Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"But maaaaaam!"

I used to make a habit of reading the "Personal Health" column each week, just because each time, it was some inane detail about Brody or one of her family members' minor health problems, followed by a long, self-righteous lecture about how she, Jane Brody, is more virtuous than you could ever be, you chainsmoking, Frito-eating, PBR-guzzling lout. Or, as Patricia Marx put it in her brilliant TimesSelect blog post about how predicable the newspaper is, "Look! Another photo op for Chuck Schumer. A study has just come out that confirms last week’s study that confirmed that exercise and a low-fat diet are beneficial. Oil costs so much money. In the dining section, there was a new recipe for a root vegetable you’ve never heard of. Jane Brody has a blister."

But then last week, Brody made the obvious but useful point that condoms prevent pregnancy and disease. A point which is impossible to mock. So on the offchance that anyone young, male, and sexually active reads Jane Brody, this was a net gain for public health and happiness.

So I was relieved that this week, the column has returned to the mockable subject of how to help when your child stops wanting to go to school. Forgive me for immediately picturing Eric Cartman in the "homeschooling" South Park episode, when his at-home education entails TV and "cheesy poofs," but that's how it is.

I'm relieved, reading this article, that my parents were of the "you're going anyway" mentality. No such luck for 12-year-old "James," whose refusal to mobilize himself come the morning led to this series of events:

A psychological evaluation led to a diagnosis of a serious anxiety disorder set off by the abrupt change in school environment. Medication and 18 months at a therapeutic school, where James made steady progress, turned the situation around.

And, it continues:

If a psychological evaluation reveals a generalized anxiety disorder or depression, treatment is required, often with medication and professional counseling. Nathan was treated with a combination of sertraline (Zoloft) and anxiety management techniques, his parents received family therapy aimed at limiting the fun he had at home, and school staff members allowed him to gradually return to a full academic schedule.

Emphasis mine. But good grief, making poor Nathan's his home life less "fun"? What did that entail? Were his parents forced to read (reread) Portnoy's Complaint and take cues from poor Alex Portnoy's mom and dad? And I'm sorry, but James's 18 months of theraputic school, because he didn't want to go to regular school? Who in their right mind ever wants to go to middle school? Not to get all categorically imperative about this, but if every kid was James, there'd only be "theraputic" middle schools left.

But the best part of any "Personal Health" column is always the expert advice, the sort of advice that requires calling in the great minds of whichever field the week's dilemma falls under:

Dr. Kearney described four circumstances that may prompt refusal to go to school:

Often in combination with underlying anxiety and depression, the child may be distressed by teachers, students, the bus, the cafeteria, the classrooms and transitions between classes.

The child may be trying to escape from distressing social situations or academic or athletic evaluations, including interacting with others or having to perform before others....

The bus can certainly be distressing. And the classrooms, not the classrooms! Alas, these parts of childhood become the background scenery for nightmares you will have for the rest of your life. And "interacting with others," that should, of course, be avoided at all costs if you ever want to succeed in life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I used to think that stuff about parents shielding their kids too much from reality ie not letting them play outside was a typical media beat up but than you read stories like this. "James" is bound to grow up to be a total neurotic who has a nervous breakdown at the first sign of adversity in life. I'd add that I'd bet the kid's parents are upper middle class white parents. Noone else would take such a dumb approach.