A short but informative article on Dr Martha Denckla, a neurologist who has spent her working life studying the connection between learning difficulties, motor skills and the brain’s construction.
"With a practiced eye, Denckla studied ADHD children and saw tell-tale motor differences typical of basic brain immaturity. "Go to a nursery school, say ‘walk on your heels,’ and 100 percent of the children also ‘walk’ their hands. At that age, the motor cortex doesn’t control the feet elegantly enough, and stimulation overflows to the hands. Tongues stick out when little ones tie their shoes." But what’s normal in nursery school signals problems in teenagers. By Jason’s age, Denckla says, ‘motor control should be perfect-no mirroring, no overflow.’"
No Self Control? ADHD mirrors an immature brain.
Dr Denckla was also the research behind the study covered in Twenty Eight Years On and the Evidence is Still Being Ignored
Why is it that despite numerous studies that show a connection between poor coordination and learning difficulties that people like Professors Elliot and Snowling still insist that learning difficulties are relate solely to academic performance? In a study done in 1977, 89% of hyperactive boys had immature coordination. Almost thirty years ago people were making the connection between the brain and the body and yet in the UK the government focuses more and more literacy and numeracy rather than the neurological skills than underpin our ability to learn.
Anomalies of motor development in hyperactive boys: “Forty-eight boys who scored high on rating scales for the hyperactive syndrome but who went without traditional neurological signs of learning disabilities were compared with 50 control boys on coordination tests. Discriminant function scores for speed, rhythm, and overflow correctly classified 89% of the boys as those with hyperactive versus normal behavioral histories. Thus, neurological examination of hyperactive boys does reveal developmentally immature coordination“.
What is it like being a parent of a child with ADHD or similar learning difficulties? If you are reading this then you probably already know but this interesting paper What Do Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Related Disorders Deal With? looka at the issue from an academic angle. It covers the problems in identifying learning difficulties, the emotional cost for parents in facing the fact their child has problems, the ongoing day-to-day stresses and presents possible strategies for parenting.
It is often confusing to parent children with learning disabilities, ADHD, and related disorders. One of the biggest confusions and challenges parents face is the large hiatus between what the children can do and what they cannot do. Often they are very smart, know a great deal, and reason well, yet cannot read or write. School teachers and family may be telling them to try harder, and they are usually trying their hearts out. They tend to work 10 times harder than everyone else does, but still they may be called lazy.
Another aspect of the confusion for parents lies in how hard it can be to distinguish between a child who can’t do something and a child who won’t do something. For parents, it can be vexing not to be able to control a 5 or 6-year-old or to know whether to push an adolescent or reduce expectations. In this confusion, parents tend to ask, What is wrong with me? rather than What challenges is my child having to face?[emphasis added] Shifting this focus can be therapeutic for parents and children
See also: Parenting and ADHD
The cerebellum (literally ‘Little Brain’) is a small, distinct part of the brain that sits around where the spine meets the brain and it plays an important role in movement and possibly other activities. The Dore / DDAT treatment method pin-points this area of the brain as one of the main causes of dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning difficulties. This was met by skepticism from other researchers despite the treatments obvious success on at least of those who tried it.
Now research published in the October issue of Pediatrics into the cerebellum in new born infants has thrown up some interesting findings. When the newborn has damage to the cerebrum, the main brain, the cerebellum failed to grow properly. Where the damage was on one side of the cerebrum, the opposite side of the cerebellum failed to grow. This is an interesting twist on how the brain and body are cross-wired; the left part of the brain controlling the right side of the body and vice versa. It also worked both ways, damage to one side of the cerebellum effected the growth of the opposite side of the cerebrum. This tells us that there is a very strong link between mental, cerebral, development and the development of the cerebellum. Thus stimulating the cerebellum through coordination and balance exercises, such as the Dore Program, could help stimulate growth in the main brain, the cerebrum.
The cerebellum is also one of the last areas of the brain to develop before the child is born which might help explain why Premature Babies Have High Chance of Learning Disabilites. One of the conclusions of the study is “Early-life cerebellar injury may contribute importantly to the high rates of cognitive, behavioral, and motor deficits reported for premature infants“.
Further coverage can be found on the BBC and Child-Neuro.org.
Study Abstract: Impaired Trophic Interactions Between the Cerebellum and the Cerebrum Among Preterm Infants
The Bishops Stortford Citizen, a UK local paper in London, has a very unquestioning piece about an education centre franchising the Brightstar approach. Inevitably Duncan Goodhew gets mentioned without revealing his financial interests in Brightstar.
Over on TheMedicalCentre.co.uk they have a short article on exercises for dyslexia. These are simple balance and co-ordination activities similar to those used by DDAT. Obviously a very basic plan and nowhere near as comprehensive or personalised as you get from a commercial programme but a good starting point if you can’t afford or get to a DDAT clinic.
The web site has a range of articles covering information an advice on dyscalculia, dyslexia and ADHD covering such topics as nutrition, drug therapies, home education and life skills.
A study by Doctors around the UK have found that 80% of severely premature babies develop some form of education or development disabilities such as severe cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, below-average intelligence and problems with vision or hearing.
The study is part of the EPICure project which is a longitudinal study on children born in 1995. At age 6, the found that some 72% of had impaired intelligence, compared with 14% of their classmates. These results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
These results were first reported on the BBC Panorama programe in September and at the time generate some news coverage.
It would be interesting to have these children assessed for retained primitive reflexes as I recall from the INPP training day Sally Goddard Blythe hypothesizing that the nature of the birth may effect the development of the reflexes.