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The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, 3rd Edition: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook--What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing

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My work has taken me to the intersection of mind and brain, to the place where we make choices and experience influences that determine whether or not we become humane and truly human. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog shares some of what I've learned there. Despite their pain and fear, the children in this book—and many others like them—have shown great courage and humanity, and they give me hope. From them I have learned much about loss, love, and healing. This book was written by a child psychologist and each chapter is a story of one of his patients. In chapter 6, the chapter from which the book is named, it’s more than one patient. A few months after working with Tina once a week, Tina showed marked improvement in her behavior at school. And more than three years later, Tina seemed perfectly okay. The improvement was indeed dramatic and she seemed to be functioning normally in class. This felt like a huge success for Dr. Perry until he received some news a short while later.

Dr. Perry reinforces this idea, in fact, claiming to be one of the front-runners in its development. He also propagated the idea that PTSD could happen to anyone at all who had experienced any form of trauma and not war veterans alone. Although I do not mean to imply that all of these children will be severely "damaged" by these experiences, the most moderate estimates suggest that at any given time, more than eight million American children suffer from serious, diagnosable, trauma-related psychiatric problems. Millions more experience less serious but still distressing consequences.

Growth of the Body and the Brain. The physical growth of the human body increases in a roughly linear manner from birth through adolescence. In contrast, the brain’s physical growth follows a different pattern. The most rapid rate of growth takes place in utero, and from birth to age four the brain grows explosively. The brain of the four-year-old is 90 percent adult size! A majority of the physical growth of the brain’s key neural networks takes place during this time. It is a time of great malleability and vulnerability as experiences are actively shaping the organizing brain. This is a time of great opportunity for the developing child: safe, predictable, nurturing and repetitive experiences can help express a full range of genetic potentials. Unfortunately, however, it is also when the organizing brain is most vulnerable to the destructive impact of threat, neglect and trauma.” The Sammy is strongly food-motivated, which helped ease her fears about meeting strangers. While walking the dogs one day we ran into some friends that the Sammy had never met. The friends had a big bag of popcorn that they were willing to share with the dogs. The Sammy now sees people we meet on our walks as potential popcorn machines!

Most of the time, the kids would gravitate towards one adult or the other either to talk or to play a game. The adult would offer the needed support or the appropriate response as required by the child at the time.Since Perry worked with his first child patient, Tina, he had continued to wonder why some children were able to overcome their trauma with little to no emotional scars while others seemed unable to move past it or seemed to constantly bear the weight of the trauma. He uses the story of Sandy to explain why it is important to experience stress again and again as it builds tolerance as well as the ability to handle higher levels of stress as well as traumatic experiences with a higher level of resilience. Bruce D. Perry is an American psychiatrist, currently the senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas and an adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. A clinician and researcher in children's mental health and the neurosciences, from 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital. He is also the author of several books.

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