*** Time for chapter 2 in my beautiful daughter’s story of growth and success beyond ADHD and Anxiety. If you missed chapter 1, click the link below to read how our journey began.
Our struggles did not end when we entered our new Montessori environment. Things were better, but far from normalized. Since we were working with a vague non-diagnosis, Google became my best friend as I researched everything there was to know about ADHD, Anxiety, ODD, the list goes on and on. I felt out of control and searched for something I could do to help my daughter be successful. I found a plethora of information on alternative treatments. I also sought out experts and asked for their suggestions on where to start our treatment plan.
The first resource I came across came from my Dad’s pharmacist. Seems a little random I know. My Dad came home with a book for me to read, Over Medicating Our Youth: The Public Awareness Guide for Add, and Psychiatric Medications The book was written by his Pharmacist, Frank Granett. I dove into the information, desperate for a place to start. The book discussed diet, hydration, sleep, supplements, which all seemed like a logical place to start. Through our major home renovation, we had sunk into a pattern of poor eating. I committed to make changes to our food first. I started reading labels and avoiding dyes and other additives. My family will tell you it was the beginning of my obsession with made from scratch cooking. I always loved to cook, but was never afraid of boxed sides. Boxed and processed foods were now the enemy.
Frank Granett also introduced me to the ProJoba Kids line of nutritional supplements developed by Adrienne Gold. The line was meant to remove toxins from the body and therefore lessen symptoms. We started an intense regimen of supplements. Mariana did not swallow pills at this time, so I ground everything into a powder and mixed it into yogurt. It was a constant battle to get her to choke it all down morning and night. It was a battle I was willing to fight because we were seeing symptom improvements. She had a little more focus. She gained a little more control. We followed this regimen for over two years. My daughter will not touch strawberry yogurt to this day.
Small improvements were a start, but Mariana was still struggling at a level that I was not comfortable with. We went back for another evaluation, but left yet again without a firm diagnosis. Frustrated I reached out again to experts and was led to the book Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders (The Disconnected Kids Series) The scenarios in the book felt like reading my personal journal. The treatment Dr. Melillo described centered around training the brain through different sensory techniques and exercises. The book included a home program to do on your own and included a website for the Brain Balance Centers, which provided a 12 week program using Dr. Melillo’s methods.
At this point in our journey things were tense. Both my husband and I worked full time, our house was still mid renovation, and we had two children. We had a lot on our plate. Everything at this time was also a battle. Not just a small battle either. Even the smallest request became a battle of epic proportions. Our days were filled with massive meltdowns and the thought of trying to put in place a 12 week program on my own was beyond overwhelming. I decided to go back to my friend Google and search for Brain Balance Centers.
What I found was a Brain Balance Center had just opened a month earlier a mile from our home. I do not believe in coincidence. I believe things are placed before you for a reason. I called and made us an appointment for their full evaluation. What harm was there in hearing what they had to say? We were not signing any contracts in blood or selling our souls. It was just some further information. It was another resource. All we wanted was to find a combination of things that helped our daughter be more successful and less stressed in her school environment.
Wanting to have as many ears processing the information as possible, my husband and I, along with my parents, went to the meeting to hear the results of the evaluation. We listened as they explained their findings, explained the program, and the cost of the program. The program is 12 weeks long, 3 days per week for an hour. It also includes home exercises that need to be done three times a day, every day. The final component involved nutrition, including a blood test to look for food sensitivities. The program was expensive. We all talked it over and decided there was no risk of harm and every opportunity for improvements by doing the program. We signed on the dotted line and began our Brain Balance journey.
The program is intense. They ask that you limit your child’s screen time to one hour a day during the week and two hours on the weekend. Limiting screen time to this degree was so much harder than anticipated. It was the source of so many meltdowns and arguments. It caused a lot of chaos. With my daughter’s extreme anxiety, it took three grown adults to hold her down on the couch in our living room to draw her blood for the food sensitivity testing. Then came the elimination diet. I had already upped my food game, but the Brain Balance nutritionists took it to a whole new level. Mariana did wonderful at her sessions at the center. She skipped back with her coach without a complaint. The home exercises were a whole different story.
The Brain Balance home exercises are not hard. If done straight through, with maximum effort, they can be accomplished in 10-15 minutes. Seems easy, right? 10-15 minutes, 3 times a day. On average these exercises took us 45-60 minutes. 45-60 minutes of arguing, negotiating, threatening, tears, yelling, and extreme loss of patience. This reaction was universal across all the kids in the program. As caregivers we were all dumbfounded. Why did they all fight these simple exercises with so much passion? At one point my mom offered Mariana $100 to do her exercises without any complaint. Mariana replied, “No thank you!” What 7 year old child turns down $100 dollars for ten minutes of effort? My child, that’s who.
As the program progressed we did see improvements. Our lives were getting easier. She was gaining more control and focus. Mariana was having small successes in school. It seemed as if the program was going to deliver on all its promises. At the end of the 12 weeks, Mariana went through a re-evaluation and we compared her first results to her final results. She made massive improvements in many areas. There was more work to be done in others. We were not up for another 12 weeks mentally or financially, so we said our good byes.
A few weeks after the program ended, Mariana began to back slide. All the improvements we saw quickly slipped away. It was heart breaking. Of the people we met while in the program half had long term success. Most of the success stories came after multiple rounds of treatment. I do not regret giving the program a try. Every child is different and there is no way to know what will work and what will not. The idea of 12 weeks and done, life is perfectly perfect is appealing, but somewhere I knew that it probably would not be that easy.
If you have a child who is struggling and are looking for alternative treatments, I suggest reading Disconnected Kids, visiting a Brain Balance Center and making your own decision on what you think is right for your child. The biggest lesson I learned from delving into alternative treatments is that no two plans are alike. In reality options are a wonderful thing because no two children are alike either. Look at every angle and choose the path that is the best fit for your child and your family. It is just not a one size fits all world.
Below are our Graduation Photos from Brain Balance.