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What is Brain Balance?
According to the Brain Balance homepage, the “Brain Balance Program® is an individualized and comprehensive approach to helping children with neurobehavioral and learning difficulties surmount their unique challenges.”1 The program works to improve academic performance, social abilities, cognitive function, sensory and motor skills, visual-spatial organizational skills, immunity, and nutritional health.2 Dr. Robert Melillo, a practitioner of chiropractic neurology and co-founder of the Brain Balance Achievement Centers, believes that children with neurological disorders have an imbalance in the brain preventing the two sides from communicating with one another, preventing these children from using their whole brain, causing their neurological problems.3
Dr. Melillo and the Brain Balance Program® refer to this imbalance as functional disconnection syndrome. Functional disconnection, sometimes known as developmental disconnection or underconnectivity, is “the inability for large cortical networks on both sides of the brain to integrate and bind in time and space.”4 In layman’s terms, the disconnection between the right and left brain causes the symptoms of various neurological disorders as genes fail to “turn on” due to a lack of environmental stimulation causing that side of the brain to fail to mature and grow while the other side of the brain matures and grows at normal levels.4 The different hemispheres of the brain are responsible for specific tasks. For example, one responsibility of the left side of the brain is understanding and using language while the right side is responsible understanding and remembering the things we do.5 The logic of the program dictates that there is a weakness in either hemisphere of the brain contributing to the individual’s disorder. The center’s employees conduct an evaluation to determine in which hemisphere the weakness lies and designs a “program consisting of physical, cognitive and academic exercises as well as simple dietary changes and nutritional supplementation… created to target the specific centers of the brain where [the] connections are most out of sync.”6 The program is founded on the belief that functional disconnection syndrome is the root cause of a number of disorders including ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s, Asperger’s, and autism spectrum disorders.1
How Does Brain Balance make a Difference for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum?
Children who enroll in the Brain Balance Program® will first undergo an initial assessment to determine which parts of the brain need to be strengthened “to establish proper connections and improve rhythm and timing.”2 The assessment costs $295 and consists of 2 separate 1 ½ hour sessions comprised of an extensive cognitive examination and a sensory-motor examination that includes sensory-motor testing of over 650 functions, nuero-academic testing of over 290 functions, and an assessment report that demonstrates “what areas the child’s brain is strong and what areas are weak; a child’s overall ‘brain age’.”7 The Brain Balance Program® is not covered by insurance, but may be tax deductible in some cases.7 The Brain Balance website does not provide pricing information beyond the initial assessment, but a review of blogs and forums on the topic have claimed the price of the 12-week program to be anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000.8-9
Once the assessment is complete and the child’s “brain age” is determined by evaluating the results that quantify the severity of the child’s imbalance, a program is designed to target the areas of the brain where the child’s connections are the most out of sync.10 The program “consists of academic and sensory-motor activities in combination with simple dietary changes.”10 According to Dr. Melillo’s book Disconnected Kids, which is based on the same principles of the Brain Balance Program®, the 12-week program will ideally fix the disconnect between areas of the brain by exercising the immature side of the brain so that it catches up with the other side, which will not only force the symptoms to go away, but also the disorder itself.11 The Brain Balance Program® is most effective for children ages 4 to 17 who have dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Tourette’s, Aspereger’s Syndrome, and high-functioning autism. However, there are only a few Brain Balance Achievement Centers that accept individuals with low-functioning autism and the centers “are not able to help children with organic brain diseases, severe mental retardation, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, physical brain injury, or psychiatric illnesses.”7 The Brain Balance Program® prides itself on providing a non-medical and non-pharmaceutical program that is “designed to help children become more focused in their everyday activities, improve their academic performance, and increase their occurrence of positive behavior, resulting in enhanced communication and social interaction skills.”12
The Brain Balance Program® also offers the “Pre-Brain” Balance Program® for children who are too young for the Brain Balance Program® or have disabilities that are too severe to qualify for the regular program.13 The Pre-Brain Balance Program® is only available at Brain Balance Achievement Centers located in Atlanta, Ga.13 The Brain Balance website fails to provide details on the differences between the two programs and only provides the explanation that “Pre-Brain Balance is a 6-9 month program that prepares the child to be able to work in a group setting in the Brain Balance program.”13 The site goes on to explain that the prerequisites for attending Brain Balance are that children “must be able to focus in a group setting and be able to score on the WIAT in all areas.”13 The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) is a test given to children by psychologists to test their intelligence in the areas of reading, mathematics, oral language, and written language.14
Who is Qualified to Administer the Brain Balance Program®?
The Brain Balance Achievement Centers are typically owned by a franchisee. According to Franchise Help, a leader in providing guidance, tools, and expert advice to individuals looking to purchase a franchise of their own,15 the Brain Balance Achievement Centers’ franchise fee is $45,000 as part of a total $200,000 franchise investment.16 The Brain Balance Program® claims that each Brain Balance Achievement Center will effectively train each of their franchisees to implement their exclusive program.12 Those interested in becoming employed at one of the Brain Balance® Achievement Centers must simply fill out a contact form to receive further information.17
Where is The Brain Balance Program® being Implemented and Where can I find more Information?
In November of 2012 there were 54 Brain Balance Achievement Centers nationwide that specialize in the Brain Balance Program®.1 These centers are the only institutions that offer the Brain Balance Program®. Individuals seeking additional information about the Brain Balance Program® can visit their homepage or read Disconnected Kids, authored by the program’s co-founder Dr. Robert Melillo.