The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook
Maia Szalavitz, Bruce Perry, . . Basic, $26 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-465-05652-1
In beautifully written, fascinating accounts of experiences working with emotionally stunted and traumatized children, child psychiatrist Perry educates readers about how early-life stress and violence affects the developing brain. He offers simple yet vivid illustrations of the stress response and the brain's mechanisms with facts and images that crystallize in the mind without being too detailed or confusing. The stories exhibit compassion, understanding and hope as Perry paints detailed, humane pictures of patients who have experienced violence, sexual abuse or neglect, and Perry invites the reader on his own journey to understanding how the developing child's brain works. He learns that to facilitate recovery, the loss of control and powerlessness felt by a child during a traumatic experience must be counteracted. Recovery requires that the patient be "in charge of key aspects of the therapeutic interaction." He emphasizes that the brain of a traumatized child can be remolded with patterned, repetitive experiences in a safe environment. Most importantly, as such trauma involves the shattering of human connections, "lasting, caring connections to others" are irreplaceable in healing; medications and therapy alone cannot do the job. "Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love," Perry concludes.
Reviewed on: 10/16/2006