Date: June 7, 2013
Just One of the Kids: Raising a Resilient Family When One of Your Children Has a Physical Disability
Kay Harris Kriegsman, PhD, and Sara Palmer, PhD, (Johns Hopkins, 2013)
Bookstore and library shelves are full of tomes that discuss the challenges of raising youngsters with emotional or cognitive disabilities.
Noticeably absent from these shelves are books that could help parents and households adjust and thrive when their family includes a child who is mentally and emotionally sound but has a physical disability.
Sara Palmer, an assistant professor in Hopkins’ Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and her longtime friend and sometime professional associate, Kay Harris Kriegsman, decided to fill that significant gap.
Kriegsman, a psychologist who often counsels young patients with physical disabilities in her private practice, began navigating precisely such a daunting road herself after being crippled by polio at the age of seven. Palmer’s work at Hopkins has connected her with countless physically challenged patients.
Just One of the Kids begins with true-life stories of individuals and their families—based on lengthy interviews—which are recounted in well-crafted, thoroughly detailed narratives. The chapters that follow offer solid, experience-grounded advice on the best ways to address the difficulties described. A 10-page list of additional resources for assistance is provided at the end.
The book’s goal, Kriesgsman and Palmer write, is to help readers build “inclusive” families—“a family that embraces every one of its members, including the child who happens to have a physical disability”—and then enable every family member to become “resilient.” A resilient family, they write, is realistic, practical, and innovative in tackling potential obstacles. Such families believe in the disabled child’s ability to—as the title says—become “just one of the kids.” And they can envision the future challenges and opportunities that await physically disabled offspring as they endeavor to become independent adults. NAG
Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions
Richard Besser, MD, with Jean Besser (Hyperion, 2013).
Richard Besser (HS, pediatrics, 1986–89; 1990–91) is no stranger to being in the public eye. He currently serves as ABC News’ chief health and medical editor. And from January to June 2009, he was acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—successfully spearheading the CDC’s public response to the H1N1 flu pandemic.
But Besser remains like any other physician in one significant way: He is approached daily by at least one person with a medical question who asks, “Hey, Doc, got a minute?”
“Underlying all of these questions … is the same fundamental desire: a truthful answer from someone they trust,” Besser writes in Tell Me the Truth, Doctor. People want to know if a ballyhooed new diet is effective. Should they take a statin for high cholesterol? Is it safe to use medications after their expiration date? Is drinking eight glasses of water a day really necessary for good health? And on and on.
Uncovering unambiguous answers to these questions often requires some digging—an attribute that Besser says he learned from his Hopkins mentor, the late Frank Oski, who was head of pediatrics when Besser was a resident and chief resident.
“A brilliant man, he inspired me to pursue medicine as a field of inquiry,” Besser writes. “He wanted me, and everyone he trained, not just to practice medicine but to move the field forward. Ask questions and when you found one without a good answer, do the research to get that answer.
“He taught me not to accept a way of practicing medicine without understanding why. He never seemed quite as happy as when he was debunking a myth or challenging the status quo. The year I spent as his chief resident infected me with the same passion.”
Myth-debunking plays an important role in Besser’s book, as do plain, simple explanations that are soundly grounded in recent research. The book’s 18-page list of sources is admirable—as is its conversational, sometimes humorous, tone. That easy-to-read quality, Besser happily concedes, is due to the writing skills of his wife, Jean, an author of cookbooks.
Tell Me the Truth is divided into six chapters, most with amusing headings, such as “Drop That French Fry and No One Gets Hurt: Your Questions on Diets, Nutrition and Food Safety.” Each contains a list of inquiries, ranging in number from eight (on exercise, fitness, and sports performance) to 22 (on diets, nutrition, and food safety).
A third-generation graduate of the University of Pennsylvania medical school, Besser says that being able “to deliver medical information with a personal touch” means a lot to him. His book gives him the opportunity to provide readers “with that house call you’ve been missing so that you can truly make informed decisions about your health.” NAG