. . . and it's not their genes either. – Dr. C

Posts tagged ‘marine fighter pilot’

THE HORRIBLE KID – Chapter I: A tale from the Lone Arranger

Horrible Kid 2

The Horrible Kid

 Chapter I:  How “horrible” can a kid be?

In 1999, a well established mental health agency in California opened one of the first private, non-profit “wraparound” programs in the State.  I was selected as the Executive Director.

Wraparound programs were established to provide services to families struggling with troubled or troublesome children while the child was still living in the home.  Without these services, children were in jeopardy of being removed from their families and placed in either a foster home, a group home, or a larger mental health facility.  After all criteria is met, referrals to these programs come from the county Department of Social Services, the Mental Health Department and, though rare, a school district.  As a bonus, it was much more cost effective than out-of-home placement – at least it began that way.

After 12 months of operation, we had a number of successes with the families we were entrusted to help.  Our team was routinely out in the community and in the homes of our families doing “whatever it takes” – the battle cry of all wraparound programs at the time – to keep the family intact.  We had exceptional people working in the program filling the roles of counselor, Mental Health Resource Specialist (MHRS), and therapist.  Though we were still learning, we were dedicated, and we were confident we had the skills to help our families.

One day I got a call from a county social worker.  We were providing services for two of her families already, and she was pleased with our work.  She wanted to refer a nine year old boy she had on her caseload for three months.  Let’s call him Jerry.  Without our help, she feared, Jerry was headed for out-of-home placement.  “If I have to remove Jerry from his home,” she said with some caution, “I’m not so sure I’ll be able to find a foster parent willing to put up with this horrible kid!

She gave me details, and I accepted the referral.  A few days later, I contacted Jerry’s school and spoke with his school counselor.  I asked how Jerry was doing.  She told me he was enrolled three months earlier, and he was in special classes for the “learning disabled.”  She let me know Jerry was performing below grade level.  When asked, she also said he didn’t have any friends, adding “he’s just horrible in the classroom!” 

They did some testing.  Schools love to “test” kids, especially kids they have don’t know how to manage.  The school counselor told me their psychologist determined Jerry “likely has ADHD.”  She was frustrated with Jerry’s mother because, “I told her we wanted to refer Jerry to a child psychiatrist because of the benefits medication can have, and she refused.  Perhaps,” she implored me, “you can help her accept the idea that Jerry has a real disability.” 

 Since there is no such thing as “disability,” I knew we were going to have to consider the school’s perspective as we developed our plan to help.

Jerry’s Story

“Horrible . . . just horrible.” 

That’s what Jerry’s mother said when I asked, for the first time, how Jerry was doing.  We were in her home, her eyes a little misty, she was dejected – not mad.  Her name, for this tale, is Gloria.  Gloria had more or less surrendered herself to the idea Jerry was always going to be her responsibility regardless of the never-ending burden, and that he would never really improve.  She had been told as much by a number of professionals by then.  “The school is right,” she told me, “Jerry is unmanageable.”

Maybe you know kids like this.  Tell him to go left, he goes right – often because you told him to go left.  “Sit down and be quiet!” only seemed to provoke more animated refusals.  “Time-outs” were, well, a waste of time, because he simply wouldn’t comply.  Punishment – the most overused and least effective of all techniques – got nowhere.

Rewards?  Desperation, and continued failure, placed the professionals in his life in the unenviable position of rewarding Jerry for not doing something.  This is common in schools and treatment facilities.  Rewarding a child for not having a tantrum is counter to behavioral techniques and, mostly, another waste of time.  Rewards are provided to start behaviors you want to encourage, not to stop behaviors you want to discourage.  Thus, this approach was also ineffective, leading to an inevitable, irresponsible, and much too common assertion from nearly everyone: “we’ve tried everything, and nothing works.”

Getting him to school was hit and miss.  Gloria did her best in the morning corralling him into the school van that showed up, often with the help of the van driver. Too often, both would yield to the tantrums.  Consequently, Jerry missed a lot of school.  Once he got to there, it was no cakewalk.  Jerry was famous.  Everyone in the small school – including office staff, nurse, maintenance, all the teachers and teacher’s aides, and every administrator in the building knew Jerry.

If sufficiently provoked, it was not uncommon for Jerry to throw objects, tip over chairs and anything else in his way, curse at the top of his lungs, and in other ways defy any and all directives from the adults in his life, sometimes to the point of physical restraint.  He often did so with a sense of glee – and a grin on his face –  that only served to irritate the adults in charge even more.  He had the attention of everyone.  They all greeted him the same way on those days when he did arrive at school.  “Lets have good day today, Jerry . . .” adding, with an apprehensive smile, “. . . okay?”

The Path to Horrible

Jerry never new his father.  Gloria married when she was 28 years old, and she was pregnant a year later.  Her husband left one day when Jerry was nearly two, and never returned.  Gloria and her young son were abandoned, with no means, so she moved in with her mother.  I’ll call her Eleanor.  At the time, Eleanor lived in a nice home in Orange County, California.  Gloria was Eleanor’s second child.  She had an older daughter in Florida.  Jerry was her only grandson.  Eleanor was widowed a year before Jerry was born.

When she first moved into her mother’s home, everything was “okay,” so said Gloria.  Jerry was mostly happy, and always active.  He was alone most of the time, and seemed to enjoy himself.  There were no other family members in California.  Gloria was a full time bookkeeper for a department store, working 40 hours a week to support the family.  Because her mother was home while Gloria worked, and because of financial considerations, Jerry never attended pre-school.  He hadn’t had much interaction with other children his age until he started Kindergarten.

Real trouble didn’t start until Jerry entered school.  By the time he was in the first grade, “he just refused to pay attention to his teacher,” said his mother.  “He hated sitting still in the classroom,” adding, “I was constantly getting phone calls from school that he was becoming harder and harder to manage, and that he was falling behind his classmates.”

By mid-semester, the school suggested a special class for Jerry.  Gloria dutifully agreed.  After the required school meeting that included his mother and the relevant professionals in his life, Jerry was officially declared, “learning disabled.”  Now six years old, his school career was getting off to a very rocky start.  Over the next year, behaviors worsened.

Jerry was becoming harder to manage at home as well.  By the time he was seven, he was a “terror” at home, according his mom.  Both mother and grandmother were frightened by his outbursts and did what they could to appease him.  By then, raising Jerry had become a full time job for Gloria and her mother.  Speaking of jobs, Gloria told me she began to miss more and more work due to a series of crises involving Jerry and his school.  As if not enough stress already for this family, Jerry was known in the neighborhood as the “wild child.”  Neighbors kept their children away from him.

There were dozens of meetings, new plans were developed, and a string of professionals had come and gone, with no results.  At some point, social services became involved.  With encouragement from many, Gloria and Eleanor decided to move.  Maybe, everyone reasoned, a fresh start in a different setting was in order.  Eleanor found a tenant for her home in Orange County, and the family moved to an isolated home, in a small desert city, on the outskirts of Southern California.  Social services transferred the case to the new county.

Three months later, we were asked to help.

Chapter II: Time for Change

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 ADDENDUM:  For the temperament trained reader

Jerry’s Temperament:  Star (Artisan).  In Please Understand Me, and Please Understand me II, David Keirsey referred to the Artisan Composer (ISFP) as the “most misunderstood of all the types,” and “the least understood of all,” respectively.  Wow.  So very accurate.  After 30 years implementing temperament theory as a means to understand and help children, I can tell you first hand, Keirsey nailed this one.  Like no other children, Stars are medicated, cajoled, bargained with, threatened, and isolated, all as a means to get them the “STOP!” doing whatever it is they are doing, so they can “START!” listening to you.  Stars need to shine, and they need an audience.  Unfortunately, unless guided, any audience will do.

Advertisements

“Mondays with David”

Keirsey Picture 3 

It has taken me more than a month to write this.

My friend, David West Keirsey, died July 30, 2013.  He was 91.  I’m so proud, and fortunate, to call him my friend.  Up until a few years ago, he was Professor Keirsey to me, and I hadn’t seen nor spoke to him for 30 years.

As far as I know, Dr. Keirsey was humankind’s last Gestalt psychologist, and that’s something you should know.  His ideas are historic, and I’ll be writing much more about them, and similar things, for the rest of my life.  First, though, before I tell you more about Dr. Keirsey, I want to tell you about my friend, David, and the loves in his life.

David loved his country.  He was a proud veteran of World War II.  He joined the Navy in 1942. After flight training, he took his commission as a Marine fighter pilot and flew several missions in Japan towards the end of the war.  He wrote in some detail about his military experience in his autobiographical essay, Turning Points.

Those times, and the depression before the war, had a lifelong impact on David, as it did with everyone from the greatest generation.  He believed we were morally obligated to fight World War II, and he knew many who gave their lives protecting our freedoms.  He considered himself lucky to come home, and grateful, for the rest of his life, that he did.  Thank you David, for your service, from all of us.

David loved questions.  For the past 18 months or so I’ve been meeting with him on Mondays for three or four hours, often with his son David Mark, talking about temperament and psychology, and many other things.  I often took notes on my iPad.  I put them in my “Mondays with David” file on my computer.  I love asking questions, he loved answering, so our friendship grew.  We had much to talk about, and it was always fun. (You can read more about this from a prior blog, here.)

At times he became frustrated, his memory sometimes needing more and more of his depleted energy.  When I arrived for a visit I’d often ask, “how was your weekend David?”  He’d reply, with a smile, “I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was fine.”  Once he added, again with a smile, “. . . although I could try to retrieve the information for you if you wish.”  It takes energy to retrieve information.  At 91, you have the privilege of choosing where you want to spend your energy.  It was a polite question anyway.  I always knew where he was every weekend.  He was with his wife and his family.  He cherished his weekends.

Once we started talking about something he was interested in, he became focused, taking his memory to task, retrieving important ideas, if triggered by the right question.  Precision, more than anything, was his forte, organizing and analyzing ideas to a depth only a very few can imagine, simplicity his reasoned pursuit, efficiency always a welcome bi-product.  He never stopped “tinkering,” often spending hours at the computer, changing single words at a time in his many essays about temperament and “madness.”

I put madness in quotes because, well, David wouldn’t have it any other way.  Professor David West Keirsey was so much more than temperament theory.  His humane, holistic, and thoughtful explanation of “madness,” is above all else, his legacy to humankind, as far as I’m concerned.  His seminal work, Dark Escape, provides our species, for the first time in human history, a way out of the “madness” of modern day psychology and psychiatry.  I will be writing much more about this.

 David loved to read.  He read everything.  I mean everything.  I mean anything, and everything, and that started when he was a seven year old, and it never stopped.  The last time I saw him he was reading a favorite novel, for the fifth time.  Why?  “I might find something new – and I like it!” he said.  This wasn’t unusual.  From Turning Points:

I began reading when I was seven. Read (most of) a twelve volume set of books my parents bought, Journeys through Bookland. Read countless novels thereafter, day in and day out. I educated myself by reading books. Starting at age nine my family went to the library once a week, I checking out two or three novels which I would read during the week. Then, when I was sixteen, I read my father’s copy of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I read it over and over again, now and then re-reading his account of some of the philosophers. (Long afterwards I read his magnificent eleven volumes—The Story of Civilization. I also have read his The Lessons of History many times, this being his brilliant summary of the eleven volumes.)

I mention Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy because it was a turning point in my life, I to become a scholar as did Durant, thereafter reading the philosophers and logicians—anthropologists, biologists, ethologists, ethnologists, psychologists, sociologists, and, most important, the etymologists, all of the latter—Ernest Klein, Eric Partridge, Perry Pepper, and Julius Pokorny—of interest to me now as then.

So, I said to myself, who better to ask questions than someone who has read everything – over and over?  He had so many useful answers.  I’ll be sharing them with you too.

David loved words.  Not as a wordsmith or author, though he was certainly both.  He loved words as an etymologist – the only one I’ve ever met.  He often said he may be the only one left.  David studied words.  From Turning Points:

I became a scholar, one of three boys in the scholarship society in 1942. I took a course in word study. I have studied words ever since, even during the war, pasting lists of words on the bathroom mirror wherever I stayed. Why etymology (word signs) instead of linguistics (word sounds)? Because word sounds shorten with use becoming only remnants of what they were, while word signs are written and therefore remain the same. My interest was in what is written, not in what is spoken.”     

Many times on Mondays, triggered by something we were talking about, we’d go upstrairs and sit at his computer in his comfortable, book-filled library – me to his left, him behind the keyboard – looking at an online etymology site, researching a word.  He called it “fun” and, wouldn’t you know it, so did I.

David loved kids.  He started working with troublesome teenagers at the Verdemont Boys Ranch as a young psychologist, figuring out ways to manage these boys, and to help their families.  He worked in schools most of his career, doing the same, training thousands of teachers and counselors and psychologists in methods that work, not theories that don’t.  He began collecting the many techniques to manage and counsel adults and children that was to become the core of his one-of-a-kind, and highly successful Counseling Psychology graduate program at California State University, Fullerton.

He wrote some remarkable essays in defense of children, and every parent and professional should read them.  So, please, do that.  You can read Drugged Obedience in the School here, and The Evil Practice of Narcotherapy for Attention Deficit here, and The Great ADD Hoax, here.  There are many other important and useful essays you will find at the same site.

His solution to helping troubled and troublesome children?  “Be nice to them, and keep them away from those drugs.”  We had a lot in common about kids.  I’ll also be writing about useful child management techniques, from a temperament point of view.

David loved his family.  David Mark, his son and lifelong companion, joined our Monday morning conversations often, and I cherished those times in particular.  A gifted computer scientist, David Mark called his father “Daddy.”  He honored his father.

The two of them could, and often would, debate an obscure, yet important idea with the same passion as when the debate started 30, or 40, or even 50 years earlier.  His father honored him too.  Often, when it was just David and me, he would boast about his son Mark, as fathers who love their sons often do.  How lucky they were to have each other.  I envied them.

Every weekend David and his wife Alice went to Del Mar to meet with the rest of the Keirsey clan and, when they didn’t, family members came to their home.  David and Alice traveled and vacationed with their children and grandchildren.  The two of them together made sure they gave their family the best gift you can give to people you love:  wonderful memories.

Mostly, David loved Alice.  What was the first thing this returning WW II veteran did when he came back from the war?  He married his junior college sweetheart, Alice.  He admired her so.  “Alice has done such a wonderful job of keeping our family together and close over the years,” he often said, with much pride.

When you walk up the circular stairs of their beautiful home you will meet all of the family.  Alice has dozens of family pictures and other mementos adorned on the walls and on the stairs – and everywhere else throughout their warm, loving home.  This, you can tell, is a family that cares for each other, and they are grateful to have each other to love.  I recognized their family quickly.  I come from one too.

Alice – he called her “babe” – from they way he liked to tell it, was a dynamo of her own when she was working in elementary schools.  David said she was always the head of a department or committee or project, or part of some other crusade to care for all those kids for which she loved and cared.

They never quarreled, he told me, more than once, because, he said, more than once, “we were made for each other.”  That certainly proved to be true.  They were married in December, 1945.  I was two months old.

Why did it take so long to write this, and anything else, for that matter?  Well, honestly, I’ve been mourning my friend.  Just a few days before he died, my wife and I visited David and Alice at their home.  As we were leaving, I leaned over, gently grasped his hand to say goodbye, and to tell him, “I’ll see you soon, David.  I have another two or three thousand more questions to ask.”  Without hesitation, he replied, “Good,” and added, “I have two or three thousand more answers.”

His spirit, more than willing, his body, so weary.  During some of our best conversations, he would remind me, and David Mark, “there’s still much work to be done.”  Lucky for me, he trusted me with all that he has written.  The answers to my questions are all there, and that’s good.  I will be doing a lot more reading.  It’s not the same though, and not nearly as much fun, as asking my friend, David, just a few more questions.

You can tell a lot about a person when you know the loves in his life.  I admired him.  I loved him too.  I miss him, very much.

Mondays, for me, will never be the same.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I just want the world to understand, there’s no such thing as ‘madness.’”

David West Keirsey