Welcome to my blog, which speaks to parents, professionals who work with children, and policy makers. Through stories from my behavioral pediatrics practice (with details changed to protect privacy) I will show how contemporary research in child development can be applied to support parents in their efforts to facilitate their children’s healthy emotional development. I will address factors that converge to obstruct such support. These include limited access to quality mental health care, influences of a powerful health insurance industry and intensive marketing efforts by the pharmaceutical industry.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Using media to promote change while celebrating Brazelton's 95th

I had the privilege this week to participate in the 95th birthday celebration of pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton on the occasion of  the  annual Touchpoints National Forum.    I even got to sit at the table with Dr. Brazelton for the birthday lunch!  We watched a wonderful animated video about his life, created by Exceptional Minds, an animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. We listened to songs written about and for Dr. Brazelton, sang "Happy Birthday" and shared birthday cake.

I had been invited by Kevin Nugent, director of the Brazelton Institute, to present at a workshop entitled "Can we Use Media to Support Parents?"Much to my delight, Dr. Brazelton attended our workshop. One of my co-presenters was Lisa McElaney, president of Vida Health Communications. I learned from her about a brilliant evidence-based program called All Babies Cry, a collection of DVD's produced with the aim of preventing child abuse in infancy.  Dr. Brazelton was fully engaged and enthusiastic, asking probing questions.

Recently Dr. Brazelton was presented with the  Presidential Citizen's Medal by President Obama.  The essence of Dr. Brazelton's gift is his tremendous respect for children, parents and the people he works with. His Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale brought to light a newborn baby's  extraordinary capacity for communication. In his work with parents he brings a nonjudgmental strength-based approach to his interactions.  Respectful listening among colleagues is central.

At first I wasn't sure what direction to take with my presentation. Unlike my fellow presenters, I am not a media professional. But then I realized that it gave me a wonderful opportunity to think about why I write for the media.  Just five years ago, I was simply a small town doc in Western Massachusetts.

As I reviewed the events of these five years, I saw that an overarching goal of all of my writing is perfectly aligned with the work of Dr. Brazelton. My aim is to promote a stance of listening with nonjudgmental curiosity. That includes listening to children and to parents, as well listening as among professionals who may approach work with children and families from different paradigms.

As part of my presentation, I told stories about pieces I have written that aim to crossing paradigms and  promote new ways of thinking. It all started with my first op-ed piece for the Globe in 2008, provocatively titled Mind Altering Drugs and the Problem Child, in the wake of the explosion of diagnosis of bipolar disorder in young children.  Continuing as a blogger for Boston.com, I had a similar aim with posts such as Diagnosing ADHD under Age 6: A Mistaken Idea, Could Sensory Processing Disorder be the Primary Problem?, and even The Poop Wars: Why Miralax is Just a Bandaid.

It was a thrill of a lifetime to share this celebration with Dr. Brazelton and then to be able to present my work to him. He is a great model and a true inspiration.

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