pdf of this article

For more information, contact:


Darcy Dane, DC, DACNB

6404 Falls of Neuse Rd., #201
Raleigh, NC 27615

Telephone: (919) 703-0207

As always, your initial phone consultation is free of charge. Just fill out the consultation request form found on our website.

Dr. Dane is the founder and owner of the Carolina Brain Center. She is a Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board and has extensively studied childhood developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and vestibular disorders. She is a charter member of the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation

Lifestyle Choices Key to Every Child’s Health

By Darcy Dane, DC, DACNB

At Carolina Brain Center we work with children of all ages who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD and ADHD), learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and sensory, visual, and auditory processing disorders. What may surprise you is that we also treat a growing number of children and teens for mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

Dr. Dane with the Carolina Brain Center’s therapy dogs, Doc and Ollie.

Some common factors we look for during the evaluation process are retained primitive reflexes, immaturity in the visual and vestibular systems, immaturity in fine and gross motor skills, and different chemistries. What we have learned is that lifestyle drives the train in most cases and it certainly contributes to all cases even in genetically based developmental cases.

Now, when I use the term “lifestyle” for children, what I am really thinking about is “training the trainer.” I am always thinking, “What do I need to teach the parents about how their choices are directly impacting the health of their child?” and “How do I do it in manner that will be taken not as a criticism but as an ‘Ah Ha’ moment that fuels better decision making and lifestyle changes?” Because for me, I am never looking at a “broken” child, but I see each unique kiddo—and I see potential! Lifestyle choices in the family unit are key to unlocking every child’s potential.


Movement is the biggest lifestyle factor because movement is the biggest driver of neurodevelopment. The development of the central nervous system commences from conception, develops in a regular sequence, and is the same for all humans regardless of cultural influences. Parts of this regular sequence of developmental stages are identified by the movement patterns or primitive reflexes. These movements/reflexes play a part in the necessary growth of the fetus and young child because they prepare the way for the next stage of development.

Primitive reflexes, ideally, are short-lived and as each fulfills its function it is replaced by more sophisticated structures called postural reflexes. Retained primitive reflexes indicate functional immaturity of brain development and can result in immature fine (handwriting, tying shoes) and gross (walking, jumping) motor skills, immaturity in oculomotor function (reading), poor body spatial awareness (clumsy, bumping into things), ADD, ADHD, learning difficulties, anxiety, and emotional instability.

Guidelines for the “Trainer”

When training the “trainer” (the parent) to support healthy movement, I offer the following guidelines:

        • Car seats are for the car
        • Let your baby move freely
        • Play with your children
        • Buy a big ugly play pen
        • Go to the playground and swing, spin, climb and run
        • Make exercise a part of daily living
        • Trail walks are great for developing brains
        • Learning to swim is great for developing brains
        • Listening to, singing to, dancing to, and playing music are all great for developing brains
        • Arts and crafts drive fine motor skill development and visuospatial development


Screens have become the new pacifier, babysitter, and entertainer. But screens are a horrible lifestyle choice. More and more research is bringing to light the addictive nature of screen-based activities.

In 2018, a fleet of high-profile Silicon Valley executives began sounding the alarm over how bad screens are for the human brain. The very people who invented devices like the iPhone set strict limits on their own children’s use of technology. No devices until 13, no social media until high school. 
Screen-time induces the fight-or-flight stress response and at the same time is also a source of a reward stimulus. Chronic stress effectively “short circuits” the frontal lobe and the constant ability to get a reward stimulus has created children who are wired, stressed out, and in search of self-medication. It is no wonder that anxiety, attention issues, and addiction are on such a sharp rise in younger and younger children.

Screen time is fast, everything at the touch of a button, it’s a constant reward system; the creators of all things screen created it to be addictive and know it drives hyperarousal. The fight-or-flight stress response is not exclusive to video games but has been purposefully inserted into social media outlets. Each “like” delivers a shot of dopamine to the system. Dopamine is our reward neurotransmitter; our body’s own feel good drug. Children and adults in a state of hyperarousal will have trouble paying attention, managing emotions, suppressing impulses, following directions, tolerating frustration, accessing creativity and compassion, and executing tasks.

Guidelines for the “Trainer”

I offer the following guidelines for a healthy relationship with screen technologies:

        • Be a good role model for your child and put your own phone down
        • Place extremely strict limits on screen use
        • Do not use screens as a reward, pacifier or entertainer
        • Read books not screens
        • Handwriting versus typing
        • All devices out of the bedroom at bedtime
        • Leave devices at home when on vacation
        • Teach your children to have meaningful conversations