Massive Book Reviews

Not since the record-selling child care “bible” by Dr. Benjamin Spock was published has a parenting book made such an impact on helping the parenting community understand the importance of child psychiatry and breaking the doctor-diagnosis-drug cycle. The title says it all, “Please Don’t Label My Child”!

 Scott M. Shannon, MD, a highly experienced pediatric psychiatrist who is board certified in general psychiatry, child/adolescent psychiatry, and holistic medicine has hit the head on the proverbial nail. Dr. Shannon has written a book which defies the current medical system used today which labels our children. In great detail, Dr. Shannon explains the damage currently being done by medical professionals and others who choose to label and medicate our kids instead of treating the behavioral and emotional problems “as the relational, nutritional, and environmental problems they are.”

Have you ever wondered why so many kids in this world today are on psychiatric medication? Kids are getting labeled and mislabeled and are being medicated at astounding rates, yet they don’t seem to be getting much better. To me, that should send up a RED flag to physicians and medical health professionals in the mental health field. Dr. Shannon waives his RED FLAG by writing this book, which explores the very important issue. It’s true—kids are being diagnosed at alarming rates with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, bipolar disorder, “and even autistic spectrum disorders”. Dr. Shannon challenges, “Is it because more and more of our children are born with faulty brain chemistry or some other genetically related weakness that makes them more susceptible to these very serious illnesses? I highly doubt it.”

 How do we stop health professionals from mislabeling our children? Could it be that due to our health insurance industry that doctors are feeling the pinch to choose diagnostic codes (labels, if you will) as quick and possible and write prescriptions instead of seek the reason for complex behavioral health issues?

Although life stressors which burden entire families are at an all-time high, it seems that Shannon is on to something big. Attaching a label to a child will not make the child feel better, a label will not make the parents feel good for very long. We need to think outside the box, and define what is considered “normal” in a child.

Kids fall through cracks in the precarious medical system at alarming rates in today’s world. Even “gifted” children are being affected by these labels. Since being labelled, could a child like this suffer from chronic anxiety because he or she is “expected to excel academically at all times.”

Children today need consistent, unconditional love and focused attention. Shannon insists that our tendency to label things has not only left our kids without these important needs, but the right to enjoy a childhood free of damaging and debilitating diagnostic labels.

I would recommend this book to parents, caregivers and those in the health care industry for children of all ages. Whether you are the fortunate parent of an innocent newborn, or whether you are dealing with an out-of-control teenager, this book will help you see beyond the labels and it will show you that the current system is totally upside down. It’s backward, according to Shannon, and after his heart-warming examples and keen insight into the unique problems kids experience, I will say that this book should be in every public library system and hospital/institutional systems in the nation and in the world. Every parenting library—whether it be your personal library or your community’s (your doctor’s, your hospital’s library)– should have access to this revolutionary book which is a treasure to read as it is well written and nicely organized—it is easy enough for parents to understand, whether they have one child or 8 children. It presents complex issues for physicians and healthcare providers. Make it required reading in every medical school in the country. Seriously. This book breaks new grounds for healthcare professionals and Dr. Scott Shannon is a practical physician in this age-old field. He makes sense when the whole system is broken. Let’s fix the bridges and stop the gaps. More importantly, let’s get our children healthy.

By reading this book, you can help your health care provider break up the “rigid doctor-diagnosis-drug cycle” that our system is currently in. Children and their highly adaptable brains need our help to see things from their perspective. It is only then that we can stop the doctors from reaching out to the prescription pad first. Since there is very little science behind most psychiatric labels, psychiatry is the only branch of medicine that has no biochemical test or form of imaging to verify clinical diagnosis. Because clinicians know so very little about the individual brain (as it is based on patient history and personal, subjective judgment), the reliability of psychiatric diagnosis remains poor in clinical practice (according to a recent psychiatry journal article on the consistency of psychiatric diagnosis).

Yes, these doctors are overwhelmed, as are their patients and the parents and caregivers of the patients. Dr. Scott Shannon aims to practice in a system that puts the “power to heal squarely back into the hands of the children and parents” he works with. He sees how strong the young brain is, how adaptable and resilient. He is a great educator. He encourages parents (and institutions) to “look at children differently and to understand more fully how a child’s brain actually works.” By doing this, he is helping our children develop “the mental and emotional resources they’ll need for succeeding in life”. His goal? Quite simple, yet so challenging. Says Dr. Shannon, “My goal is to empower families to take ownership of their emotional and mental health, to learn the tools needed to identify and combat brain stress, and to learn how to effectively eliminate the offending stressers from their lives. When I’m able to facilitate this, I get to step back and watch the flowering of ever member of a family, from the youngest to the oldest.” It should be noted that Dr. Shannon’s method is one of moderation and restraint. His book is meant to empower others to break free of the doctor-diagnosis drug cycle. He strongly believes that labeling is used too often, but notes that sometimes it can be useful to first aggressively treat initial symptoms a child may display.

Julie Lowicki is a wife and super mom to five young children in Chandler, AZ. I asked Julie to read this book and to give me her opinion on it, based on her years of parenting young children with her husband. Julie called this book “a good wake up call to parents that they should be more involved and in tune with their children”. She cited Dr. Shannon’s mention of the environmental stressers as causes of children’s mental unhealthiness as one of the most valuable parts of this book.

Julie’s favorite chapter was Relationships and the Young Brain. According to Julie, “it affirmed how I raised my kids, but also provided the scientific facts to prove that attachment parenting is BEST! In my 10 years as a parent, there has been a wave of influence on parents to practice the opposite: all in the name of scheduling a child to fit the caregiver’s routine. I have seen children in their toddler years and older with major detachment issues as well as signs of significant stress because of this,” adds Julie.

There are many examples of children that Dr. Shannon has seen through his years in his pediatric practice. Julie loved the examples that Dr Shannon gave. She said that they provided the reader with great insight into how a balanced psychiatrist would handle many different issues.

Julie admits that while she hasn’t experienced teaches getting involved in psychiatric diagnoses of children, she has heard “from too many friends lately” that their children have been diagnosed with mild forms of autism, ADHD, violent behavior, and even bipolar disorder.

Dr. Shannon provides great insight into the importance of nutrition and the child brain. Julie also felt that the dietary guidelines for a healthy child were “key”. Other critical areas which she identified with included the “fit” dynamic in a family. Respecting and being in tune with all of the family’s differences were addressed and Julie found these mentions important in their method to rearing their own young family.

Also important were practical sections on helping your kids deal with stress, and the different learning styles of children.

“I loved the whole book!! I highly recommend it to all adults but especially parents, teachers, pastors, counselors and anyone who is involved with children,” Julie said.

We totally agree with Julie, here at The Review Two thumbs up to Dr. Scott Shannon for his “must-read” book which provides parents and health care providers with a well-written medical reference which spells out, loud and clear, how labeling a child has proved to be dangerous and has caused millions of our children to suffer greatly (their health, their self-esteem, their ability to thrive and fit in and their capacity for joy and success).

Although labels may have been thought to help our children initially, the facts are staggering. The number of children in our country who were prescribed psychiatric medication TRIPLED from 1987 to 1996. If this horrible trend is allowed to continue, within a generation, accord to Dr. Scott Shannon, half of all American children will be on some kind of psychiatric drug. Truly, this should be a RED light alert to physicians and mental health providers everywhere. It is time to look at the numbers and realize that according to at least one study, 65 percent of children and adolescents taking behavioral medications were also on antidepressants. What this means is frightening: kids are on two or more psychiatric drugs at a time despite there being “little or no research on what the effects of combining such drugs has on children”. Our doctors, who continue to pull out the prescription pads, have “no body of scientific research to prove that these drugs are safe for our children over the long term.”

Let’s help our physicians “undiagnose” our children by addressing each label that has been stuck on to our kids today. Put the P-Touch label maker away and save the labels for scrapbooking projects! Perhaps, by hesitating to label children so often, their brains will given the chance to continue to grow and heal themselves, adapting to their stresser environments by tapering off (slowly discontinuing) psychiatric drugs which may, in fact, compound their problems. It is then that our children’s self esteem will thrive. And it is then that our families will develop total awareness of the frightening amount of labelling going on in the medical world.There is no one-size-fits all diagnosis when it comes to our kids. Let’s take Dr. Shannon’s advice and break away from the label system, which seems to do more damage than good.

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