Fight or Flight


Relief from the effects of

stress and trauma

Child Development

Child with a learning disability



Children with learning, behavioral or sensory motor issues


Starting even in the womb, kids are exposed to a wide variety of stressors. Research is now finding that many of the early developmental, behavioral and learning problems in children are at least in part due to the stress of the mother throughout her pregnancy. If life is stressful for mom, her baby absorbs her stress hormones through the placenta, and then goes through a kind of withdrawal at birth.


As reported in the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Science Briefs: "Stress during pregnancy can have adverse influences on children after birth by altering the development of brain and endocrine systems that control behavior. It is thought that such changes also may have long-term consequences well into adult life."


This early stress can manifest in a variety of developmental, behavioral and learning difficulties. Imagine how this further challenges a child trying to cope with the typical everyday stressors of childhood and family life. Often misdiagnosed, these children are frequently labeled, medicated, put in special classes, or they just struggle.


What if we could make life a little easier for these children by calming their nervous system and giving them more resilience to deal with stress? As you can imagine, behavior can change, school and athletic performance can change. It's not uncommon to hear a parent comment: "he (or she) is like a new kid."


Keep in mind, the symptoms of fight-or-flight in a child can mimic other conditions. What is interesting is that sometimes a child who comes in with a specific diagnosis, leaves having significantly fewer of those symptoms after completing their Fight or Flight Therapy.


In such cases one of two things may have occurred. If the original diagnosis was correct, performance improved because the child's ability to handle the stress of living life with their disorder has improved. Instead of having to deal with their disorder and fight-or-flight issues, now they are left with only one. We've lightened their load, and performance and behavior improves.


On the other hand, remember that most practitioners and educators are not trained to think in terms of fight-or-flight. With the overlapping of symptoms, it's easy to see how mistakes can be made. For example, think how the hypervigilance of fight-or-flight might look very much like the distractability of attention deficit. Indeed, there are cases where the symptomatic improvement with Fight or Flight Therapy is so great, it must be concluded that the child was originally misdiagnosed.


In either case, a child's life has been changed for the better.


Here's how Fight or Flight Therapy changed one boy's life:




Case Report


Sensory Integration


11 yr old boy diagnosed with sensory integration problems




as infant cried a lot until started crawling late @ 9 months

nearly deaf as baby, ear tubes cleared out fluid @ age 1

     hearing now reportedly normal

did vision therapy for 1 yr in 4th grade:

     some hand/eye improvement some reading improvement (had been at 1st grade level)

     got reading glasses that don't seem to help anymore

6 months of occupational therapy at age 10

speech therapy

currently working with orafacial myologist

     seems to be helping


Symptoms and concerns


reduced muscle tone

vestibular and coordination problems

orientation and body awareness problems

     needs to do weight-bearing exercises (lift books, etc.) to orient in his body when standing

     has to frequently re-orient to body and surroundings

     left/right and top/bottom problems

still problem with bed-wetting

can't feel pain

     things need to be really hot to feel hot, or really cold to feel cold

     needs multiple layers of clothes to feel covered

can't keep train of thought

poor concentration, problems with reading and math

sports: poor hand/eye coordination

    learns kinesthetically, not visually

     hockey coach has to move his feet for him, usually just stands there



Fight or Flight Therapy


3 weeks later


       seeing more clearly

       more aware of his surroundings

            reacting to things quicker

       hockey improved

             actually playing instead of just standing around

       reading improved

             grade level jumped from 3.2 to 5.7, comprehension and retention better

       better at video games

             seeing the 'bigger picture'

       mom says:

            "he seems to be blossoming"

             fewer sensory problems

             places don't seem so big and overwhelming anymore

             sleeping better

                  falls asleep quicker, more motivated to go to bed

       possibly less bedwetting

       less grouchy or frustrated

       completing schoolwork faster

       orafacial myologist says big jump in lip strength


6 weeks


      even more aware of surroundings

           sees sister sneaking up on him quicker

      comfort boundaries expanded

           used to only feel safe at home, now other places as well

      schoolwork going much faster, video games better

      mom says: more talkative and outspoken

           waking up drier more often

           copying quicker, less laborious

      huge: starting to learn hockey more visually

           without the coach needing to move his feet or grip his stick for him


9 weeks


      mom says: functioning at "a whole new level" ("it's like everything is starting to wake up")

      with muscle tone problems everything needed to be 'big' for him to feel things

           now notices bumps and texture in things

      tasting better, noticing hunger

      holding urination better w/o accidents

     now feels sleepy at bedtime and falls asleep quicker (5 min. vs. 25 min. previously)

           doesn't wake up at 2 AM anymore

      able to comprehend audio tapes without having to listen over and over

      reading better: able to read for half hour w/o taking a break

      hockey: even better, now doing really well

           from just standing around, to being involved, to being able to anticipate plays

           more actively involved

           hockey gear stinks of sweat, never did before

      guitar: used to go through the motions now actually playing


12 weeks (final evaluation)


      "imagination kicking in"

           seeing pictures in leaves of trees, creating more complex and creative Leggos

       reading even better

       can process more pieces on game boards better

       hockey even better

           coach now putting him on offense!

       huge: mom says they are really questioning whether he still has his muscle tone problem

           don't notice anymore

        mom: "this is a totally different kid"


Update: three years later


 Excerpts from a note from mom:


     "His current testing levels are very good. When we did his IOWA test in 7th grade, he scored a composite of grade level 8.8, and his core score was 7.3. We were very pleased!


     "He scored in the 11th and 12th grade levels of science and social studies. So, his brain continues to just blossom. We see him catching up in chunks and he continues to love to learn…he is doing great!


     "He is now one of the stars on his ice hockey team at the YMCA level. He has been reading book after book…we continue to be amazed at the changes."




The Fight or Flight Questionnaire


Is Flight or Flight Therapy right for you?


These area a sampling of symptoms common to people stuck in fight or flight.


How many symptoms do you have?


You might be surprised, or maybe you will confirm what you already suspect.


Take the Questionnaire




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Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability
Child with a learning disability