Skip to content

Unraveling ADHD

Many kids with ADHD and other attention issues are often misdiagnosed. You see, there are two reasons a child may struggle with attention and/or hyperactivity. The one cause is incorrect development of the right side of the brain and the other is because of retained primitive reflexes.

True ADHD is the result of a right brain deficit. In other words, the right side of the brain did not fully develop.
The right side of the brain is responsible for long-term, sustained, non-reinforced attention. It’s inhibitory and stops impulsivity. The exact symptoms associated with ADHD!

Kids with a true right brain delay typically have other characteristics such as: gross motor challenges (balance and coordination issues), difficulty interacting socially (good eye contact, fitting in socially, making friends, etc.), and poor posture and muscle tone.

The left side of the brain is referred to as the “gas pedal.” It is impulsive and impacts the motor (muscle) centers, enforcing short-term attention and “seeking” behaviors such as hyperactivity, tics, OCD and anxiety!

Therefore, when the left side of the brain is dominant, as seen in a right brain deficit child, success in school as well as social interaction is very difficult!

It’s like a double-edged sword in the sense that the left brain is dominant, driving impulsivity and short-term attention while the right brain is weak, unable to slow down/balance the left brain to provide long-term, sustained attention.

Put simply, if the right and left sides of the brain are not equal in strength, the stronger side will dominate behavior!

Therefore, if the child presents with a true right brain deficit, we simply need to strengthen that side of the brain which is exactly what we do each and every day on our office!

If neither side of the brain is deficient, retained primitive reflexes may be the culprit. Without diving into great detail, just understand that every child is born with primitive reflexes that build the brain and nervous system. Once the initial phases of growth and development have occurred these reflexes go away, which is typically by 6 months of age.

Therefore, when these reflexes are retained (still present), we know certain aspects of the nervous system did not fully develop! More specifically, these kids are stuck in sympathetic (fight or flight) mode and I am going to explain what this looks like in a child.

Although there are a variety of primitive reflexes, I want to focus on the most common reflex that these children have, the MORO Reflex. This is a startle reflex.

How I explain this to a parent is very simple. Pretend you are walking down a hallway and I pop out and startle you! You are going to get what is called a Fight or Flight response. Your heart rate will increase, your pupils will dilate and you will start consuming more oxygen in preparation of either fighting me, or running from me.

If a MORO reflex does not develop correctly, kids will be getting this same response during normal, everyday activities! A common test that we do in the office is to have the child stand, close their eyes and tip their head back. While they are in this position I will clap loudly, causing a child with an abnormal MORO reflex to move/flinch/startle! Now, imagine your child has this reflex in school, every sound may startle and as a result distract them from the task at hand.

These kids are constantly stuck in a fight or flight response because of this abnormal development! They are the kids that are always go, go, go. They have allergies and immune system issues, sleeping difficulties and they typically have sensitivities to light and sound. Classrooms or lunchrooms are overwhelming because they are constantly getting startled.

The most common effect of this retained MORO reflex is outbursts and I don’t blame them! If I were constantly getting startled all day I would want to burst with emotion as well.

The sad reality is that these are viewed as behavioral issues or attention issues, when in all actuality it is the response the child has developed to compensate for the abnormal development in their fight or flight response!

We get the great pleasure of helping many kids with attention issues by simply balancing the brain and/or getting rid of these reflexes!

If you have any question please call us at 630.608.2885 or request an appointment at

Dr. Garrett


Add Your Comment (Get a Gravatar)

Your Name


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.