Modern psychiatry views children like Madison, those with inappropriate or difficult behaviors, as children whose brain chemistry/neurology is dysfunctional. Psychiatrists gather information about the specific kinds of problem behavior so they can find out what kind of disorder might account for the child’s behavior. The disorder manifests as a chemical difference in the brain that causes the child to act different than other children. Sometimes, but not usually, this chemical difference can be measured, thereby confirming the diagnosis. Finally, medication is prescribed to correct or counter the abhorrent brain chemistry.
In brief, psychiatry views bad behavior as caused by bad brain chemistry. Make a diagnosis (a theory about what kind of chemical dysfunction is present), then prescribe chemicals to correct or counter the effects of the bad chemistry. Bad chemistry plus corrective chemistry equals good chemistry and good behavior.
This seems reasonable enough—until you consider that, while brain chemistry causes behavior, it is also the case that behavior causes brain chemistry. We know that if we send a soldier to the war zone in Iraq for a year, that when he comes back he may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Exposure to a set of behaviors and experiences altered his brain chemistry. If this can happen to an adult’s brain, how much more sensitive to behaviors and experiences is the very malleable brain of a child?
In other words, if a child develops a pattern of behavior or is in a system of behavior interactions that are dysfunctional, then brain chemistry can shift to dysfunctional. And if this is the case, then a child whose brain chemistry is dysfunctional can shift back to functional when she is exposed to corrective behavior interactions.
What I was doing when I was turning around these various children was creating behavior interactions and patterns that countered and remedied the interactions and patterns that had caused the bad behavior and chemistry. And in so doing, I was creating new experiences that altered not only behavior but corrected brain chemistry. The thrust of this book will show how to create new and well-thought-out methods of interactions that can alter brain chemistry, behavior and child development for the better without any medications.
The methods and approaches I’ve developed are not designed to simply manage children with difficult and dysfunctional behaviors; rather, they are designed to change the root causes of the behavior and thereby change the child’s internal processes, neurology and brain chemistry.
In a July 2008 article in The Atlantic Monthly, Nicholas Carr wrote,
The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind ‘is very plastic.’ Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. ‘The brain,’ according to Olds, ‘has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.’