Developmental Disorders

Childhood Developmental Disorders come in many different forms. Many cause an inability to pay attention, exhibit appropriate communication skills, focusing on tasks at hand or even properly taking care of oneself into adulthood.

Our cutting-edge diagnostics allow us to measure initial brain function and patient progress to optimize outcomes.

The BRAIN Center’s therapeutic approach can improve the quality of life for those living with the effects of developmental delays by optimizing brain function. Our specialized therapies and techniques address the functional, brain-based causes of these conditions and thus improve symptoms.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

The Autism Spectrum of Disorders (ASD) are a group of neuro-developmental challenges that traditionally includes Autism, Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder that all have common neurological, behavioral, and learning characteristics. While every child with an ASD is different, they all have one thing in common: neurological networks of their brain are not communicating effectively with each other. This does not allow them to properly process sensory information and appropriately respond. Abnormal sensory-motor processing leads to difficulties with coordination, balance, behavior, communication, attention, and more. At The BRAIN Center, we utilize the experience of our clinical team, sophisticated assessments (when able), and cutting-edge technology to functionally “connect” an individual’s sensory-motor processing, regardless of their age.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

Many researchers suggest that the underlying cause of the three different variations of AD/HD (Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity Disorders, Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder) is very similar to that seen in the Autism Spectrum Disorders, to a lesser degree.

Individuals with AD/HD have difficulty engaging a part of their brain called their frontal cortex. This area of the brain allows us to move, pay attention, become motivated, plan, execute, choose right from wrong, and much more. The frontal lobe of the brain integrates information from various areas of our brain that process sensory information. This is why most people with AD/HD can focus well on highly sensory-stimulating activities such as video games, or when taking medication that increases sensory processing.

We help individuals with AD/HD by identifying which sensory and neurological networks are working inefficiently and provide various types of sensory and cognitive exercises to enhance processing, control, timing, coordination, and cognition. In the end, our goal is to allow the individual to achieve their goals without the use and risks associated with AD/HD medications.

Cerebral Palsy/ HIE

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a non-progressive movement disorder typically occurring at or before birth. However, in some situations, CP can occur from a traumatic injury after birth. There are a number of different sub-classifications of CP named for the symptoms, such as spastic, ataxic, athetoid. Most research suggests that this is a permanent disorder that appears in early childhood, but we have a different experience. Symptoms are poor balance and coordination, weak/stiff muscles, tremors, problems with speaking, hearing, swallowing, vision and sensation. CP is the most common movement disorder in children, affecting 2.1 people per 1,000 live births.


Dyslexia is considered the most common form of learning disabilities, affecting between 3-7% of the population. The word dyslexia, literally translates to “abnormal or difficult reading”. However, we now know that dyslexia can be much more than difficulty reading. Dyslexia can impair listening, thinking, speaking, writing, calculating, all in addition to or separate from reading.

Dyslexia can be caused by altered developmental processing, or acquired through an injury. Currently there are no medications that help with dyslexia. From a clinician’s perspective, identifying the cause of these difficulties is the first step to helping someone overcome their dyslexia. At The BRAIN Center, we assess the entire body and nervous system, in this case beginning with the receptors (vision and hearing). Then we look at the ability to process visual (eye movements) and auditory (listening tests) information, and how all of those functions integrate into the brain. Based upon the assessments, each person receives an individualize program of exercises to help them process information better, which may include eye exercises, coordination exercises, cognitive therapy, and possibly even vestibular therapy.

OCD & Tourette’s Syndrome and Tics

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The disorder is named for Dr. Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the pioneering French neurologist who in 1885 first described the condition in an 86-year-old French noblewoman.

The early symptoms of TS are almost always noticed first in childhood, with the average onset between the ages of 7 and 10 years. TS occurs in people from all ethnic groups; males are affected about three to four times more often than females. It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of TS, and as many as one in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms such as chronic motor or vocal tics or transient tics of childhood. Although TS can be a chronic condition with symptoms lasting a lifetime, most people with the condition experience their worst symptoms in their early teens, with improvement occurring in the late teens and continuing into adulthood.

What are the symptoms?
Tics are classified as either simple or complex. Simple motor tics are sudden, brief, repetitive movements that involve a limited number of muscle groups. Some of the more common simple tics include eye blinking and other vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Simple vocalizations might include repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing, or grunting sounds. Complex tics are distinct, coordinated patterns of movements involving several muscle groups. Complex motor tics might include facial grimacing combined with a head twist and a shoulder shrug. Other complex motor tics may actually appear purposeful, including sniffing or touching objects, hopping, jumping, bending, or twisting. Simple vocal tics may include throat-clearing, sniffing/snorting, grunting, or barking. More complex vocal tics include words or phrases. Perhaps the most dramatic and disabling tics include motor movements that result in self-harm such as punching oneself in the face or vocal tics including coprolalia (uttering swear words) or echolalia (repeating the words or phrases of others). Some tics are preceded by an urge or sensation in the affected muscle group, commonly called a premonitory urge. Some with TS will describe a need to complete a tic in a certain way or a certain number of times in order to relieve the urge or decrease the sensation.
Tics are often worse with excitement or anxiety and better during calm, focused activities. Certain physical experiences can trigger or worsen tics, for example tight collars may trigger neck tics, or hearing another person sniff or throat-clear may trigger similar sounds. Tics do not go away during sleep but are often significantly diminished.

What is the course of TS?
Tics come and go over time, varying in type, frequency, location, and severity. The first symptoms usually occur in the head and neck area and may progress to include muscles of the trunk and extremities. Motor tics generally precede the development of vocal tics and simple tics often precede complex tics. Most students experience peak tic severity before the mid-teen years with improvement for the majority of students in the late teen years and early adulthood. Approximately 10 percent of those affected have a progressive or disabling course that lasts into adulthood.

Can people with TS control their tics?
Although the symptoms of TS are involuntary, some people can sometimes suppress, camouflage, or otherwise manage their tics in an effort to minimize their impact on functioning. However, people with TS often report a substantial buildup in tension when suppressing their tics to the point where they feel that the tic must be expressed. Tics in response to an environmental trigger can appear to be voluntary or purposeful but are not.

What causes TS?
Although the cause of TS is unknown, current research points to abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex), the circuits that interconnect these regions, and the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) responsible for communication among nerve cells.

What disorders are associated with TS?
Many with TS experience additional neurobehavioral problems including inattention; hyperactivity and impulsivity (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—ADHD) and related problems with reading, writing, and arithmetic; and obsessive-compulsive symptoms such as intrusive thoughts/worries and repetitive behaviors. For example, worries about dirt and germs may be associated with repetitive hand-washing, and concerns about bad things happening may be associated with ritualistic behaviors such as counting, repeating, or ordering and arranging. People with TS have also reported problems with depression or anxiety disorders, as well as other difficulties with living, that may or may not be directly related to TS. Given the range of potential complications, people with TS are best served by receiving medical care that provides a comprehensive treatment plan.

How is TS diagnosed?
TS is a diagnosis that doctors make after verifying that the student has had both motor and vocal tics for at least 1 year. The existence of other neurological or psychiatric condition can also help doctors arrive at a diagnosis. Common tics are not often misdiagnosed by knowledgeable clinicians. But atypical symptoms or atypical presentation (for example, onset of symptoms in adulthood) may require specific specialty expertise for diagnosis. There are no blood or laboratory tests needed for diagnosis, but neuroimaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), and electroencephalogram (EEG) scans, or certain blood tests may be used to rule out other conditions that might be confused with TS.

It is not uncommon for students to obtain a formal diagnosis of TS only after symptoms have been present for some time. The reasons for this are many. For families and physicians unfamiliar with TS, mild and even moderate tic symptoms may be considered inconsequential, part of a developmental phase, or the result of another condition. For example, parents may think that eye blinking is related to vision problems or that sniffing is related to seasonal allergies. Many students are self-diagnosed after they, their parents, other relatives, or friends read or hear about TS from others.

Asperger’s Syndrome & Social Processing Disorders

Asperger syndrome is often considered a high functioning form of autism. People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Hans Asperger labeled this disorder “autistic psychopathy” in 1944. The exact cause is unknown. More than likely, an abnormality in the brain is the cause of Asperger syndrome.

There is a possible link to autism, and genetic factors may play a role. The disorder tends to run in families. A specific gene has not been identified.

The condition appears to be more common in boys than in girls.

Although people with Asperger syndrome often have difficulty socially, many have above-average intelligence. They may excel in fields such as computer programming and science. There is no delay in their cognitive development, ability to take care of themselves, or curiosity about their environment.

People with Asperger syndrome become over-focused or obsessed on a single object or topic, ignoring all others. They want to know everything about this topic, and often talk about little else.
• Children with Asperger syndrome will present many facts about their subject of interest, but there will seem to be no point or conclusion.
• They often do not recognize that the other person has lost interest in the topic.
• Areas of interest may be quite narrow, such as an obsession with train schedules, phone books, a vacuum cleaner, or collections of objects.

People with Asperger do not withdraw from the world in the way that people with autism withdraw. They will often approach other people. However, their problems with speech and language in a social setting often lead to isolation.
• Their body language may be off.
• They may speak in a monotone, and may not respond to other people’s comments or emotions.
• They may not understand sarcasm or humor, or they may take a figure of speech literally.
• They do not recognize the need to change the volume of their voice in different settings.
• They have problems with eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, or gestures (nonverbal communication).
• They may be singled out by other children as “weird” or “strange.”

People with Asperger syndrome have trouble forming relationships with children their own age or other adults, because they:
• Are unable to respond emotionally in normal social interactions
• Are not flexible about routines or rituals
• Have difficulty showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people
• Do not express pleasure at other people’s happiness

Children with Asperger syndrome may show delays in motor development, and unusual physical behaviors, such as:
• Delays in being able to ride a bicycle, catch a ball, or climb play equipment
• Clumsiness when walking or doing other activities
• Repetitive behaviors, in which they sometimes injure themselves
• Repetitive finger flapping, twisting, or whole body movements

Many children with Asperger syndrome are very active, and may also be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Anxiety or depression may develop during adolescence and young adulthood. Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and a tic disorder such as Tourette syndrome may be seen.

Signs and tests
There is not a standardized (used and accepted by almost everyone) test used to diagnose Asperger syndrome. Most diagnosis are based on neurophysiological and psychological symptoms secondary to changes in brain integration.

Most doctors look for a core group of behaviors to help them diagnose Asperger syndrome. These behaviors include:
• Abnormal eye contact
• Aloofness
• Failure to turn when called by name
• Failure to use gestures to point or show
• Lack of interactive play
• Lack of interest in peers

Symptoms may be noticeable in the first few months of life. Problems should be obvious by age 3 years. Physical, emotional, and mental tests are done to rule out other causes and look more closely for signs of this syndrome.

• Learning difficulties