According to Robert Melillo and Gerry Leisman (2004) in their textbook, Neuro behavioral disorders of Childhood, “Attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (ODD) , Asperger's syndrome, and autism, to name but a few, may be viewed as points on a spectrum of developmental disabilities in which those points share features in common and possibly etiology as well, varying only in severity and in the primary anatomical region of dysfunctional activity (p. 1). ”
These authors state that the child behavioral disorders share many things in common, including learning disabilities. Their theory is based on the idea that the human ability to think (cognition) is tied inextricably with movement and that, indeed, cognitive and motor functions are actually part and parcel of the same biological function.
They cite as evidence that problems of motor movement such as in coordination or clumsiness are very common symptoms of developmental disabilities. The following are some further core tenets of their theory:
1) Under-stimulation of the cerebellum and thalamus affects both executive and motor functions. In other words, the cerebellum and thalamus (portions of the brain) are under-stimulated, and this affects the ability to move in a fully coordinated way and to think and process information in optimal ways.
2) A primary problem is dysfunction of hemisphericity, ie the right and left hemispheres are not talking to each other properly.
3) Most conditions in this spectrum are the result of a right hemisphere dysfunction or delay.
4) Environment is a fundamental problem. The authors point out that if these disorders were initially genetic, they would not be increasing at such an alarming rate.
5) All of these disorders are variations of the same problem. They point out that there is a high rate of comorbidity for all these conditions.
6) These problems are correctable. They state that the main focus of treatment should be on improving motor function in conjunction with cognitive training and behavior modification.
7) Hemisphere specific treatment is the key to success. “Motor activity, sensory stimulation, and cognitive functions directed towards the under-functioning hemisphere is the most important consideration in treatment (p. 4).”
Hyperactivity may actually be the brain's attempt to correct itself, ie provide enough stimulation to the under-stimulated cerebellum. Further, this may be why stimulant medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, etc., allow some children with hyperactivity to calm down and focus.
Robin Pauc, author of The Learning Disability Myth, puts the neuro behavioral behaviors (ADD, ADHD, OCD, Asperger's, autism, PDD, etc.) under one umbrella and calls it Developmental Delay Syndrome (DDS). Notice that he calls it “delay” and not “disorder.” Pauc, Melillo and Leisman are among a growing number of clinicians and researchers who believe that the areas of the brain that are immature due to genetics or environment can be brought to maturity through cognitive-motor treatments. This is very exciting indeed!