Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Hearing LaDawn Clevenger describe her daughter’s early days dealing with ADHD is at odds with the sounds of a little girl happily chattering and playing in the background during a recent phone conversation.
Carissa, who was prescribed medication that left her “zombified” during the days and unable to sleep at night, was on her third round of meds when the Clevengers decided to pursue chiropractic therapy to help alleviate the ADHD symptoms.
And that, her mother said, made all the difference in the youngster’s life.
Before, “she would sit and stare, and it was even worse with her socialization,” Clevenger said, recalling the mornings she would fight her daughter to take her medicine so that Carissa would be calm enough to attend school.
“It was really hard, doing that every morning. And now, she’s a totally different kid.”
Carissa's chiropractor describes the vivacious 10-year-old as “one of our rock stars” for the strides she’s made as a result of therapy.
“She was our severest case,” said Dr. Davy Rigsby, a family wellness chiropractor based in Jacksonville whose patients are 50 percent children.
Describing chiropractic therapy as a drug-free alternative practice that originated in 1895, Rigsby said treatment focuses on the central nervous system, which is housed inside a person's spine.
“It’s the connection between our brain and our body, and the stronger the connection, the stronger our body,” he said, describing how proper alignment and motion of the spine impacts a person's health.
“When it’s out of alignment, it causes those stress signals” that trigger the sympathetic response – or the “gas pedal” – of the central nervous system, Rigsby said.
“It causes garbage to go in, and garbage to come out.”
In a child, that sometimes manifests in behavior that is diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist as a form of attention deficit disorder.
A chiropractor does not make such diagnoses nor does he prescribe medicine to treat patients, Rigsby said. Instead, a chiropractor offers diagnostic testing of the nervous system to detect how well it operates, and treats patients with spinal adjustments that help increase nerve productivity.
Picking up a sheet with computerized results of Carissa's baseline diagnostic testing, done in October 2012, he pointed out bars that are along either side of an image of a spine.
While the variety of color broke up the grey image, “white is what we want to see here.
“Green’s bad, blue is worse, red is severe and black would be off the chart. Carissa was diagnosed with ADHD before she came in here, with vestibular disorder, sensory processing and was having lots of trouble with reading and speech, and was not on her grade-level at school,” he recalled.
However, through a series of spinal adjustments, the little girl's behavior began to change, and people took notice.
“Everybody's really noticed the difference, and asks what's made her change. And we say it's Dr. Rigsby,” Clevenger said, noting that her daughter is no longer on ADHD medications, nor must submit regular bloodwork to ensure her vital organs weren't being damaged by the medicine.
“People say, 'Wow, she's a totally different kid,' ” she said.
Even Carissa's pediatrician didn't immediately recognize the youth at a Cherokee Charmer event.
“She remembered when Carissa came to her office, when she wouldn't talk or have eye contact, then saw her running around the gym – she was so pleased to see Carissa being a little girl,” Clevenger said.
While each patient responds in their own unique time and level, it's this kind of hope that Dr. Rigsby wants to instill in families of children with attention deficit disorder.
“Carissa wasn't in pain, but what was happening in her nerve system was creating massive mayhem inside of her, so that instead of being in growth and development and thrival mode … she was pushed over into breakdown or protection mode; into stress mode, into always trying find an out route,” he said. “She was not being able to focus, not being able to concentrate, not being able to take in new ideas, integrate them and bring them back out. She was locked in.”
Fascinated by a talk he had given about applying chiropractic treatment to babies with chronic ear infections, and how adjustments could benefit some children with attention deficit disorders, Clevenger set up an appointment with the family wellness clinic.
“I told Dr. Rigsby when we started this process, I wanted something better, something where (she and Carissa) wouldn't have to fight over medicine,” she said.
“Every single mom that comes in here says the same thing: They don’t want their kids on these drugs because they understand the adverse affects on them,” Rigsby said, describing a chiropractic approach as “gentler, safer, effective and friendly.”
His goal is to educate the public about this alternative approach to treating children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.
“According to the CDC, there are now between 5 to 7 million kids on some type of medication for that,” he said. “Why I am so passionate about this – and what rips my heart out – is that a lot of times, the parents and the kids don’t feel like there’s any help. And now more than ever, they are looking for something different. Parents are looking for their kids to be as healthy as possible, they want to ensure that without drugs.”
What amazes him most is how adjustments can “allow a kid to be able to grow and develop normally, where they don’t have to struggle to any of these things,” he said. “The really neat thing is that we’ve been able to help so many kids who struggle with this, and I’m really grateful for that.”
Include the Clevenger family among those who share the gratitude for an unexpected solution.
“We never expected this,” Clevenger said. “I thought that this was how it would be the rest of our lives. It's a different experience – it's just 900