As summer comes to an end and we begin to see big yellow school buses on the road again, all parents will agree they hope their child will be successful in school. Unfortunately for many kids, “Back to School” is not an exciting time, because school is a source of anxiety, stress, and frustration.
Parents are their child’s greatest advocates. Most parents whose children struggle in school take great effort to help them succeed. They meet with teachers and hire tutors. They work with their medical doctor to find a medication that reduces the behavioral symptoms. They minimize sources of distraction and maximize things like proper sleep and nutrition. While all of these things work to benefit the child, they are mainly focusing on modifying behavior, or output. What many people do not know is that all of these efforts are made even more effective when combined with Chiropractic care, which works to alter the “negative” output by positively changing the nervous system input.
Many children who struggle in school have (either diagnosed or undiagnosed) issues with processing the world around them. Kids with learning and behavioral challenges may be diagnosed with conditions such as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or even Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Regardless of the label, understanding and addressing these sensory processing challenges is key. In order to address these challenges, we must first look to the nervous system, which is where all sensory processing occurs.
The Nervous System
The sensory portion of our nervous system is a “read and react” system. This means our body is “pre-programmed” to respond in a specific and appropriate way to environmental stimuli. This programming occurs throughout life and can be thought of as ‘sensory learning’ or processing.
The clearest example of this is a child who touches a hot stove… once it is done, it is rarely done again. This is because the burning and painful ‘sensation’ of the hot stove becomes ingrained in our sensory memory, and helps prevent us from making this mistake again. All sensory patterns in the body work in this way.
“The function of the nervous system,” as described by Dr. Bruce Lipton, “is to perceive the environment and coordinate the behavior of all other cells.” The key elements to understand here are Perception and Coordination. Without proper perception, there cannot be proper or normal coordination.
Air Traffic Control
The best way to understand this is to think of the nervous system as the “Air Traffic Control System” for the entire body. It is constantly perceiving the environment through it’s millions of sensory receptors and nerve endings, and then “reading and responding” accordingly.
Whether information is coming from visual, auditory, tactile, or balance and coordination sensory receptors, children who suffer from sensory processing issues have an inability to properly perceive their environment. Basically, their “perception and coordination” system is not programmed correctly. For various reasons, it becomes imbalanced and disorganized as the child develops, leading to improper neurological and brain development.
Taking the Air Traffic analogy a step further, it is important to understand that the brainstem and upper neck regions essentially act as the “Control Tower” and are largely responsible for the processing and “filtering” of sensory information from all over the body. In other words, they are in charge of sending sensory information to higher brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex (where higher learning and cognition occur) and also “filter” out all of the sensory information deemed not important. This crucial function of the upper neck and brainstem is why Chiropractic is an important, yet lesser known and utilized, tool to help children function at their very best.
Adaptation with Chiropractic
It is time to get our kids out of the proverbial (pill) box and look first to the nervous system to see them live to their fullest potential. Children who have sensory and learning challenges often have an inability to properly process, integrate, coordinate, and adapt to their sensory environment. At times, their brain does not know whether to focus on the clock ticking, the other child tapping their foot, or the teacher giving a lesson.
If we go back to that quote from Dr. Lipton, and really see how the brain and nervous system work, it’s easy to understand that the only way to change and improve the output or behavior of these kids, is to change and improve their INPUT and ability to COORDINATE and ADAPT. This is where Chiropractic shines. Chiropractic care specifically focuses on the connection between the brain and the body and helps to ensure that sensory messages to the brain are “read” and responded to effectively.
A 2016 study found that spinal misalignment (especially in the upper neck region) has a negative impact on the function of the prefrontal cortex of the brain (again, where higher learning and cognition occur). This same study also showed that one chiropractic adjustment improved the function of the prefrontal cortex by 20%! Essentially, chiropractic adjustments (especially in the “Control Tower” region) help clear sensory messages get to the brain so it can more effectively and appropriately respond. Better input leads to better output!
Parents, when have you ever had your child’s nervous system examined? Chiropractors specifically focus their training and practice in nerve system development and function. A chiropractic examination will determine if there is a “disconnect” in your child’s nervous system which is contributing to sensory dysfunction and stress.
A Chiropractic examination includes:
A thorough case history looking at detailed aspects of the pregnancy and labor/delivery, early motor development, and more.
Computerized testing of the NeuroSensory System that gives a great look at how well the nervous system is functioning and how well it is organized and integrated.
Physical examination to check for imbalances in posture, gait and coordination, as well as passive and active nervous system tension.
If you are interested in having your child’s nerve system analyzed by Dr. Brooke, please call Thrive Chiropractic at 352.299.1285