Homeopathy For Children With Learning Disabilities

by Dr. H. Cohen, B.Eng., N.D.

"As a first approximation the notion of life implies certain absoluteness of self-enjoyment"
Alfred Whitehead

Hyperactivity is poorly understood yet the most common psychological disorder of the young. There are one or two hyperactive kids in every classroom. Often it is the fact that these kids are displaying certain forms of antisocial behaviour than their own suffering brings society's attention to this problem.

Recognition of childhood hyperactivity as a diagnostic entity has been evolving over a long period of time and still presents a very unsatisfactory criterion, nor is there any reliable treatment within the orthodox medical field. In the U.S. childhood hyperactivity drew an interest from doctors after 1917-1918 when an encephalitis outbreak left many surviving victims with behaviour changes that included hyper-activity, impulsivity, aggressiveness, and short attention span. Thus, the Brain Damage Syndrome was born but was subsequently renamed Minimal Brain Dysfunction Syndrome (MID). As it became more apparent to researchers that both behavioural and learning difficulties of the children affected with this disorder are somewhat associated with their very limited attention span, two new diagnostic labels were proposed in 1980 by DSM-II1: Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity (ADD) and with hyper-activity (ADHD). And in the most recent attempt to adjust to the constantly changing perception of this phenomenon and in view of the criticism that ADD does not really exist without hyperactivity, the revised edition DSM-III-R has eliminated ADD altogether.

Childhood psychologists when studying the ADD phenomenon focus their attention on cognitive disabilities. Psychologists see hyperactive children as people who somehow missed certain developmental milestones and literally did not learn to learn. It is also quite evident from the most recent psychological literature that these unfortunate children do not and cannot find pleasure in problem solving and learning in general. In actuality they display distress and suffering, often complaining of head or tummy aches or being bored. The new term is now being coined, "Motivation Deficit Disorder."

From different diagnostic perspectives there originate different modes of treatment. If a professional or a parent sees a hyperactive child as the one incapable of learning social roles and transgressing boundaries then strict and cruel discipline is the only remedy. Discipline based on a system of rewards and punishments that "suit the crime" is particularly difficult to practice with many ADHD children as they are often indifferent towards rewards and seem to enjoy cruelty directed at them. Notwithstanding their diagnostic prob­lems, the psychiatric clinical solution is very clear cut as it is still embedded into the MBD criterion as well as the usual allopathic treatment methods: stimulant drugs for the "unduly sensitive central nervous system." Since some of the children exhibit hyperactive behaviour after eating certain foods or being exposed to allergens, dietary approach is often used by those who resent the idea of their kids ingesting mind-altering drugs. Being totally "natural" the dietary approach, however, is also reductionistic in its essence. Allergies and blood sugar problems should not be viewed as causative factors but rather an individual element of a multidimensional syndrome, a part of a parcel, if you will. If a child's behaviour changes drastically after ingestion of sugar, wheat, milk or food additives, that is so )because her metabolism is not normal. One cannot separate the malfunction of the liver or the colon from the malfunction of the brain and decide which causes the other to perform abnormally, because both the liver and the brain are intimately and inseparably connected in the structure of one single organism. Rather, liver, brain, immune system, emotive centres of the limbic system and so on, are all mal­functioning as a result of a damage to the organism as a whole. However, this "malfunction" is not of the same order of magnitude as mechanical malfunction of an engine, for example. What appears to us as an illness, especially in a growing human, is in fact an evolutionary attempt at adjustment of an organism to its dysfunctional and "malnourishing" environment.

What all of these diagnoses are trying to accomplish is actually an impossible task — to separate an individual from their environment. From this perspective identification of ADHD is twice as hard because it is so much more difficult to separate a child as an entity from her family and cultural background than it is an adult. In reality hyperactivity is cognitive, emotional, and behavioural disorder that reveals itself in its many different facets unique to each individual child-family situation. In actual clinical practice each individual case represents a complex multidimensional picture where even for a trained expert it is difficult to determine the etiology (single causative factor) of a poor scholastic performance.

I believe the only way human beings and animals learn is by coupling the experience with feelings. The affect, or feelings have had millions of years of evolutionary testing behind them and served the life forms of this planet very well so far. For this very reason we still possess the entire structure of a hypothalamus and the limbic system. It is very basically and elegantly wired, which leaves little chance for an error. As in a binary computer system there are only two codes. The moment a child's hand touches a hot object the information goes straight to where it has to be processed because it is relayed there by a very strong feeling of pain. The hand is immediately removed, the skin is saved and the lesson is learned. "Ouch!" The two codes our lower nervous system operates on are: "this feels good" and "that feels bad". Unlike the computer, a life form is endowed with an infinite grading of intensities of these two signals which provides a code for a hierarchy of importance.

Since learning is as essential as oxygen for any new organism to survive, it is only logical that Nature endows it with the highest degree of pleasure. Let us examine the ADD and other learning problems in view of the above-mentioned hypothesis. What was it that went so terribly wrong? Could it be that an environmental factor of great importance rendered the nervous system incapable of performing its most vital function — to learn and enjoy learning — which is therefore incom­patible with life. Let us go back to the very beginning.

Torn out of its safe universe in a womb by forceps, blinded by artificial light, having its life supporting line to the womb cut before time, handled like a piece of meat, having its eyes burned by a drug, scared to death from not knowing and not recognizing anything, not being allowed to touch base with the familiarity of her mother's warmth, rhythmic motion, sound, smell, taste, feel, eye contact, the poor victim of a modern birth method can not literally calm down for two or three days. All this adrenaline she was releasing to help her enjoy the new world is only contributing to her panic. Can this newborn nervous system learn to learn or will it just accept the fact that encountering anything new is frightening and life threatening? And other damaging information: "I am a worthless creature!"

Now let us follow this new life home with her parents. Whatever happened to her at the hospital can still be healed, she indeed has many resources available to her to heal, not least important of them all is her ability to suppress any painful memory and always face the new day with renewed hope. But lo and behold: her mother is in the grip of "postpartum blues". The only way an animal's central nervous system develops is through an interaction with its environment. When a full-term baby is born her brain has all the necessary structural elements to insure proper functioning. The connections between these elements is the only thing that is missing. The interaction with the environment is what is going to stimulate these structural components of intel­ligence to form stable patterns of personality, memory, learning abilities, language, and behaviour acceptable by the social group she is brought into. This way the flexibility and adaptability of a single organism is ensured. Here intel­ligence (or psyche or soul) is what connects her to her family, her tribe, her planet, her universe, but it can only form when it is connected, through a two-way communication system, which is what our brain exactly is. She has to be loved, touched, rocked, rubbed, hear, smell, see, and all along feel very good and safe. She can only learn to decipher and pattern the reality if reality is there! When this new organism emerges from the hospital delivery room and is brought home and placed in a crib she learns that life is full of suffering and withdraws. To dull the pain she severs her connection with the world because the world is not much fun to be with — she cannot learn when her brain is turned off even if the opportunity presents itself. She now has to devise her own living routine such as rocking to and fro (as a substitute for a live motion of a womb or a walking parent), sucking on her thumb, rubbing a blanket, even hitting her head against the wall and scratching till she bleeds (eczema comes in handy), and, when older, obsessive-compulsive rituals. Many years later, in a classroom, she will slip away into her own world and miss the essential information to the dismay of her teacher. Right in the middle of a lecture she will have a feeling of unreality and disconnectedness (Medorrhinum), of everything being immaterial and insignificant (Sulphur), or metaphysical (Calceria) and even threatening (Arsenicum). It is not easy to learn this way.

Homeopathic medicine stands alone in its perception—i.e. diagnosis, and etiology—as well as in its unorthodox treatment of learning and behavioural disorders of children. Having at their disposal two hundred years worth of painstaking medical research and data acquisition coupled to extensive clinical trials homeopathic physicians can successfully treat their little patients without relying on obscure and change-able modern theories. While it is of utmost clinical importance to a homeopathic doctor to decipher the true cause of an illness, be it an allergy, or trauma, or inadequate parenting, or genetic abnor­mality, it all matters only as an integral part of the total picture of signs and symptoms presented by a real child in a real-life family situation. It is con­temptuous for us to imagine that a child is a self-sufficient entity that exists all on her own. Therefore it is often futile to attempt to treat her without treating her whole family, because it is the family that is sick, the little one is just producing the symptoms. And suffering along the way. That is why it is so important to treat postpartum depression as soon as possible. Better still, is to treat depression, anxiety and PMS in a very young woman long before she ventures into a marriage and motherhood. Babies with colic or sleeping problems must be treated together with their mothers. This kind of truly preventive medicine will save our society a whole lot of grief.

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