Post 29 — Violence. Peace. Children.

“Teenager fixated on people being killed” was a search that reached my blog. I get this kind of thing a lot.

People are worried and confused about children acting out; they wonder how to contain their rage; they wonder why they’re violent.

I more or less “decided” on why my own son was violent, based on my own research; based on the age he was when he began raging; and on all the outside factors in his life. I may be wrong, but I know that nobody has any better information upon which to base their claims about my son than I do. The MDs and psychiatrists only have the DSM-5 to judge from, which is merely a list of made-up diagnoses by symptoms. No scientific evidence, no proof. By the admission of renegade psychiatrists, it’s simply a reference manual for prescribing drugs and for billing.

But if I found myself sitting across from a person who said to me, “I wonder why my teenager is fixated on people being killed?” I would have some ready questions. Does your teen watch the news a lot? Does your teen play a lot of violent online games? And violence in games doesn’t have to be ‘World of Warcraft’ or ‘Call of Duty.’ I see all kinds of violence (weapons, killing, hand-to-hand combat…) in the most innocuous apps my sons download. But even cartoon-like violence for hours on end is not a mind-healthy thing.

Do you or your kids watch UFC-type sports? Horror, police and thriller shows? The endless supply of kidnap-murder shows? Are you in a military family? Do you talk about guns a lot in your household? Do you follow violent sports?

Does your child take prescription pharmaceuticals? If so, have you read the entire list of warnings that come with that drug? There is growing evidence that some pharmaceuticals cause suicidal and violent thoughts, and that some are directly behind school and mass shootings. Are your teenager’s friends taking any of those drugs? Are their own violent ideas spreading to friends and peers? Parents really must make a huge effort to communicate daily with their kids. Their peers, and the violent or negative culture around them, cannot be allowed to be a more powerful force shaping their thinking than their parents.

We don’t take any pharmaceuticals in our family. They generally only treat symptoms and lead to side effects. And I don’t keep the TV on programs that promote an obsession with violence. Yet I am a news hound and my kids can see the most horrific violence on the daily news. I never imagined, say 20 years ago, that I would be watching beheadings, stonings, and crucifixions on the nightly news in 2016. But there you are.

We have made our son watch episodes of ‘Scared Straight’ sometimes, a show that films at-risk kids while they’re made to visit prisons. I think he needs to know a probable consequence of a habit of violent or anti-social behaviour. But otherwise I strictly limit the crime, police, thriller, and other types of violent shows we have on in our home.

I am not a child and even I must acknowledge how my own mind is affected by what I watch. And if an adult is affected, then children must be affected to a greater degree. I tend to use Netflix at night as a relaxant; but I have to be careful what I watch, because the last thing I watch is almost guaranteed to be imported in some form into my dreams that night.

Sadly, we live in a violent world. And some things — entertainment, sports, news, and pharmaceuticals among them — exacerbate the violence out there already. Peace and calm really do begin at home.

Post 28 — Dances With Surgeons

A sizable chunk of my life as a parent has been devoted to giving my younger, ‘explosive’ son a drug-free childhood at a moment in history when similar kids are medicated early, dangerously, and unnecessarily.

But my hesitation with all things medical and pharmaceutical arrived far earlier than with this son’s developmental issues. Back in my twenties I refused conventional interventions that my peers happily submitted to, and I took alternate routes that were commonly viewed as nutty.

So by the time I chose midwives over doctors for my pregnancies and births; and a homeopath, chiropractor, and acupuncturist over MDs and often-unnecessary pharmaceuticals for my kids’ health, I had already worn in an alternative path for myself for decades previous. I’m not a Luddite or a crank, and I have agreed to some conventional measures over the years. Some I’m fine with, some I accept as having been absolutely necessary, and some I deeply regret.

So, a largely necessary outpatient surgical procedure for my other son was a difficult, stressful — yet interesting — exercise in dealing with The Medical System that I otherwise avoid…like The Black Plague.

My older son was born with a small bump under an eyebrow. I discovered that it was called a dermoid cyst and was a painless and benign mass of tissue often seen under the end of an eyebrow. Uncommon but far from rare. It wasn’t disfiguring or bothersome, except that it starts to pose an issue if it gets hit, as it once did during karate. These little bumps can become inflamed, they probably eventually droop with gravity, and over time people would simply rather not have them.

I always knew that we were going to have to have it excised but I dreaded having to deal with doctors and, worst of all, surgeons. I began strategizing early on. I was told that my son would require general anesthetic to have it removed, which seemed like a ridiculous intervention for the removal of a bit of benign tissue. People vastly underestimate the dangers and toxicity of general anesthetic. I once had a little thing like this removed from my torso with local anesthetic, and general anesthetic made no sense from a patient-health perspective.

So I waited until I felt a case could be made for a local anesthetic (based on my son’s age, calm nature, and maturity), and then agreed to a consult with an ophthalmic surgeon. I don’t like surgeons. They represent a type I don’t like. They’re very often hyper-arrogant, poor communicators, obnoxious, [paradoxically] careless, and pushy. Sometimes they’re better than this; and sometimes they’re even worse.

We landed a young woman who, correct to type, was super-confident and a bit of a show-off. She would do this-and-that, she said, and then this-and-then-that. She repeated a couple of worn, infantilizing generalizations about the safety of this-and-that and about her choices, ostensibly to raise our confidence in her and her procedures, and sent us away.

I had been hoping that we might hit the entire process during a sweet spot of my son’s age: young enough to be processed through our local children’s hospital, yet old enough that he could be considered a candidate for a local anesthetic, which required greater self-control and maturity on the part of the child (and trust on the part of the surgeon). A children’s hospital accepts that pesky parents are an inevitable part of the process, and I wanted full advantage of that so that my son could feel protected and also safe enough to learn as much as possible.

I also wanted this procedure done while he was a minor in Canada. Woe be anyone who has to deal with the American system of care; and even the European systems can be sketchy and certainly even more paternalistic than here. And who knows where my son will go to school, or work, or beyond?

[I wanted to avoid general anesthetic because some family members and myself have had poor reactions to the drugs; because the drugs are unhealthy; because a general anesthetic was in this case functionally unnecessary and far more dangerous than the eye procedure itself; and because my son had only recently healed from a period of extreme eczema and didn’t need another assault to his system.]

I did some homework on her ‘thises’ and ‘thats’, and pushed back in carefully worded, ultra-polite emails. I didn’t want the brain scan she wanted in order to see exactly how deep the dermoid cyst was placed. The information wouldn’t radically change her surgery or the outcome, and studies now show that too many kids are receiving too many of these possibly harmful scans. I didn’t want the general anesthetic. And I didn’t want the incision where she preferred to make it. Her choice was based on her idea of cosmetics, which didn’t jibe with our own choices. Some back-and-forths took a few months, and we had a couple more consults with her.

To my surprise, she came to agree with everything we wanted, though the anesthetic issue was the trickiest. Surgeons and anesthesiologists like to knock everyone out; it makes the surgery simpler and quicker. But not necessarily so simple for people recovering from those powerful drugs.

The moment of outpatient day-surgery came. We were processed, prepped, and questioned. The hospital anesthesiologist was a young, bombastic, very unpleasant man who appeared to resent our presumption of agency; but he somehow agreed as well. My teen was going into an eye [area] surgery with local anesthetic after all! I suspect that while surgical pros don’t like to be questioned, they also don’t like to be seen to refuse what they perceive as a challenge. It’s in their nature to be competitive and to show off. In this case, that trait worked in our favour.

Contrary to what you would imagine a children’s hospital would try to do, the pre-surgery area atmosphere was at a fever pitch, a cross between a war zone and a circus. Nerve-wracked parents sat with unhappy children amidst construction-volume noise (hospital machinery plus blaring kiddie TV), creating a place of pure chaos. My son was a frozen ball of anxiety; my nerves were shredded. A nurse plied my son pointlessly with Tylenol (research indicates that these drugs are far from benign and helpful). It was a horrible moment.

I was soothed to hear after the surgery that the cacophony and fervour ended the moment he moved through the doors of the next hallway that led into the operating rooms. He reported an atmosphere of pure calm and quiet.

As planned, my son was asked during the procedure on his level of discomfort at every point, so that more local anesthetic was administered and the surgeon could continue. She indicated beforehand that the procedure using local anesthetic would be lengthier than if we agreed to general anesthetic, and it was.

Afterwards, she indicated how everything had gone, and that she was impressed by my son’s self-control, calm, and ability to communicate his needs. (Contrary to the reported statistics, she learned that a teenage boy can indeed remain calm throughout a surgical procedure.) Having not had information from a brain scan didn’t change anything, and he was rolled into the post-operative area awake and calm. At home, we began a disciplined regimen of healthful ‘alternative’, or Integrative remedies, to reduce swelling, pain, and keep the area clean. We used no conventional cremes, ointments, or pain relievers. The site healed beautifully under a regimen of botanicals, vitamins, supplements, a careful diet, and lots of rest.

My son went along with everything I wanted; and indicated before, during, and after that he was happy with my/his/our decisions. He’s a kid and I’ll be interested to canvass his impressions when he’s a bit older and has some distance from the events.

I’m recounting this story on this blog because the awareness I tried to bring to my son’s minor surgery was the same awareness I have tried to bring to my other son’s developmental issues. This issues are all the same: of listening to myself and not ‘experts’ or white-coated medical professionals; of doing what I believe to be the best in the long term for my child; of advocating for my children because they lack the ability to do so for themselves.

In not drugging my younger son I try and teach him age-appropriate self-awareness, behaviour-awareness, and self-responsibility. Drugging him in order to control him won’t teach him anything about himself and carries negative consequences (known and unknown, since long-term affects of these psych drugs are unknown).

His older brother learned about patient advocacy, about being responsible for his own health, and not abdicating that responsibility to strangers. He learned the importance of doing your own research and not leaving it to supposed experts (all of whom will have competing views of their facts). He learned that the doctors and hospitals don’t necessarily know best on surgery methods, medications, recovery, pain management, and wound healing. He learned that he has a right to argue for himself and his needs with a surgeon, which is something most people never learn in a lifetime. And he had the opportunity to face his own fears of being awake and aware in an operating room.

You don’t often have the opportunity to teach a child all this under semi-controlled circumstances. Most of our hospital experiences happen in emergencies, and patients have no time or opportunity to think, consider, or advocate. I had the opportunity this time and leapt at it for my child’s present and future.

 

 

Post 27 — How To Restrain A Violent Child

These search words keep popping up: how to restrain a violent child. I’m glad they fell on my blog and I hope they picked up my message of support and self-restraint.

How to restrain a violent child? The answer is in the question: Use SELF-restrainT.

It’s not rocket science. Virtually NO child wants to be bad. Virtually NO child wants to be violent. Virtually NO child wants to be angry and out of control. A violent child is a very sad child struggling to deal with the world.

The vast majority of parents, caregivers, teachers, or institutional workers faced with a violent child are dealing with a small, powerless person who has been neglected, or abused, or is wrestling with developmental problems. Are they helped by YOUR rage and power issues?

So, the real issue ISN’T how to restrain the child, but how to handle and control your own anger, frustration, and rage while the child is raging. Because it’s fairly easy to seriously harm or kill a child in a crazy moment when both a child and an adult lose control. Shocking, horrible and heartbreaking.

How about treating a raging child with as much CARE and COMPASSION as possible? How would YOU like to be tackled by someone twice or three times your size and weight if you were in a frenzied state that you couldn’t control?

DO NOT:  Yell, berate, threaten, or insult the child.

The central issue is your ability to control your rage. You need to harness and control your own brain’s executive functions — exactly the same functions the child is dealing with!

GENTLY and firmly use your larger body and greater strength to stop or limit damage the child might do, but make sure you remove your negative emotion — your control issues, your anger, your resentment, your humiliation, from the task. The child is raging, but not at you. You are simply there. The child is out of control and feeling terrified and humiliated.

Simple yet sophisticated for us humans, since we do exactly what the child is doing: we become angry and want to lash out/lash back. Few adults can demonstrate more self-restraint than a child. The rub: you’re the adult and you’re supposed to have better judgment than a child.

I always took my child to a soft spot with no furniture when he raged, so he couldn’t hurt himself on corners or edges while thrashing. For a few years we had a futon on a floor in a spot with no surrounding furniture. Later, I used the biggest bed in our home.

I tried my best to breathe and move myself into a neutral, ‘Zen’ state so I couldn’t be enraged or angered. Then it was just a matter of using some elementary gymnastics and wrestling to lightly and carefully restrain his thrashing limbs and head. And breathe. And breathe.

I’m heartbroken to think of the physical restraints used in institutional settings for the children unfortunate enough to be there. How would you feel if you were a small, powerless child in such a setting? How would you feel to be without love, support or protection in such a situation? Alas, this is the reality for most violent kids. I’ve seen these draconian methods: restraint chairs, handcuffs, locked rooms, closets, and such. I don’t have the heart to google statistics on the numbers of children inadvertently killed in these situations at home or in institutions.

Psychopharmacology is another issue. Less violent, but it comes with its own hefty price.

How to restrain a violent child? Start by restraining yourself. Calm yourself. This is not YOU versus CHILD. This child is not in a power struggle WITH YOU.

Then, imagine yourself in the place of this terrified, vulnerable child. Then, imagine you actually care about this little human being who is struggling to develop.

That’s all a great start.

 

Post 26 — On A Lighter Note: Explosive Abbreviations

This is a post I submitted to a parenting site that bills itself as a publication of serious, thought-provoking material. I like the site (that I began reading many years ago in magazine format), but today find it top-heavy with no-holds-barred hyper-emotion, tearful confession, and lots of downright misery. If a 14-year-old girl morphed into an educated, intelligent mother, she would be this site. My own life is hyper-realist and overemotional enough: I’m not really drawn to article-after-article of the same. I’m guilty, as we all are, of using a blog as a conduit for personal agony, but I can’t read entire issues, ad infinitum, of women’s wailing misery. Yikes.

That said, the site put out a call for ‘humour’, so I submitted this [admittedly] dry piece. It was rejected, and I forgot about it. I came across it in my Word documents and decided to throw it onto my blog. Please let me know if it elicits a chuckle or even a smirk. Certainly contact me if you explode with laughter!

Explosive Abbreviations

So it turns out I’m a terrorist.

I only just discovered today, so I’m still settling into the idea. I don’t look any different from yesterday, and I’m not doing anything new. And if you looked at my computer hard drive you wouldn’t find anything particularly anti-social or violent.

Mind you, a few years ago we renovated, and for some months I watched a lot of YouTube videos that included nails, screws, metal enclosures, and electric drills. And, come to think of it, many of my original blog illustrations depict certain domestic turbulence…so perhaps I’m wrong and they’re right?

They say I’ve produced an IED.

I’m a news hound, so I know that an IED is an Improvised Explosive Device; a type of homemade bomb designed to be made cheaply, easily, and to do as much harm as possible.

Whoops! That’s not the International News section I’m reading; it’s from the Health section! And that’s NOT an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), but Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) from the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

This new IED has been added to the other alphabet soup of Symptoms Made Into Brain Pathologies (SMIBP) for behavior in kids. You probably already know Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), which brilliantly describes the behavior of a kid who — you guessed it — opposes and defies people a lot. Clever use of jargon…

The psychiatrists who write each edition of the DSM suffer from Acute Addiction to the Creation of Disorders from Symptomatic Behaviour (AACDSB) and Insubstantive Abbreviation Syndrome (IAS). They use jargon in the place of evidence.

The vast majority of health issues located above the chin aren’t understood at all by anyone – not by the psychiatrists who do not actually study the brain at all (otherwise known as Emperors Without Clothes, or EWC); not by the pharma manufacturers who profit from chemical cocktails (individually known by their NYSE and NASDAQ stock abbreviations); and not by us Parent Dupes (PD). In fact, neurology is the only field of expertise getting near actual, evidence-based knowledge about mental health, but we’re all steered, like cattle, into the offices of psychiatrists!

I shouldn’t be surprised. Most health care professionals come locked and loaded with a string of abbreviations after their names. One time I took the time to Google a medical professional’s credentials because they looked so obscure: some of the abbreviations refer to one-day seminars! Maybe enough is enough with the multi-abbreviations?

Now, I’ve seen a few films of the Bourne Identity movie franchise. If I suffered from Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) I might imagine secret links between psychiatry, the global pharmaceutical industry, and the Military-Industrial Complex that resulted in my child and a bomb sharing an identical abbreviation. I may listen for footsteps the next time I’m in an underground parking lot.

So, since the publication of the DSM-5, my explosive child is newly an explosive IED. Previously, he might have been considered to be symptomatic for Conduct Disorder (CD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and/or ODD. I’m happier with my IED because it’s not just an Alpha-BitsTM cereal of behavior symptoms but something more solid, dynamic, and multifunctional.

I hope my little IED doesn’t grow up to build IEDs, but if he did I would hire a lawyer who would be trained to place the blame for his IED squarely on his IED. And since I’m a woman who has built an IED and is raising an IED, maybe my additional activities make me more employable than before. I’ll add my IED to my LinkedIn profile.

Finally, I’d like parents to know that I am shopping three new children’s books to agents and publishers: First is my Junior DSM-5: A Child’s Garden of Disorders. I think it would be fun for middle-graders to diagnose each other at sleepovers or in the gym changing room, and also to get a “heads-up”, so to speak, on a lifetime of diagnoses. After all, lots of diagnoses do come with free, brightly packaged pharmaceuticals, and that’s always fun. I know I enjoy watching the animated, non-threatening, cartoon drug ads that run on every major American network and turn dangerous chemicals into brightly coloured balloons and flowers.

Next will be my beginner reader picture books: The Little IED That Could; and A is for Antidepressant: A Kid’s PharmAlphabet. I hope you’ll pick them up for your kids when they’re published. I fear the alphabet book may suffer sluggish sales due to common side effects such as slowed thought and dampened emotions; but the IED book is guaranteed to fly off the shelves.

 

 

Post 25 — My Imaginary Conversation With Dave Traxson

This is my — an interested parent’s — response to a post I read. I follow the website, ‘Mad in America’, which publishes writing that is critical of psychiatry. It’s a wonderful website and a calm in the storm of a world taken over by psychiatry and its drugs.

This post popped up and is on a topic so close to my interests in this blog that to have merely commented below it would have not done justice to my own feelings on the subject (if I had been brief); or would have been removed by the site’s moderator (if I had gone on and on).

So I decided to have my own imaginary conversation with the post, and to post it in my own blog. Dave Traxon’s writing as published on ‘Mad in America’ is in italics; my reponses are in bold script. It appears argumentative, but my arguments aren’t with its author, who appears genuine and seems to have great intentions. I applaud him for that. My arguments are with a world gone pharma-bonkers.

This is the URL to the original post:

https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/10/how-using-a-reflective-checklist-may-reduce-the-rate-at-which-psychiatrists-prescribe-psychotropic-drugs-for-vulnerable-children/

My imaginary conversation starts here:

A Reflective Checklist to Reduce Psychotropic Drugs for Vulnerable Children by Dave Traxson (October 2015)

Vulnerable? But what child is NOT ‘vulnerable’ in an overdiagnosed, overpathologized, overmedicated, unhealthy world where massive power rests in the hands of pharma giants and doctors, and where no parent is capable of making informed opinions or of giving informed consent because of a lack of information?

Let’s be clear: NO child is safe where profit-seeking pharmaceutical giants stand directly behind mass media, government policy, medical education, and medical bodies.

We exist in a climate where pharmaceutical producers omit data; lie about data; do no control-group studies; do no long-term studies; manipulate doctors to prescribe off-label; and where the DSM grows its list of pathological behaviours with each new edition.

We live in a climate where teachers learn, through their complaints, that they can manipulate parents into having unruly children medicated and therefore easier to deal with. In this climate no parent can make informed choice on medications (because real information does not exist); and no parent is presented with workable options for raising difficult children because society has not evolved to that point. Drugging healthy children has become an accepted default. Shame. 

A question that has recently exercised my mind since reading a bestselling and much applauded book by Atul Gawande, ‘The Checklist manifesto – How to Get Things Right (2011), is “Could the use of some carefully formulated questions in a short checklist by themselves actually change practice, in terms of the increasingly common practice of prescribing of psychotropic drugs for children, following a clinical assessment, by child mental health practitioners?

There is indeed some (at present anecdotal) evidence that the use of such checklists to promote good practice and mindful responses in doctors could also work in this field. This approach of a team following a simple checklist has had a huge positive impact on many areas starting with the aircraft safety exemplar that Gawande first drew on before he developed one for his own field of surgery. Few predicted that following simple protocols and having simple clarifying conversations, as a team, before a scalpel is used would boost the survival rates in operating theatres so dramatically.

He believes that one of the key concepts underpinning such approaches is that ”Under conditions of complexity, people need room to act and adapt. They require a seemingly contradictory mix of freedom and expectations. This process requires balancing of several virtues – freedom and discipline, craft and protocol, specialized ability and group collaborations.”

Gobbedlygook. We’re dealing with fundamentally healthy children and we’re drugging them in order to control them, not heal them. These drugs heal nothing. We’re drugging them at their future peril. But, please, be my guest: Go ahead and talk gibberish and jargon while kids’ heads are swimming in uppers and downers.

So doctors prescribing psychotropic drugs to children and adults need the freedom to act according to their considered professional opinion whilst operating within the clear expectations of  ‘at least no harm’ or the paramount principle of safeguarding children.

Doctors need freedom? Now my head is swimming. Conventional doctors receive a particular type of education where they are trained to view the body as a series of compartments. The information they’re learning at any given moment is about 17 years old (google it). They are not taught to think critically. They have no basis for understanding about society, politics, and economics, which are the elements driving the drugging of healthy children. And, worse, doctors are soaked in pharmaceutical advertising regularly, making them the worst-placed to make sound judgments once they know that the world around them finds this practice (drugging healthy kids with psychotropics) acceptable.

Conventional medicine doesn’t teach root-cause resolution, so it relies on pharmaceuticals to address symptoms. There’s no louder and more obnoxious “symptom” than a difficult child. Conventional medicine’s logical response is to prescribe behaviour-altering drugs. That’s what doctors do with “freedom”.

The idea behind the checklist that I have developed is to promote ‘ethical mindfulness’

Except an environment without real/true/actual informed consent is unethical by design. No way around that.

and therefore more responsible prescribing to meet these above requirements. It should also provide a reflective structure that does not censure action. It rather encourages a child mental health professional to pause, reflect, and review some of the complex interacting variables that might be impacting on a child to create their current pattern of presenting behaviours, before they take the significant step of prescribing psycho-active drugs to a child whose brain is still in the process of development.

The entire notion of prescribing psychotropics to developing brains is criminal. Only the very tiniest percentage of children require psychotropic medication on balance for the possible, known, and unknown, harms they cause now, or will cause in the future. And the most glaring issue — largely ignored — is that these drugs do not address or treat root causes but act solely on symptoms! That we now blithely accept the doping of our children, and that it is normalized everywhere, is an excellent indicator of how sick the planet has become, and how profit-hungry are our corporations.

If they feel, having considered the questions posed, that issuing a drug is the right way ahead then that process may indeed have enhanced the appropriateness of that course of action. On the other hand, it may also reduce erroneous and ‘overzealous prescribing by some colleagues,’ as raised by Sir Simon Wesseley, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, when interviewed for a Times editorial in the summer of 2014. He shared his concerns and said the current position represented ‘a perfect storm’ of the over-diagnosis of children with normal behavioural patterns, and an under-diagnosis of children with genuine mental health conditions.

What is a genuine mental health condition, exactly and precisely? And if the DSM is our arbiter of all things mental, and its members are tainted by corporate conflicts-of-interest, and if psychiatry doesn’t actually study, research, or understand the brain (that’s the domain of neurology, and it’s moving ahead at lightning speed) then where are we exactly…?

In a world where troublesome children are drugged in order to be made easier to deal with, and pharma producers are making billions of dollars in the wake of those kids, of course the quiet, well-behaved 13-year-old girl with bulemia goes unnoticed!

Another related issue is the growing number of diagnostic categories that have been included in the most recent ‘Diagnostic Bible,’ as practitioners refer to it, DSM-5 which was published in 2013. Many child mental health feel that there is an increasing tendency to pathologise normality. Professor Peter Kinderman, head of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Liverpool and President elect of the British Psychological Society stated, ‘It will pathologise a range of problems which should never be thought of as mental illnesses. Many who are shy, bereaved, eccentric, or have unconventional romantic lives will suddenly find themselves labelled as ‘mentally ill.’

That ship has sailed! Ahoy, matey!

An internationally renowned psychiatrist Professor Allen Frances (Duke University) who was Editor in Chief of DSM-IV the American Psychiatric Association’s previous international diagnostic manual, in a recent article on the PsychiatricTimes website, on July 31 2015, endorsed such a checklist approach and also used the ‘perfect storm’ theme saying,

” A perfect storm of interacting detrimental factors has resulted in the recent massive overuse of psychotropic medication in children. Drug companies started to focus their marketing campaigns on kids when the adult market was saturated. “

You said it! Statements like that have an opiate-like effect on me, like chocolate ice cream or a great glass of wine. I feel all fuzzy, happy, and validated. I wish the author had quoted Robert Whitaker, who has done great work in ADHD drug criticism.

He then went on to say in the same article that I “had come up with a terrific suggestion to help contain the epidemic of careless medication in kids.” He also kindly stated,” We simply don’t know what will be the long-term impact of bathing a child’s immature brain with powerful chemicals. We are now conducting an uncontrolled experiment without informed consent with unknown consequences for millions of our kids.

And of course that’s exactly what’s happening, because there is no control group for unmedicated, behaviourally challenged kids. Parents like me, and children like mine, fly under all radar for decades. A parent can’t possibly ask a doctor or psychiatrist, “What if I don’t medicate my son/daughter?” and get any truthful answer except, if the MD has a brain and is truthful, “We don’t know.”

Usually, though, the MD will fudge the issue and give a fuzzy, equivocal answer to a fearful, nervous parent faced with a white-coated authority figure. How can a parent win here? Have you ever presented a doctor with information they were ignorant of, or that contradicted their practice?

No MD can point the parent to me and say, “Ask Liz. She’s a parent who had no trust in conventional medicine or in psychiatry and deliberately avoided all the current conventions in order to avoid being manipulated into medicating her son. And ask her again in 20 years, because we need to know how her son turned out.” There is no control group to compare against the millions of unnecessarily medicated children. It should be a crime.

There are childhood problems that certainly do require medication,

There’s a phrase to drive a truck through…

but this should only be a last resort after careful consideration of less invasive interventions. Medication should never be, as it now too often is, a first and careless reflex. Dave Traxson’s checklist is an excellent guide to more responsible practice.”

The trouble with this fix-it starts here. The default mode has now become prescribing psychotropic medication for unruly, or difficult, or challenging kids. Parents find dulled kids easier to raise in a world where everything is more stressful and difficult than even a generation ago; schools LOVE easily controlled kids; MDs enjoy quick, no-hassle visits; pharma loves to sell products. That’s a lot of pressure once the barn door of EZ-pop-a-pill-pharma has been opened; let’s see you close it.

Without drugs, what will you place in this vacuum? What are you going to tell parents and schools to do, and can I be there to watch the conversation? It seems to me, from my experience with my difficult child, from seeing other difficult children, from following the flow of new information from Integrative medical research, that autoimmune disease and neurological issues are exploding on our planet that is now soaked in environmental toxins. It seems that one of the many canaries of this coal mine is a couple of generations of children with more developmental problems than ever in history.

If you disagree, do you have a better explanation for a veritable tsunami of kids with assorted developmental issues, neurological problems, and other dysfunction?

[Not to mention that childhood cancer is so normalized that we barely blink when seeing photos of bald, radiated/chemo’d kids that would have shocked anyone a few decades ago. A gleaming, new childhood cancer wing in your local hospital? Wheeeeee! Why bother asking why so many children are now diagnosed with cancers? A new wing: How wonderful! Funny that a pharma giant is giving a million dollars, isn’t it? No! That’s an ethical, caring, community-building corporation!…that also just happens to make and sell chemo agents and radiation machines…]

So let’s just say this might be the case, that all these kids’ issues are linked to their environments:

Then you need to inform the parent that INSTEAD OF POPPING ONE LITTLE PILL they must: reduce exposure to toxins, to radically change the family diet, to add brain-healthy supplements, to increase a child’s amount of exercise (brain- and body-healing), and make the school alter its teaching methods and environment to better fit the needs of all these neurologically struggling kids, and to discipline differently.

And maybe — hold onto your chair — you’ll need to secretly look at some of the peer-reviewed, credible science

http://www.amazon.com/Vaccines-Autoimmunity-Yehuda-Shoenfeld/dp/1118663438/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436735077&sr=1-1&keywords=vaccines+and+autoimmunity&pebp=1436735082632&perid=03NN6YJ8Y9SBQC7WKWXQ

that is critical of contemporary vaccine orthodoxy, and consider that vaccines being given to babies and throughout childhood are not as safe as suggested by their producers (who are conveniently free of liability in the case of harm, injury and death); and that the beliefs we were all taught about vaccines are possibly not concrete but in fact crumbling? But that would require an openmindedness that psychiatrist (!) and political philosopher Frantz Fanon warned about decades ago:

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are
presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new
evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is
extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it
is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize,
ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

This is indeed my main hope that a reduction of prescribing will be a measurable outcome once the checklist is introduced to prescribers. More research will need to be undertaken to determine which the most discriminating questions are in terms of a doctor re-evaluating what a child needs and then influencing their decision so as not to prescribe a psychotropic drug.

The  Reflective Checklist is to help clinicians think through the necessary steps that should be part of every careful prescription of medication for children.

  • Does the child have a classic presentation that closely conforms to an approved indication for this particular medication?
  • An approved indication that follows overzealous, pharma-happy DSM diagnostics? Really? And a medication with no long term data for children, prescribed off-label, etc…?
  • Is there well documented research on efficacy and safety with children of the same age, gender, and social grouping?
  • Which there is not, period because there are no control groups and long-term studies…
  • Are the child’s problems pervasive, occurring in a wide range of social settings and observed by many different individuals?
  • Are the child’s problems severe, enduring, and impairing?
  • Do the child’s parents and involved professionals see the problems as significant enough to require medication?
  • Adults will reply to that question according to their needs, not the child’s.
  • Are there stresses in the child’s relationships, social context, and recent history which might explain this pattern of behaviors?
  • Has a psychological or social intervention been tried prior to prescribing medication?
  • Have there been any significant adverse side effects from any medications in the past which may influence your decision and have children with a similar profile had adverse reactions to the proposed class of drugs?
  • How many five- or 10-year-olds have experience with similar drugs…?
  • Have you carefully weighed short- and long-term risks and balanced them against possible benefits?
  • Impossible to weigh risks that aren’t researched and documented. And most parents don’t realize that these drugs act on symptoms and do not treat any abnormalities.
  • Have you received informed consent from the parent and (where appropriate) the child?
  • As I mentioned previously, there is no informed consent with psychotropics and children. It’s a fable.

And, perhaps the most telling question

  • If a child in your immediate family or circle of friends had the same presenting problems as the child you are considering psychotropic drugs for, would you be prescribing medicine now?
  • I don’t see how that is a telling question. Its answer only speaks to the degree to which a parent or MD is in denial over the possible effects of psychotropics on the developing brain and/or behaviour of their child, or the degree to which they are lacking information about the drugs and what they do. What would be more telling is a list of the parents’ own current and past prescriptions and the degree to which they believe in the conventional medical and psychiatric model; and knowledge of the MD’s prescribing history.
  • A more ‘telling question’ would be to ask the parents how badly they need the child’s behaviour dulled so that they can get the school off their back, and have to do less work with the child at home. Everyone is busy and preoccupied; an unruly child is a stress and a headache for everyone. Ergo: drugs.

Since this article was published I have received many positive comments from practicing mental health professionals around the world highlighting the following points:

  • That applying such a reflective approach would improve the Safeguarding of vulnerable children who may possibly be harmed by overzealous prescribing.
  • All children are vulnerable in a world where we find it acceptable to drug them in order to control them, since the drugs do not treat or heal.
  • That they would expect the prescription rates to fall considerably due to the reflective process involved reducing the likelihood of the doctor going on to sign the prescription.
  • Really? When the school and teacher, who were expecting a prescription that would dull the child into sitting quietly, see that none was given…?
  • That valuable resources within their health services may be released for higher priority interventions, with more needy clients, especially in poorer developing countries.
  • Forgive my cynicism. Developing nations just represent new markets for pharma.
  • That young people have the chance to mature and pass through transient problems without them being pathologised as having mental health disorders.
  • Another sailed ship. This piece shows how pervasive and acceptable it’s become to drug children into control. Instead of slamming 90% of behaviour-control-through-pharma, the piece just advocates dialing it back a wee bit.
  • That psychological and social interventions would be more likely to be tried first which complies with the guideline issued by such regulatory bodies as the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the U.K.
  • I’m not in UK and don’t know this organization, but in my experience public policy sells out everywhere to the pharma coporations to some degree or another. How else would the drugging of millions of healthy children even be allowed in the first place?
  • That younger children in a year group are not singled out as having behavioural difficulties just for being what they are, the youngest and therefore less mature children in that year. One Canadian study recently showed this was a legitimate concern.
  • Nice, but too little and too late. My son is born halfway through the year; so by those guidelines he might’ve been drugged.

The study author, Dr Richard Morrow, a research analyst at University of British Columbia, said in a written statement: “Our study suggests younger, less mature children are inappropriately being labelled and treated. It is important not to expose children to potential harms from unnecessary diagnosis and use of medications.”

For the study, published in the March 5 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers examined data on nearly 938,000 children from British Columbia. The researchers found children born in December were 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and 48 percent more likely to be treated with a medication for ADHD than their counterparts. This demonstrates clearly the systemic madness that is potentially harming our children due to the rising trend to pathologies normality.

Professor Peter Kinderman, the current President-elect of the British Psychological Society supported the existing NICE guideline for using psychological interventions first, in a press release at the time of DSM-5 publication in 2013, which was published contemporaneously in The Psychologist (BPS Magazine):

“Clearly, it is important to evaluate and assess behavioural and psychological problems fully, and to invest in proper, expert, therapeutic approaches. We would be very concerned if children were being  prescribed medication as a ‘quick fix’ rather than accessing the full psychological therapies which may take longer and cost more but ultimately are likely to be better value in the long run.”

“Would be”? “If”? I’m not sure that the professor and I live on the same planet. It IS the QUICK FIX of our epoch. Period.

Other NICE Guidelines which are regularly breached but are being challenged by many Educational and Clinical Psychologists are :

  • To utilise a ‘drug holiday’ if the child has been on a psychotropic drug for longer than two years. Some psychiatrists say they haven’t got enough manpower to operate this but one leading psychiatrist told me that if they haven’t got enough doctors to do this then they should not be prescribing so many drugs.
  • TWO years? Two years in the brain of a child whose brain has just begun to develop?
  • Not to prescribe drugs to children under the age of 5 years old. This is regularly being ignored and my ‘worst case scenario’ was a senior psychiatrist who got one of his team to prescribe a psychostimulant to his own child.
  • Appalling, appalling, appalling.
  • Not to use a psychostimulant if a child is presenting as having high levels of anxiety. This too is breached regularly but again psychologists are professionally challenging psychiatrists about it to good effect.
  • Hair splitting in a world where kids are drugged-by-default.

The reality is that these NICE Guidelines, as we are often told by psychiatrist colleagues, are only guidelines and as a Society we are reliant on the self-monitoring and self-regulation of the rate of prescribing psychotropic drugs to children by the doctors themselves. My two professional bodies the Association of Educational Psychologists and the Division of Educational and Child Psychologists (BPS) are both keen to urge the government to trigger a review of all prescribing of psychotropic drugs issued to young children within the U.K. and to encourage Reflective Thinking before prescribing. There are a variety of reasons for this ranging from a prime concern of many that we do not know what the long term harm is of putting toxic compounds, at varying concentrations, into the developing brains of younger and younger children. We are also aware of a scary new development across ‘the pond’ that the abuse of legally prescribed psychotropic drugs has for the first time in history exceeded the abuse of illegally obtained drugs. We do not want to import this trend to the U.K.

If these authors and bodies were all using Reflective Thinking themselves, they would ask and answer this question:

Is it OK to drug healthy children in order to control their behaviour?

And if the role of psychology, psychiatry, and general medicine is OK with that, then can we simply admit we now live in a novel by Orwell and be done with it?

The troubling thing here in all this hand-wringing is that nowhere do these bodies say, unequivocally, that it’s unethical by any standard to drug healthy children with compounds that may do long-term damage for the sake of controlling their behaviour — and NOT healing any illness.

Reading this long rationale for feeding children psychotropics unnecessarily makes me feel as if I’m in a real life ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

Let’s send a more positive message forward to future generations about how we can better Safeguard  our children and our childrens’ children.

“…a positive message… to future generations…”? So we’re OK with drugging healthy children unnecessarily, but only a few less under some new guidelines? So that’s the message?

For as Nelson Mandella rightly stated, “There can be no keener examination of a society’s  soul  than the way it chooses to treat their children.”

Yes, well, it chooses to drug healthy children and their brains so that they sit in their chairs at school.

Or as Professor Sami Timimi, a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist in the U.K., said in a recent article in the Independent newspaper, “ADHD  is a cultural barometer of how we treat our children.”

Hmmm…that’s IF “ADHD” exists, after all, Professor.

I’m using some sarcasm here but in the current climate I do sincerely applaud the efforts of professionals like Mr Traxson and like-minded individuals for realizing that the mania to drug children needs attention. If I had my way, of course, a micro-miniscule percentage of children would be drugged but, alas, it’s pharma corporations that have their way with this world, not me.

Post 24 — ‘Extreme States’ and the Violent Child

If my child’s issues are developmental and not ‘psychiatric’, then what does a young child have in common with a person in their twenties suddenly experiencing a psychotic breakdown?

A few things, I think.

I reject psychiatry’s labels, since there is nothing verifiable about labels and diagnoses. No blood test reveals ‘schizophrenia’, and even ‘depression’ as a label says zero about its cause. Psychiatric chemicals are both a social control and a hoax, since in the true sense they don’t treat anything. Psychiatry understands next to nothing about the brain (or the mind, or the body, or the spirit) and yet owns the mantle of healer of all things ‘mind’.

After following Integrative medicine for the past year as a layperson, I’ve come to see that Integrative neurologists have the best brain information of any discipline, and Integrative neurology has the nutrition-supplement information to actually help alter brain function, unlike the throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach of psychiatry and psycho-pharmacology.

I never had my child  so-called “diagnosed” by a psychiatrist with any of these flavour-of-the-month labels (ODD, ADD, ADHD…). Psychiatry is as soft a science as brand-new Play-Doh, and it’s an unreliable authority on my kids’ mental health.  What is reliable to me is a professional who understands current neurology and has a grasp on how the brain functions.

To that end, I follow the work of Dr. Datis Kharrazian and try to see where it’s applicable to my child’s brain function.

[I will repeat here what I have said previously, which is that I respect individuals who choose the psychiatric model and psycho-pharmaceuticals for themselves, and in some situations where these things function for their children and families.

I hope to never be forced to make these choices for myself or my family since psychiatrists are only educated to a drug model of treatment; the drugs are poorly conceived; carry harrowing side effects; and are best at social control. They do not treat any issue. My position is that if my child’s behaviour doesn’t force me to drug him, then it’s my responsibility to NOT drug him, since his body is his own and these drugs affect his future health.]

But I also recently began following posts and material by Dabney Alix (an alternative healer with a science degree) and her ‘Shades of Awakening’ work. As far as I know she is part of a larger community of people treating schizophrenia and other ‘extreme states’ from a completely different paradigm than that of psychiatry and psycho-pharmacology. This community asserts that extreme states are not a reflection of [vaguely understood] mental disease but rather an altered state of reality (‘reality’ being a Western dualistic and sensory view), which in turn suggests treatments outside the Western psychiatric paradigm.

‘Shades of Awakening’ led me to psychotherapist Michael Cornwall, PhD, who has been treating clients in extreme states for decades. I listened to this conversation between Alix and Cornwall:

http://www.shadesofawakening.com/monthlylive/#sthash.TyNpz9GY.dpbs

While listening I was struck by the common sense and sane reasoning of the approach of Cornwall and, I assume, the community he’s associated with. People experiencing ‘psychosis’ and fortunate enough to have landed in this type of care are cared for through the period of their hallucinations and delusional periods with care and compassion, not restraints and isolation.

I’m interested in schizophrenia/psychosis treatment because I have seen so many families blindsided by sons diagnosed with schizophrenia, who then languish on mind-numbing meds for decades. How is so little understood about this disorder in the 21st century? What a hallmark of the failure of psychiatry! My feeling is that psychiatry began down an intelligent path with some of the work of Freud and Jung, but then was disastrously derailed. Once again it’s Integrative medicine, with new discoveries on the gut-brain-mind connections, that is showing some understanding of root cause and possibly treatment.

But Cornwall’s discussion, specifically on caring for someone in an extreme state, resonated with me. I was struck by the similarity between what he described he does and what I did, and still do to some extent myself, with my son. In the early years of my son’s violent episodes I knew he had no intention of harming anyone, and so I sat with him — often carefully restraining him while in the throes of a lengthy violent outburst — until the violence wound itself out.

Sitting with my violent child in the midst of an episode, I also moved into that state of pure compassion, love, and empathy in order to be with him (in a holistic sense) as the violence wound itself out. This ultra-calm, almost meditative state is what I identified with as I listened to Cornwall’s explanation of how he treated his clients experiencing their extreme states. I poured my emotional self into him during and after the rage, when he was exhausted and sad.

The component missing from 99% of the public conversations about violent behaviour in children is the issue of their spirit, and of my spiritual role as my child’s guide in life and in crisis. There are many belief systems and worldviews, and while I am not a Buddhist I am naturally comfortable with the concept of reincarnation. I believe that we are ‘energetic’ beings and that our consciousness survives our current selves. I believe there’s at least some spiritual, or ‘other’, part of my son’s behaviour. Maybe my young son’s new ‘self’ is working out issues from a previous incarnation? Can anyone say with 100% certainty that this might not be so?

People in this compassionate-care community acknowledge a deep spiritual element to an adult’s extreme states and seek to connect to them on as deep a level as possible. As a birth mother, of course, the bond I experience with this child is something out of time and space; it is a karmic bond. He has his own self’s path and journey to take as an individual, but we chose each other and I’m responsible in a karmic sense to help guide him until he’s grown and independent.

It’s from this perspective that it was satisfying to hear Cornwall’s description of how he treats his clients. It is second nature to me to connect my heart to my child’s heart in his extreme states (and of course in his ‘normal’ states), so I never thought to articulate the profound spiritual component of my care for my child. His explanations on the topic were heart-opening for me.

Thankfully, my son has never hallucinated. I’m aware that some very young children experience hallucinations and delusions, and the few I’ve heard of have been treated by psychiatry and with psycho-pharma (I have never heard of alternative treatment for children suffering hallucinations). Simple violence made it simpler for me to treat my son’s issues as developmental (as I first read of them in Ross Greene, PhD’s ‘The Explosive Child’). However, a raging child isn’t exercising any clear thinking and is incapable of reason, so the line between thought and delusion gets somewhat blurry.

I hope neither of my sons develop hallucinations or delusions as young adults. But if they do I am glad that these new therapeutic models and communities exist to guide and help them in non-psychiatric, non-medicated, whole-person ways.

[My younger (violent) son never hallucinated, although oddly enough my older son — who never had any developmental problems — regularly had what are commonly known as ‘sleep terrors’ marked by extreme agitation and some violence in a sleepwalking-type state. He still remembers several of those dreams vividly, years later. So, I have some experience having dealt with those agitated, aggressive, delusionary states. I also cared for a geriatric relative when he hallucinated after general anaesthetic and miscellaneous medications, and again when he hallucinated on prescribed Delaudid.

In terms of forced hospitalization, an older relative was involuntarily hospitalized in the 1950s during some sort of depressive breakdown. He had a law degree at that point, and forced his own release by invoking a writ for such a purpose. I know very little about factual details of this period. I only ever had one information source and it was biased and of very poor quality. He did, however, obviously hold psychiatry in enormous disregard and distrust, clearly borne by that personal experience and by information made public later on, in the 1970s, after the work of Soviet dissident Solzhenitsyn was published. It seems clear to me that psychiatry and its various mechanisms (chemical, electric, hardware…) has acted more a tool of social and political control for more of its history than a use of anything else. I do not believe it has ever healed in any sense of the word.

Several years ago a close friend of mine had a first-ever psychotic breakdown in his early forties. His longtime partner had him taken by police into forced hospitalization. I spoke with my friend during one of two brief hospitalizations, when he was medicated but in full-on, so-called psychosis. They were alarming conversations. Shortly after his release, when it appeared to his friends that he was possibly on a road to healing, he hung himself while on the so-called ‘anti-psychotic’ pharmaceutical, Seroquel.

Additionally, and I guess this is the place to note it, my biological family was a train-wreck of emotional and mental dysfunction. One parent died (cancer) when I was young, and I was left with a parent who was depressive, unable to communicate, narcissistic, manipulative, and wholly neglectful. An older sibling was an anti-social narcissist. The other central caregiver was verbally/emotionally abusive, unstable, kleptomaniac, delusional, a pharmaceutical drug abuser, delusional, a hypochondriac and more…I have never landed on any terminology for this completely disordered personality type.]

My interests in psychiatry, mental health, mental wellness, and spirituality are like a tree, where I represent the trunk and all of my experiences with extreme personalities represent branches. There is hardly a state of mental illness that I have not seen up close. It’s hardly a surprise that my interest in it extends beyond just my younger son and his brain and development issues.

 

 

 

 

Post 23 — Are Heavy Metals A Brain Issue? Try Classical Music

I’m constantly researching new natural supplements (vitamins, amino acids, herbs, oils…) that new Integrative medicine research suggests may be beneficial for my son’s brain and, consequently, behaviour. My newest supplements are powders of chlorella and spirulina, which may help rid the body of heavy metals and promote health in other areas. I’m game for anything. We all ingest an enormous amount of toxic material from our environment daily, and it surely damages all parts of us.

“Spirulina and chlorella are thought to help our brains and body get rid of heavy metals,” I tell my kids as I prepare it in a glass (we don’t have a blender to mix it into a smoothie, which is preferable since it takes like seaweed and grass).

“Can’t we just listen to lots of classical music instead?” jokes my younger [violent] son [who studies voice, theory, banjo, and clarinet].

Point for musical kid whose brain may very well be adversely affected by the heavy metals in his system and environment.

Raising kids with “issues” is exhausting. You have a life you are trying to lead yourself; maybe a marriage you’re trying to conduct; and other children to raise. So many of us are overwhelmed, over-stressed, over-extended. A new school year makes me aware of the treadmill of family life.

Facing the academic year makes me take stock of my son’s growth, his current stage, what is working, and what new interventions to try for the year ahead. Our summers are less harried than the school year but not much more relaxing. We don’t have the funds for vacations away from home, which is disappointing but is also helpful. Running around on vacation is busy and distracting, while being at home allows me some time and space to research new methods of support for my son’s development.

My son is always in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern. I’m aware that teen testosterone is starting to kick into the picture, which isn’t welcome when you’re dealing with impulse control and anger issues. Nature’s extra dose of mindless, brute strength isn’t a welcome development. Most of the violence on the planet is being created by males in their peak testosterone-pumped years. If all that raw energy were put to use to make a better planet it would be nice; but human male energy tends to be destructive.

So, to that end I have introduced two seemingly competing and incongruous strategies.

One, we began watching ‘Beyond Scared Straight’ from TV’s A&E channel, which documents at-risk teens being taken through dry-runs of the reality of prison life. It’s raw, loud, and painful. Kids in the program are as young as 12 years old, so I feel it’s a useful adjunct to all my modalities for teaching my son what the world will do to him if he doesn’t change. Unfortunately, the series is ending after nine seasons. I’m hoping we’ll still be able to catch it in reruns.

The second strategy is watching Youtube videos of lectures given by an Australian-born Buddhist monk, Venerable Robina Courtin, whose style I describe as “angry Buddhist granny”. She approaches and explains Buddhism from a particularly Western, feisty, logic-seeking viewpoint that is refreshing beside the annoying, feeble, cloying ‘namaste’ bullshit of Westerners whose syrupy Buddhism style won’t find takers among tween and teen boys (or me…).

Venerable Robina Courtin presents her Tibetan Buddhism as schools of philosophy and psychology rather than a belief system to be blindly followed. I have been comfortable with Buddhist ideas since I was about four years old (I came by them naturally), so the ideas — and in particular her style — fit very nicely into the emotional-spiritual-mental-moral diet I’m putting onto my kids’ plates.

Buddhists believe that we are entirely responsible for our thoughts, our minds, our actions, and our lives. And that the negative emotions we swim in are destructive and that we must consciously choose positive, constructive thought patterns. All of this is perfectly in tandem with what a child like my son needs to learn. That he is responsible for his thoughts and his actions, and that it’s his responsibility at every step to learn to support himself, contain himself, and be happy.

Of course it’s not possible to put a thousand-year-old belief system into six words, but suffice to say that Buddhism is a particularly logical and helpful system of thought training for a child struggling with impulse control issues and lots of negative thinking. [Schools rename all of this “mindfulness training” but it all comes directly from the Buddha; it’s no Western invention.]

So, going into Grade 7 we’re armed with Buddhism; green supplements; an amino acid supplement; Omega-3 oils; extra zinc and vitamin D; and a solid multivitamin. We’re 90% gluten-free, sugar/sweetener-free, and we’ve ramped up our consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. We get our son into nearby mountains for hikes as much as possible for nature’s gifts to his brain and microbiome, and his music training always supports his spirit.

Here we go into another year. [The ‘pop’ you hear is the cork on my wine…]. And may I express my gratitude here to Venerable Robina Courtin, whose work is helping us in ways she’ll never know. We thank her and we thank the Buddha.