Pediatrician Dr. Michael Hauch speaks against „therapism“ of childhood
Are we a society of children found to be ill? Pediatrician and bestseller-author („Childhood is not an illness“) Dr. Michael Hauch says: Yes!
In Germany 44 percent of the boys and 31 percent of the girls get either physio-, ergo- or speach therapy before age 15. In 3 of 4 cases this was superfluous – and has even been of disadvantage for these children.
Hauch tours Germany with lectures against this trend of defining a narrow virtual standard of development and treat every child who does not fit in.
EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT
Every child is different! Children come up with surprising traits and they develop in non-linear ways. This should be needless to say but today seems to get forgotten. Children are put under supvervision and are integrated in projects for their optimisation. Parents have more choices, opportunities and at the same time more duties. Therefore it seems urgent to see to it that their children have a proper start and all choices. Every little delay in development has to be registered and fixed. Parents worries begin before even the pregnancy starts. Innumerous tests and screenings during childhood and youth are set up to guarantee a spotless career if possible.
ADHD: ILLNESS OR TALENT
ADHD confronts us with the question of wether a child behaves extravagantly or pathologically. More and more children get a diagnosis, and the prescription for stimulants (Ritalin and others) have likewise risen. It may escape our focus that children under toxic chronic stress often develop behaviour which is very close to ADHD so that even professionals cannot always separate true ADHD from toxic stress exposure.
The narrow margin is one of the reasons why doctors and therapists follow the actual trend. And there is an additional influence, the interests of the pharmacological industry.
In former times the most expressive children and those with a high urge to move around were either tolerated or got suppressed with authoritarian means, now they get a diagnosis and, subsequently, medical treatment. Why are we so afraid if children cross the lines of „normal standard“? Why do we constrict these boundaries more and more?
It is not surprising that the number of diagnoses have developed exponentialy. The workload of tests and screenings in daycare institutions and schools consume a great amount of time – time that would be of much greater value if it was invested in relationship and development.
THE PROBLEM OF "WINDOWS OF DEVELOPMENT"
Scientific progress in neurobiology and brain sciences have discovered the great potential in neural growth, and have led to the misunderstanding, that the sensible periods of brain development can - and probably should - be pushed to the maximum. Children with somewhat altered development phases now get a diagnosis and their parents are made to worry about their outcome.
Even babies and toddler have to be evaluated and if necessary "optimized". Children are readily subjected to treatment. The natural balance between the need for consolation and the urge to discover, between attachment and exploring, is endangered and gets distroyed by education and outside regulation.
It also is brain science which tells us that many of the educational influences do more harm than good. It was the child therapist Wolfgang Bergmann who somewhat desperately called upon parents "to just leave their children alone". And this also could be the headline to what Dr. Michael Hauch wants to let parents know. From a long-year experience perspective he describes parents who feel utterly uncertain, because of a hell of a lot of tests, analyses and examinations their children have to go through. The parents fear for their childrens future and go to doctors and have detailed requests for therapy for their children.
STOP THE EDUCATIONAL HYSTERIA, PUT ATTACHMENT FIRST
Politics and society-mainstream are over-emphasizing formal education. Hauch balances this hysteria with the simple truth about the healthy upbringing of children who need love as well as free time and space for experience and development. Secure attachment is a very crucial factor, the primary attachment figur, often the mother, comes first. Later on secundary attachment figures (fathers) are integrated, and, still later, relatives, neighbors, person who resemble the "social village" of upbringing.
If parents had enough time, opportunity and the support of others, they could be much more relaxed and have more trust in their own capacities to raise children. There would be much less focussing on test-results and scales. Parents would not feel uncertain so often and could more often follow their own intuition. Childhood is somenthing natural – not an illness which needs to be "treated".
The misinterpretation of developmental steps as false justification for group daycare
Comment by Dr. Erika Butzmann
In a panel discussion after the speech of Dr. Michael Hauch in Verden, Germany, educational psychologist Dr. Erika Butzmann added the following comments:
"There is a broad societal drift underlying the problems which Dr. Hauch described.
With the massive expansion of group daycare for very young children many of the developmental facts got misinterpreted deliberately, probably aiming at putting more and more children in daycare-institutions. Let me tell you one example:
WHAT IS "NORMAL", WHAT NEEDS TREATMENT?
The National Centre of Health Education publishes sheets of advice about young children. Children aged 6 to 9 months who show social fear and cling to their parents are labelled as "developmental disorder". The truth is, that this sort of behaviour is totally normal and healthy for babies and children up to the age of two years.
On the one hand this is the normal separation anxiety phase, and on the other hand children under three years cannot keep a memory of their parent – hence the fearful agitation not to let them subjectively vanish for good. This is particularly true for shy and sensitive children, and for almost every child once it get´s tired or exhausted. The despair with which the mother once coming back is greeted matches the utter need of the child. But all these facettes of normal child development cannot be found in the sheets of the National Centre of Health Education. It is deliberatly omitted.
IS GROUP DAYCARE FOR SMALL CHILDREND PUSHED WITH THE REPHRASING OF ATTACHMENT DISORDERS?
There is a deliberate reinterpretation of attachment disorders. Now only the inhibited and disinhibited attachment disorder count as pathological but this only comprises children who have not developed any attachment whatsoever. The definitions of attachment disorders which were valid up to 2002/3 have shifted to now be described as normal attachment strategies. However, this ignores the fact hat children who are insecurely and ambiguously attached already suffer very much – as well as their parents. Under the deliberately shifted definitions of attachment disorder it now seems normal development to be insecurely-ambiguously attached after starting daycare too early in life and for too long hours.
Moreover, the "competent baby" presented by Martin Dornes in the 90ies led to grossly overestimating the babys capacity to endure the separation of the primary attachment figure. The fact that babies and toddlers are emotionally dependent on the constant presence of the primary attachment figure nowadays is almost totally ignored. Many children are thus put under toxic stress which carries lifelong risks for their health.
WITH MERE COGNITIVE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES YOUNG CHILDREN ARE OVERSTRAINED
The educational programmes offered by daycare-institutions focus solely on the cognitive development. For children aged two and younger this is inadequate. They explore their surroundings when at ease, but need to be left alone to find their own pace and interests. Structured programmes do them more harm than good and again induce massive stress. In some of the children toxic stress years later leads to oppositional or even disruptive behavior. The reason for this cannot be identified any more, because it lays in the past.
We should realize that the first years of life are a vulnerable phase of life in which the personality can be strengthened – but also weakened and endangered. Early group daycare is among the major risk factors."