Dr. Robert Melillo on Childhood Development: Making a Difference with Families
Jul 30, 2016 07:18PM
By Teona Wright
Dr. Robert Melillo, creator of the Brain Balance Program, and publisher Teona Wright at the Greenwood Brain Balance Center
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Robert Melillo, a leader in the study of neuroscience, rehabilitation and childhood neurological disorders. He is working to help families that are impacted when a child is dealing with neurological issues, a strain that can create lifestyle and relational issues for everyone involved.
In the mid-90’s, he had a thriving practice as a chiropractor in Long Island, New York, dealing with high-level rehabilitation and neurological issues. A friend’s request for help with his son’s severe ADHD, in conjunction with his own older son’s attention issues, led Melillo on a 20-year journey of research into childhood neurological disorders.
disorders. He began to explore what was happening in the brain of a child with learning difficulties and compulsive actions. “As a parent and professional, how could I help if I didn’t understand what caused these issues and how they affect kids?” he questioned. As he conducted his research, the concept of hemispheric imbalances in the development of the left and right brain causing an unevenness of skills and underlying behavioral issues became more and more apparent.
During this phase, several parents approached for help with their autistic children, asking him to put his research into practice. He developed a program to use with kids that could be reproducible, and within a few weeks experienced success in restoring balance and developing speaking skills.
These early results convinced Melillo he needed to continue working to help families with children experiencing learning disabilities, including ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, Asperger’s syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. He focused on writing a textbook outlining his research, began teaching the concepts to other doctors in 2000, and developed the Brain Balance program that launched in 2006. Two years later, Brain Balance Achievement Centers were offered as a franchise company, to support a faster growth trajectory and reach even more families looking for viable options.
Melillo’s bestselling 2009 book, Disconnected Kids, propelled him into the national spotlight, and fortified the work being done at Brain Balance Centers around the country. The comprehensive program offers a drug-free, multi-modal educational approach, combining physical and sensory motor exercises with cognitive skill training and healthy nutrition, to place both hemispheres of the brain back in sync.
Today, of the 90-plus centers nationwide, 40 percent are operated by parents that experienced success in the program and have the desire to share it with others. Initial assessments are designed to identify areas of the brain that might have a developmental delay, which can lead to an imbalance or functional disconnection.
“The best age range for kids to enter into the Brain Balance program is around 4 or 5,” says Melillo, “when the process of change can be more enjoyable—they can better engage, are beginning to read and aren’t afraid of strangers.” None of the children are “labeled” with a diagnosis or an acronym of disease. “For example, autism can be viewed as a desynchronized right brain.”
“Most of the labels are wrong anyway,” asserts Melillo. “We are dealing with a deficiency in development of brain, and healthy kids that are having difficulty learning.” He believes medication doesn’t address learning and processing issues—it may manage some symptoms, but it doesn’t change the function of motor skills. “We are learning and achievement centers,” says Melillo, “working to close the gap in development of the brain.”
He encourages parents to take action—especially in the early stages of child development—to support the healthy development on the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Many lifestyle modifications that can be done at home, including encouraging physical activity and movement, social interaction, significantly limiting access to technology, and providing a healthy, nutritious diet.
The first two to three years of development are critical, when the right side of the brain is developing, and the brain grows from 25 to 90 percent of mature size during this period. It’s important not to expose little ones to technology, which can bring the left brain online too soon, creating an imbalance. Ideally, to allow the basic foundation level to develop a balanced brain, children under the age of 6 shouldn’t be exposed to technology.
With an understanding of the potential impact to brain development, Melillo recommends “being uncomfortable with being uncomfortable,” and make the commitment to significantly limit kid’s screen time entertainment each day.
In addition, motor and sensory activity, physically moving the body, interacting and socializing with other kids are vital during these stages to develop balance and coordination. Melillo asserts a lack of physical activity and poor nutrition—often tied to screen time—affects brain development and is leading to the explosion of diabetes and obesity in young kids.
His latest book, The Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan, is a scientifically developed program for feeding kids with special needs, to enhance their focus and learning skills. The book’s Foreword, “Giving Back,” by Zac Brown, describes the special connection that began in 2008 between Melillo and the now well-known musician of the Zac Brown Band.
The Brain Balance Program will be part of Brown’s Camp Southern Ground, a camp currently in development, with an emphasis to enrich and educate children with neurobehavioral disorders, social or emotional challenges and their entire families. Combining the missions of both organizations to benefit the overall health of children with special needs, Melillo is donating proceeds from the book to help fund the camp.
“We give people hope and solution,” concludes Melillo. “We’ve come up with a solution, the hope is real hope, not false hope, building on real results.”
Dr. Robert Melillo, creator of the Brain Balance Program, is an internationally known chiropractic neurologist, university professor, researcher and bestselling author. DrRobertMelillo.com.
Brain Balance Center of Indianapolis: 9510 N. Meridian St., Suite D. 317-843-9200. Brain Balance Center of Greenwood: 7689 S. Shelby St. 317-497-8166. BrainBalanceCenters.com.