“Ian”: A Moving Story

 

All children want to play, including those with disabilities. However, the latter are all too often left out of playgrounds altogether, are rendered invisible to others who look through them or past them, or are bullied. This internationally acclaimed short movie, which is based on the true story of Ian, wordlessly and profoundly delivers the universal message about the inclusion and dignity to audiences young and old.

It is a must-see.

 

From a fabulous article about the movie from Respectability:

“All kids want to play. Kids with disabilities are no different. “Ian” is a short, animated film inspired by the real-life Ian, a boy with a disability determined to get to the playground despite his playmates bullying him. This film sets out to show that children with disabilities can and should be included.

“Ian” premiered for audiences around the world on YouTube and was broadcast in Latin America simultaneously on Disney Junior, Cartoon Network, Discovery Kids, Nickelodeon, PakaPaka and YouTube Kids Nov. 30, 2018.

“Ian” started as a mother’s mission to educate her son’s bullies on the playground—one to one. When she realized that the need for inclusion was bigger than one playground, she wrote a book and founded Fundación ian to change thousands of minds and attitudes about people with disabilities. She approached MundoLoco, a top digital animation studio in Latin America, about creating “Ian,” an animated film to deliver the message of inclusion to audiences all over the world.”

For the rest of the article on Respectability, information about the real Ian, links, and a lot more, click here: “Short film about playground inclusion wins international acclaim”

 

 

“I Go In The Closet In My Head”

Trauma and Dissociation in Children Living with Domestic Violence

(Originally published in ISSTD News, October 2018)
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Photo: Pixabay

 

Eli, age seven, lives with his younger sister, Marianne, age four, and their mother, Lisa, in New York City. They had lived in a domestic violence shelter for a year, and before that with his stepfather, Mark, till Lisa fled with the kids following repeated violence. Huddled in his bed, Eli had often heard his stepdad beating his mother. He’d wait helplessly till she sought refuge in the children’s room once Mark stormed out. She’d sob herself to sleep on the floor by his bed as he lay awake, worrying his stepdad would return and hit her more.

Mark was the only father Eli knew. His biological father left shortly after he was born. Eli adored his stepdad. He loved it when Mark took him to the park and showed him “how to build muscles” on the monkey-bars. He also hated Mark for hurting his mother, and felt guilty for admiring the very strength that brutalized her. When one night his bruised mother took him, still in pajamas, to a “hotel for mommies,” Eli wanted to go back home. He cried and screamed and it made his mother cry. One of the shelter’s women told Eli he was being “selfish” and that if he “wanted to grow up to be a decent man” he would “stop hurting his mom.” Eli felt confused. Was he hurting his mommy like his stepdad hurt her? Sometimes his stepdad would apologize in the morning and say “he didn’t know his own strength.” Did Eli also not know his own strength? Did he hurt his mommy without meaning to?

Eli stopped fussing, but he still missed his stepdad. There were no dads in the shelter, only whiny babies, toys big kids wouldn’t share, and mommies with scared eyes and scary bruises. He didn’t like it there. He couldn’t go to his own school. He couldn’t see his friends or go to the park where he’d played catch with Mark. Instead, he had school in the shelter and played at the playroom where the carpet smelled funny. Eli tried to be good but still his mommy cried at night. Maybe he was hurting her by his thoughts of wanting to go home? He didn’t know how to stop wanting to go home.

Even when they finally left the shelter they didn’t go home. His mommy said their new apartment was “home, sweet home,” but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even near the park and he had a new school with different everything. Also, his mommy was scared again. She had a lot of locks on the door, and slept on the floor by his bed again. Like before. She cried even though Mark wasn’t there to hit her. Eli tried to take care of his mommy but he didn’t know how. He was doing it all wrong. He didn’t know what to do.

When I met Eli, he was repeating Kindergarten and showed difficulty with attending,
comprehending, and meeting academic demands. Teachers reported he could be talkative but mostly seemed to be “in his own little world” and frequently complained of stomach-aches, asking for his mother to take him home. His occasional explosive aggression led to questions about whether he needed a more restrictive environment “for the protection of everyone involved.” Both Eli and Marianne had attended a therapeutic play group at the shelter, and the counselor there noted that Eli had “tended to keep to himself” and was “always with one ear to the door, listening if his mom was okay.” The little boy hadn’t been aggressive toward others at the shelter, but the counselor wasn’t surprised to hear “some of that rage bubbled up eventually.”

“Lions are strong,” Eli emphasized. “They eat the deer.”
We had just finished reading a story about forest animals and their needs, and he seemed disappointed that no one got eaten.
“Yes,” he added, smacking his palm on the closed book. “Later, he’ll beat her up and then he’ll eat her. He can kill her …”
He shuddered and looked up at me and appeared a lot younger than seven. “That sounds very scary,” I noted gently.
He pointed to the deer on the cover of the book. “Can she hide?” he asked.
I nodded and pointed in the direction of a napkin. I wanted to give him space to go where he needed. It was obvious this wasn’t about deer and lions.
Eli took in a trembling breath.
“I hide.” He whispered and reached for my hand. “I hide inside the closet in my mind.”

It’s what he did when mommy was being hurt and when she cried and when he missed his stepdad and when he didn’t know what to do: he went inside the closet inside his mind. Not the real closet, where people can find you, but a better one, in his head: A closet where only he could open the doors, where no bad sounds or smells got in. It wasn’t scary in his closet, just quiet. But sometimes he forgot to open the doors and pay attention and the teachers said he wasn’t a good listener and kids said he was stupid. His mommy told him that if she kept missing work to take him home from school she’d lose her job and they’d lose their apartment. But he worried about her. He heard her tell a friend on the phone that she was scared Mark would shoot her at work. Like on TV. He wanted mommy to take him home so she won’t be at work where Mark can come. And sometimes he thought he heard scary Mark coming so he’d jump out of his closet fast and hit but then people told him he was being bad, too. It made him want to go back in the closet inside his head but he needed to look after his mother. He was “the man of the house” now. He didn’t know what to do.

Exposure to domestic violence hurts children (Edleson 1999, Sousa et al 2011). Witnessing violence impacts children as much—and sometimes more—than being hit. It is unbearable to a child to be helpless to save the caregiver they need, and it can be even worse when the one harming the caregiver is also someone the child depends on. Children often convince themselves that the violence—and its prevention—is somehow theirs to control (Levendovksi et al 2003, Sousa et al, 2011). In a child’s mind, if only they were better, quieter, and less needy, the people they rely on would not become terrified or terrifying.

The very words that accompany domestic violence can be confusing. Did mom “ask for it?” Did stepdad “only hit her because he loved her?” Does saying “I’m sorry” mean it didn’t happen? Unable to make sense of what is happening around them, children—like Eli retreating into his “closet inside his mind”—might shut-down and dissociate. They can appear unemotional and numb, stop attending, and fall behind socially and at school. They might mirror the aggression they’d seen. Very often children feel guilty if they love the person who hurts the other person they love, and guilty for hating the person they love for hurting another person they love. They rarely have the words or space to describe any of this. Children who apply dissociation to cope with terror and helplessness may also shut down at reminders of the trauma, reinforcing dissociation and resulting in children who are less available for processing information and utilizing available support (Siegel 2012, Silberg 2013, Wieland 2011, Yehuda 2005, 2016).

Even after a parent flees domestic violence, strain often continues, and children might mirror it in ways that reflect not only past trauma, but also current issues. A parent who escaped domestic violence can still be vulnerable. They might still be scared. They might have limited financial, social, and emotional resources. Children sense this, and may hide their own difficulties to protect the parent from distress. When feelings of resentment, anger, worry, or grief inevitably overwhelm them, the children can feel doubly guilty. Unfortunately, just as Eli was scolded at the shelter, children might be chided if they misbehave and be told “there’s already enough to deal with.” They might dissociate to avoid added shame and helplessness. They might become hyper-aware of the parent’s mood and try to accommodate it (Ostrowski et al 2007, Lyons-Ruth & Block 1996).

A loss of home—even the mere risk of it—can be overwhelming and preoccupying, leaving children anxious, wary, worried, angry, or withdrawn. The parent may be managing depression, posttraumatic stress, financial insecurity, and grief; all of which can inadvertently reinforce unhealthy dynamics. This is why it is crucial anyone who works with families fleeing domestic violence, understands children’s behaviors and the functions they serve.

Domestic violence hurts children. While children don’t always communicate their distress verbally, they almost always do so in their behaviors: In aggression and acting out, in shutting down, in falling behind, in what they won’t talk about, in what they do or cannot do (Silberg 2013, Waters 2005, 2016, Yehuda 2005, 2011, 2016). It is paramount we hear them, for our reaction may become the measure of whether they believe help is available.

Eli’s mother was depressed, but she was also determined to keep her children safe and to minimize the impact of trauma on their future. She entered counseling to deal with her own unresolved history, and enrolled Eli in a therapeutic playgroup. She became more involved in his therapy with me, and learned to support his narrative when he spoke of his feelings, including difficult ones about the violence he’d witnessed. Together, at his request, we made a visual representation of the “closet inside his mind” using a shoebox that the two of them painted to fit his inner representation. Eli was able to put his “big feelings” into the closet-box for safe keeping so that he can attend better at school. He was delighted when his mother made a small blanket for his closet “so even the biggest feelings can be cozy and safe.”

With his mother less frightened and himself less alone, Eli was able to let in play, instruction, joy, and praise. His explosive aggression ceased, and he was catching up on language, academics, and friendships.

“Remember when I told you about my closet in my mind?” he said at one of our sessions. “I don’t need to hide there anymore. It’s old and it’s too small for me,” he added without judgment. “I was little, but now I can speak up and if I get scared I can go to mommy or the teacher … or you. I don’t need that closet. The bad memories can rest there.”

 

Bibliography:
Edleson, J.L. (1999). Children’s witnessing of adult domestic violence, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14:839-870.

Levendosky, A.A., Huth-Bocks, A.C., Shapiro, D.L., Semel, M.A. (2003). The impact of domestic violence on the maternal–child relationship and preschool-age children’s functioning, Journal of Family Psychology, 17(3):275–287.

Lyons-Ruth, K., Block, D., (1996). The disturbed caregiving system: Relations among childhood trauma, maternal caregiving, and infant affect and attachment, Infant Mental Health Journal, 17(3):257-275,

Ostrowski, S.A., Norman, M.A., Christopher, C., Delahanty, D.L. (2007). Brief report: The impact of maternal Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and child gender on risk for persistent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in child trauma victims, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 32(3):338–342.

Siegel, D.A. (2012). The Developing Mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are, 2nd Edition, New York: The Guilford Press.

Silberg J.L. (2013). The Child Survivor: Helping Developmental Trauma and Dissociation, New York: Routledge Publishers.

Sousa. C., Herrenkohl, T.I., Moylan, C.A., Tajima A.E., Klika, J.B., Herrenkohl, R.C., Russo, M.J. (2011) Longitudinal study on the effects of child abuse and children’s exposure to domestic violence, parent–child attachments, and antisocial behavior in adolescence, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(1):111–136.

Waters, F. (2005). When treatment fails with traumatized children. . .Why? Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6:1–9.

Waters, F. (2016). Healing the Fractured Child: Diagnosis and treatment of youth with dissociation, Springer, New York.

Wieland, S. (Ed.) (2011). Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents: Theory and clinical interventions, Psychological Stress Series, Routledge Publishers.

Yehuda, N. (2005). The language of dissociation. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6:9–29.

Yehuda, N. (2011). Leroy (7 Years Old)—“It Is Almost Like He Is Two Children”: Working with a dissociative child in a school setting, in Wieland’s (Ed.) Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents: Theory and clinical interventions, New York: Routledge, Psychological Trauma Series.

Yehuda, N. (2016) Communicating Trauma: Clinical presentations and interventions with traumatized children, Routledge, New York.

 

For more information about trauma and development: check the Resources, Trauma and Development and Publications pages on this site.

 

Come Play!

Play SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

I can play in the tent

I can play with these balls

But to have you play with me

Is what I want most of all!

 

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Play

 

One Silver Lining

(Based on true events* – Trigger Warning for possible distress)

bed blanket female girl

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

 

Susan is about to leave her daughter’s bedroom after bringing in a load of clean laundry when Chrissie speaks. Her voice trembles.

“Mom, can I tell you something important?”

Susan turns. Chrissie has been quieter than usual. She resisted going to basketball practice and tried to stay home from school. “Sure, Chrissie. You know you can tell me anything.”

“Coach Kevin hurt me.”

Susan frowns in confusion. “Hurt you how?”

“He cornered me in the locker room and he pushed me onto the ground and he tried to get my clothes off and I told him no but he didn’t listen and when I tried to scream he put his hand over my mouth and nose and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was going to die.” The words tumble out and Chrissie begins to sob.

Her mother remains standing as if rooted to the floor. “When?”

“Last week.”

“Last week?!” Susan crosses her arms over her chest. “How come you didn’t say something right away?”

“I was scared. I was confused. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to think about it. I…I didn’t want it to be true.”

“Did you call the police?”

“No.”

“Did you tell the principal?”

“No.”

“Did you tell anyone?”

“I told my friend, Hannah, yesterday.” Chrissie’s voice shakes. “She told me to tell you.”

“You didn’t even tell your best friend right away?!” Susan raises an eyebrow.

“No.”

“Well,” Susan shakes her head, “so maybe it didn’t happen.”

Chrissie wraps her blanket tightly around herself. “It did happen! I’m telling you it did!”

“Coach Kevin is a nice man. Are you sure it was him?”

“Mom! I know him. His face was two inches from mine. Of course I’m sure it was him!”

“I don’t know. I’ve seen Coach Kevin many times and he never tried to do this to me. I never heard anyone say anything like this about him. Also, he goes to church.” Susan pulls her phone out of her pocket. She swipes her finger over the small screen. “Kevin? Susan. Got a minute?” She walks out of the room and returns a couple of minutes later. “Well, Chrissie, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I just talked to Coach Kevin and he says he didn’t do anything of the sort. Are you trying to destroy him? It is nasty to make things up this way.”

Chrissie sobs. “I’m not making it up, Mom. It really happened. It is why I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want … to see him and he does the carpool …”

Susan eyes linger on her daughter. “Well, maybe something happened, but I don’t believe it was him.”

“It was him! I’m telling you it was him.”

Susan narrows her eyes. “How can you be sure it was him?”

“I am a 100% sure. I saw him like I’m seeing you.”

“Hmm. I think you’re wrong.”

Chrissie pulls the covers over her head. The blankets shake.

“No need for hysterics. As you can see, I am believing you that something happened. I just don’t think it was him. Actually, I think you should apologize to Coach Kevin for saying he did this to you. He says he didn’t do it and I believe him.”

Chrissie freezes. She turns slowly toward her mother. “Apologize to him?! Mom, he’s lying!”

“I don’t know. You have proof it was him?”

Chrissie starts to shake her head but then sits up. She looks up at her mother. “Maybe. There are cameras in the hallway by the locker rooms. Can we ask the school to get the cameras from outside the locker room? They’ll show him going into the girls’ locker room when I was there by myself. They’ll show me leaving in tears and him leaving after me.”

Chrissie’s mother rolls her eyes. “That’s not necessary. He said he didn’t do it. That’s all I need to know.”

Chrissie stares incredulously before turning away from her mother and facing the wall.

Susan shrugs. “Well, that settles it. I’ll tell Kevin you are sorry. He’s up for promotion, you know. Head coach. There’s a party at his place on Sunday. We’ll stop by. You should write a card. The one silver lining that can come out of this is that if someone assaults you, you now know you can come and tell me about it.”

§ § §

 

*a link to a ‘one silver lining‘ statement that ‘inspired’ this piece.

 

May We Be the Adults Kids Need

The link below is to an article by Dawn Haney (thank you, Jenny, for sending it to me). It is very well done and immensely relevant.

Take a moment to read it, and perhaps a few more to allow your realities and reactions to have the room they require and deserve. If you are so inclined, leave a comment below and share your thoughts about the article, of the things you’ve found to be helpful, and the realities of balancing activism with self-care.

In these times of rampant overwhelm and maddening injustice — especially if you carry your own wounds and trauma history — may you find the support you need, the awareness you seek, and the way to provide aid to the vulnerable in the pace and manner you can manage.

And may we all, indeed, be the adults kids need.

May We Be the Adults Kids Need: Healing practices to avoid burnout

From the article. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

 

Do Not Be Reticent

child-us-mexico-border Photo - AP Gregory Bull

Photo: AP / Gregory Bull

 

Do not be reticent

About the truth.

When stolen children

Cry

Deprived of trust

Of hope

Of warmth,

Those of us who have

A voice

Must use it,

For the helpless

Cannot.

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for July 27, 2018:

Reticent

This post continues the blogging challenge in which Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, serves as inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Want to join me? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. Poetry, photography, short stories, anecdotes: Go for it!

For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

 

 

Find Your Métier

 

professions-in-english woodardenglish.com

 

Maybe it is healing

And the saving of lives,

Or the wonder of teaching

And forming young minds.

Maybe it is farming

To nourish and grow,

Or building the homes

For the shelter we know.

Maybe it is writing

Putting words to the page,

Or any vocation

That forms our age.

May it be that whatever

Strums your soul, fills your need

I pray that you find it

And its call you will heed.

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for July 1, 2018:

Métier

This post continues the blogging challenge in which Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, serves as inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Want to join me? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. Poetry, photography, short stories, anecdotes: Go for it!

For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

 

 

Notorious

 

Hard times OsnatHalperinBarlev

Photo: Osnat Halperin-Barlev

 

When you know how stress

Rewires

Little ones’ brains

To lifelong pain,

You mark yourself ever

Notorious

When you cruelly

Add

To their wounding

Day and again.

 

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for June 22, 2018:

Notorious

This post continues the blogging challenge in which Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, serves as inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Want to join me? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. Poetry, photography, short stories, anecdotes: Go for it!

For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

 

Cookie Share

round biscuit with heart jelly in center

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

“Now it’s my turn to ask you a question,” she said. “And you have to answer.”

“Fair enough,” I smiled. After all, I’d just subjected this child to a long list of questions to which she had to respond.

“What if,” she began, twinkle-eyed, “you had only one cookie, but you needed to share it with fifty kids?”

“Hmm …” I pondered. “That’s a tough one. One cookie only?”

“Yep!” She raised her eyebrows in satisfaction at what had to be my stupefied expression.

“Can I hand out something else instead?” I bargained.

“Nope. One cookie, fifty kids.” The eight-year-old was utterly too pleased with herself.

I smelled a rat but I wasn’t going to show it. She’d earned this after soldiering on through the difficult portions of the testing battery. “I give up.” I raised my hands in surrender. “I don’t see how I can split one cookie between fifty kids.”

“I never said how big the cookie had to be, did I?” she chortled. “If you have a gigantic humongous cookie it would be easy peasy to have everyone share it!”

 

 

For Cee’s Share Your World June-18-2018

Opportune – New Blogging Challenge

This post begins what I’m trying on as a new twist on an old idea — I will be utilizing Merriam-Webster’s lovely Word of the Day, as my (hopefully daily) inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Miss The Daily Post and want to join me in this experiment? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

Merriam-Webster’s word for June 3, 2018:

Opportune

 

Old door Turkey OsnatHalperinBarlev

Photo: Osnat Halperin-Barlev

 

If one door

Has shut

On a path

Not yet over,

Opportune ways

May become

The future’s

Treasure trover.

 

 

For Merriam-Webster Word of the Day