“Is my child normal?”
That’s a gnawing sensation a mother can’t escape, that sinking feeling something is “off” with your child. The doctor says your child is fine, your friends and family say you worry too much, and yet the thought burrows into your gut, sitting like a lead weight, until the heartbreak kicks in: “My child is not developing normally.”
Childhood developmental milestones are more than how soon your child walks and talks. They offer important insight into whether your child’s brain and body are developing appropriately. Delays in sitting, walking, or talking could mean an increased risk of such brain development disorders as autism, Tourette’s syndrome, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) later.
Synchronization of brain hemispheres is key to development.
The right and left hemispheres of the brain develop at different times and different speeds throughout childhood. Proper synchronization of this development is crucial to lifelong function. If areas of the child’s brain grow too slowly or too quickly, and if milestones are missed or persist longer than normal, synchronization of the left and right hemispheres can be affected. As a result, a child may have delays in walking or talking, be very clumsy, not look others in the eye, be prone to multiple allergies or ear infections, be an exceptionally precocious learner, have an odd gait or poor posture, and many other symptoms outlined in the book Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo.
“My child is great! She’s developing so fast!”
While parents worry about delays, reaching a milestone too early, or skipping it all together, can also be a red flag. For instance, if a child can read or do math exceptionally early, it may mean the left side of the brain is developing prematurely, while the right hemisphere is falling behind. Or a child who doesn’t crawl before learning to walk may miss out on important neurological development.
How do you know if your child’s brain is on track developmentally? The My Child Without Limits Advisory Committee website offers a chart with important milestones to review.
Developmental highlights include:
- Can roll over.
- Babbles and make gurgling sounds.
- Turns to the source of normal sound.
- Can sit, stand briefly, and crawl.
- Can say “ma-ma” or “da-da” and imitate speech sounds.
- Plays peek-a-boo and patty cake.
- Can walk (forward and backward).
- Can try to use words (at least six) to ask for things.
- Follows simple directions.
- Can kick a ball forward and feed themselves with a spoon.
- Uses two-to-three word sentences and has a vocabulary of about 50 words.
- Shows affection and demands a lot of attention.
- Can ride a tricycle and put on shoes.
- Can use three-to-five word sentences and repeat common rhymes.
- Can play with other children for a few minutes.
- Can walk up and down stairs and throw a ball.
- Uses five-to-six word sentences and understands the concept of counting.
- More independent, cooperative, and interested in new experiences.
- Hops, somersaults, swings, climbs, uses fork, spoon and sometimes a table knife.
- Can say name and address and tell longer stories.
- Likes to sing and act.
Chronic health issues often accompany poor synchronization.
Of course, general guidelines are just that, general. Some children will be ahead of the curve, while others are a little behind, and despite official charts, expert opinions on milestones vary. Also, problems with behavior, health, or learning provide important clues as to whether brain development is an issue. For instance, parents of these children often report they were colicky as babies, or suffer from chronic allergies, ear infections, yeast infections, asthma, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, or behavioral issues, to name a few. These children often have trouble sleeping, may have multiple food intolerances, or can be extremely picky eaters.
The link between brain development and health problems:
“While the baby is still in the womb, the nutritional status of the mother and the health of her immune system profoundly affect the development of the fetal brain,” says Dr. Martin Stites, an owner of the Brain Balance Center of Encino, a center that uses non-pharmaceutical, integrative neurological based approaches to help children with neurobehavioral disorders. “Children today face more health challenges than ever before. Environmental toxins, lack of proper nutrition and poor food quality, skyrocketing rates of autoimmune diseases and inflammatory disorders affecting mothers, and the stress and hectic pace of modern American life can directly and indirectly impact the neurological development of the fetus.”
With one in 88 children now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an almost 80 percent increase in the last ten years, childhood brain developmental disorders are clearly a modern concern. Fortunately, even though a brain issue typically starts in the womb, a child’s brain is highly malleable and receptive to recovering missed stages of growth and connection with the right input and activation. Experts can now synchronize the developing brain’s hemispheres by:
Identifying imbalances in brain development and applying specific and appropriate activation to the immature areas,
- Supplying healthy and proper fuel and nutrients for brain growth,
- Removing dietary immune triggers (such as gluten and dairy).
This approach is based on a thorough understanding of the integration between brain development, physical and cognitive skills, and behavior. It can fully restore, or at least largely rehabilitate, brain function in many children and teens.
About the Author
Dr. Mark Flannery is a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine, Diplomate of the Chiropractic Board of Clinical Nutrition, Diplomate of the College of Clinical Nutrition, Scientific Speaker, Apex Energetics, and a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Learn more about Dr. Flannery here.