Dr. Layton - Published Articles


Amy is a 15-year old with learning disabilities. An education assessment revealed that she had above average intellectual potential but had serious difficulty in processing information. She had visual and auditory learning deficits and was a slow reader. Amy was described as a "non-exceptional student with learning problems and difficulty coping." Amy was often stressed, impulsive and suffered from depression. Her parents were confused, frustrated and desperate for help. There are many children with stories just like Amy's. They have problems concentrating and keeping up with their class despite normal and above normal intelligence levels. Their efforts to improve are frequently unsuccessful and therefore these children are prone to depression. There often is an answer, however, that plays a key role in helping these children--allergies.

What is the relationship between allergies and learning problems?
The term allergy is most frequently associated with an adverse reaction caused by inhalants such as pollens (trees, grass, weeds, molds) and animal danders (cat and dog). Allergies, however, are much broader in scope and are caused not only by inhalants, but by the food we eat and the chemicals present in our air, food and water. Because the scope of allergies is so wide, they can affect almost every system in a child's body, especially the central nervous system. Allergies which affect the brain may cause a child to have difficulty concentrating, become easily distracted and eventually, exhibit erratic learning patterns. A look beyond Amy's learning problems revealed a strong indication that allergies were an underlying cause of her problems in school. She had been suffering from nasal stuffiness, watery eyes, urinary frequency, fatigue and headaches. Amy's mother felt that her daughter was adversely affected by foods, additives and dyes. Allergy testing revealed that Amy had allergies to additives. Specifically, B.H.A. affected her concentration, red dye caused fatigue and dizziness, and yellow dye provoked an increased pulse and activity level. In addition, allergy testing revealed that Amy was also allergic to over 20 foods, 16 molds and 6 weeds. Allergy testing was based directly on Amy's medical history.

How are allergies which cause learning problems treated?
Often, children who have been diagnosed with a learning problem are prescribed medication or even removed from regular classroom settings. This often does not have to be the case. If allergies are identified as a cause of a child's learning problems, a treatment called sublingual immunotherapy can be utilized and is frequently effective. Sublingual immunotherapy is essentially a homeopathic treatment; it involves the detection of each allergen, or allergy-causing substance and the subsequent development of a treatment comprised of allergen dilutions to block adverse reactions.

Sublingual immunotherapy is an effective treatment for foods, molds, chemicals and pollen allergies that are causing multiple medical complaints, including a child's learning problems.

After the positive allergy testing, Amy was immediately put on sublingual immunotherapy treatment. Within six weeks, her teacher noted that Amy's attention span and concentration were improved. She was doing more homework on her own. In addition, Amy's other medical complaints including nasal stuffiness, watery eyes, headaches and fatigue were all significantly improved. Two years later, Amy continues to do well with her physical complaints. Her mood is positive, and she is maintaining a "B" average in school. Amy's case represents the startling effects that multiple allergies can have in a child's learning patterns. The key to Amy's improvement was the detection of the underlying cause of her problems--allergies. In order to determine the underlying cause of your child's learning problems, it is important that the pediatrician or family physician obtain a comprehensive medical history and conduct a thorough examination. A thorough analysis will frequently reveal multiple medical complaints and allergies which can be linked to a child's problems in school. It is imperative to differentiate a primary learning disability from symptoms secondary to allergic problems that mimic a learning disability. Specifically, a primary learning disability such as auditory processing is a specific central nervous system disorder that would not improve with only allergy treatment. Problems appearing to be primary learning disabilities but which are actually allergic in origin can minimic a primary learning disability, but actually are secondary to allergic causes. In either instance, the need for a comprehensive cognitive evaluation with therapeutic interventions based on the learning disability diagnosis is imperative. If your child is suffering from learning problems and multiple medical complaints, consider the possibility that allergies may be the cause. Richard E. Layton, M.D., practices specialized pediatrics, allergy and preventive medicine and maintains a private practice in Towson. He has over 29 years experience in pediatrics and is president of the Maryland Association of Innovative Health Care Practitioners.