Category Archives: Child & Family

Originally posted on Therapy with Kiersten Marek, LICSW:

I am currently in the final stages of revisions for my first ever therapy book, “Know Thyself: A Kid’s Guide to the Archetypes.” If you would like to receive a free PDF of the book, please send me an email at This offer is only good until the book is officially published, so contact me today to take advantage of this special offer.

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Children born in December 48% More Likely to be Medicated for ADHD

I worry about the overdiagnosis of ADHD, particularly for children (mainly boys) who are younger than most of their peers in the classroom.  This video helps me realize I am worrying for a good reason.  The video cites a study showing that children born in December (the youngest in their class) were 48% more likely to be put on medication for ADHD.

The Warrior in All of Us

Oh, the warriors within us!  Longfellow said it eloquently:  “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s  suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Indeed.  And yet, we do find many things to argue about.  Usually it’s not so much about the subject as it is about someone being on your turf.

As parents we spend a certain amount of energy interacting with our warrior children — hopefully this is only a small part of your relationship, but sometimes it can go on for too long, and it might be worth further exploring your internal warrior — the part of you that engages quickly in conflict, the part that escalates even as you know it isn’t good, not right or healthy or even sane.

Same holds true for marriages.  Hopefully you are not spending the majority of your time interacting with your partner’s warrior, but we’ve all been there, and when it gets really ugly, it’s no fun.  John Gottman talks about the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse and one of them is “contempt.”  When the conflict gets to the point that you genuinely begin to feel contempt for your partner, it’s time to get help.

I enjoy helping clients explore the parts of them that get in the way of harmonious relationships, the parts that bring more conflict into their lives than they need or want. Sometimes what lies beneath the fightin’ mad part of us is a very interesting part — a creator or a fool or an innocent — who wants to enjoy life or work at something more important.  But with the warrior always being in conflict, these other archetypes don’t get the time and attention that they deserve.

(cross-posted from my private practice site.)


New Roots Grant Opportunities for Non-Profits

New Roots Providence sent over a press release about some new grants available for non-profits in Rhode Island.

New Roots Providence Announces Funding Opportunity:

Organization to Provide Capacity Building Grants for Nonprofit Organizations Focused on Workforce Development or Access to Federal or State Benefits

Today, New Roots Providence announced the release of its 2011 Request for Proposals, for Capacity Building grants for organizations or collaborations carrying out Workforce Development or those helping, or preparing to help Rhode Islanders with Access to Federal or State Benefits. New Roots Providence provides grants, technical assistance, and training to Rhode Island nonprofits and community and faith-based organizations to help improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. Information about the program is available at

New Roots Director Marti Rosenberg stated, “New Roots’ 2011 Grant Program is part of the Strengthening Communities Fund – a project funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars aimed at sparking economic recovery. Therefore, eligible Rhode Island nonprofits must have a meaningful workforce development program in existence now, and/or must be providing, or plan to provide Rhode Islanders with assistance in increasing their income or accessing federal benefits.”

These workforce development or access to benefits programs should focus on helping low-income individuals secure and retain employment, earn higher wages, obtain better-quality jobs, and gain greater access to state and Federal benefits or tax credits, including Recovery Act benefits. Examples of such programs are adult education institutions, workforce training organizations, or faith-based or community groups that assist people in applying for benefits like food stamps or RIte Care.

Rosenberg continued, “New Roots funds capacity building for non-profit organizations. That means that we help organizations become stronger in areas such as Leadership or Organization Development, Revenue Development, or Technology.” New Roots does not fund general operating or program costs.

Community organizations and faith-based organizations which have secular programs and which serve or work with people living anywhere in Rhode Island are encouraged to apply.

New Roots will be holding Information Sessions throughout January where organizations can learn more about the grant program’s other requirements. See the New Roots website for more information and for Information Sessions dates and locations (

This past year, New Roots provided funding for technical equipment for the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy (, and being that I am RICLAPP’s treasurer, I am particularly grateful for their assistance.

Donate to RICLAPP’s End-of-Year Fundraising Drive

I just donated to the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy. I am the treasurer of this organization and I challenge all of my friends to make a donation, because I know for a fact that RICLAPP is doing great work and contributing to a better community. Donate at

If you enjoy this site on a daily basis and want to do something that is good for the community, please make a donation. Thanks for your support!

Let’s All Go Back to Using Baby Shampoo and Lotion

The Environment Minister of Denmark has created legislation to ban certain chemicals which are believed to cause disruption to the endocrine system. A small blurb here — there will likely be more news about this once it hits the mainstream publications. It sounds like a good idea for anyone concerned about endocrine disruptors to try out using baby shampoo and lotion from Denmark, if they are able to make them propyl and butyl paraben-free — it may be a good way to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Laboring for Health

Since it’s Labor Day, it seems only fitting to share a news item relevant to those who truly know what it is like to endure labor, mothers. The article, which is a couple of weeks old (making it ancient in the Information Age), concerns a potential link between prenatal exposure to pesticides and the future development of attention deficit disorders. That such a link may exist is not entirely surprising. But it is alarming nonetheless. We live amid a multitude of toxins, which individually and in combination may impact the most vulnerable among us in ways that we cannot always imagine or appreciate. At least, not until the body of scientific data and the resulting public uproar become too powerful to ignore. In the meantime, it pays to be attentive and cautious.

From U.S. News & World Report:

Pesticide Exposure in the Womb Increases ADHD Risk

Exposure to pesticides while in the womb may increase the odds that a child will have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health. Combine that with research published in May in Pediatrics finding that children exposed to pesticides were more likely to have ADHD, and it’s enough to make parents wonder how to reduce their family’s exposure to pesticides.

The California researchers are studying the impact of environmental exposures on the health of women and children who live in the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region with heavy pesticide use. They tested the urine of pregnant women for pesticide residue, and then tested the behavior of their children at ages 3½ and 5. The 5-year-olds who had been exposed to organophosphate pesticides while in the womb had more problems with attention and behavior than did children who were not exposed. What’s more, the heavier the pesticide exposure, the more likely that the child would have symptoms of ADHD . The results were published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

This isn’t proof that pesticides cause ADHD, but since organophosphate pesticides are neurotoxins that kill pests by disrupting neurotransmitters that carry signals though the brain, it’s easy to imagine that exposure to organophosphate might interfere with brain function and development. [full article]

Mood Swings

The psychologist Abraham Maslow once wrote, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” This metaphor aptly describes the mindset that has plagued the field of psychiatry over the past couple of decades, particularly when it comes to treating children with severe forms of emotional and behavioral disturbance. The consequence of this one-tool-fits-all mentality has been an epidemic of Bipolar Disorder diagnoses and off-label prescribing of powerful anti-psychotic medications, which has often done more harm than good. Disturbingly, these trends persist—although there are signs that the pendulum may finally be swinging the other way, as reported by the New York Times:

A Child’s Ordeal Shows Risks Of Psychosis Drugs for Young

OPELOUSAS, La. — At 18 months, Kyle Warren started taking a daily antipsychotic drug on the orders of a pediatrician trying to quell the boy’s severe temper tantrums.

Thus began a troubled toddler’s journey from one doctor to another, from one diagnosis to another, involving even more drugs. Autism, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, insomnia, oppositional defiant disorder. The boy’s daily pill regimen multiplied: the antipsychotic Risperdal, the antidepressant Prozac, two sleeping medicines and one for attention-deficit disorder. All by the time he was 3.

He was sedated, drooling and overweight from the side effects of the antipsychotic medicine. Although his mother, Brandy Warren, had been at her “wit’s end” when she resorted to the drug treatment, she began to worry about Kyle’s altered personality. “All I had was a medicated little boy,” Ms. Warren said. “I didn’t have my son. It’s like, you’d look into his eyes and you would just see just blankness.”

Today, 6-year-old Kyle is in his fourth week of first grade, scoring high marks on his first tests. He is rambunctious and much thinner. Weaned off the drugs through a program affiliated with Tulane University that is aimed at helping low-income families whose children have mental health problems, Kyle now laughs easily and teases his family.

Ms. Warren and Kyle’s new doctors point to his remarkable progress — and a more common diagnosis for children of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder — as proof that he should have never been prescribed such powerful drugs in the first place.

Kyle now takes one drug, Vyvanse, for his attention deficit. His mother shared his medical records to help document a public glimpse into a trend that some psychiatric experts say they are finding increasingly worrisome: ready prescription-writing by doctors of more potent drugs to treat extremely young children, even infants, whose conditions rarely require such measures.

More than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a September 2009 report by the Food and Drug Administration. Their use is growing not only among older teenagers, when schizophrenia is believed to emerge, but also among tens of thousands of preschoolers.

A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007. Only 40 percent of them had received a proper mental health assessment, violating practice standards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“There are too many children getting on too many of these drugs too soon,” Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of clinical psychiatry and lead researcher in the government-financed study, said. [full article]

Heart-Warming Tale

Hot enough for you? This recent heat wave—with the temperature reaching triple digits here in Western Massachusetts earlier in the week—has made me a tad cranky. Excepting my bedroom, in which I installed an air conditioner in the window on Tuesday, my abode is like a sauna. But it could be worse. Much worse. I could be a 14-year-old battling cancer, needing blood transfusions and other treatment just to stay alive. The following story from the Boston Globe provided me with a healthy dose of perspective and warmed my heart in the process:

Powerful gift at tough time

A couple of hours before the Red Sox played the Giants June 26 in San Francisco, Darnell McDonald came in from shagging flies to say hello to a small group gathered by the first base dugout at AT&T Park. The Sox outfielder shook hands with Sam Callahan, a 14-year-old boy battling Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone/soft tissue cancer that targets teens.

McDonald asked Sam about baseball. Turns out Sam is a switch-hitting shortstop/pitcher who last summer played Pony League ball near his Campbell, Calif., home. McDonald asked Sam how he was feeling. It was not a particularly strong day for Sam (he went to the hospital for a blood transfusion and a 48-hour stay later that night), but Sam told McDonald he was feeling great at that moment. McDonald gave Sam baseballs signed by Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, and himself.

“It was humbling for me,’’ remembered McDonald. “We tend to get caught up in how tough things are around the team, and here’s this kid battling cancer. We took to each other right away. I told Sam to keep battling. I told him he’d be in my thoughts.’’

After a few moments, it was time for McDonald to get into the cage and hit. As McDonald was saying goodbye, Jim Messemer — a family friend — pulled out a “Sam’s Team’’ blue wristband and gave it to McDonald.

“Wear this today and you’ll hit a home run,’’ said Messemer.

Everybody had a good laugh about that. We’re all familiar with the iconic American tale of Babe Ruth promising to hit a homer for a sick kid named Johnny, but these things do not happen in real life. John Updike famously reminded us that a home run cannot be hit at will. And Darnell McDonald is not a home run hitter.

“I’ll do the best I can for you today,’’ said McDonald.

Imagine the look on Sam’s face when McDonald came out of the Red Sox dugout in the top of the first inning, wearing his “Sam’s Team’’ band on his left wrist. Then try to imagine the joy and wonder in Sam Callahan’s heart when McDonald swatted Madison Bumgarner’s third pitch over the fence in left. [more...]

Growing Collaboration

Over the past three years, I have dabbled in gardening, growing a modest assortment of vegetables and herbs in the modest yard surrounding my apartment. My initial foray into producing my own produce occurred in collaboration with my friend and next-door neighbor, Julie, whose thumbs are inherently much greener than my own. (Mine are more of an olive drab shade, for some reason.) That first summer, we grew a couple of varieties of tomatoes, which we planted in the sunny perimeter of Julie’s yard. The spot was chosen because it offered more light and better soil than my own slice of yard. We tended to the plants throughout the summer and into the fall and were rewarded with a bounty of tasty tomatoes. Though Julie has since relocated to a nearby town, I have continued to garden in some measure. Unfortunately, my tomatoes have been more crap than crop, as they stubbornly refuse to flourish in the less favorable conditions of my yard. Go figure…

The health of any organism is, in no small measure, dependent upon its environment. Favorable conditions promote good health. Adverse conditions hinder good health. Organisms that are young and still developing are more vulnerable to adverse conditions. By virtue of their reduced size and output, my tomato plants communicated their distress at having to spend their formative months in a shadier and sandier locale. Similarly, children raised in environments that are toxic or inadequately nurturing communicate their distress by manifesting developmental delays and physical/mental disorders. Often, when this occurs, the first person to take notice—perhaps besides the parent(s)—is the pediatrician. As a health care professional, he or she can assess the circumstances, advise the parent(s), and prescribe treatment, if any is available. However, in many cases, the environmental issues that are harming the child are beyond the doctor’s purview. For example, situations of family conflict, unsafe housing, community violence, or loss of income cannot be remedied by medical treatment. So what’s an M.D. to do? A referral to an outside provider (better suited to addressing such matters) can be made, but there is no guarantee that the family will follow through or gain access to the services they need. Frequently, these are the families that have the fewest resources and are the most disempowered. It is a significant dilemma and a very real public health issue.

All is not hopeless, though, as evidenced by the following article in today’s New York Times:

When Doctor Visits Lead to Legal Help

It was not the normal stuff of a pediatric exam. As a doctor checked the growth of Davon Cade’s 2-month-old son, he also probed about conditions at home, and what he heard raised red flags.

Ms. Cade’s apartment had leaky windows and plumbing and was infested with roaches and mold, but the city, she said, had not responded to her complaints. On top of that, the landlord was evicting her for falling behind on the rent.

Help came through an unexpected route. The doctor referred Ms. Cade to the legal aid office right inside the pediatric clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Within days, a paralegal had secured an inspection that finally forced the landlord to make repairs, and also got the rent reduced temporarily while Ms. Cade searched for less expensive housing.

“It got done when the lawyers got involved,” Ms. Cade said.

Doctors and social workers have long said that medical care alone is not enough to address the health woes of the poor, which are often related to diet, living conditions and stress.

The pediatric clinic in Cincinnati is one of 180 medical sites around the country that now seek to address at least some of these broader issues by bringing lawyers and doctors — so often foes in the courtroom — together into a close partnership. [full article]

Maybe it’s time I consult a horticulturist.


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