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I'm Smart Now!

Photo courtesy of Max Klingensmith


A few years ago when we starting working with kids who had trouble in school, we met a young lady, who I’ll call Jessica, who had always struggled with school.  She was on a specialized program and even struggled with that.  She worked very slowly and reading and math were especially challenging.  You can also imagine that her self esteem took a beating and that she was subject to teasing from the other kids because she seemed “different”.


It was clear after we had a look her at her that she had three main challenges.  Each of the these affected how her brain worked and addressing them would help her brain work more efficiently.  This approach emphasizes functional neurology which is basically the study of how the nervous system works.  Just like exercise helps your muscles grow, proper neurological exercise can help your brain grow.  We found that she had poor muscle tone and coordination, a very unhealthy neck, and severe motor planning and sequencing deficits.


Her muscle tone and coordination issues were because a part of her brain called the cerebellum wasn’t working as well as it should.  This can sometimes be a result of birth trauma as the cerebellum in very vulnerable to low oxygen.  It can also happen because of developmental issues.  In any event, we had her do exercises that stimulated her cerebellum and improved her muscle tone.  This is important because the cerebellum is vital to the growth and activation of other parts of the brain that are important for learning.


Her neck was a significant problem too, because it lacked the normal backwards curve.  Besides holding your head up, you neck plays a vital role in stimulating your brain.  There are thousands of nerve endings in the joints of your neck that continually feed signals up to your brain.  If these signals aren’t there, it’s like turning down a dimmer switch to your brain.  Because this young lady didn’t have a normal curve, the joints weren’t signalling her brain.  Chiropractic adjustments and home exercises started to move her closer to where she needed to be.


Her third problem area related to her internal clock.  Each of us as an internal clock that helps with the automatic processes that our brain needs to take care of.  It’s what allows  us to listen and take notes at the same time or to read words and simultaneously interpret their meaning.  You can begin to see the difficulty if you had to give conscious attention to each of these things independently.  Problems show up as motor planning and sequencing deficits.  Jessica had severe deficits that we measured using a computer program called an Interactive Metronome (IM).  This is a program that measures how far off the beat a person claps when trying to clap in time with a steady beat.  Normal would be 40 milliseconds (ms) but she was over 300 ms in some tasks.  With training on the IM we were able to quickly get her internal clock back on track.


The result of all our efforts was that she improved in all areas.  The goal of course, was to help her do better in school which is exactly what happened.  Her mom began to get excellent reports from her teachers, she joined a school team and was proud of how much easier school became for her.  The biggest reward for me was the day she came and looked directly into my eyes and announced, “I’m smart now!”.  She always was of course, but now both she and others knew it too.


Looking at problems like school struggles differently will yield a different set of solutions.  I’d love to hear your questions regarding the approach we took with Jessica.
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3 Join the Conversation

  1. W says
    Nov 01, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    How spectacular to change someone's life like that! That confidence will follow her into adulthood.

  2. Wendy says
    Nov 03, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    I remember the day I was on the balance board when this young girl, perhaps it was Jessica, was so excited. She had B+ in one of her subjects that she had been having a problem with. Her comment was `` I`m not stupid``. It brought a tear to my eye, and I am so glad that Dr. Lees and his team are out there helping those who need help.

    • Dr. Ryan Lees says
      Nov 05, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      It's pretty exciting to see changes like that for sure!

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