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That’s Why I’m Here

An introduction to this new blog on children and self-regulation

Welcome to the first issue of this blog. The title is also the name of a favorite song by James Taylor. For me, the essence of the song is that we find our purposes in our responses to challenges and circumstances. That response answers the question, “What am I doing here?” Since this is the first time I've ever written a blog, I take it as a challenge and, so, part of my purpose. This must be one the reasons that I’m here.

This first issue will introduce you to my background and the scope of this blog, detailing some future topics. You will want to stay tuned!

My professional career started when I opened a solo primary care pediatric practice in Rochester, N.Y., nearly 30 years ago. Despite excellent training in the medical care of children and adolescents, I felt ill-equipped to contend with the wealth of behavioral problems that challenged the families in my care. Every day, all day, young people with problem habits, sleep difficulties, recurrent abdominal pain and headaches, fears, stress of coping with chronic disease and many different manifestations of anxiety poured through the office, seeking change. We often made things worse in our delivery of care: seeking answers in ear exams, throat cultures, injections, and conjuring specters of worry and all sorts of threats.

Most importantly, it seemed that the solutions that I had been trained to deliver in response to these problems involved doing things to kids rather than helping them help themselves. Our approaches implicitly and powerfully told our patients that they were inadequate. In order feel effective as a physician, I was compelled to create a truly integrative approach: balancing what we do to children with what we help them do for themselves.

I studied and trained in clinical hypnosis, biofeedback, relaxation and meditative approaches applied to child health. I integrated these strategies into my practice — using breathing and imagination for procedures, showing children how they change their stress responses with biofeedback, prescribing self-hypnotic rituals to replace maladaptive habits, and providing post-hypnotic suggestions to reinforce comfort, coping and self-esteem.

In this process, over years, I discovered that (1) children and adolescents are really good at learning to control psychophysiological processes because that is their main business; (2) self-regulation of physiology, emotion and cognition can often be more powerful than our externally applied therapies; and (3) this more balanced – skills versus pills – approach to practice was far more creative, fun, enriching and effective than how I was trained to practice medicine. It seemed to me it was high time to revolutionize health and care by teaching children how they change their minds.

In future posts, I’ll explain more of this personal evolution, but that was the platform from which my current passions in transforming health and care, including this blog, were launched. These days, in our Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation at Rochester Institute of Technology, my team of mental health care professionals, students and faculty collaborators are engaged in research about:

  • Autonomic self-regulation and biofeedback for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • How to help parents of young people with ASD be more effective and self-regulated for their kids
  • How to teach psychophysiological self-regulation to students – both on and off the spectrum – at RIT (and all institutions of higher education)
  • How to integrate therapeutic principles of hypnosis and biofeedback into interactive games and media, and more.

We focus on ASD and neurodiversity because we figure that is a good place to begin to make a difference for everyone. We also look at bigger questions such as the nature of mind, hypnosis, therapy, placebos and what all of this has to do with the integrative, systemic evolution of health.

For a couple of days most weeks I see young people at the Easter Seals Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Rochester. There in the clinic, one family at a time, I learn from patients who have developmental differences and chronic conditions about how to adapt and grow and find comfort, mastery and success. They let me help them.

So that’s where I am coming from. I will be writing about a wide range of subjects pertinent to children both on and off the spectrum, integrative health and care, and growing our minds. Here is a list of titles for future posts:

  • Teaching Children to Mind
  • Is Healthcare Health Care?
  • Healthcare is Sick
  • Finding the A.R.T. in A.S.D. (Peripheral Autonomic Biofeedback and Autism)
  • What Does “Effective Parenting” Mean?
  • The Parenting Effectiveness Program: Olympic-level Parenting for the Neurodiverse
  • The Professional World of Pediatric Clinical Hypnosis
  • Mindfulness Meditation, Hypnosis and Biofeedback for Children
  • The Minding Anxiety Project: Promoting Wellness in Higher Education
  • Hypnosis for Neuroplasticity: People are literally dying for lack of this stuff
  • Friendly Ghosts of Christmas Past: Children’s mental health for the holidays
  • Seasons of Behavioral Change least so far.

I keep on changing my mind.

That’s why I’m here.

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