I have just returned from completing a Risking Connection in Denver, Colorado for Devereux Cleo Wallace. I met many great people who are caring, compassionate and thoughtful about children. I look forward to participating the the agency’s continuing evolution.
We were fortunate to have Dr. Jerry Yager, PsyD. participate in the training. Dr. Yager is a consunt to the agency, as well as working at the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC). He has studied extensively with Dr. Bruce Perry. Dr. Yager has a blog at: http://www.drjerryspeaks.blogspot.com/ . Dr. Yager is a Clinical Psychologist with more than 25 years of experience in the assessment and treatment of traumatized children and adolescents. He specializes in working with adolescents who exhibit self-destructive behavior and who have severe mental illness such as clinical depression, bipolar mood disorder, post traumatic distress disorder and psychosis. Before joining DCAC as Director of Education and Training, Dr. Jerry was the Executive Director of the Denver Children's Home.
Jerry taught me some concepts that add depth to the thinking I have been doing about how brain development knowledge can improve our treatment.
First, he pointed out that all information enters our brain through the lower brain, because of course we get all information in one way or another through our senses. Thus, if the lower brain is scrambled or under developed, this will impact the processing of all information. This relates to sensory dysfunction. It also may explain some of the mis-interpretations our clients make. If the lower brain is operating in an aroused, danger state, all information is filtered through a danger/safety categorization.
Dr. Yager said that most psychotropic medications target functions in the lower brain, attempting to provide regulation. We seek regulation through relationships, through self soothing, and, when necessary, through drugs (prescribed or self chosen).
An important and underused concept is the idea of association. The brain forms neural connections between things that occur together. This is how memories are created. In good-enough parenting, the presence of an adult is associated with relief of distress (the diaper is changed) and with pleasure (food, closeness, attunement). In more difficult situations, the presence of an adult is associated with pain and increase of distress. Our kids come to us with these templates about adults: that they don’t care, can’t be trusted and hurt you. They dare not accept relationships at first. But we can use the power of association to begin to change that. At first, all we need to do is be near by when as child is experiencing pleasure. So, we provide the child with positive experiences: a regular meal, rhythmic pleasurable activities, needs met, safety. And we are nearby. We are right there, paying attention, attuning and smiling. After many repetitions, the child begins to associate adults with pleasure. And then….he may have to courage to form a relationship.
One more reason that having fun with our kids turns out to be the most powerful thing we can do!