“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.

 

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.

 

Mercurial

 

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“I met that man before I got here,” James had whispered while they were getting shackled for the long bus ride to the mines. The three of them were part of a shipment of fifteen long-faced youths in assorted shirts and pants. Their jail considered itself cutting-edge in social reformation. Same reason wardens used the euphemism “bunkmates” instead of “cellmates”: sounded better. Wearing donated clothes that inmates washed themselves was considered rehabilitative. A life-skill of boxers and holey socks hung on bunk-rungs to dry.

“What man?” Bobby had asked.

“Someone,” James had hissed. James always knew “someone.” Rarely closely—he had a knack for making people angry. As soon as Marcus learned the word “mercurial,” he knew exactly whom it fit. James had been raised by a gang, and if that group was anything like the bunch he himself had run with, in which individuals turned against each other to gain favor with the marshals, Marcus doubted gang life taught good friendships.

(Excerpt from “Apples in Applath”)

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for July 15, 2018:

Mercurial

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!

 

 

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

More Than Afterthought

Hike OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

As good things end

And dear friends

Bid farewell,

Sweet and sorrow mix

Into the heart

And air

For things that will no longer be

And all to be remembered,

And for the many wonders

That will continue life

Just as the soul

Intended.

 

Dedicated with gratitude to all at the Daily Post, on their last day of The Daily Prompts, and the last week of the Weekly Photo Challenge, which along with the Community Pool and First Friday, are closing shop after 7.5 years. I wish them all much success in their future blog-ventures!

 

For The Daily Post

Find a Home

 

 

The prompt for today was just too on point to ignore, when the paperback became available TODAY (!!!) and when so much of this novel is about what a home is, or what may at any moment become a place one is pushed out of or needs to run away from. The connection felt even more apt with how the holidays bring up for so many the very realities and stories of a home (or lack thereof).

“Apples in Applath” is a work of fiction, yet very real children do fall victim to policies and realities not of their choice or making. Also real is that what makes a home or family is not always immediately obvious; and that hope and wariness, need and conscience, often compete inside one’s soul as one seeks a safe space to call home.

I’m very excited for “Apples in Applath” – my fourth book and third novel. I hope you’ll check it out and share it with others who may find an interest. I hope that it may find a home in yours.

Even more so, my wish for you — and for all who are or once were children — is that you’ll always have a safe nest to call home.

 

For The Daily Post

Even In The Blackest!

 

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Photo: Atara Katz

 

Even in the blackest night

There’s hope

In sight,

There’s light.

 

 

As addendum to this prompt I want to add news of amazing breakthrough research that is offering tangible hope to people with spinal cord injuries, who till now may have had little light at the end of their dark tunnels. Who knows — soon they may be able to get up again and walk!

Scientists use stem-cells to make paralyzed rats walk again!

(I’m doubly excited for this remarkable news because the co-leader scientist in this research, Professor Shulamit Levenberg, is my sister!)

 

For The Daily Post

Un-Faint Yourself

make your mark

 

When woodwork calls

Do not fade in.

When worry weighs

And doubt still gleams:

Color yourself a bolder hue.

Be seen.

Be heard.

Be you!

 

votesforwomenbanner

This year marks 100 years to the first time women were allowed to vote in New York. It led the way to the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote.

There are still those who try to suppress votes. There were always those who tried to put others down for wanting equal rights and for seeking access to those rights. Do not let others demonize you for having a voice. Speak up for those who can’t. Seriously: if you can, vote!

For more reasons to vote … Here are some (of the LESS graphic) historic caricature images that were used to shame, insult, threaten, and generally dissuade women from voting.

 

WomenSuffrage anti1

WomenSuffrage anti2

Suffragists-1suffrage112when women vote

 

For The Daily Post

For more about Historic Women Suffragists

For more about 100 years to the Women’s Suffrage movement in New York

Accommodating

Cuba11 InbarAsi

Photo: Cuba, Inbar Asif

 

My immediate association to today’s word prompt of “Elastic ” was about the dire need for more flexibility. How important it is we be able to curl our mind around the bend of preconception so we can appreciate beyond “our idea of beautiful” or “our opinion of correctness.” It’s become fashionable to be rigidly unyielding, to confront instead of listen, to seek conformity instead of be accommodating.

As if acceptability lives by a single yardstick and Photoshop.

We cover over imperfections. We discard or deny any marring exists. We seek the shiny new. People get judged more by their circumstance of birth than by how pliable their hearts are or how truly resilient they have proven to be in holding on to kindness even in the face of oh-so-much that wasn’t.

As I wrote this a notification appeared for Steve McCurry’s post about the “Art of Imperfection” and the power of Wabi-Sabi — the Japanese practice of finding harmony and beauty in what is simple, natural, and modest, where transience and imperfection are part of the aesthetic. How perfectly apt.

Here’s to beauty in the marred.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post