For Children

We begin life ready with a large palate of universal, reflexive movements. Rolling over, reaching for a desired object, hand grasping or crawling are motor development patterns that appear to be essential for the future development of reading, writing, memory and social interactions. In a healthy child, a particular movement or series of movements are investigated, enjoyed, and the corresponding neural circuits created. Once firmly established these circuits are moved to lower levels of the brain for connection to the whole body movement system. These neurological connections, first established to sequence gross motor movement, get reused later to help sequence and adjust mental acts and thoughts. Adequate movement and sensory stimulation, in the presence of another loving human being, are essential for normal human development.

Working with infants to reach their full developmental potential is the greatest gift we can give our children – and the most cost-effective.

Brain Wiring

By the time a baby is 6 months old the brain has doubled in weight. Essential, life-determining synaptic connections are being formed even before your child can smile. These complex circuits shape our future thinking, feeling and behavior and they form at an astonishing rate. By the age of three a young child’s brain has twice the number of nerve connections that it will have as an adult. Which connections survive to adulthood are largely determined by which connections get reinforced. The kind of care your child receives, the behavior you model, and the kind of activities and experiences she is exposed to will influence which connections ultimately survive. This is the most important “use it or lose it” period in our entire life and such rapid brain growth will never happen again.

Early on the part of the brain that is developing most rapidly is the brain stem and the sensory-motor system. Every day is filled with new information, sights, smells and movement possibilities. A safe, nurturing environment, full of age appropriate motor challenges creates new synapses and strengthens ones already formed. The brainstem is where basic survival information is regulated and sensory-motor programs integrated and it is based in present time. When a baby is cold or hungry, she responds with a cry of distress, and continues crying until the discomfort stops. She can’t predict whether it will stop in five seconds or five hours. It is a real and present danger. One of the most important aspects of this period is the baby’s need to establish “Where am I and am I safe?” A child cannot successfully develop more sophisticated neurological capacities until the sensory-motor system is fully functional. When this happens and there is sufficient nurturing, the child will develop affect-regulation or the ability to control her own sensory-motor and survival systems. Once the feeling of safety is achieved, exploration and independence are the normal progression. Me! and Mine! are frequent exclamations as the infant explores the boundaries between herself and her surroundings. Because these basic neural networks of the sensory-motor system are at the foundation of all further growth, gaps or underdevelopment at this stage can have ramifications throughout life.

The prefrontal cortex also develops towards the end of the first year and its development is tightly linked to caregiver interactions. The affect that is modeled by the caregiver imprints on the baby’s prefrontal cortex and has a determining effect on the child’s world view, sense of self, and ability to relate to others. The second major developmental phase of the prefrontal cortex happens in later adolescence.

When Things Go Wrong

During the first 18 months of life, your child’s brain development is focused largely on learning how to move the body, and learning to make sense of the information coming in through the senses. When a child falls, or is fussy, is irritated by loud noises or strong smells, or fails to achieve a developmental milestone, or uses one side of the body to the exclusion of the other, gets ill too often, or exhibits a regressive shift in behavior – then it is time to pay attention! Intervening early saves wear and tear on a whole family and can save a life-time of difficulties for the child. There are a variety of alternative therapies that can help your child fill the gaps when these primary developmental stages fail to integrate.

Immunity

The other important system that has very rapid development during this period is the immune system. The infant is born immuno-suppressed and receives it’s first burst of immunity from the mother in the form of colostrum. As the infant develops she receives further immunological protection from breast milk while her own system is developing. As a species we are under an unprecedented immunological challenge as our environment becomes increasingly toxic, our food sources less and less nutritious, and our predilections more and more towards processed foods – pseudo food substances we were never meant to eat. We are also in the first century of adjusting to early childhood immunizations and the jury is still out on the long term effects these will have on our natural immunity as a species.

When is Infant Reflex work helpful for Infants?

The movement “alphabet” of Brain Gym® – like so many movement modalities – finds many of its origins in infant reflexes. Infant reflexes are an instinctual, universal movement language that all human beings share. These automatic movement patterns are the way a baby “knows” to do everything it needs to do to survive – from turning over in the womb, to wriggling through the birth canal, to taking its first breath, to bonding with mom, to sucking, crawling, walking . . . the list is endless.

These movement patterns are hard-wired to the brain stem, which means that the baby has no choice about performing them once they are stimulated. It’s like when the doctor hits your knee with the little rubber hammer – your foot flies out involuntarily.

Because infant reflexes are wired into every aspect of human development, it’s good to make sure that the reflexes are progressing normally. There are “ballpark” times for different reflexes to appear, and to integrate into higher functions of the brain. When development seems to be going more slowly than normal, it’s a good time to check infant reflex responses. By doing these movements to and with the baby, it is often possible to “jumpstart” the natural developmental processes in a natural way.

Even when development is going as planned, it’s helpful to learn about and use these natural movements as we play with our babies. Infant reflex play can grease the wheels of an already happy life.

When is chiropractic helpful for infants?

At the Lydian Center we use a unique chiropractic technique called Axial Stability Method®. It is a low-force technique appropriate for all ages. Our unusual approach can transform a child if the underlying problem is biomechanical instability. A difficult birth, infant seizures, a bad fall, bumps on the head, surgery, can all cause biomechanical inefficiency and instability.

Infants appear to recover quickly from bumps or falls, and indeed usually do! But sometimes, though the surface injury heals perfectly, the child is left with a hidden biomechanical instability. The developing sensory-motor system, so dependent upon movement patterns, begins to show strain as the body struggles with the mechanics of movement. Our clinical experience suggests that behavioral problems, emotional irritability and frustration, sensory integration problems, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, neurological delays, unequal use of the limbs, learning disabilities, language delays and visual problems are signs that there might be underlying biomechanical injury.

At this age, just a few chiropractic treatments can have a miraculous affect: physical difficulties disappear, behavior improves, the immune system bounces back and the child eases back into the blue print of development.

When is Homeopathy helpful for infants?

Homeopathy excels at preventing patterns of illness, such as chronic colds or ear infections. Antibiotics may seem to work well for a particular ear infection, but they can weaken the immune system and increase the chance of recurrence. A constitutional homeopathic remedy can strengthen the child’s (or adult’s) ability to withstand the microbes that are a natural part of our internal and external environment.

Because homeopathic remedies strengthen the whole person (mental, emotional, physical, energetic and behavioral), a remedy that works well to strengthen the immune system is likely to also help other problems – colic or constipation, sleep problems, or incessant crying. Homeopathy can be so effective for teething pain, eliminating the pain instantaneously, that babies kick and flail with enthusiasm when they see their mothers opening the tube.

Homeopathy can also help resolve emotional trauma – for example, in a baby who has been separated from her birth mother through adoption, or because of a health emergency for mother or newborn which requires hospitalization. This experience of abandonment can result in separation anxiety, in a child who clings like a little barnacle to her mother and cries inconsolably when separated from her. Homeopathy can help heal the emotional trauma and allow a child to grow into age-appropriate independence.

Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body’s healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. They are easy to administer to babies, either by tucking a tiny pellet inside their mouth or by dissolving the pellet in water and swabbing the water on the baby’s lips. They do not need to be swallowed to be effective. Instead, they work as soon as they touch the mucus membranes in and around the mouth. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a child swallows a whole bottle by mistake.

Begabati can evaluate children for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their children at home the next time.

Complex body and brain health challenges in infancy and childhood often require a team of specialists. Integrative pediatric neurology can bridge the diagnostic and assessment strengths of conventional medicine with the additional insights provided by functional and integrative medicine labs and testing. It can also help represent and explain this information, and the rationales for the therapeutics approaches on the integrative/functional medicine side, to more conventional practitioners. It moves beyond the focus on “the problem” to aim at optimizing function in the whole baby or child.

During the first three years of life, a child learns more at a greater rate than he will ever learn again. These are exciting times! As the motor system becomes more developed and the major gross motor tasks of crawling, walking, running, jumping, and climbing are well on their way, the toddler begins to explore the differences between themselves and others. Solitary or parallel play gives way to an awareness and desire to play with peers. “Where is it and who are you?” is explored as the mid-brain, or limbic system, becomes a hot bed of brain development. Establishing emotional connection to people and objects paves the way for the natural development of social community and joyful cooperation. This part of the brain is involved with the present and the past. A large part of memory is stored here and it is the seat of emotions. The toddler stands up and begins to make distinctions between self and others. Generosity, sharing, and compassion for others are natural human responses, but develop fully only if the child has these human responses modeled for them by their parents and the supporting community around them. The development of the limbic system relies on a solid sensory-motor system foundation. It builds upon what was learned before through infant movement reflex patterns and information absorbed and processed by the sensory system.

Ages four to seven

Between the ages of four and seven, the child’s right brain is at the forefront of development. This is the time of repetition, more complex movement patterns and imaginative play. The right brain is involved in all new learning. Repetitive story telling, “do it again!” activities, and endless “why Mommy?” questions hone neural connections for faster processing. Future problem solving abilities are grounded in the stories and activities explored in imaginative play. The right hemisphere has direct connections to the limbic system and the brainstem and thus strong connections to the entire brain as a functioning unit. It has the ability to understand past, present and future and maintains a holistic perspective. This is the foundation for intelligence – our ability to weigh options in the context of the heart and emotional systems, and respond creatively to new and unknown situations. At about age seven another big shift happens when the site of major development moves to the left hemisphere and the ability to sequence and code is ushered in. This is when the child is ready for school and academic work. For some children this shift happens earlier and for others later. When preparing a child for school readiness it is helpful to assess where in this developmental process they are. Many children are not neurologically ready for near focus, left brain work when they enter the school system. Parents, educators and alternative health therapists need to work together to assist the child to have a successful school experience. If possible it is better to delay the start of school than to send a child too early. Adequate development of the right brain allows for future creative thinking, the ability to see the forest and not just the trees, and gives the gift of the big picture.

When things go wrong

At this age, the difficulties and delays can be anywhere from subtle to quite pronounced and the motor system, the underpinning of the whole nervous system, may start to show strain. The child who learned to crawl and walk just fine, has a “funny” run, can hop on only one leg or can’t learn to skip, or is awkward climbing on a play structure. These difficulties can spill into unexplained fears, obstinacy, inability to share, and out of control behavior. Toilet training can be a challenge. The child holds on to rigid patterns and can’t “flow” with his environment. These behavioral difficulties can also manifest independently of motor or physical problems. All these patterns can be the result of physical injury, energetic disturbance, toxic exposure or immunological injury, emotional neglect or abuse, or any other derailment of mother nature’s plan for development. Depending upon the cause of the derailment many of our alternative therapies can help a child get back on track and help the brain to reboot.

When is Brain Gym® helpful for young children?

Although it’s helpful to think in terms of categories of development: sensory-motor, emotional, cognitive, etc. – in fact, all aspects of human development are linked to one another. Sometimes, difficulties are caused by one primary factor – structure, for instance. Here, chiropractic or craniosacral therapy alone may take care of the issue, allowing the rest of the system to operate normally.

But often, difficulties have more than one facet that needs to be addressed. And often, once the “primary” issue has been addressed, integrating that new information into the system doesn’t happen – or happen fully. Especially when a problem has been ingrained over months or years, the neurological pathways enforcing it are strongly in place. The pain or confusion or misdirected behavior can continue once the cause has been removed, simply from habit.

At this point, Brain Gym and Infant Reflexes come into play as effective rewiring and integrating tools. Brain Gym is a simple movement alphabet that directly addresses the neurology, and can release and replace habitual patterns of thought, feeling and movement. The Brain Gym balance process is a series of educational steps that activates intention toward a positive end.

Infant Reflexes are a universal, instinctual movement language directly tied to all aspects of human development. By recapitulating these movements, we can effectively “go back” and “redo” the necessary developmental pathways for rewiring gross and fine motor, emotional stress, and cognitive processes and social behavior.

Working with children aged two to seven involves a lot of play. We draw, build with blocks, sing and play musical instruments, roll on physioballs, and engage in fingerplay and other movement games. Through play, we incorporate all the necessary developmental movements in an atmosphere of fun and self-expression. At least as important as any particular “therapeutic” technique is the feeling of joy and self-mastery.

When is chiropractic helpful for young children?

Axial Stability Method®, the only chiropractic technique practiced at the Lydian Center, is appropriate for all ages. Our unusual, entirely low-force approach can transform a child if the underlying problem is biomechanical instability. A difficult birth, infant seizures, a bad fall, bumps on the head, surgery, can all cause biomechanical inefficiency and instability.

As a child becomes upright, the opportunity for exploration and injury(!) increases. Young children appear to recover quickly from bumps or falls, and indeed usually do! But sometimes, though the surface injury heals perfectly, the child is left with a hidden biomechanical instability. By this age, those instabilities can become easier to detect. The developing sensory-motor system, so dependent upon movement patterns, will begin to show strain as the body struggles with the mechanics of movement. Often a child will have difficulty with the more advanced weight bearing activities such as hopping and skipping or they have an awkward run. Our clinical experience suggests that behavioral problems, emotional irritability and frustration, sensory integration problems, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, other neurological delays, unequal use of the limbs, learning disabilities, language delays and visual problems are also signs that there might be underlying biomechanical injury.

At this age, children usually love coming to the chiropractor. They can tell it is a place to get help. Many young patients tell their parents when it’s time for a visit. If they don’t let you know, watch for signs of regressive behaviors, a sudden bad cold or ear infection, or a degeneration of physical skills. Often, just a few chiropractic treatments can restore the motor system to efficient functioning and physical difficulties disappear, behavior improves and the immune system bounces back.

When is Homeopathy helpful for preschoolers?

Homeopathy excels at preventing patterns of illness, such as chronic colds or ear infections. Antibiotics may seem to work well for a particular ear infection, but they can weaken the immune system and increase the chance of recurrence. A constitutional homeopathic remedy can strengthen the child’s (or adult’s) ability to withstand the microbes that are a natural part of our internal and external environment.

Begabati has children in her practice who have been raised entirely with homeopathy – children from India, Germany, France, and other parts of the world where homeopathy is part of the national health care system – and their mothers report, “My child is the only one in her class who never gets sick and has never been on antibiotics.”

Because homeopathic remedies strengthen the whole person (mental, emotional, physical, energetic and behavioral), a remedy that works well to strengthen the immune system is likely to also help other problems. Typical problems for which homeopathy can help a preschool-age-child include digestive problems and behavioral issues such as excessive defiance and destructiveness.

If a child is in constant motion and cannot stay with one activity for more than a minute, parents who have been warned that their child will need Ritalin for school might consider preventive homeopathic treatment. With homeopathy, a hyperactive child typically can sit still and focus on a task and channel her energies appropriately.

Homeopathy can also help resolve emotional trauma – for example, in a baby who has been separated from her birth mother through adoption, or because of a health emergency for mother or newborn that requires hospitalization. This experience of abandonment can result in separation anxiety, in a child who clings like a little barnacle to her mother and cries inconsolably when separated from her mother. Homeopathy can help heal the emotional trauma and allow a child to grow into age-appropriate independence.

Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body’s healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. Children like to take them, as they taste like little sugar pills. They do not need to be swallowed to be effective. Instead, they work as soon as they touch the mucus membranes in and around the mouth.

Begabati has preschool age children in her practice who actively ask for a remedy when they feel sick; they even learn the names and which one helps them with which symptoms. Preverbal children bang on the door of the cupboard where the remedies are stored. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a child swallows a whole bottle by mistake.

Begabati can evaluate children for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their kids at home the next time.

Complex body and brain health challenges in infancy and childhood often require a team of specialists. Integrative pediatric neurology can bridge the diagnostic and assessment strengths of conventional medicine with the additional insights provided by functional and integrative medicine labs and testing. It can also help represent and explain this information, and the rationales for the therapeutics approaches on the integrative/functional medicine side, to more conventional practitioners. It moves beyond the focus on “the problem” to aim at optimizing function in the whole baby or child.

Around the age of seven, intellectual, abstract thinking, logical left brain development begins its intense period. Around the same time the ciliary muscles of the eye develop for near point focus work. This is the best time to begin to read and do near work. It’s the age when children begin to codify and file information away and ask the question, “What is it?” The right brain, developed during early childhood, steps up connections to the left hemisphere via a massive series of connections called the corpus collosum. It is the right hemisphere that feeds new information to the left for analysis and codification. The left hemisphere is our intellect and in charge of all stable patterns of knowledge.

The school years are a time of great knowledge expansion and social exploration. This is dependent upon the smooth interactive functioning of the eyes, ears, hands, heart and body. It is fraught with social and academic challenges, and success relies on many factors. An extensive, well established neural network system that allows the child to access all the parts of his brain is essential to realize full developmental potential.

When Things Go Wrong

This is the time when most developmental delays or problems become painfully evident. The increasingly intense demands of near work at ever earlier ages is challenging the natural developmental timeline of our children’s central nervous systems. “But she was fine until she went to school!” or “I didn’t know he couldn’t see!” are frequent refrains. Some problems are easily solved. The child just needed reading glasses, or a more relaxed home schedule. But usually by this time the difficulty requires more intervention and creative problem solving. Conventional special education plans are sufficient for many children to “get by” or even do much better. But to fully reach developmental potential it usually requires a closer look at neurology, injury, and the emotional intelligence of the right brain and brainstem.

Grade school is a time when children begin to take charge of their lives in a new way. They can keep secrets, and have hiding places and clubs with rules and regulations. This is the time when the brain is at its greatest capacity for rote memory because it is the time when children are compiling facts that they will need about the world for the rest of their lives. When children are positive about their abilities to learn and grow and negotiate their physical, social and academic territories, they feel empowered. But traumas, large and small, can affect a child’s self-perception.

Brain Gym® provides a wonderful system for empowering children to set goals and achieve them. It’s called “the balance.” In a Brain Gym session, children set goals in many ways. For younger children, the goal-setting process is not explicit. They may “draw a picture of themselves looking happy,” or “build their house out of blocks.” I hold the intention for them that the session will result in them leaving the room happy, with their house in order. Older children often set verbal goals. “My friends call me for play dates.” “Reading is easy.” “I can ride a two-wheeler.”

We activate the process through movement. Sometimes, to achieve the goal, structural work is needed, and we’ll do some cranial work. Sometimes, we find ourselves in the realm of movement development, and we work with infant reflexes. Sometimes, we do Brain Gym movements or play music. Sometimes we talk. Usually, we do a combination of several of these modalities. Each session is tailored to the child’s own expressed goal. My goal is for the child to leave the session feeling empowered. They almost always do.

Children can come in for a variety of reasons. Academic Issues generally respond well to Brain Gym, although sometimes craniosacral work is also helpful, particularly when an old injury is impeding cognitive processes. Gross and Fine Motor Coordination issues are often infant reflex-related, and again, craniosacral work can come into play. Injuries usually respond well to craniosacral work, contained within the Brain Gym balance process which eases the emotional aspects of the injury. Social, behavioral, and emotional issues are a grab bag of possibilities, and I never know which modality I’ll be pulling out of my pocket for this particular child. Many are actually related to infant reflex integration, such as being unable to stay in a chair, or to hold a pencil without squeezing it to death.

Musical Improvisation often comes into play as a way to coordinate auditory, visual, and gross and fine motor with a sense of play and self-expression. Whether children are playing black keys on the piano, beating rhythms on the drums, or creating blues lyrics to express their own frustrations, music is an empowering tool.

When is chiropractic helpful for school age children?

Axial Stability Method®, the only chiropractic technique practiced at the Lydian Center, is appropriate for all ages. Our unusual, entirely low-force approach can transform a child if the underlying problem is biomechanical instability. During the grade school years the physical world opens up. New sports, snow boarding, sledding, learning to ride a bike, climb a tree, and more daring exploits(!) can out-strip abilities. The lifestyle of a school age child is one of minor trauma. Usually these injuries resolve on their own, but sometimes they don’t. The minor trauma itself or an accumulation of minor injuries can cause a disruption in the structural system.

Many children already struggling with hidden biomechanical injuries from the past are even more prone to getting injured further. They tend to be less coordinated, have poorer balance, less efficiently developed motor patterns and less developed proprioceptive skills. They may be shy and less able to participate socially, unable to focus and prone to hyper activity, unable to process new learning, or unpleasant and uncooperative. These children can have more gaps in their sensory-motor, and emotional neural networks.

If biomechanical injury is the root cause of these gaps, chiropractic can be a miracle cure. Our clinical experience suggests that behavioral problems, emotional irritability and frustration, sensory integration problems, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, neurological delays, unequal use of the limbs, learning disabilities, language delays and visual problems are signs that there might be underlying biomechanical injury. Stabilizing the structural system through chiropractic treatment can allow the body to fill in these neurological network gaps.

A sure sign of injury is the development of scoliosis. A curve in the spine is not normal and is usually correctable by conservative, non-invasive means if treated early enough. We have had great success in treating scoliosis with Axial Stability Method. Stabilizing the cranium, pelvis, and spine allows the body to straighten the curve.

Occasionally a child complains of recurring headaches or chronic musculoskeletal pain. No child should be in chronic pain. It is a sign of injury and should not be ignored. Early intervention can save a lifetime of complaints.

When is Homeopathy helpful for school age children?

Children of this age are most often treated homeopathically for problems in school –emotional problems like low self-esteem, test anxiety, or the effects of bullying; cognitive problems such as lack of memory or concentration; or behavioral problems like not sitting still, or defying the teacher and disrupting the class.

Homeopathy also excels at preventing patterns of illness, such as chronic colds or ear infections. Antibiotics may seem to work well for a particular ear infection, but they can weaken the immune system and increase the chance of recurrence. A constitutional homeopathic remedy can strengthen the child’s (or adult’s) ability to withstand the microbes that are a natural part of our internal and external environment.

Begabati has children in her practice who have been raised entirely with homeopathy – children from India, Germany, France, and other parts of the world where homeopathy is part of the national health care system – and their mothers report, “My child is the only one in her class who never gets sick and has never been on antibiotics.”

Homeopathy can also help resolve emotional trauma – for example, in a child who was separated from her birth mother through adoption or hospitalization or C-section. Homeopathy can help heal the emotional trauma and allow a child to grow into age-appropriate independence.

Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body’s healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. Children like to take them, as they taste like little sugar pills. They do not need to be swallowed to be effective. Instead, they work as soon as they touch the mucus membranes in and around the mouth.

Begabati has children in her practice who actively ask for a remedy when they feel sick; they even learn the names and which one helps them with which symptoms. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a child swallows a whole bottle by mistake.

In addition to treating the chronic conditions just mentioned, Begabati or Farah can evaluate children for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their kids at home the next time.

For more information: Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman’s excellent series of books Ritalin-Free KidsRage-Free Kids and Homeopathy for Autism and Aspberger’s.

Complex body and brain health challenges in infancy and childhood often require a team of specialists. Integrative pediatric neurology can bridge the diagnostic and assessment strengths of conventional medicine with the additional insights provided by functional and integrative medicine labs and testing. It can also help represent and explain this information, and the rationales for the therapeutics approaches on the integrative/functional medicine side, to more conventional practitioners. It moves beyond the focus on “the problem” to aim at optimizing function in the whole baby or child.

At about age 15 we are given the chance to begin to develop civility. The sensory-motor system of infancy, the limbic-emotional system of preschool, and the verbal-intellectual system of grade school, have stabilized. The prefrontal cortex takes center stage and begins its final burst of development. The initial phase of its development began towards the end of the first year of life and all along continued developing in parallel with the three main parts of the brain, acting as the great orchestrator of a marvelous symphony. This is the culmination of the neurological blueprint. It houses our greatest human attributes: altruism, higher analytical abilities, and wisdom. It is the part of the brain that most makes us human.

Its existence is fragile and vulnerable. Because it connects to all the main centers of the brain, damage or dysfunction to any part of the brain affects its function. Late adolescence is a crossroads. When things go well and a caring adult is able to model the behavior, a young person becomes filled with a sense of mission and purpose, takes up causes, believes deeply in their dreams, sees that they matter and develops a profound sense of themselves as a powerful agent in the world.

When Things Go Wrong

If the brain centers below are not fully developed, if there are gaps in the structure, emotional or physical traumas, injuries, or if insufficient adult modeling is available, this time of radical prefrontal expansion will not complete the circuits necessary for whole brain, whole body functioning. Young people at this age especially need care and attention. Good modeling cannot be underestimated. A recent study showed that children who sit down to family meals and engage in family conversation are higher academic achievers.

If a teenager is shut down, joyless, addicted to the computer, involved in self-destructive behaviors, they need extra care. It becomes detective work teasing out what might be wrong. Emotional issues may manifest as physical issues, and vice versa. They need to be listened to, engaged and helped over the hump into adulthood. Several alternative modalities are especially good for this age and can help the young person to fill in neurological gaps, create new ways of thinking and find their sense of self.

Hormones

Analogous to the massive development of the immune system in early childhood, the endocrine system busts into action at puberty. The body undergoes a huge shift physically, psychologically, and emotionally. The changing emotional and physical landscape can be very unsettling for a child. Some alternative therapies can be immensely helpful with this all important transition to adulthood.

The Latin root of the word “adolescence” means “coming into the light.” Through the physical and mental changes of puberty, adolescents are growing into a sense of what it means to be grown: To begin taking responsibility for their actions. To recognize the integrity of other individuals as separate from themselves. To form respectful relationships with others. To experience the agency of their own power, and to learn to regulate that power.

The Brain Gym® balance is an incredible empowerment tool for teenagers. Early in the session, teenagers choose a goal for themselves. Sometimes the goal is clear immediately; sometimes we spend some time talking, ferreting out what is most important to them at that moment. It can be a physical goal, related to a recent injury or a longtime pain. It can be an emotional goal, related to stressful situations with family or friends, or an old, unhealed trauma. It can be about performance enhancement – improving at a sport, intellectual or art activity. It can be related to their spiritual life. It can be anything they care about.

Next, they perform a simple activity: walking across the floor. Thinking about a problem. Playing a few notes on the piano, doing a yoga posture, writing their name – it can be anything they choose to do. By noticing the way it feels to perform this activity, they have a benchmark for their experience of themselves “before.” Later, we will return to it as “after,” and see how it has changed. Too often, when something becomes easy, we can’t remember how hard it used to be! By creating a benchmark and taking note of it, teenagers can recognize, own, and celebrate their progress.

Next, we do the transformational activities. These can be anything: craniosacral therapy. Musical improvisation. Listening to tuning forks. Talking. Brain Gym activities. Then, we return to the activity and celebrate the goal. We check to see if the teenagers have “home play“ – something they need to do after the session to reinforce and maintain the goal.

Over time, as teens see themselves achieving goal after goal, they begin to internalize the goal-setting process. Simply knowing that they have the power to change their lives – in both small and large ways – is a lifelong gift of empowerment.

Some Brain Gym processes are particularly helpful for teenagers. Working with dominance profiles, for example, can give a teen both an understanding of who they naturally are, and how they’ve adjusted to their circumstances – as well as giving practical ways to access their inner selves. For example, I’ve had teenagers write about a difficult situation (their words are private; I don’t read them) with the currently dominant right hand – and then with the non-dominant left hand. Often, they find that they are expressing their emotions more freely with the left hand – which makes neurological sense, since the left hand “talks” to the right hemisphere of the brain. Their “home play” is usually to keep a left-handed journal. There are many other ways different Brain Gym processes can help teenagers release blocks and come into their power.

When is chiropractic helpful for teenagers?

Axial Stability Method®, the only chiropractic technique practiced at the Lydian Center, is appropriate for all ages. Our unusual, entirely low-force approach is helpful for many problems if the underlying issue is biomechanical instability. During the teen years physical activity becomes more organized and usually competitive: sports injuries, skiing, sledding and snowboarding, repetitive injuries from track, running and wrestling are just a few.

Many young people already struggling with hidden biomechanical injuries from the past are even more prone to getting injured further. They tend to be less coordinated, have poorer balance, less efficiently developed motor patterns and less developed proprioceptive skills. They may be shy and less able to participate socially, unable to focus and prone to hyper activity, unable to process new learning, or unpleasant, uncooperative and a bully. These young people can have more gaps in their sensory-motor, emotional, or verbal-intellectual neural networks.

If biomechanical injury is the root cause of these gaps, chiropractic can be a helpful intervention. Our clinical experience suggests that emotional irritability and frustration, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, and learning disabilities are signs that there might be underlying biomechanical injury. Stabilizing the structural system through chiropractic treatment can allow the body to fill in some of these neurological network gaps.

Occasionally a teen complains of recurring headaches or chronic musculoskeletal pain. The most common complaints with this age group are headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and sore knees. No young person should be in chronic pain. Chronic pain is a sign of injury and should not be ignored. Early intervention can save a lifetime of complaints.

Hormonal discomfort and irregularity with the young female endocrine system can also benefit tremendously from chiropractic. Our clinical experience suggests that correcting underlying structural instabilities, especially in the pelvis, can allow the endocrine system to find an even keel.

When is Homeopathy helpful for Teenagers?

Teenagers are most often treated homeopathically for problems in school –emotional problems like low self-esteem, test anxiety, or the effects of bullying; cognitive problems such as lack of memory or concentration; or behavioral problems like not sitting still, or defying the teacher and disrupting the class. Girls can also be supported through the hormonal tides of menarche. Homeopathic remedies do not add any natural or artificial hormones to the system but rather teach the body to find its own balance. Homeopathy can also help with other hormonal problems like lack of a period, excessive bleeding, painful cramps, and (in both boys and girls) acne.

Homeopathy is also especially effective at treating psychosomatic expressions of school stress, like headaches or diarrhea that tend to strike the morning of a big exam. It can even be helpful with the typical challenges of the shifting tides of friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body’s healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. Young people don’t mind taking them, as they taste like little sugar pills. They are safe enough that teenagers (depending on their maturity) can be responsible for their own dosing. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a young person swallows a whole bottle by mistake.

In addition to treating the chronic conditions just mentioned, Begabati or Farah can evaluate young people for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their kids at home the next time.

For more information: Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman’s excellent series of books Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids and Homeopathy for Autism and Aspberger’s.

Complex body and brain health challenges in infancy and childhood often require a team of specialists. Integrative pediatric neurology can bridge the diagnostic and assessment strengths of conventional medicine with the additional insights provided by functional and integrative medicine labs and testing. It can also help represent and explain this information, and the rationales for the therapeutics approaches on the integrative/functional medicine side, to more conventional practitioners. It moves beyond the focus on “the problem” to aim at optimizing function in the whole baby or child.