Saturday, 23 November 2013

Consequences of Stress on Children's Development

The stressor that I am going to discuss this week is violence. In particular, I am going to discuss sexual abuse, as I have seen the destruction, damage and suffering sexual abuse can have on a child. I once taught a little girl who came from a First Nations Reserve close to my home town. When she was found and taken from her home she was badly beaten, starved, unable to speak any language and was sexually mutilated. Her family members passed her around and used her little innocent body for their pleasure. When I first met her she was violent, unruly, untrusting and terrified. She knew nothing of “our world” because she hadn’t been exposed to anything in her 5 years of living. I couldn’t and still can’t imagine the hell that this little girl had been exposed to and endured in her short years. When she first came to our school we worked closely with the special education team and a local psychiatrist to give her the support and help that she needed. We also had discussions with the other students to prepare them for our new student and gently explained some of her difficulties. It wasn’t long before she was also diagnosed with FAS and began taking medication to help her control her emotions. Her new foster family also worked very closely with the school community to assist us and because they were also in need of support. These two parents are truly saints. It takes very special and loving people to take in a child in need of as much support as this little girl. Towards the end of the year she began to settle in and was beginning to use language in simple sentences. She still needs support and will likely need support for the rest of her life because of the trauma and neglect she had faced.

It truly disgusts me that people would treat and abuse such young and innocent children in such a way. This little girl is at least fortunate that she lives in a country where child sexual abuse is considered an outrage. Many others are not so lucky. Four years ago I attended a conference in which the key note speaker was Dr. Samantha Nutt, the founder of War Child Canada. She talked about rape with extreme violence in areas of the Congo at war because of the mining extraction of coltan. Coltan is a conflict mineral used in many of our technological devices and is mined unethically for luxuries we use everyday. Dr. Nutt pleaded her audience to make responsible decisions when purchasing electronics and ensuring that we are recycling because people are dying and our choices make a difference. Some people change their cell phone each time the new Iphone model comes out. Coltan is essentially the new “blood diamond” and very few people are even aware of it or what it is. The most troubling thing for me is that I was ignorant to coltan and what my electronics were doing to the Congolese people. Boys as young as ten are taken from their families and forced to work in the mines or as soldiers to fight in the civil war. As part of the initiative these young boys need to rape young girls. Dr. Nutt discussed a young girl she met while visiting the Congo, she was brutally abused several times by many different boys and the soles of her feet were cut off to keep her from trying to run away. The rape and abuse of young girls and women in general happens everyday in the Congo. “Congo has been called "the rape capital of the world. One study estimates that nearly 2 million Congolese women have been raped” (Sauer, 2013). There has been an ongoing civil war in the Congo which has caused millions of deaths and instability in the country. In a country where women are already considered second class and children are used for soldiers and tokens of war rape and sexual abuse is reported but rarely dealt with. I believe the best hope the Congolese people have is from organizations like War Child spreading awareness and helping the children who have survived the war. 

Sauer, Maddy, 2013. 'When we rape we feel free': Congo soldiers' shocking stories Retrieved from:

War Child. Retrieved from:

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Child Development and Public Health

Over the past few years the subject of mental health has definitely become more prevalent in the media, news and in general conversation. Due to the recent pattern of horrific media violence and public shootings the discussion surrounding mental health awareness has skyrocketed. Recently the media has showcased numerous commercials for help and support as well as many films featuring the “hero” struggling and conquering his or her mental health issues. All I can say is-it’s about time!

This public health topic speaks to me because one of my closest friends suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. Before realizing she was in fact a victim of depression she tried bottling up her emotions because she was embarrassed and “felt like a failure”. She said that she had a hard time connecting with her daughter and therefore felt like a terrible mother and a terrible person. To make matters worse her older sister had been trying to conceive for years without any success and had begun seeing a fertility specialist when her younger sister became pregnant. You can imagine how awful my friend felt. She just gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl and her older sister was still trying to conceive. Pair this with her feelings of unhappiness towards her situation and towards this beautiful baby girl and you could just imagine the emotional turmoil she was facing. She battled with postpartum silently for nearly three months when finally her husband spoke up about how she just seemed “off”. My friend didn’t think it was postpartum depression because she wasn’t crying all the time and she was “functioning” in her day to day life. We are so lucky that we have access to publicly funded support programs for mental health. In fact we are lucky that there is a National awareness about postpartum depression so that my friend could get the help she needed for her and her family.

While researching this topic I discovered that most countries in North America and Europe offer publicly funded support programs for mental health. In places like Ghana, however, there are significant challenges to providing adequate mental health care for new moms. These issues include a lack of trained staff, funding barriers, lack of affordable medications, and social stigma."Postpartum depression is well known in the United States, and we recognize that pregnancy and the postpartum period are vulnerable times for maternal mental health," says Gold. "But in low income nations, many people view symptoms of depression as spiritual or personal issues rather than a psychiatric condition which could be treated" (Science Daily, 2013).
I commend women like Brooke Shields for sharing their experiences with the world.

I think that it is crucial that we spread awareness about mental disorders and the support that is available to parents, children and families. More and more we are hearing about cases where mental illness affects and takes the lives of its victims needlessly. Until recently there has been a stigma about mental illness even in Canada and the United States. It has been linked with shame and embarrassment and a stereotype that someone is “crazy” or “unstable” if they need support. We need to be advocates for the children and families in our care to speak out against these misconceptions so that people get the care they need and deserve.


Science Daily, (January 8, 2013). Postpartum Depression Prevalent in Under-Developed
Countries, Could Impact Baby Health and Mortality. Retrieved from

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Birthing Experiences

Write about a personal birthing experience. It can be your own birth, your child's birth, or one you took part in. What do you remember about the event? Why did you choose this example? What are your thoughts regarding birth and its impact on child development?

The only birthing experience I can discuss is mine because I do not yet have children of my own and I have never taken part in another birth. I asked my mother what it was like to have me and of course she responded by saying “painful”. I was my mother’s first of three children. She told me that I was almost two weeks past my due date and the doctors were discussing inducing only days before I finally decided to grace everyone with my presence. My mom said that she was nervous and excited for my arrival but my father was even more nervous than she! My mom is a nurse, read all of the labor and delivery books and went to birthing class to prepare for my birth. She said that nothing can really prepare you for what you will experience physically and emotionally during labor. She said that a lot of it is a blur and yet a lot of it is crystal clear. She also explained that it was amazing how much her body knew that she wasn't even aware of. My mom had me naturally and didn't take any drugs or medication for the pain. I believe that there are many ways that birth can impact child development. A mother experiencing postpartum depression can definitely impact the bond and attachment between mother and baby and therefore affect child development. I also believe that malnutrition, proper or improper prenatal care, drugs and medication, support system (spouse or partner) or traumatic birthing experiences can all impact child development.
Choose a region of the world or a country, other than the U.S., and find out how births happen there. Write about what you learned, and the differences and similarities with your experience (in the personal example you provided). What additional insights, if any, about the impact of the birthing experience on development, did you gain from this comparison?

In order to research this question I searched the internet and found that the website had an amazing article “Birth Customs Around the World” to help me answer the given questions. The article states: “Childbirth is an event that, despite its extraordinary nature, occurs daily throughout the world. But the circumstances under which this miracle occurs vary dramatically, even in places that don't seem that dramatically different” (Schalken, 2013).In reading from the website I learned that most European countries use a midwife to deliver the baby at home rather than a doctor in a hospital. I even read that in the Netherlands they have special ambulances called “storks” that rush mother and baby to the hospital in case of emergency. Another interesting feature in a home birth in the Netherlands and many other parts of Europe is the use of a doula. A doula is a trained female who offers emotional and physical comfort during and after birth. The clear difference between my birthing experience and this one is that I was born in a hospital supervised by a doctor. In the United States and Canada, home births do occur, however, they are not the norm. Many people fear that home births performed by midwives are unsafe even though they are the standard in most places around the world. This task made me think of many impacts that a birthing experience could have on development. For example, in the case of a home birth, development could definitely be compromised if a new baby needed to be rushed to hospital. Also, there could be developmental complications to a baby’s spinal column or neck if a baby has been pushed out on a weird angle. I have also heard of complications in development because of the use of forceps.


Schalken. L (2013). Birth Customs Around the World. Retrieved from               the-world