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Ask the Rock Doc:
Sound Advice for a Song
By psychologist Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT
Rock Doc Theme Song
**Certain details in the following correspondence may be altered to protect the confidentiality of the inquiring person and to illustrate key principles.
Phantom Tollbooth visitors: Feel free to download this one-song soundtrack corresponding to the letter below:
Somethiní Ainít Right With
Dear Rock Doc:
I was born and raised in Oildale, California. I still live there, but not in a trailer park, in a house. I play in a popular blue grass band in Bakersfield. We play mostly for parties. We haven't played in any fancy places like Fish Lips or nothing. I have five children from four mothers. I'm real worried about my youngest boy, Sid. He' s the only one I have custody over. So is his mom, worried. Somethin' ain't right with the kid.
First of all, he had to repeat the third grade and it looks like he may have to repeat it again. They've done tests on him and he ain't a retard or nothing like that. Besides, he can play a mean banjo for his age, and I don't think he could play so well if he was a retard. And at home, he's a pretty good kid, even though his mom was a bit of a crack head. We've been getting reports from his teacher that he ain't been paying attention and that he can't sit still or keep quiet. He even got in a big fist fight the other day, and that just ain't like my kid. He's real even-tempered and has never copped an attitude before. He's 10 or 11, I can't remember exactly, but he ain't dumb. I heard that you ain't stuck up like some of those other shrinks I've run into, and I heard you had this free advice column cause we can't afford no high-priced shrink or nothing. Please help if you can.
The Kid's Old Man
Dear Kidís Old Man:
First of all, itís good to hear that we share something in common: a love for music. Iíd love to hear your band sometimes, so Iíll keep my eyes open for an upcoming performance. Iím glad that youíre the kind of parent who notices when ďsomethiní ainít right,Ē as you put it, and you take action to try to make it right.
Second, like you, I donít assume that just because your son has had problems in school, he is, as you put it, a ďretard.Ē In fact, I try to avoid that term because it is often used to make fun of or belittle children who find their school work difficult and challenging. I never provide a diagnosis for someone Iíve never met, but I am aware that problems with school work, coupled with behavioral problems can have a variety of sources. Anxiety, for example, especially when a personís anxiety or stress is excessive, or stemming from ongoing trauma, can significantly interfere with academic performance. Second, if your son has problems concentrating, remaining focused, staying on task, and sitting still, he may be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder- Hyperactivity (ADHD). If this is not diagnosed early and treated, behavioral problems can worsen to the point in which the child can end up in juvenile hall. The same could be said for the presence of an anxiety disorder.
It sounds like your son has had a disruptive childhood, and perhaps one marked by trauma. He needs a complete psychological evaluation by a school psychologist, and/or a clinical psychologist in your community, to determine the role that home life has had on the problems he has developed. The outcome of such an evaluation could mean your son would be referred to a psychiatrist to determine if he needs medication. The outcome could also be helpful to plan for the course of your sonís education.
Your sonís level of intellectual functioning may also be contributing to his problems. The testing that is administered will likely include intelligence tests and tests to determine if there are signs of brain damage. If it is found that your sonís level of intelligence is low, for whatever reason, please donít feel that this is something you should be ashamed of. Everyone has limits on their personality, their level of intellectual functioning, their level of social functioning etc. The important thing is not what a person possesses, but what the person does with what they possess. Specialists will help your son to reach his potential, no matter where he is presently functioning in terms of his level of intelligence. Part of intelligence is genetic, and part has to do with optimal learning environments. In other words, with the right educational program, your son may be able to advance in his knowledge and in his intellectual development in ways that will surprise and even astound you.
In the meantime, build on his strengths, and encourage him to continue practicing and performing on the banjo. When heís ready, and old enough, maybe he could play in your band, or maybe you could enter him in some competitions. The idea is to focus in on his strengths and build upon them.
Sid needs you now, more than ever. You need to be actively involved in his life and this means meeting with his teacher, his school psychologist, and any other professional who may be involved in his life. Offer him fatherly advice and guidance. Pay attention to his friends and make sure he is around children who are a positive influence on him. And, if you are a praying man or a believer in God, pray for him, have brothers and sisters in Christ pray for him, and, if you attend church, find a way to get him involved in church, perhaps in the music program or in a program for kids his age that involves having fun and learning about God.
Let me know if you need to know specific professionals that would be good at helping your son, and please write me back to let me know how things are shaping up.
Dr. BLT, The Rock Doc
* If you are a musician in
distress, or the parent or peer of one, and you are looking for answers,
please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org