Brain Balance aims to look beyond labels to help kids reach potential
By Debbie Gardner
WEST SPRINGFIELD The teachers, coaches and nutritionists at 47 Brain Balance Achievement Centers across the country aren’t interested in slapping new labels on kids already diagnosed with neurobehavioral disorders. They’re eager to help them achieve their physical, mental, social and academic potentials.
The first Massachusetts location of Brain Balance Achievement Centers, 1472 Riverdale St., offers assessments to children functioning at ages 4 to 17. The evaluation looks for markers of a condition called Functional Disconnection Syndrome an imbalance of the maturation rate between the right and left hemispheres of a child’s brain. The results allow valuators to devise an individualized program of physical and academic exercises to help bring a child’s brain into better balance.
“Kids come here with labels,” Dr. Megan Hudson, director of the West Springfield Brain Balance Achievement Center, said. “We’re not labeling them. We want to know what side of their brain is weak.”
The philosophy behind Brain Balance was developed in 1994 by Dr. Robert Melillo, a New York-based childhood neurologic disorder researcher, to address social, academic and behavioral issues associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome and related autism spectrum disorders.
To date, the program has helped 1,000 children in various centers in the United States.
“It’s a supplemental education program, it’s not done from a healthcare perspective,” Hudson said, adding that the focus was not on “diagnosing and treating” but on “assessment and remediation.” The program, which costs approximately $6,500 per 12-week session, is not covered by health insurance. Payment plans are available.
Hudson, who worked with Melillo before he wrote his first book, “Disconnected Kids,” upon which the Brain Balance program is based, also studied chiropractic neurology, Melillo’s specialty.
She explained that the first step she takes with a new client is to perform a comprehensive assessment of 1,100 sensory, motor and cognitive functions to determine the child’s individual strengths and weaknesses and what side of the brain needs to catch up developmentally.
Next, she develops a program of specific physical activities including such things as balance beam work, climbing or specific play using a Nintendo Wii as well as classroom-type learning exercises to help bring the child’s left and right hemisphere brain functions into better balance.
The left hemisphere of the brain controls such functions as verbal communication, reading and math calculations, details and facts, pattern recognition and fine motor skills. The right hemisphere controls non-verbal communication, spatial relations and impulse control, body awareness, facial recognition, social skills and gross motor skills.
“We meet them were they are and steer them toward where they should be,” Hudson said. A typical program has a child in the center for one hour three times a week for approximately three months. Hudson said the center draws clients from throughout the region, including Northern Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and the New York border.
“We have one family who relocated from Vermont to Northern Connecticut [to attend],” she added.
Those interested in a comprehensive explanation of how the Brain Balance program works are invited to attend one of the center’s upcoming free seminars, which take place on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The next session will take place on Aug. 9.
As space is limited, individuals are asked to call 737-KIDS (5437) prior to the seminar to reserve a seat.