Talking Back to Sarah Palin

I don’t watch Family Guy, because even though Seth MacFarlane is local, he seems to have been deeply affected by Garfield cartoons. I just can’t get past that. Sorry.

He’s also offensive. I watched part of one episode and it struck me as creepy-racist-misogynist and I only lasted a few minutes. Sorry– I can’t justify it in an argument, it was just an impression. Maybe I’m wrong. Just an opinion.

We don’t all think alike. Sarah Palin took a recent episode of Family Guy as a slam on people with Down Syndrome. Andrea Fay Friedman, the actress who did the voice for the cartoon character, thinks otherwise. She herself has Down Syndrome, but she is an adult and too large to carry around as a prop and old enough to speak for herself. So read what she says here.

You may agree with her or not, but it’s good to remember that people with Down Syndrome are not God’s innocent angels sent here to teach us something about life, but actual people who have their own lives to live. Trig Palin will grow up, and I hope he will have a good life. Sarah Palin better hope she doesn’t pick up the NYT some day and see a best-seller called, ‘Drafted–My Life on the Campaign Trail When Mommy Went Rogue’, or ‘Going Rough–Missed Naps and Noisy Crowds in Days that Made History’. At least it’s not ‘Vice-President, Dearest’ –not yet.

Daily Kos has the startling news that Sarah Palin’s grandson receives health care coverage from socialized medicine.

TOUGH WEEK: Palin came in third runner-up in the Conservative Popularity Awards Convention (CPAC) Pageant. It seems unfair. She has way better hair than Ron Paul, who might want to consider having a little work done– nothing drastic, just a little lift. Mitt Romney is tough competition. I think he’s encased in some kind of impermeable wrinkle-proof plastic. He’d better wear Kevlar under the suit though, because Sarah Barracuda does not forgive or forget. Except for things Rush Limbaugh says or things she needs to not recall in testimony.

Educate Yourself to Protect Your Body: Personal Care Products May Contain Toxins

Since 2004 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched Skin Deep, an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products. The aim was to fill in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they’re sold.

EWG’s scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource.  Take your shampoo or your child’s lip gloss or moisturizer and read more about the danger here: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/.  Our epidermis is the largest body organ and approximately 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbing these toxic ingredients.  Those who know me know that I am committed to researching and sharing information about potentially harmful facts.  We all are trying to attain a healthy lifestyle and yet, we daily sabotage our bodies (through hair, hygiene, and skincare products) with carcinogens so monstrous they are literally harming our future abilities to procreate, fight off cancers and the like. 

It is sickening that the Personal Care Industry is undermining our abilities to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Cancer has become a common affliction or fatality and will further continue to rise.  Science reflects that toxins sit in the fatty cells of our bodies (i.e., breasts). Water, food, air, materials and personal care products all have toxins and this is completely unacceptable when you do the math and see how a combination has violated the EPA and FDA acceptable toxin limits. 

I plan to update the blog with information to aid you in making better choices.  In doing so, I am hopeful to you will see the damage that is being done and make a lifestyle change.  For now, here are some facts to ponder.  

 
U.S. President Barack Obama started to take action and recognizing that toxic chemicals exist in most of our skin care products and are penetrating our skin and causing cancer and reproductive problems. He stated that he wants to change the current laws in order for the government to start properly assessing the chemicals that go in our products and not allow any that have risk associated with them, and he’s not meaning tweaking ~ rather, a complete overhaul.

Currently 1,100 toxic ingredients which are banned in Europe but we allow them here.  I have studied toxins for years and I am sick to death of what has only been available to my children.   

 
Cancer is amongst us, therefore you must ask yourself… can we really be sure of the toxins we have been absorbing through our skin, and that they have no inpact on our other means of ingestion such as food, air and vaccines/medicines?  Work with me and let us remove one of the straws from the camels back, and alter the equation to a lesser number.   
 
December 1, 2009 in Barrington, Rhode Island ~ 15 year old Ava Anderson teamed up with her mother, Kim Anderson and they launched a first of its kind “Ava Anderson Non-Toxic” product line (http://www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/).  Ava read this article last year (http://www.ewg.org/reports/teens) and was driven to find an answer as to the toxic potions available and make them truly “free” of such harmful ingredients.  Recently, Ava was asked to go before Congress and testify, and further plead for the Cosmetic Industry to change in support of President Obama suggested legislation in September 2009.  For now, I would just like the opportunity to inform people as I feel “Knowledge is power, and Power is Knowledge”, and our children depend on us to make wise choices.   I pledge to you that this is about a toxic message, which you need to unravel.  Please take one minute to look at some of your products.  
 
Be well, Suzanne Arena

Reactive Attachment and Closeness with Children

Over the years I have treated many children with reactive attachment issues and, while sometimes heartbreaking, there is also a great deal of joy in the work. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a cluster of behavioral and emotional issues that are believed to relate to a child’s lack of appropriate early bonding with a primary caregiver. RAD is often what is going on when a child asks if I can be his mommy during the first session, or when a child makes little or no eye contact and behaves as if he doesn’t want to interact with me. Usually with RAD, there are clear markers in the child’s history — sometimes in utero, sometimes after birth in the first three years — when there was no stable primary caregiver.

It happens a lot with foster children, naturally, if they have been moved around a lot, or if their reunification plans with bio family keeps falling through. I also think there is an argument to be made that reactive attachment can start off in utero, when a child is exposed to high levels of stress hormones. Mark Brady, PhD, has a great post in which he describes the developmental problems resulting from neglect and early stress. He quotes Dr. Bruce Perry, author of The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog, talking about how the human brain responds to childhood neglect:

“As you grow, the brain is essentially like a sponge. It’s absorbing all kinds of experiences. So if a child is not held, touched, talked to, interacted with, loved, literally neurons do not make those connections, and many of them actually will die.”

“Big, big ventricular spaces (show up in stressed out kids), which will impact sleep, regulation of anxiety, regulation of mood, whether or not you’re very happy or sad.”

“Simple things like eye contact, touch, rocking and humming can make all the difference to a baby. It makes neurons grow, it makes them make connections. Then, it makes the brain more functional.”

One of the most impactful experiences I have had working with a RAD client was working with a little boy who had been raised for his first three years in an extremely neglectful environment — to the point where when he was moved to foster care, he did not know how to play other than to lay on his belly on the floor and put his fingers in front of his face and move them around. There were very few toys in his early home, and even less of a primary person paying attention to his needs and giving him the closeness he would need to understand the world emotionally. He had come a long way by the time I was seeing him, could play and interact with others, had probably quadrupled his vocabulary in the year he had been in a stable home, but he was still a very skinny kid with rotted teeth that had to be capped and lots of ear infections and other illnesses constantly weighing him down.

Part of my message to RAD kids is the constant reminder to them (and to their brains!) that they are growing, expanding, developing, changing, become whole, becoming strong. I say these things not only because they are true but also because they are the mantra of our shared hope — that their growth will now take place, that they will be able to make up for lost time and accelerate fast enough to get the ABC’s and color identification and some decent social skills in before kindergarten starts. And most of all, because I want them to know that I see them. I see them. They are here.

The importance of this knocked my socks off one day in session with this little guy, who I’ll call James. I was giving him the message that he was growing, asking him how old he would be turning on his next birthday, reinforcing that he would soon be in kindergarten, when suddenly James said, “When I was a baby, I was invisible. Now that I’m older, I have skin and bones.”

“Indeed,” I said, to draw out the moment. “And you have your whole body. And you’re growing bigger all the time.” When I had James create himself on “Mi” on the Wii (I did the controls as he was behind most kids on video game skills) he created a person who was as tall and big-boned as possible, with a big head of black hair. He wanted to be big. And compared to how small he had been made to feel in his birth home, he was indeed a big guy now.

We all need closeness in order to know we exist. If no one knows who you are, knows you internally, knows your needs and how to fill them, you grow up feeling invisible. Anyone who has ever been in a situation where everyone around them was deliberately ignoring them knows how awful it is to feel invisible. Imagine this being the world you are born into. Imagine how devastating that would be.

The good news is that most of us are not born into such cruel environments. Even in families where there is physical and emotional abuse, there is often still a sense of attachment for the child — that their needs are still very high on the list of things that get taken care of. It was enlightening, but also frightening, working with James — realizing just how powerfully he was experiencing the arrival of his identity, and how much catching up there was to do.

Preschoolers Store Info and Use As Needed

Here is an enlightening piece of research for those of us raising the strange little creatures known as preschoolers, and those of us providing treatment to families raising the little barbarians as well. Research by Colorado Professor Yuko Munakata suggests that three-year-olds are often listening when you give them directions — they simply choose to ignore you until there is evidence that the directions are needed. From Science Daily:

“… For example, let’s say it’s cold outside and you tell your 3-year-old to go get his jacket out of his bedroom and get ready to go outside. You might expect the child to plan for the future, think ‘OK it’s cold outside so the jacket will keep me warm,’ ” said Chatham. “But what we suggest is that this isn’t what goes on in a 3-year-old’s brain. Rather, they run outside, discover that it is cold, and then retrieve the memory of where their jacket is, and then they go get it.”

Munakata doesn’t claim to be a parental expert, but she does think their new study has relevance to parents’ daily interactions with their toddlers.

“If you just repeat something again and again that requires your young child to prepare for something in advance, that is not likely to be effective,” Munakata said. “What would be more effective would be to somehow try to trigger this reactive function. So don’t do something that requires them to plan ahead in their mind, but rather try to highlight the conflict that they are going to face. Perhaps you could say something like ‘I know you don’t want to take your coat now, but when you’re standing in the yard shivering later, remember that you can get your coat from your bedroom.”

I would argue that this tendency to ignore advice until there is evidence to support its necessity extends beyond preschool — I still go through this with my nine-year-old! The point is, you can probably save your breath and a lot of extra annoyed feelings by accepting that your small child’s brain does not operate in a way that tends to accept futuristic warnings. Showing them what will happen if they don’t listen, or helping them imagine the scenario of how they will benefit if they heed your directions, will probably be more effective than just repeating yourself ad nauseum.

(cross-posted on my psychotherapy site at kierstenmarek.com)

Slumdog Exorcist–Messing With Kids

I wrote a post recently opining that “Slumdog Millionaire” lacked a sense of the community in the Mumbai slum of Dharavi. One rugged individual prevails and gets the money and the girl– a feelgood plot. The use of real slum children–scores of them in extra parts–and the casual violence against them made me worry that the movie had raised the bar. You might remember a TV movie from 1974 called Born Innocent. The script writers had come up with a novel form of violence and got 15-year-old Linda (Exorcist) Blair to star. Within weeks, some children acted out the assault scene for real on a smaller child. That’s one consequence of dramatized violence; it can lead to “copycat” crimes.

In any form of art, what is perceived depends on the viewer and the context.  “Slumdog” was a validation for many, enjoyed by many, won Oscars and may, I hope, empower the people of Dharavi. The director, Danny Boyle, was interviewed on NPR. He sounded very proud that he had paid all the children the standard rate in Britain, not India. He had arranged for education and a trust fund for the child stars. But it’s not enough.

The disparity, the power imbalance, the need and the rage are forces much bigger than a movie crew with good intentions. The system is designed to ensure that the rich will get the millions, and the slumdogs will stay in the slums. How else would it be possible to keep so many in such desperation for so long? The child actors will not be saved by a trip to Disneyland and a little cash. Their situation now would be difficult for an adult, never mind a small child. From destitution, to Hollywood, then back to the slums

Azhar, 10, spent the weekend vomiting and has developed a temperature of 103 degrees since returning home last week after travelling to the Oscars with co-star Rubina Ali, 9.
He has been prescribed antibiotics by doctors, who said he is suffering from fever and exhaustion, but his condition has continued to worsen.

Azhar’s neighbours have also rallied round to build an 8ft by 5ft metal structure for him to sleep under out of the sun.
The families of the two child stars have said their children are not readjusting to life back in the slums after five days of glitz and glamour in Los Angeles.

“I cannot believe these kids have just been left like this after being taken to Hollywood. It is bound to affect them psychologically,” said social worker Sanjay Bhatia, who works in the slum.

There’s no question that the children need protection– someone who will stay and advocate for them until they are old enough to make their own way in life. They might need that well past the age of 18. Linda Blair, who had none of the culture shock and way more privilege than the Dharavi children, struggled with drugs and was lured into exploitation films before finding a stable adult life. The former child star is a sad Hollywood cliche. Was anyone thinking of that when they recruited these very young, very poor children?

Calling India — these kids need help on the ground, their parents are not up to the task. It’s a superhuman task. There’s no normal for them to go back to now, they need a trustworthy and skilled social work team to arrange for them and their families to have a safe place to live and a plan that works. They were chosen for the movie because they were sweet, and fearless and bright. With some good people to help them make the best of their fame they may be writing their own scrip in a few years, and that would be the one I’d want to watch.

Help a Child’s Dream Live On

Every so often, I find a story that really touches me in the news.  One that isn’t full of violence, destruction or hatred. Although the story of Matthew McIntyr’s wish to help adopted children, like himself, is not the one that his family would have necessarily written since Matthew passed away at age 9 last June; they are doing all they can to make his wish of helping other children in need of adoption a reality.

The McIntyre family of Cranston adopted Matthew, a former resident of Boys Town in Portsmouth, RI, in 2003.   He had been abused as a small child and through Boys Town he became a member of the McIntyre family.  After he passed away in June 2008, his family established the Matthew McIntyre Memorial Fund to assist children like him who are placed at Boys Town and hope to make the transition to a family of their own.

The Fund’s first event will be held Friday, February 27 at 6:30pm at the West Valley Inn and the money raised at the dinner will assist Boys Town to provide the opportunity for children to experience recreational, educational and other activities that fall outside of the Portsmouth facility’s budget.

For more information about the Fund or to reserve tickets for Friday’s dinner, please visit http://www.MatthewMcIntyreMemorial.com or contact Denise or Paul McIntyre at 828-0001.