Dr Robin Pauc's new book Could It Be You? claims that many adults may suffer from developmental disorders such as dyslexia, ADHD, OCD and autism. While children are regularly diagnosed, adults aren't so lucky. So how can you tell if you're a sufferer and what can you do about it?
If a child finds it hard to read, we no longer assume they're stupid.
Teachers and parents are hot to spot learning disorders such as dyslexia, but how many of us who left school many years ago suffered unnecessarily?
The Specific Learning Difficulties Association (SPELD) of NSW estimates that seven to ten percent of all people have learning difficulties including dyslexia, a disorder which can inhibit a person's ability to read and spell.
And, according to Dr Robin Pauc, author of new book Could It Be You?, dyslexia is just one of a range of disorders including ADHD, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger's syndrome which he believes are linked and which can all be traced back to developmental problems in childhood.
"One of the first adults that ever approached me was 65 years old and wanted to know if I could help him to read. He'd gone through his life as a carpenter and avoided promotion because he knew that if he became a foreman he'd be obliged to read and he couldn't. So rather than admit that, he told people that wasn't the type of job he wanted to do," he says.
Dr Pauc believes that there may be millions of adults suffering from a problem he has termed 'developmental delay syndrome' - and has written a book to help sufferers diagnose and treat their symptoms.
"When I was studying neurology I couldn't understand how things like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD or Asperger's syndrome happened," he says. "And then I realised that no one else did.
"I began to wonder whether in fact all these separate conditions were in fact simply symptoms of one larger problem, which I've called developmental delay syndrome."
Although Dr Pauc's theory is not widely accepted, his holistic methods of helping children and adults suffering from everything from dyslexia to attention-deficit disorder have certainly been a success.
The trained chiropractor and former professor of neurology, who is currently the director of the Tinsley House Clinic in the UK, works with nutritionist Carina Norris to offer patients carefully-controlled treatments focusing on diet, physical exercise and the use of computer programmes.
He has also co-authored two books called Is That My Child? and The Brain Food Plan.
:: HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE A DISORDER?
According to Dr Pauc, developmental disorders tend to fall into five areas; dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome and autism.
He says: "If you're really struggling to read, then you could have dyslexia. Those with dyspraxia might find that they're very clumsy. And people suffering from ADD will tend to have a history of impulsive behaviour, an inability to keep still and being constantly in trouble. Adult sufferers tend to be those people who are always changing jobs and constantly on the move."
He adds: "People who have obsessive-compulsive disorder are usually aware there is a problem because their rituals have started to take over their lives. Similarly those with Tourette's syndrome are aware of their overwhelming desire to say or call out something.
"Those with autism will usually have been diagnosed at an early age, but sometimes mild cases may not be picked up, which can have a big impact in later life."
Robin explains that adults with an autistic disorder, such as Asperger's syndrome, might have difficulty making sense of the world and how to fit into it. He suggests that adults who are concerned about their wellbeing should see if the following situations apply to them:
DO YOU HAVE?
:: An impaired ability to plan ahead
:: Difficulty in abstract thinking
:: Difficulty with working memory
:: Lower general intellectual abilities
:: Difficulties with memory retrieval
:: Poor short term memory
:: Slower speed of data processing
:: Emotional instability
:: Decreased initiative
:: Poor oral intake
:: Poor writing/spelling
:: Low self esteem
:: Urinary retention/incontinence
:: Travel sickness
:: Dizzy spells
While a positive response to these questions is merely a guide, Dr Pauc explains that such clues can help adults identify if there's a deeper neurological problem.
:: CAN YOUR DIET HELP?
Dr Pauc's patients are put on healthy diets designed to improve the health of the brain. "We aim to control supplies of food to keep blood sugar levels constant, reduce the intake of stimulants such as caffeine and encourage the use of supplements such as zinc and magnesium," he says.
Working closely with nutritionist Carina Norris, the author says he has had particular success by increasing levels of polyunsaturated fats in his patients' diets.
"The most important ones are omega-3 and omega-6. As well as being being essential for building brain cells, they're also needed for the day-to-day functioning of the brain."
Although the link between diet and mental health is by no means proven, in the latest study by the Mental Health Foundation, called Feeding Minds, experts concluded that a lower intake of omega-3 fatty acids could be linked to depression, schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer's disease.
"In general a holistic approach to treating neurological disorders is important," says Dr Pauc. "By combining a healthy diet with physical activity and dedicated brain exercises, I think people suffering with development disorder syndrome can dramatically improve their quality of life."
:: GET TESTED
Dr Pauc says that computer programmes are now capable of accurately assessing whether you have a disorder or not.
"Software has over the years been developed to help with the diagnosis of a variety of conditions," he says.
"Programmes can do everything from identifying a person's exact developmental problem to stimulate specific cells in the brain and aid reading fluency."
The Royal College of General Practitioners recommends that adults who are concerned should go to see their doctor. GPs are happy to talk to patients of any age about such conditions and work with them to get a diagnosis.
:: Could It Be You? by Dr Robin Pauc is published in paperback by Virgin Books, RRP$34.95.