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12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Before I DieBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBipolar ChildrenBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar KidsBlackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive DevelopmentBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoy AloneBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingBullying PreventionBut I Love HimCan't Eat, Won't EatCaring for a Child with AutismCatalystChild and Adolescent PsychiatryChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChild and Adolescent PsychopathologyChild NeuropsychologyChild Well-BeingChildren and SexualityChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneCommunication Issues In Autism And Asperger SyndromeConcepts of NormalityConcise Guide to Child 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Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHelping Students Overcome Depression and AnxietyHelping Teens Who CutHollow KidsHope's BoyHow Infants Know MindsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHurry Down SunshineI Am Not Joey PigzaIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf Your Adolescent Has an Eating DisorderIn the Company of CraziesIncorporating Social Goals in the ClassroomIntegrated YogaIntrusive ParentingIssues for Families, Schools and CommunitiesJake RileyJoey Pigza Loses ControlJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKim: Empty InsideLearning and Behavior Problems in Asperger SyndromeLearning Disorders and Disorders of the Self in Children and AdolescentsLearning Outside the Lines Let Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLook Me in the EyeLoserLove and SexLove That DogMad at SchoolMaking ADD WorkMaking American BoysManicMastering Anger and AggressionMaverick MindMedicating ChildrenMind 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Revised EditionTaming the Troublesome ChildTemple GrandinThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook Of Child And Adolescent PsychiatryThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bipolar ChildThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Boy Who Was Raised as a DogThe Buffalo TreeThe Bully Action GuideThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Burn JournalsThe Color of AbsenceThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Depressed ChildThe Developing MindThe Dragons of AutismThe Einstein SyndromeThe EpidemicThe Evolution of ChildhoodThe Explosive ChildThe Eyes of van GoghThe Fasting GirlThe Field of the DogsThe Flight of a DoveThe Hidden Gifts of the Introverted ChildThe Horse BoyThe Identity TrapThe Inner World of a Suicidal YouthThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Kindness of StrangersThe Last Normal ChildThe Little MonsterThe Medicated ChildThe Myth of LazinessThe New Gay TeenagerThe Nurture AssumptionThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe Other ParentThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of AutismThe 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Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhose America?Why Don't Students Like SchoolWill's ChoiceWinnicott On the ChildWorried All the TimeYou Hear MeYoung Minds in Social WorldsYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?

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No Child Left DifferentReview - No Child Left Different
by Sharna Olfman (Editor)
Praeger, 2006
Review by Susan Hawthorne, M.A.
Jun 25th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 26)

Research suggests that about one-tenth of U.S. children have an impairing mental illness. About 10 million children and adolescents take antidepressants, 5 million take stimulant drugs, increasing numbers are prescribed antipsychotics, and many are taking more than one psychoactive medication. One interpretation of these facts is that, while the number of children affected is sobering, the use of medications to manage their difficulties is largely beneficial and appropriate. This view is common among those who support the "medical model" of mental illness, which characterizes mental illness as a biological dysfunction in an individual. The authors whose essays appear in No Child Left Different, a collection edited by psychologist Sharna Olfman, disagree. The need to look beyond the medical model for solutions is carefully introduced by Jane Healy, whose essay stresses the intertwining roles of nature and nurture in children's development. The authors whose work follows offer illuminating alternative perspectives that aim to secure children’s well-being by redressing noxious cultural and political institutions and constraints.

Most of the collection's contributors address the scope of the mental health problem, attributing the large number of distressed children to environmental and social issues that are ignored by the individual-centered medical model. Examples are toxic pollutants, which burden the poor particularly (Varda Burstyn and David Fenton); violent television, which increases aggression, desensitization, and fear (John P. Murray); a global consumer culture that sows the seeds of eating disorders (Margo D. Maine); and the pace and pressures of American life, which contribute to ADHD diagnosis and drug treatment (Lawrence Diller). Standing out among essays on this theme is the well argued and moving chapter on children’s depression by Mary Burke. The crucial concern, she says, is disruption of children’s relationships with their parents. With vivid examples, she explores the dearth of support systems for stressed parents (or other caregivers) and disturbed children. Lack of support undermines the parents' abilities to care well for their children; insecure relationships and the children’s depression often follows. Burke argues that in this milieu, the managed care health-care system is particularly harmful. In her view, its drive for profit and efficiency effectively forces clinicians to provide simple and inexpensive medication, forgoing more time-consuming but more effective individual or family counseling. Contributors Michael Brody and Daniel Burston echo this theme in their pieces, along with deriding the influence of pharmaceutical manufacturers on prescribing practices. Risks and potential risks of the drugs themselves is a third theme of the book, addressed by several authors.

In the current environment, in which the medical model of mental illness is dominant, these alternative perspectives need and deserve emphasis. This makes No Child Left Different an important contribution. Several of the essays are outstanding. Mary Burke's I have already mentioned. Another is Stuart G. Shanker's piece, "The Development of Mentally Healthy Children," in which he articulates the need to think in positive terms about development of mental health, rather than the more impoverished notion of mere absence of disease. However, a number of the essays are marred by failing to confront dominant opinions directly. This failure to specifically address well-known counterarguments—for example, on drug efficacy, or concerning non-media influences on aggression—reduces the potential impact of some of the essays. Several contributions also take on too much, again diminishing the pieces’ effectiveness.

Overall, while those well-versed in these issues may not find much new here, those seeking an introduction to alternative ways to view the problems facing America’s children--and progressive solutions to these problems--will appreciate this collection. Editor Sharna Olfman, whose series "Childhood in America" also includes the volumes Childhood Lost: How American Culture is Failing Our Kids and All Work and No Play... : How Educational Reforms Are Harming Our Preschoolers, is to be commended for making this range of views readily accessible.

© 2007 Susan Hawthorne

Susan Hawthorne, MA; doctoral candidate in Philosophy, University of Minnesota


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