Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, by Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph D, and Maia Szalavitz. Basic Books, 2006

Author Bruce Perry has a very difficult but very gratifying job. He’s a child psychiatrist who deals with children who have been horribly abused and traumatized at an early stage, helping them become whole and healed. Perry bases his therapy on how the brain develops- at certain ages, different parts of the brain enlarge as a child learns things; things as basic as trusting someone who touches you or learning how to talk. If a child is deprived of soothing touch as a wee baby, they flinch from touch as they grow up. Perry gently and slowly introduces touch and then massage to teach them that it’s okay, and that part of the brain grows, even though it’s well after the time when it should have.

The children in his accounts are all real, albeit with their names changed. They have suffered horrifically as babies and toddlers. Repeated sexual abuse, near total neglect, seeing their mother murdered –and having her throat cut at the same time- are some of the things that had happened to these children. The boy who was raised as a dog was actually one of the luckier ones; he was fed and did have the dogs for companionship, even as he was deprived of human interaction by a guardian who had no idea how to care for a child but did raise dogs. His guardian didn’t beat him or sexually abuse him. But despite the abuse these children went through and the damage it did to their brain development, Perry is able to help them. He’s very patient and never forces anything on the children. They’ve already had too many things forced on them.

The authors present the book in a rather informal manner. Perry explains what the child went through and what it did to their brain, adding neuroscience to psychiatry. Then he explains what he did with each one to get their brain to grow and reduce their deficits. Each story deals with a different part of the brain. Perry’s dedication and humanity shine through. The authors write rather like Oliver Sacks; if you like his books you’ll like this one, too.

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

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