As parents, we want our children to be able to take advantage of every opportunity available to them – so watching them to struggle to keep up with their peers academically or socially can be heartbreaking. In the Dayton area, a new facility designed to help students overcome these obstacles recently opened in April. Brain Balance Achievement Center, founded by respected specialist in childhood neurology Dr. Robert Melillo, operates from the philosophy of treating the whole child, not just his or her symptoms. Dayton Family recently talked with Dr. Melillo about what his approach can offer local families.
Dayton Parent: What makes the Brain Balance Program unique?
Dr. Melillo: The Brain Balance Program is unique because it doesn’t just address one problem for children with development disorders. This program asks the question: what exactly is happening in the brain of a child with a learning disability or behavioral issue, such as ADHD? Early on in my research, I found that children with these disorders usually have more than one label. The primary disorder and the co-occurring disorder have the same underlying problems. Our model really looks at what is happening in the brain. Rather than just addressing symptoms or individual issues, we work with the whole child.
DP: What issues is the program designed to address?
DM: The Brain Balance Program is designed to work with children who struggle with developmental disabilities such learning or processing disorders, behavioral issues, Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. The program is based on the theory “Functional Disconnection” which is when a developmental issue presents itself in the brain. The cross talk between the hemispheres is underdeveloped and under-connected. Because the brain can change, and struggles can be corrected, children who suffer from Functional Disconnection can be helped.
DP: What originally spurred your interest in this field?
DM: Being a clinician for 30 years, I always had an interest in neurology, rehabilitation, and nutrition. My interest peaked when a friend, whose children were being diagnosed with ADHD, approached me for help. At the time, in the early 90’s, I did not really know what ADHD was because my work mainly involved older children and adults. However, the problem became both professional and personal when my own son was diagnosed with attention problems. This growing epidemic spurred me to want to understand what was happening in the brain with ADHD, especially with a 250% increase in the drug Ritalin between 1990 and1995. However, I found a disparity when I searched for answers from physicians, psychologists and even neuropsychologists and no one could explain why this problem with ADHD was actually happening. This sparked my desire to find an answer. Another catalyst for me was my work with Daniel, a patient with autism who was not communicating at 3 ½ years old. After working with Daniel for three weeks, Daniel started speaking. This experience got me hooked; I was seeing something no one else was seeing and it worked. After working on this model for 15 to 20 years, Brain Balance was born.
DP: What can parents expect in the first phases of the program?
DM: Brain Balance looks for the strengths and weaknesses of a child to see if those strengths and weaknesses are really far apart, which would indicate a developmental imbalance. A battery of assessment tests helps to identify where the child stands with motor, sensory processing and cognitive skills, as well as behavior, diet and nutrition, and overall health. Once the child is enrolled, he or she visits the center three times a week for an hour. The first half hour is geared toward sensory-motor based activities to improve motor, sensory and processing skills. Then, the student will work with a special education teacher for more academic training that utilizes the cognitive skills that are underdeveloped. The program specifically targets the student’s weaker skills in order to create balance in all areas of the brain. We also work with parents to develop home activities to support the center’s work. An understanding of nutrition, food sensitivities, and an elimination diet help parents learn healthy lifestyle changes for their child.
DP: What are your success rates?
DM: Success rates are very high at the Brain Balance Centers. Two published studies in scientific and medical journals about children with ADHD in the program show that after 3 months 81% no longer had the disability; after 6 months, over 90% no longer had ADHD. These percentages are similar with learning disabilities and dyslexia too. Many people who own and operate Brain Balance Centers in their own communities had their own children go through the center and were impressed and moved by their results. I believe that all families have a great story