Does TBRI work with FASD?


Tales from Our House is an excellent blog I would encourage anyone caring for a child with FASD to read.  Here is a recent article from her that I thought was too good not to pass along.  As a TBRI parent trainer I DO get asked this question a lot.  What she discovered from other caregivers is really spot on.  Hope it helps! (EO)  Here is Sandra Zimmerman’s post. 

“Dean and I have been attending series of video training’s on TBRI  by Karen Purvis. In the first training there was quite a bit of talk about rewiring the brain. In essence the brain can be rewired to heal from trauma when you meet the child’s emotional needs with empathy, and creating felt safety. This sounded great and I have seen it work, especially for Lia, but Joseph is another story. No matter how much TBRI Dean and I implement, Joseph still has rages and meltdowns. According to Karen Purvis, once you begin meeting your child’s emotional needs, healing will start to take place. So why hasn’t it? Isn’t TBRI for children with FASD? If it is, why isn’t it working for us? And of course the question I always ask myself, “Is it me?” So I went to my FB support group and asked this question:

“I don’t want to start an argument here but I am curious…last night we were watching Karyn Purvis/TBRI and she was saying how you can rewire the brain etc. Now I know FASD is not hopeless and there is always opportunity for new pathways to grow but am I correct in saying that TBRI is NOT going to heal our children with FASD? If not, why not? Most people rave over it, but quite honestly, it leaves me feeling discouraged in regards to our son, kind of like it is my fault he is not getting better.”

I was literally trembling in my shoes as I awaited a reply because TBRI is held in high esteem among foster and adoptive families and for good reason, it works!

The responses I received gave me a great deal of food for thought and I was greatly encouraged. Here is a paraphrased version of the replies:

1. FASD is organic brain damage thus not necessarily “repairable.” TBRI will probably not be able to improve cognition, as it can for certain cases of trauma. Once the trauma is dealt with a child can then learn and catch up to his peers, but it will cut back on the frequency and duration of rages and meltdowns.

2. The brain damage of someone with FASD is different than that of someone who suffered other forms of trauma, because the brain impacted by FASD was damaged from the beginning.

3. TBRI can help prevent some of the secondary mental health problems caused by FASD.

4. TBRI is beneficial in creating new brain paths but the original damage will still be there.

5. The myelin sheath around the neurons in our children’s brains are damaged or missing altogether so they will “short out,” regardless of what is implemented.

6. Connections can be made. While these connections may not be perfect, they are progress nonetheless.

7. TBRI like all other forms of therapy will need to be modified to meet your child’s needs. 

These answers helped me sort out my muddled thoughts and put things into perspective for me. Here is one of the ways we have modified TBRI to fit our unique needs:

When Joseph has a meltdown we respond empathetically (or at least we try to!) then send him to his room because he needs quiet and zero stimulation to calm down. Sometimes I will sit by him, especially if he is so out of control he isn’t safe by himself, but as a whole when he melts down he goes to his room.

I encourage you to visit this website: Attachment and Trauma to learn all about TBRI. If you have a child with FASD and he or she doesn’t seem to respond as readily to this type of therapeutic parenting, don’t become discouraged or blame yourself like I did. Instead modify the training to meet your child’s needs and reap the rewards!”

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