Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog - Bruce Perry

Bruce Perry is a child psychiatrist who, in this book, explores what happens to a child's brain as a result of trauma and extreme neglect. He weaves stories of his actual heart-breaking patients with information from neuroscience and psychology to explain how a child injured in infancy can possess long-lasting effects far into adulthood. Perry also focuses on the healing process - how best to deal with children immediately after they suffer a horrifying experience, and how to retrain young adults who were mistreated when children. Each of Perry's chapters looks at a different example of trauma or abuse/neglect. For me, the most powerful looked at the long term effects of neglect. I think most people assume that unless kids experience affirmative abuse, that they will be fine. But Perry had examples of children with parents who did love them, but just did not know how to parent. They assumed if their infants were changed and fed that they would be fine - and so they would leave them alone in their cribs for hours. They did not read to them or talk to them much. As a result, physically, their brains were stunted and in some cases even shrank. They also were unable to attach and to experience or express emotions that most people take for granted. The impact of the treatment of these children in their first two years was incredible. Perry also talks about his work with children who were raised in the Branch Davidians (David Koresh). He also talks about the delicate work of determining whether children have actually experienced trauma or whether they have been coerced into making false accusations. Reading books like this always makes me so sad - I think about the fact that as I write this review there are children everywhere who are not receiving the attention and love that they deserve. But, at the same time, it makes me so grateful that such a book has been written in such an accessible format. I feel like this should be required reading for everyone, but particularly for people with children, people who work with children, and law enforcement that come into contact with child witnesses. It really provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the effects of trauma, and hopefully giving us all the tools we need to protect and help heal those who have experienced it.

No comments: