only be working their own specific jobs properly, but also interacting between each other in the way that they are intended to. All of these visual inputs also work very closely with our ears or auditory input, which could be another location that can be the point of concern. 

Learning disabilities can originate in many different areas of the brain, and means someone is ineffectively doing their job. The brain essentially is “wired” improperly or “weak” in specific areas, and not firing to the strength and magnitude required to proficiently perform. Luckily our brains are plastic, and this simply means that they are always changing for better, or worse, and able to heal in ways far greater than we will ever be able to fully understand. 

Our brains are the single most complex object in the entire universe. There are more connections between our neurons (brain cells), than stars in the sky. Brains develop on a specific pattern in a specific way, and if a part of the chain does not do its job along the way problems can arise later in life. Luckily nearly all of these issues can be helped with the power of plasticity and the proper input to strengthen the areas of concern.

So what is to be done with learning problems? Firstly, checking how the person has developed, did they hit their milestones? Any issues during pregnancy? During the birth process? Injuries or illness early in life? These questions and many more can start to point the clinician to areas to start honing in on and further investigate. 

One of the first steps in the healing process is to ensure that all primitive reflexes are being suppressed in the proper way. Primitive reflexes are automated reflexes we are born with that help us to thrive at a young age because we are only born with around 20% of our adult brains. They live in our deep brain centers, but most of them should be gone by around 18 months of age. However this is not the case with nearly all neurodevelopmental kids/adults. Suppressing them is easy, but takes some time and active participation to strengthen areas in need of the brain and allow proper growth from there on.

Next is looking a lot at the eyes, as previously stated. Are the eyes tracking objects in space together the way they should be? Are all the muscles working in the proper fashion to help in doing their own specific roles? The eyes also have many “reflexogenic” or automated functions that are checked and worked on to point to specific areas in the brain that could be of concern. 

Many at home games, worksheets, and other exercises can be utilized to further promote specific functioning of the brain depending on the problems of concern and exact reasoning the issue has arose. Sometimes even simply changing up the child’s workspace, or limiting distraction can make significant changes in their ability to focus. 

Children are our future leaders, teachers, business owners, and so much more. Ensuring that they get the proper services and are equipped with the needed skillsets to take on any endeavor that they plan to pursue is one of the best ways to give your child the biggest and brightest future. This is all any parent wants for themselves, and their children. Always remember a healthy brain is the best way to a healthy life.

Dr. Jacob Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

drjakefhi@gmail.com

(563)-265-5494

Why does my child hold their pencil with a fist?

Overall development goes from large skills to fine skills, simple to complex, crawling to walking and so on. The first time your child holds any sort of writing utensil they may want to hold it with a fist. This could be completely normal early on as they are just gaining the ability to use more fine muscle control, but many parents have wondered why their children refuse to hold these utensils “properly” as they get older. 

The most common explanation has to do with a primitive reflex that is still present, and this reflex is making your child’s ability to hold the utensil nearly impossible. If you have not read any previous blogs, primitive reflexes are automated responses that everyone is born with to aid in the birthing process, feeding, learning to move, and keeping us safe. We are only born with around 20% of our total adult brain volume, and this means that simple tasks and decision making is not possible. Instead, these primitive reflexes help us to get through our first years of life. These reflexes work on a time clock, and once they have been used enough times, they should be inhibited by our more advanced brain centers, because they are no longer needed. 

There are a large number of these primitive reflexes, but the most common one that is in play with a fist grip, and other writing difficulties is a reflex called Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex or ATNR. This reflex has a number of benefits from helping a child wiggle down the birth canal, hand eye coordination development, learning to crawl, and more. This reflex should go away at or around 6 months of age. If this reflex stays persistent like any other primitive reflexes it can cause “abnormal” neural development and lead to a number of issues. 

The phrase “abnormal neural development” sounds scary, but with the proper plan of attack it does not have to be at all. All brains are plastic, this means that they are very apt to rewire, make new connections, and even create new neural cells. This is especially true in a child’s brain, which have many times been compared to a sponge. They not only learn far quicker than adults, but their brains can adapt and grow far greater as well. 

As you can see in the picture above as the baby looks in one direction, the arm, leg, and hand on the opposite side of the body flex. This also causes the other side of the body to extend out and causes the hand to open. Now imagine trying to write and every time you look at the page it causes your hand to release, fist grip make more sense now? 

Checking this reflex is easy, and the same way the reflex is checked can be used to get rid of the reflex. In an older child have them get on their hands and knees with a nice flat back, then gently turn their head in on direction a positive response will cause the opposite arm to bend. Primitive reflexes work on a bell curve. This means that as you attempt to elicit the reflex it will get stronger with multiple repetitions, and then finally fatigue or go away. 

The key to primitive reflex remediation is frequently performing exercises to fatigue the reflex, this helps to strengthen the area of the brain that is used to inhibit these reflexes (Supplementary motor area in the frontal lobe, for you nerds). We usually tell our parents to work these reflexes 2-3 times a day or more if possible. Reflex remediation is not a quick fix but will be worth the time you set a side I can promise you that! 

If you have any questions about your child, or would like to set up an appointment with Dr. Jake please feel free to reach out for an appointment or a Free consult. Also check out a page on our website linked below to learn how to check other reflexes on your child.

Dr. Jake Boraas
Drjakefhi@gmail.com
(563)-265-5494

How to build a healthy brain.

Humans are amazing down to our genetic code, and there are no other creatures on the planet that can compare. Although we are a part of the primate family phylogenetically, clearly we are vastly different in many ways. One major difference is humans have the largest heads, yet the smallest birth canals. Besides a considerably more difficult birthing process, this is due to the fact that our brain nearly triples in size by age of 3 years old. We are only born with roughly 20-25% of our total brains. This means that early in life it is vastly important to help out babies develop physically and neurologically. 

The best way to build a healthy brain is to shower your child in stimuli whenever it is possible. This can include; light, sound, vibration, odors, tastes, temperature, gravity, and most importantly touch! Even though we are born with a good amount of our total brain cells our brains are rapidly developing, through branching between one another, as well as developing in maturation. Total brain growth is mainly connecting cells with branches either on the same, or opposite of the brain. 

The more a brain is stimulated the more it will increase in size, connectivity, and speed of overall processing. Success in engaging your child in proper neurological stimulation is based upon: how often they are exposed, how long they are exposed, and how intense the overall stimulus is. Overall the rule of thumb is to get your children moving at all chances possible, play music for your baby and don’t be afraid to speak with your child using a low tone of voice while still in mom’s tummy. Lastly, ensure your child is getting enough sleep to recover and grow. Early on in life baby will be sleeping most of his/her life, but even as your child gets older 8-10 hours of sleep is vital to ensure proper development. 

There was a study conducted on kittens many years ago looking at brain development changes. One of the groups of cats were never allowed to walk on their own. These cats were introduced to their environment by being carried around, and then returned to their cages. In the end the cats eyes never developed enough to see. It is estimated they were able to see some movement and most likely in black/white but overall considered blind. This goes to show how important it is for our children to be moving around and experiencing their environments through exploration. 

Our automatic reflexes that coordinate a majority of our lives during year 1-1.5 all live in our brainstem (area circled above). This area holds a lot of our body regulatory functions, and evolutionary simple aspects of life that are needed, but we do not directly coordinate. This can include options like: heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc. As we develop our brains grow and make new connections, getting more and more advanced during development. The dark line on top of the circles is outlining our motor cortex, which just like the name suggests helps control all body movements in part. This is an incredibly important area to develop early in life because our frontal lobes grow directly out of this strip (direction of arrow). Many scientists believe our frontal lobes are the main reason we have advanced so much as a species, and what makes humans special. Our frontal lobes control executive function, planning, impulse control, and really everything we are as a cumulative person. If early development does not progress properly to allow a child to learn to move their bodies efficiently, overall development may perish. Skipping steps or abnormal steps of development can make it difficult to grow a frontal lobe, and the rest of the brain. 

With a vast topic such as this, the direction can be taken on a variety of routes from: nutrition, sleep hygiene, body hygiene, socialization, toxin exposure, stress exposure, and so much more. All of these play an important roll in proper development, but I believe one of the most important overall is MOVEMENT. This means proper coordinated movement based on the child’s age. Beginning with early squirming, then batting at objects, then grasping at objects, into army crawl, regular crawl, propping themselves up, and then finally walking. Even after a child begins to walk there is nearly 20 years left of brain development so that importance does not end! Make your child go outside, make them get away from screens, take the steps, go for a hike, learn to ride a bike, teach them to cook, sign them up for sports, dance, theatre, etc. These will each aid in growing a brain that is well rounded and equivalent side to side. All of these steps are important, along with others, and will give your child the best odds to develop a happy & healthy life. 

If you have any questions or concerns reach out to me anytime or set up a free consult to talk in person! 

Dr. Jacob Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

Drjakefhi@gmail.com

Handedness and Brain Development.

Your child’s hand preference can shed light on the progress of their overall brain growth.

Handedness is one of the easiest and most accepted way to prove that each brain may look similar, but can express individually. In fact, even most radiologists cannot look at an image of a brain and tell you a person’s hand preference. It has been suspected for years that hand dominance can play into someone’s skill set. These increased skill abilities can be as simple as being more inclined in art style activities (left handed people) or numbers (right handed people). Of course, this does not mean those are the only options, but can prove once again that each hemisphere is specialized in certain activities more than the other.

During the first year or so of life our brains are simply focused on growth and development. In these first days of life specialization has not even begun to emerge. This means that each task a child performs should be completed equally on both sides. This includes; rolling, swatting at objects, breastfeeding, grasping, and any other movements big or small. Towards the end of the first year, and heading into the second a child begins to gain a handed preference. This is a very important milestone to be completed, because it shows that their brain has developed to the point of specialization.

Besides just a handed preference we should have a dominant ear, eye, and foot! All of these should be on the same side in order to show proper differentiation. Now this instantly raises a red flag for many when they think about people that are ambidextrous. Some individuals, including myself, share skill sets with either hand or either foot. When it comes to sports these athletes are looked at as “lucky” to have the ability to throw with either hand or bat from either side of the plate to throw off a pitcher. Although these traits may come in handy when it comes to athletics or simple tricks, this actually is a bad thing to see. With a short review in the literature you will find that people who are ambidextrous have an increased chance of many mental diseases, MS, some chronic diseases, and even earlier death!

This should be truly eye opening to see that when the brain is not working in coherence with itself the issues that can potentially arise. Of course, many of these studies have smaller cohorts and at times are not reproducible in further trials. But just the mere fact that someone has made any kind of correlation shows that brain specialization and development is vital in order to live a long and happy life. This is true no matter if you or your child expresses issues like ADHD, SPD, ODD, dyslexia, or not. It can simply just show because they kick a ball with their left foot and throw a ball with their right.

This is not a scare tactic, but simply an idea to bring to light that most people are not aware of. Brain differentiation/development goes hand and hand with sided preference. If dominance does not show to be equal side to side then that means most likely their brain is immature in some areas, and they likely still have primitive reflexes or some areas in the brain that need to be worked on. Luckily our brains are “plastic” which means they have the ability to grow, develop, and repair themselves until the day that we die.

When these areas are helped through the development process or weaker areas in the brain are worked on, sometimes things will equal out to one side. The more I learned about this I realized that my own brain has some developmental issues, through performing therapy on myself my eye dominance actually changed! Most of the time in older kids and adults large changes in hand or foot preference most likely will not happen but sometimes in younger kids especially, these will be seen as specialization occurs.

Whether your children are young or old, keeping an eye on their overall development is the best way to ensure their success in life. This also includes being informed on signs to look for to track if issues arise. Remember, for the most part no one spends more time with your children than you. If you suspect something strange or potentially problematic, spend the time to find an answer from a licensed healthcare provider that will hear you out.

As always if you or someone you know is experiencing issues that they are looking for answers for do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Jake to set up an appointment or free consult.

Dr. Jacob Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

Drjakefhi@gmail.com

10 Reasons Why you need Infrared Saunas in Your Life.

A new style of sauna is gaining more “steam”, and is an amazing addition to any health routine.   Infrared technology is the most current way to reap the many health benefits of using a sauna.  When you think of a sauna, the old-fashioned steam room probably comes to mind.  You’ve seen one in the corner of your local gym.  It may smell a little funky and be occupied by a few people in any state of undress wanting to strike up a random conversation.  You may or may not feel very comfortable in this environment.  In any case, it can be difficult to fully relax and enjoy your time spent there. We’re all too busy to be doing things we don’t fully enjoy. 

Infrared sauna penetrates and warms your body from the inside out, rather than steam sauna heating the air around you then placing all the stress directly on your skin.  Infrared is a more successful way of heating the entire body, and is a more gentle process. And one of the best parts is the benefits last long after you’ve stepped out of the sauna! 

Optimizes brain function – Heat stress is one way to increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This special growth factor increases growth and production of neurons, your brain cells. The speed in which neurons grow and are created can change how quickly you may learn, adapt after injury, and more. 

Help in fighting infection – An infrared sauna increases your body temperature, acting as an artificial fever. Organisms like bacteria thrive in specific temperatures, increasing this temperature even just a few degrees can help fight off intruders. 

Time to unwind – 20-30 minutes of pure self-relaxation. Our sauna is in a quiet, dimly lit spa setting. It has Bluetooth technology if you wish to play your favorite podcast, soothing music, or even a guided meditation. Or just enjoy your time in silence, and shut out the world for a while. Our sauna bench is designed to hold two so bring a partner if you’re  interested, or use the space all to yourself!

Pain Relief  – Many of the aches and pain of older age can be caused by inflammation. One of the keystones proved in research, is reduction in overall body inflammation helping with sore muscles and joints. Reducing inflammation in the body can benefit any person by promoting overall health.

Skin purification and tightening – Our skin, or integumentary system is the largest body system that we possess. It is also one of the best ways our bodies can remove toxins and other chemicals. Clearing out pores by sweating allows your skin to refresh and clean out built up compounds. Sweating can also help your body shed off any dead or dry skin allowing the healthy skin underneath to emerge. Lastly make your skin look healthier and younger through increased collagen production, one of the primary building blocks in our skin, hair, and nails. All this leaving you looking younger and rejuvenated in the end.

Weight Loss – It has been shown that a 30 minute sauna session can burn between 300-800 calories! (depending on size and body composition). 

Body detoxification – Our environments are filled with chemicals; in the air we breath, food we eat, scents we smell, and more. This allows heavy metals, environmental toxins, chemicals, plastics, and other unfriendly compounds to collect in our bodies, and eventually become toxic to our body. Spending time in a sauna improves circulation, and also through sweating can allow your body to begin emitting some of these chemicals.

Decreased symptoms of depression –  A double blind study done at the Center for Healthy Minds at UW, Madison (GO Badgers!) showed raising the body temperature with infrared technology of depressed volunteers to the equivalent of a mild fever improved their symptoms of major depression for as long as six weeks after a single treatment.  Additional studies show that whole body heating activates areas of the brain responsible for releasing serotonin. 

 “We tap into this pathway because heat makes the brain feel happy.” 

Charles Raison- lead researcher at Center for Healthy Minds

Cardiovascular health support – Heat stress can act on the body like a moderate intensity style of workout like previously pointed out not only burning calories, but also promoting healthier overall heart and cardiovascular system. This acts much like exercise, increasing heart rate slowly and steadily for an extended period of time can help grow new capillary beds, as well as improve heart efficiency. 

Improve your sleep – According to the American sleep association sauna use can increase slow wave or deep sleep patterns in frequent users. During sleep we move throughout different wave patterns in the brain, the amount of time in deep sleep affects how restful we feel upon waking. 

While there are MANY benefits of using an infrared sauna, there are a few contraindications.  If you are pregnant, surgical implants, prone to bleeding (hemophilia), intolerant to heat, or have a fever already, you should not use an infrared sauna.  As with any medication or medical condition, it is best to ask your care provider prior to using.  Overall, it is very safe and effective.  Schedule your session online or call 563-200-1846.

Why therapy may not be benefiting your child (as much as it could).

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

(563)-265-5494

Bed Wetting

A wet and uncomfortable way to wake up, and not your child’s fault 


A hidden epidemic sweeps across our cities each evening. It is usually kept secret and just assumed to be normal, or even told it is normal, but is it? Waking up to find a wet child in a wet bed is no easy way to start your day, but if you ask any parent they are certain it is just a phase and have been reassured “they will just grow out of it.” But what happens when they don’t? Looking around for help online many sources cite 5 years old as a “normal” time to still be frequently wetting the bed for children, and if they proceed to wet the bed later than 5, then maybe that is okay too. Your doctor may just choose to prescribe something to decrease urine production when they sleep. While this may help short term, this is not the best long term solution.

Digging into the anatomy of urinating there are two main centers in our brain entitled “micturition centers”. This is just fancy doctor speak for ‘pee centers’. They are located in our brain stem (pons) and in the frontal lobe, as seen below. 

Although these two areas are “primary” centers for urination, they have to work in accordance with the rest of our brain to fully fulfill their jobs, as well as communicate with the rest of our nervous system. Just like many other issues neurodevelopmentally that can be worked with, this simply means that there are potential imbalances or underactive superhighways in your child’s brain that are not functioning to their best potential. As a child grows much of their nervous system is not even present, your child is born with only about 20% of their adult brain. This means your child has no control of their sphincters which hold or release excrements until around 2 years of age. Depending on overall developmental progression, nutrition, etc. with your child individually, this can be a little sooner or later.

Overall this shows that frequent bed wetting into the late 2’s, 3’s, and older is not normal, however, it is common. Understandably, an accident every now and then after potty training is to be expected, and does not necessarily mean issues are present.

What can be done to help your children with bed wetting issues? There are specific ways to activate these parts of the brain or we can activate areas near their “pee centers” to increase blood flow and promote growth. A large majority of neurological underdevelopment in a vast majority of issues we work with can be caused by persistence of primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are training wheels for the brain, and although they are vital for our initial survival there is a point where they must also go away or they can hold us back. Our primitive reflexes reside in our brainstem when still present, and just working through these can make large changes in your children’s nightly activities. 

On top of primitive reflex remediation, we utilize therapies such as vibration, frequencies, smells, colors, chiropractic adjustments, and more to benefit overall health of your child specifically for their needs, and their body. We understand that this can be an embarrassing and incredibly frustrating time for kids and parents alike so we work to add as many extra modalities necessary to make this phase as short and sweet as possible. Like many other conditions that we work through, this may also include some at home exercises for mom and dad to perform with the child to promote neurologic change. 

Remember that phrases like; “your child is just a late bloomer,” “they will grow out of it,” or “it’s just a phase” are not really diagnoses of any kind, and better answers can usually be found. 

If your child or a child you know is suffering from bed wetting issues and are interested in setting up a free consult to discuss further or an initial neurologic exam with Dr. Jake, schedule an appointment today.  

Dr Jake Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

The Trouble with Technology.

Upon a quick survey in the world around us you will see adults, teenagers, and kids buried in their phones, tablets, and laptops. Technology has totally changed the way we see the world and our ability to access information quickly. This is not another article talking about the evil of social media, countless apps, and hours in front of a screen because frankly I do not believe that is true. Technology still as a whole, has been an incredible blessing for us we literally have the world in our finger tips or in our pockets. This is written to bring some more concerns to light that you should consider, before using your phone to keep your child quiet at dinner. 

            It is hopefully of no surprise that more and more children and adults are being diagnosed with neurologic based issues from ADHD, sensory processing, anxiety, depression, and more. Each year these numbers become more and more greater, but no one seems to bat an eye. After all there is an easy “fix”, pop a pill, and move on. This is also not a bash on the pharmaceutical companies either, because in fact these drugs save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year. However, they are not fixing anything neurologically they are just putting a patch on a larger problem. Imagine that you broke your leg and all you were given was a band aid. This is exactly what is going on, and although it sounds much more extreme, in all reality it is probably the exact opposite. I was speaking with a man the other day describing neurologic based therapies, and stated “the brain controls everything.” The man simply replied “well duh everybody knows that,” and my rebuttal was, “well why does a majority of healthcare forget to address it so much of the time?” The fact is as a population we are sicker then ever but have access to some of the highest technology health care in the entire world. One issue that needs to be addressed is technology.

            First concern that has begun to take ground better is the issue with blue light. For those of you that do not know what that is, blue light is a wavelength of light that is emitted by most forms of technology or light bulbs, and can potentially be hazardous to our health. Blue light is a stimulatory form of light because it releases something in our brain called dopamine, and also shuts off another part that is responsible to secrete something called melatonin. Dopamine is an excitatory hormone and melatonin is the opposite, what this means is technology before bed is not going to be a good idea for any of us. Since the creation of the light bulb our days have been extended into the evenings because we are now able to see even after it is dark. But our recent ancestors did not have this pleasure and our brains still are not evolved for this, and our sleep wake cycles are left askew. One hack that may be beneficial to help your sleep cycle (because most people still are not going to go to bed just because its dark) is to utilize “night mode” on your devices, or download f.lux™ an app to help dampen blue light, and do not turn on any extra lights in your home that are not needed. Do not fall under the impression that blue light is evil, because it is also important in regulating our wake cycle and making us more alert. The biggest concern is the amount or dosage that we are receiving, especially with the rise of LED lighting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is limit technology and light as much as possible 1-2 hours before bed. Also consider utilizing blue light blocking glasses to help your body wind down in the evening, they can be an inexpensive extra tool to add as well. 

Shown above is the rise of ADHD (aged 5-17)  in the past 20 years or so taken directly from the CDC website. If you look closely there is a very steep rise around 2009-2011 for some of the cohorts, with a minor fall after. One of the most significant things that happened technology wise was the release of the Ipad in 2010. Now, this is pure speculation and correlation with certainly no causation, but interesting to see the potential influence these technologies have on our kids. Although technology is a blessing for many things, it can be potentially detrimental in healthy development of our children for many reasons. 

  1.  Nearly all stimulus that comes into our brain is from our muscles and joint receptors. This means that total brain growth and development is based largely on how much we move, especially when we are younger.
  2. The area of our brain called our frontal lobe is one of our most important assets in decision making and defining who we are as a person is largely inhibited while using technology, especially video game style technology. 
  3. Building a strong brain also means an equal brain side to side. The left side of our brain is more based in short term reward reinforcement, and it is tapped into with video games, and Facebook scrolling to keep your eyes fixed and wanting more. Right brain is largely weak in ADHD and other attention based issues in kids, and is more based in long term reward reinforcement. This can be one of the explanations when parents are shocked that they cannot have their kids focus at a family meal for more then 10 minutes, but are able to play video games for hours and hours. 

These are some of the most crucial but certainly not an exhaustive list help emphasize the importance of controlling your kids screen times for proper development especially if they are starting to show any kind of issues in temperament, attention, etc. Understand that although technology is a blessing it was never designed to be a baby sitter to keep your child quiet all day long, and needs to be limited for their own health. I remember back to when I was a kid getting incredibly upset with my parents when they limited my screen time, but persistently I was limited to my allotment for the day. This was a time before all of the new cool technologies we have today, so it is going to be an uphill battle, but will be beneficial for your entire family. One thing that will always be constant and beneficial for your child is something called gravity, and I am sure you have heard of it. Gravity has been proclaimed as the one thing that will forever be constant no matter the circumstance, and it is highly beneficial for us all. 

In closing, monitor your blue light intake especially 1-2 hours before bed and watch in amazement as you and your family wake up in the morning feeling more rested then you have felt in years. Also limit screen time, and this goes for just about everyone especially the kiddos with developing brains. Less time on the screen will give you more time to grow as a family, and connect. Although the fight will not be easy, understand it is a gift you are giving to your child and one day they will realize it.

Terrible twos. A tough but necesary time in childhood development.

Building a brain is much like building a house. Our brains are built from the bottom up, and growth needs to happen in a specific order for everything to be “structurally sound”. At birth we are pretty much run by the right side of our brain. Our right brain is much like the brake pedal of the brain, and its primary goal is to keep us safe. Your right brain also controls interoception, which is simply the ability to understand you’re internal perception, and how your body feels and functions. This means that at birth, although your child is beginning to interact with the environment, they are mainly focused on themselves and how they feel at any given point. We are born with only about 20% of our total adult brain, and this means that every inch we start with needs to be useful. At birth and through year one and two we have one single goal, and that is to survive. Although in todays world for most infants this is not a super difficult task. Our ancestors had a much more difficult time with this and that is why it is genetically coded within us. Once we have reached the second year of life an amazing thing happens to us, our left brain begins its growth process and becomes more active.

Our left brain is the “excitatory” side of our brain, and could be more considered as the gas pedal. The left brain controls something called exteroception, which is just our ability to interact with and understand the world around us. This also means that your child is going to want to be a lot more independent suddenly. It is time for your child to learn, and this is why many of them have endless questions. Although age two is the average timeframe for this process to begin, it can vary, occurring earlier or later. It can be a very strenuous time for parents seeing your child’s mood go from a bright eyed toddler asking about everything to suddenly turning into a screaming monster at the blink of an eye. Each child goes through this brain development period slightly different, and may have varying degrees of outbursts, if any. 

Behavior from your child can be mood changes, temper tantrums, meltdowns, or screaming the word “no.” Sometimes your toddler wants to bite you, and maybe sometimes they want to kiss you, best bet is to flip a coin. Understand although this is an incredibly frustrating time for some parents, this is a time when your child is expressing themselves and learning. This will not be the first time your child begins to “test the waters”, but can potentially be the most important time to teach your child how to properly interact with the world around them. In essence, you are shaping their exteroception. Angrily yelling back or talking down to them at this point overall will not be a productive solution, nor will sweetly asking to please quiet down. Depending on the strength of your child’s outburst, the best solution may be allowing them to calm down before confrontation (essentially ignoring them), or sternly inform them this is not how we ask for things. Overall your child does not understand what they are doing is incorrect or improper, and it is your job to show them the way. 

This is also a time where issues can show more clearly neurologically. Keeping an eye on your child that may decide they hate wearing clothes with tags because of excessive sensitivity may become more apparent. Depending on diet, you may find a bumpy rash on the back of their arms if they are having food sensitivities. Excessive jumpiness, inability to sit still, sound/light sensitivity, food addictions primarily to sweets or carbs, trouble potty training, and many more can become more apparent with your kiddo. These problems can all be caused by abnormal development causing a “functional disconnection.” This just means as your brain is forming there can be certain areas that are underdeveloped, or immature. The good news is with proper dietary and neurological stimulus intervention many of these issues can be helped. Proper monitoring and quick intervention by someone trained in these areas will get your child back on the fast track to health in no time.

 Dr. Jacob Boraas D.C.

Functional Healing Institute

Drjakefhi@gmail.com

Crawling.

A crucial part in the neurologic development of your child.

         Our brains are amazing but what is even more amazing is how quickly they develop and how important specific steps are to developing into healthy adults. Sadly, today many doctors are not trained to emphasize just how important each milestone in development is, leaving your child potentially at risk to not reach his/her potential. Neural development is like clockwork, one step ends and another should begin. These milestones are crucial and can be similarly traced in nearly every single child, one of these overlooked milestones is crawling. A child who skips the crawling phase, does not crawl for very long, or has an abnormal crawl can be susceptible to a host of different areas in the brain being underdeveloped or potentially improperly formed in the long run. Understanding why crawling is so important and how you can help your child is a vital step in ensuring your little miracles thrives.  

Just like our overall development, crawling also has a progression into what we would think of as normal crawling. First step should happen around 7-9 months and would be more described by most people as an “army crawl.” This crawl is arm over arm mainly driving with the torso and legs dragging behind. This is an elementary style of crawling and helps to begin engaging areas of the brain the specialize in timing and synchronicity. The next step is true crawling this should happen about 9-12 months, just before we get up and walk. This is a true crawl on hands and knees. This time frame is important, in allowing proper development of your child. Standing them up, or pushing them to walk earlier will overall be more harmful then helpful to them. Any other type of crawling that does not sound like these is considered to be “abnormal.” These types of crawls could look more like; scooting around on their butts, dragging one leg behind while crawling, rolling instead of crawling, and many other types. 

Crawling helps your baby input sensory stimulus from the environment.

Crawling is one of the first times that we finally get to go “mobile” and truly begin to interact with our environments. Because of this, crawling is a great time of sensory development. One of the main ways that the average person interacts with their environment is through sight. The average healthy person would not notice, but in order for us to fully experience the environment around us our eyes must be able to to a lot of things. Our eyes jump to important or highlighted stimulus, they should smoothly track in all directions so our visual fields are not choppy, they should zoom in and out depending on how far away an object is, and many more things that we do not even realize. Although these things are mainly ocular reflexes that we are born with initially, they still have to be activated and we must learn how to proper utilize them to fully interact with the world around us. A proper crawl helps engage these brain centers and develop ocular motion properly.

One thing that may even be more important then sight is postural control. This cannot be properly engaged without crawling, because it would be much too difficult to learn. Think of it like riding a bike. Most people begin with training wheels, these help us begin to feel what it is like to balance, but also add support when needed. As a child crawls around on all fours their bodies are understanding what it is like to fight gravity and stabilize certain musculature, but have plenty of stability to aid if muscles are not initially in synch. Crawling helps engage our vestibular senses like balance and understanding where are bodies are in space. As a baby crawls around there are specific sensors within the ears that become activated keeping track and tell us if we are upside down, right side up, falling in one direction or the other, and overall just help us even further in becoming stable. This development helps our body control center come online, and teaches us how to activate certain muscles in times of need and relax others. This overall helps in the development of postural control, healthy muscle tone, balance, and symmetry side to side. 

Crawling helps you baby with motor control during development. 

One of the most important parts along with our sensory development is also the muscle activation and strengthening that takes place during crawling. First thing that is important in the army crawling phase, and the regular crawling is activation of our back muscles in helping us lift our bodies and heads off the ground. Next during the true crawling phase is activating of both our back muscles, and our abdominal muscles all the way around. Besides just being an attractive muscle for well defined individuals, our core muscles have a direct correlation with brain health. This is because if our core muscles are strong, symmetric, and help keep us properly elevated then our brains will be able to blossom properly. Bipedal development or standing on two legs, is one of the main reasons the human brain has been able to grow as large and efficient that it is. If our core muscles are weak, imbalanced, and do not work properly we will have bad posture and poorly interact in our environments. 

These core muscles besides just holding us upright are important also in helping us with things like; breathing, eating, and even talking. Hopefully it would not take much to get across the importance of properly developing these. Another big portion of crawling is utilizing our underlying primitive reflexes, which help all of this develop. But also if these primitive reflexes are not used properly and for long enough that may still be present into later childhood and even adulthood. Primitive reflexes that are persistent and do not go away at the time they are designed to, can lead to underdevelopment in the brainstem area where they reside. 

            ATNR (Asymmetric tonic neck reflex)– this reflex helps coordinate muscle tone side to side as the baby’s head moves back and forth. As the baby turns to the left, the arm and leg on the same side should extend, and right side should flex. Then when the baby turns to the right the opposite should happen. This is an important reflex in ocular development with eye motion, helps the baby learn to crawl, helps with hand eye coordination and more. But if it does not go away this can cause poor handwriting, poor reading and writing skills overall, and overall just trouble with activities that would require their hands and feet to cross the center of their body. 

            STNR (symmetric tonic neck reflex)– this is another very important reflex that helps the baby prepare to crawl, and then to walk.  As the baby looks down between his/her legs it causes their butt to pop up into the air and vice versa when they look up. This is important in coordinating motions to help the baby get up on its hands and feet. If this does not go away it can cause pour posture (slumping), inability to concentrate and sit still, and can also be attributed to poor muscle tone. 

These are just two of the many primitive reflexes that our bodies are genetically coded to have. Crawling is important, because it uses these reflexes and others to the point of exhaustion. Primitive reflexes work on a time clock, and once they are used a sufficient amount they go away and the brain develops into the next phase of life. This is called integration, and can be thought of much like building a house. Once the foundation is developed properly the stabilizing structure goes up on top, and not the other way around. Trying to build a brain on top of a shaky foundation that has not been stabilized properly or matured in a specific process can lead to improper development. 

What do I do if my baby didn’t follow these steps?

First off take a deep breath. A lot of these things can sound scary, and the thought of issues arising before your eyes that you did not know about can be overwhelming. I am very happy to report that in the last hundred year or so, scientist have discovered something amazing called neural plasticity. This is our brains ability to grow and adapt and even regenerate cells as long as they are given the proper environment, until the day we die. This means no matter how bad, or how abnormal some things are in your child or yourself things can be helped. 

Plasticity is a slow process but an amazing ability for our brains to rewire, and learn tasks that either may not have developed properly initially or have been lost due to trauma or illness. The first step would be recognizing that something can potentially be abnormal for whoever you are worried about. Next would be to inform yourself on who can potentially benefit you. Any doctor or individual who states, “it doesn’t matter if your child skipped crawling,” or “do not worry your child is just a late bloomer” will most likely not be of benefit to you in this process. Sadly, many people still do not understand the importance of neural development early in life. Luckily this information is more readily available in various locations online, and lots of self help blogs, lectures, books, and more are to be of service for any individual looking to help their child. Lastly, find someone that is trained in neural development. This person can be of many shapes and sizes in specialty; PT’s, chiropractors, MD’s, OT’s, and more could be potentially of service to you and your child. Just realize that just because these individuals claim to “specialize” in pediatrics does not always mean that they understand neurologic development. Sometimes in order to locate these types of individuals it may have to be a little bit of trial and error. 

In closing, no single person on earth understands their babies better then a mother. Many studies have tried to explain “mother’s intuition” through; DNA swapping, shear presence of being together all day, a form of telepathy or other neurologic connections, and a long list of other potential explanations. The fact is in most studies regardless the issue, mothers most of the time understand what is going on with their babies and able to determine if something is normal or abnormal. This is true most of the time, even if it is her first child. Study after study, although most of the time are very small, shows that mothers have this ability. Understand that any professional that will not acknowledge your concerns, is not someone on your team. Building a strong, caring, loving, team for your child to help them support and grow is a vital part to their success. Fire any professional that does not fit your standards without remorse. 

Functional Healing Institute

Dr. Jake Boraas D.C.

Drjakefhi@gmail.com