Empowered means to give someone power to change their lives. For a child who has come from a hard place and who has only learned primitive survival techniques that don’t really work in mainstream society being empowered to connect means they are given tools to better relate in healthy ways to those around them.

Me and my well attached daughter Anna.

Last weekend I attended an Empowered to Connect conference that teaches parents and caregivers  how to connect with their children from hard places more meaningfully and how to correct in a way that results in lasting change. I’m so thankful for the work of Dr. Karen Purvis and her staff at TBRI( Trust Based Relational Intervention) who have developed important life changing strategies for helping these children. These strategies actually correct chemical imbalances that result from early trauma.  I learned that there are six broad risk categories that set a child up for dysfunction; difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, early hospitalization, abuse, neglect and trauma. When these risk factors are present there is a high probability that the child’s delicate brain chemistry has been altered in a way that makes normal emotional development next to impossible. Behaviors in an older child who’s past hasn’t been addressed can be anywhere from infantile to dangerously violent..  To remedy these tragic circumstances a caregiver must in a way bring the child back to the beginning to reestablish the proper developmental stages through a healthy relationship between child and caregiver, a relationship where the cycle of attachment won’t be broken. Every abhorrent behavior a child exhibits is based on something gone wrong.

TBRI’s IDEAL response is:

I – Immediate

D- Direct

E- Engaged

A- Action- Based


At the conference we were walked through these steps in dealing with specific behaviors.  The level of response depends on the severity of the behavior.

Level 1: Playful Engagement

Level 2: Structured Engagement

Level 3: Calming Engagement

Level 4: Protective Engagement

The end goal of any interaction is always to connect in a positive way and end with a positive outcome.  I wish everyone could attend these conferences and take part in training to learn these strategies. When understood thoroughly and implemented consistently they have the power to heal children, even children with the most severe behaviors stemming from the worst situations.  Connecting has the ability to change a child’s brain chemistry so that they are able to articulate and self regulate and become healthy and happy.

There is so much more to it. Physical, emotional and sensory needs have to be addressed. The child needs to feel safe, trust their caregivers and have a sense of self-worth.  If this wasn’t established early on every interaction has to rebuild a trust, help the child feel safe and make them know they are precious.  I wish I could articulate all that was shared.

For years we’ve been dealing with a fairly volatile child who stops just short of physical violence in the tantrums and breakdowns. During this weekend I was given new hope and more importantly a new sense of compassion towards my children which has resulted in more patience. Before, even though I knew my child had come from a hard place, I would still lose my patience and take quite personally the verbal attacks and outbursts. Instead of correcting the behavior I would  get angry and the exchange would usually devolve into a two person meltdown.  Not very empowering to either of us!

Thankfully, while I am sorry for all the years I haven’t been connecting and correcting in a healthy way, I was given hope that all is not lost.  I and my husband have begun to change the way we deal with our children’s behavior that is positive, instructive and full of compassion for the child. By God’s grace we will be able to implement what we’ve learned to help all our children learn healthy ways of relating to one another and the world.  It’s going to take work but for the first time I feel equipped and empowered to carry through.

Here are some resources to help anyone caring for a child to get started on this journey of healing.

TCU Institute of Child Development

The Connected Child

Empowered to Connect



Physical Sensibilities: Food and Medicine

“Let food be they medicine and medicine be thy food”

If you’ve been around the real food movement for long you’ve heard this quote by Hippocrates from about 3000 years ago.  It’s one that makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Whatever goes into our mouth will somehow effect our bodies and brains, just as whatever medicine we take is to have an effect on our condition, food, when broken down into it’s constituent parts, gets into our blood stream.  Sometimes parts of food that are not meant to get into our bloodstream do because of gaps in the junctures of our intestine. This then sometimes produces an immune response and our body attacks itself.  This results in an autoimmune condition.  Their are a myriad of autoimmune conditions.  Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, and Celiac, are all examples.

Since the beginning of this year I”ve been living with joint pain, sometimes severe, and occasional severe fatigue.  It ebbs and flows.  On April 1st I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, another autoimmune condition, and the biologic TNF blocker drug, Humira or Enbrel, was recommended.  Being an all natural kind of gal I resisted that and have since been on a quest to find a more natural way to treat or put into remission the PsA.

What I’ve found is that there are no easy answers.

I didn’t particularly like my rheumatologist she only had one answer and seemed to come to the diagnoses in haste.  Maybe she is just really good at what she does but, I just wasn’t convinced.  For one I have no Psoriasis, though as I did my research I found 1 in7 do not develop the skin condition until after the arthritis and it could take 10 years to develop the skin condition.  So I could be the 1 in 7. The diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis is come to through process of elimination, a gene test and health history. I did test positive for the gene marker and my  mother has Psoriasis, but I’ve come to present with these symptoms rather late in life, don’t have any nail pitting and it’s only two fingers that actually have the joint pain. So, I wasn’t totally convinced.

I next sought out a holistic doctor. I really enjoyed having a whole hour to discuss my health history which she considered carefully and ordered more blood tests to rule out Lyme disease and check other things like thyroid levels, estrogen levels and more.  I like the idea of treating the whole person, considering all systems and how they contribute to overall well being.  I also like that they use more natural treatments like curcumin for inflammation, bio identical hormones and whole foods supplements with out synthetic ingredients.  She also is open to alternative treatments like Low Dose Naltrexone, which I had read about in helping inflammatory and auto-immune conditions. They also have a nutritionist on staff to talk about diet and detox.

This particular practice also treats Lyme disease aggressively through a variety protocol.  Lyme disease is prevalent in the area I live, actually epidemic, so that was something I considered I might have and knew that this doctor would do further testing to rule that out.  While the tests ordered showed elevation in the markers for Lyme there was no clear cut test for Lyme itself or the often present co-infections so a diagnosis of Lyme, similar to the PsA, is conjecture. The doctor there is convinced I have Lyme disease and not Psoriatic Arthritis.

Having two doctors come to two different conclusions can be perplexing.

Without a clear diagnosis, at least in my mind, I’ve turned to diet for my first line of treatment.  The Auto-Immune Protocol developed and promoted in the Paleo community is an elimination diet that takes out all inflammatory and possibly problematic foods, (grains, dairy, legumes, nightshades, eggs and seeds) in hopes of healing the supposed permeable gut and from there hopefully, healing the rest of the body.  I’ve been totally off gluten since the beginning of the year, I have not been able to stick to a strict AIP diet though.  Coffee being one item I keep falling back on, but since Tuesday I’ve started again and I’m determined to stick it out for a month before reintroducing foods that were eliminated.

I have also been on Low-dose naltrexone for a couple of months.  This was working wonderfully for pain and I was totally off any over-the-counter NSAIDS which was hopeful. Lately though it hasn’t seemed as effective and I’ve had some flairs of joint pain and fatigue.  Through it all the inflammation has only minimally improved. My right thumb, left middle finger, and left toes have been constantly swollen.  I also have a strange nodule on my right clavicle, I went to my GP for that and she ordered a sonogram which showed nothing of concern, but it is sometimes painful. I’d like to get further testing for that.

doTerra essential oils has a Lyme protocol that I’ve put my self on.  There are oils that have antibiotic properties that many have found effective in treating Lyme. I started that 2 weeks ago with my first round of antibiotic oils along with their vitamin supplements.  The relapse in some symptoms could be a herxheimer reaction but I’m still not convinced that I have Lyme but thought it couldn’t hurt.

There is controversy surrounding essential oils. There are two sides to the Lyme epidemic. Many holistic doctors are considered quacks.  The side effects of the biologic drugs are scary. The worsening of joint pain and possible permanent damage to the joints while trying other interventions is scary too.  No easy answers.

I may eventually, in another month or so, head back to the rheumatologist and try the biologics. In the meantime I’ll stick to the diet and hope it maybe as simple as food being my medicine.