The brain of a serial killer…is a story about child abuse

brain

There are three interesting aspects of this infographic about the brains of serial killers:

  • The acknowledged link to high levels of childhood trauma.
  • That brain scans of psychopaths are similar to others who exhibit evidence of behaviors besides rage and violence, such as overeating, drinking too much, inappropriate sex and workaholism. Rage, violence and the other behaviors are all  coping skills to deal with childhood adversity.
  • That the experts mentioned in the infographic are coming around to the conclusions from epidemiological research in the CDC’s ACE Study, and from neurobiological research about the effects of toxic stress on children’s brains.

brain2You can find the entire infographic here. There’s one part that’s not accurate  — the concept of a warrior gene. Epigenetics research shows that the social environment turns our genes on and off, so any behavior is likely to be a result of an interplay among many genes and neurodevelopment.

And who put this infographic together? Bestcounselingdegrees.net. Really.

Why I went from being a top student to an expelled dropout

I was expelled from school in 9th grade, and I’m currently 19 years old with no plans on ‘finishing’ my education (as if education ever ends). I say this with pride, because too often, people dismiss academic-underachievers as “lazy,” and any attempt to explain our side is labelled an excuse. I feel a need to show why it’s rarely that simple for the kids who leave school. I used to be a top student, the kind that got praised by teachers, friends, and family alike. For me to leave that behind, it had to take something special. Through the following moments, I will share how I went from a parent’s dream child, to a delinquent with a reticent family.

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At Cherokee Point Elementary, kids don’t conform to school; school conforms to kids

Kids run to greet Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School, during lunch.

Kids run to greet Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School, during lunch.

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What does ANY of the following POSSIBLY have to do with school discipline?

  • Every day at 7:40 a.m., all of the school’s 570 children start their day by eating a free breakfast. In their classrooms. With their classmates.
  • Every other week, the San Diego Food Bank drops off 4,000 pounds of fruits or vegetables for families of students, and another 12,000 pounds every month for the community. Nothing goes to waste.

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Preemies have difficult start on life; attachment issues make situation much worse

Last week I wrote about twinless twins. Casey was a twinless twin, but she never knew it. Her sister was stillborn and we never told her out of fear it would freak her out. But that wasn’t her only challenge when she came into this world on May 3, 1990. She wasn’t ready. Her mother went into labor six weeks early – week thirty. Casey’s birth weight was only three pounds.

Casey probably went straight from the delivery room to an incubator, where she likely spent much of the next two months before she was sent to the orphanage in Mragowo. Who even knows if her mother ever held her?

When my wife and I learned about Casey’s premature birth, we tried to learn everything we could, a task made difficult by the fact that this was 1991; we couldn’t just Google “preemie.” We were years away from a home computer. So we consulted an old high school friend who was a neonatal intensive care nurse.

The long-term effects of a premature birth were terrifying: learning disabilities, vision and hearing problems, digestive and respiratory problems and

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Girlfriend divorcing? Be the girlfriend who champions the children

kidIf going through a divorce is, for adults, like surviving a heart attack, I think for children it must be like surviving a heart attack every month for the next ten years or so, with intermittent pains – and the expectation of them – for the duration.

So my girlfriend-helping-a-girlfriend-going-through-divorce advice is this: take care of yourself, for sure. Surround yourself with sane, functional people who love you. But if you are a mom, your biggest job is guiding your children through this heartache so you do not add to THEIR pain. This means being an adult when you most want to act like a child and lash out, when you want to go back to sleep or forget about soccer practice or hit the drive through, or, perhaps, hit the bottle.

As the mom, you are an adult with some understanding of what’s going on. The children

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Punishment vs. compassion: A tale of two principals

toughlove

There is an age-old debate when it comes to schooling and parenting. Should we discipline children by enforcing punishment and obedience, or raise them through respect and understanding? I am about to share how one principal walks the first path, while another embraced the second.

Our first principal is Dave Derpak. He took over Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver, Canada, in the summer of 2010. Vandalism, false fire alarms, locker break-ins and drug deals were common before

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My Casey’s story — a tragic end to the adoption of a baby with attachment disorder

Ours was a familiar story. My wife, Erika, and I turned to adoption in 1991. We thought surely there were millions of babies out there in need of two loving people desperate to be parents. Then we learned about the realities of adoption. A foreign adoption seemed our best bet, but options were limited then. To improve our chances, we’d need to be open to an “older” or “special needs” child. This was not how we envisioned starting a faily, but we wanted to be parents.

A chance encounter with another adoptive family steered us to an adoption attorney in Warsaw, Poland. Erika was of Polish descent and spoke the language. Maybe this was our chance. In a late night phone call to Warsaw from our home in Connecticut, the attorney was sympathetic but discouraging. She had a long backlog of clients and available children were scarce. What about an “older” or “special needs” child, Erika asked. It was then that we first heard about a 14-month-old girl in a rural orphanage. In a matter of five short months, we’d rushed through home studies and background checks before boarding

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“Letters from the Unloved” reveals the lives of troubled teens, young adults

lettersThey’re short; they’re long. Some are poems. They’re all sad. Teens living through serious adversity because of interactions with their own troubled parents, and young adults struggling with memories as they live out the consequences of a troubled childhood. It’s a window into the lives of families that need or needed help. These are stories that are all too familiar to teachers, counselors, and social workers.

The letters are among hundreds sent over 10 years from teens and young adults around the world to two sites: EQI.org (“a place where you can find useful, practical and important information about emotions and life”) and WhatDepresses.Me. Steve Hein, who runs EQI.org, says that he and the woman who manages WhatDepresses.Me (and who prefers to not be named in this post — here’s her story)  obtained permissions when they could. If the email addresses weren’t valid when they tried to contact the authors and the letters were from people under 18 years old, they changed details to protect the identities of the authors.

Here are excerpts from a few of the letters:

Things my mother has said to me…

– I wish I’d never given birth to you

– You’re not my daughter, no daughter of mine acts like this

– I’m everything, you’r (sic) nothing

– Anyone that cuts themselves should be locked up in a mental institution

– Piss off and never come back

Is cutting really a bad thing?

It doesn’t seem like it to me. You’re not killing yourself, only marking up your body. I’m careful that I don’t bleed to death even. But it feels good. Like it’s some release that helps me through the day. 

I was sexually abused by an uncle

I’m no teenager anymore, I’m 21, but I cut myself (do

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