Brain Imbalances & Impact on Child Development – By Dr. Robert Melillo, Author and Clinician

Currently our country is experiencing record rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses. The ADHD diagnosis in children has risen over 20% over the last four years, and a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that 110 in 10,000 children are affected with ASD.

These statistics are both frightening and confusing, as many people are asking: Why? Why are these conditions escalating at such an alarming rate?

The quick answer is: we don’t know. There is any number of theories ranging from concerns about the environment and pollution to outcries over hormones and chemicals in our food to fears over vaccinations. While these culprits are still under debate, there is one thing that we do know for sure: There is not one specific gene which can be blamed for autism or ADHD.

Instead, it seems as though these children have normal genes, but at some point they do not get “turned on” as they do in children without autism or other conditions. Certain segments of these genes should be switched into action as development moves forward, yet in these children these segments never seem to get kicked into gear.

Why is this?

Brain imbalances could be to blame. Our right and left brain are responsible for different mental and physical functions, and they each need to work properly and cooperatively in order for us to function at our best. However, in children with ADHD and autism, the brain appears to be imbalanced, as the right side of the brain is delayed in comparison with the left side of the brain. We know this because these children are very bright and articulate, and they generally do very well on verbal tests. However, they often struggle to read nonverbal cues.

Additionally the cerebellum and the basal ganglia (brain components) are also affected, and this might help explain why children with ADHD have too much dopamine. Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter which helps too regulate movement and emotion, and when it goes into overdrive, it can lead to impulsivity among other things. These kids are more likely to display “consumption behavior,” and may also be unable to resist impulses. This means that they often do what feels good in the moment, regardless of consequences. Interestingly, drugs like Ritalin which are used to treat ADHD actually work to increase dopamine, but only in the right side of the brain. This helps to create a ‘balance’ in the brain to help combat some of these symptoms.

Areas to assess a child suspected of a left side/right side brain imbalance include:

Sensory-Motor Skills
Left/Right Side Dominance
Vestibular (balance) Skills
Auditory Skills
Vision Skills
Proprioception Skills
Tactile (touch) Skills
Olfactory (smell and taste) Skills

A sample assessment activity could be, for example, to test which foot is the dominant foot by asking the child to kick a ball lightly across the room and noting which foot they use, and then repeating the activity three times to ensure dominance; doing basic tests to see which eye is stronger or which ear is dominant which helps identify which side of the brain is weaker.
Reflexes, balance tendencies and even sensitivity to light can indicate a brain imbalance.

It’s also important to evaluate mother and child health history along with developmental milestones history. There have been links between learning and behavior disorders and the early health history of either mother or child.

Ultimately, working to help correct brain imbalances can be invaluable in helping to treat conditions like ADHD and autism. This means making sure that the brain is getting enough ‘exercise’ by cutting down on technology/television time and getting the child active and involved in his environment. The more children can interact and get hands-on with the world they live in, the more they can build connections in the brain and develop mentally and physically.

To learn more about brain balance, visit


Dr. Robert Melillo is an internationally known lecturer, author, educator, researcher and clinician specializing in the areas of neurology, rehabilitation, neuropsychology and neurobehavioral disorders in children. He developed Hemispheric Integration Therapy (H.I.T.); a multi-modal approach to the remediation of ADHD, dyslexia, autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, learning disabilities and processing disorders along with other neurobehavioral disabilities found in children. Dr. Melillo has been regularly featured on Fox News and has written two books for parents focusing on brain imbalances in children; Disconnected Kids and Reconnected Kids.

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