Saturday, July 14, 2007

Smart Saturday Book Recommendation: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog

I do a lot of reading on the weekends, so I've decided that I will post a book recommendation, of a book related to the topic of children's issues, each Saturday. I'm a real bookwork! There are a ton of wonderful books out there, and I hope to someday read them all! Please let me know if you have any books to recommend to me!
My book recommendation for this week is The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog. The author, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, uses his knowledge of the brain and body's physiological responses to stress and trauma, in order to reach children who have been traumatized. Children who have been through horrible experiences often begin behaving differently or acting out afterwards. Part of this is because of actual changes in their body chemicals, as their body and brain attempt to recover from the trauma.
For instance, think of a time when you, yourself went through an experience that frightened you. Perhaps you were in a car accident. You probably replayed the events of the accident over and over in your mind, for a long time afterward, until you eventually started to think about it less and less. When you thought about it right after the accident, you probably experienced feelings very similar to what you had felt when the accident was actually happening. After a while, the frightening feelings began to lessen. The replaying of the scary scene is your brain's way of trying to balance itself out again and return your body chemicals to normal. The more you think about the accident, the less your body responds with panic to the memory.
Similarly, think about a child who has witnessed an act of violence... perhaps a child who watched her father beat up her mother. The child will feel compelled to replay the violent scene over and over again, as her body works through the trauma. Left to her own devices, the child may do things like act violently against other children, draw frightening pictures of violent acts, or become very withdrawn. Adults around her may feel that the child is deeply disturbed, and as she grows older the child may even be treated like she herself is a criminal. But with the help and guidance of a professional, the child can work through the trauma in safer ways, enabling their body and mind to restore themselves to their "normal" state more quickly. Dr. perry uses a variety of methods to help children work through their traumatizing experiences. His methods include talking through the experiences, acting them out in safe ways in a safe place, art therapy, music and dance, and more.
In this book, Dr. Perry discusses some of the most memorable cases he's worked with. The title story is about a little boy who seemed to slip rapidly through the cracks of every medical or social service system he came in contact with, ultimately leaving him to be raised by his de facto grandfather, a man who was probably at least slightly developmentally delayed himself. The grandfather knew nothing about raising children (the baby was actually his deceased girlfriend's grandchild) but he made a living breeding dogs, so, faced with the prospect of raising a child, he did what seemed logical to him and cared for the child as if he were a puppy. The little boy lived in a dog crate, socialized mainly with dogs, and was taken out of the cage only to be fed, changed, and exercised. The well-meaning grandfather brought the child in for regular medical check-ups, where doctors noticed that the child seemed to be very developmentally delayed. By the time he was five, he still couldn't walk or talk. In fact, the child's brain physically resembled that of a person with advanced Alzheimer's Disease. None of the medical professionals thought to ask about how the child was being raised. After all, the child looked clean and well-cared-for, and the grandfather seemed to care about him, so nobody saw any reason to guess that the child was being so severely neglected. The doctors told the child's grandfather that the child was severely brain damaged and would never get any better.
Eventually the child was hospitalized with severe pneumonia. Because of his behavior (he was screaming, throwing feces at staff, and generally acting like an animal) desperate medical staff asked Dr. Perry to come see the child and offer them some respite. Dr. Perry happened to ask the child's grandfather how the child was being raised. He was the first one to ask, and therefore, the first one to find out that the child had been raised, up until then, as a dog.
Dr. Perry was then able to work with the child, reaching gently out to him, and coordinating the efforts of physical, occupational and speech therapists to help him catch up developmentally. Within two weeks, the child was doing well enough to go live with a new foster family!
Dr. Perry has worked with tons of children, including some high profile cases. He worked with the Davidian children of Waco, and with the child victims of a modern-day witch hunt. He rescued a child from a mother with Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, who was trying to kill the child. He has successfully reached out to troubled teenagers and withdrawn toddlers alike. And the stories in his book can teach us all a lot about why traumatized children act the way they do.
Check this book out... You'll enjoy it!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll have to look for that one the next trip to the library. Have you read David Pelzer's books? A Child Called It? Lost Boy? I've only read Lost Boy. It is an amazing story of a child that has to be shipped from an abusive home to foster home after foster home. What is different about this book is that his mother was the one doing the abusing. Usually not the case in most books. This is a true story about the author. I am going to check out the rest of them (there are more after lost boy)