When Bruce Perry was training as a child psychiatrist, the conventional wisdom regarding the effects of child trauma was, “Kids are resilient.” Children who had experienced trauma — abuse, neglect, violence — would “get over it” faster than adults and needed no special handling. Young trauma victims who subsequently developed behavioral disorders, attention deficits, dissociation symptoms, and the like, were diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, schizophrenia, Reactive Attachment Disorder, etc., and treated with medication and other coercive methods, including restraint amounting to torture, even leading to death in some cases.
This approach did not make sense to Dr. Perry — how could a child’s history of trauma and her behavioral and mental disorders be unrelated? He decided to let his patients lead the way in showing him what they needed. With a deep knowledge of brain development and the functioning of the central nervous system’s stress regulation mechanisms, he developed a treatment protocol that took into account the interruption in the child’s neurological, emotional, and social development caused by the trauma.
Dr. Perry’s courageous and insightful treatments are innovative and effective, but that’s not the reason for laymen to read this book. Read this book because you will meet a group of children — Laura, Peter, Sandy, the survivors of the Waco Branch Davidian disaster — who will show you what the human spirit, mind, and body are capable of in the face of overwhelming odds. They have much to teach us about what children and all human beings need from each other.