Nightmare rabbit

All rights to Xionicjester @ Deviant Art “Nightmare Bunny”

Supple supplicants, their lips all red in hue,
bound down to sultry appetites so rigid and so few.
Clasping tight a night bound pen,
it’s nub a point of twilight glen.
We never got beyond this spot,
where shear cast moons broke down to stars,
eternities gates and Pandora’s box.
We never got so far,
As to chase the mystic rabbits beyond,
Seek out the mystery the hold,
Ones for the tykes–the other the bold.
Feeling tracks into the ether,
Its nebulous now this fucking thief named Peter,
We’ll tie him down in briar hot,
Filled with thorns and a boiling pot.
Unlace his skin again,
Drunk full of life and his lovely sin.

Note: having a bit of a manic weird day when writing this one. -S

Inside Isabella at the park.

Liquid snake is common compare,
The river beneath the milk puddled blue.
Joy soaks all the green that grows,
in hedges, lengthy strides and by rows.
Here I watch the ever present of growth
Here I see the catalyzing mystery,
of what comes next.
Along the banks of of proud water,
scales made from ripples,
a mirrored surface refracting radiance,
royal and haunted eye azure to dazzle.
A bewitching tone of cerulean
as you would see skull mounted
to the face of a person of purest pale.
Baby, wouldn’t you take the briefest of moments,
to pause, to break the doldrums of repetition.
To slither our bodies the distance across
and along that charmed prism of color.
We can be washed clean
of the need for forgiveness,
though we might beg abruptly,
for the sky to open,
and cleanse us in the love of yesteryears.
When trouble was nothing but childsplay,
whispered dreams were sought and chased.
found, pursued and realized.
We would go floating,
Bucolic and serene on tides of hope.

A Neurodiverse Universe

Colored diversity in the brain space.

           In a world of neurotypical individuals—those that have brain chemistry considered normal under any accepted societal standard—it is impossible to be fully understood as a neurodivergent individual in terms other than described in the terminology and stigma of one’s diagnosed condition. The basic reasoning behind the stance is that while a neurotypical individual may seek to connect empathetically they simply lack the peculiar mental quirks that would allow them to experience the world in a similar enough capacity to enjoinder a true sympathetic response and facilitate open rapport on a significant level. Both of these are relatively new terms that are gaining in popularity and acceptance following in tow with the Neurodiversity Movement which seeks to strengthen the popular theory that rather than engendering through a stigmatized population the acceptance and understanding needed by those that fall under the current header of mentally ill it is possible to change the overall perspective and the conversation itself

            This is a good point to establish a clear cut definition of what I mean by neurodivergent. Nick Walker does a wonderful job presenting this through his advocacy website and defines neurodivergent as “having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of ‘normal.’” Some common examples would include autism, schizophrenia, dyslexia, or epilepsy. Within these neurominorities exists a continuum of specialized perception and thought patterns that are often referred to as distortions from the normal way of processing information and ideas. In more extreme cases, the manifestation of this can take the form of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or even extreme intelligence isolated to select areas of expertise. Speaking as an individual diagnosed as multiply neurodivergent through extensive brain changes owing to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and schizoaffective bipolar disorder, I can attest to how isolating the current paradigm can feel even as there are those that reach out their hands to cross the neuroverse to create a bridge of hope.

            As noted by Patrick Corrigan and Amy Watson in their study to understand the impact of stigmas on people with mental illness, “…people with mental illness are robbed of the opportunities that define a quality of life: good jobs, safe housing, satisfactory health care, and affiliation with a diverse group of people.” They conjecture that this happens because of a dual stigma that exists in regard to mental illness that exacerbates stressors of the underlying personal and societal pressures we all face and compounds the challenges faced by the mentally ill—or by our new definition—neurodivergent person. “Table 1” has a beautiful breakdown of their stigma specific findings relating to those afflicted with mental illnesses.

Table 1

Comparing and contrasting the definitions of public stigma and self-stigma

Public stigma
Stereotype Negative belief about a group (e.g., dangerousness, incompetence, character weakness)
Prejudice Agreement with belief and/or negative emotional reaction (e.g., anger, fear)
Discrimination Behavior response to prejudice (e.g., avoidance, withhold employment and housing opportunities, withhold help)
Stereotype Negative belief about the self (e.g., character weakness, incompetence)
Prejudice Agreement with belief, negative emotional reaction (e.g., low self-esteem, low self-efficacy)
Discrimination Behavior response to prejudice (e.g., fails to pursue work and housing opportunities)

            In essence, as those coined mentally ill find it, they are stigmatized both by society as a whole and by themselves—I know I’ve found the latter to be sometimes the more difficult proposition to deal with many times in my life. So what about changing the tone of the conversation through simple adjustment to the vernacular? Neurodiversity is the idea that we are all part of a neurologically complex network of individuals for whom there may well be no standard normal from which to deviate when taken at the grandest of scales. Building from Watson and Corrigan’s work, it is the concept that there is an imposition of normalcy placed on us by societies and self that could be adjusted to reflect instead a microcosm of beautiful and talented people with highly segmented skills, assets, gifts, and attributes amongst the “special” portions of the population.

            My original statement does hold; for instance, I do not believe that I could adequately explain in great enough detail to a neurotypical individual the emotional turbulence and isolating idiosyncratic moments that emerged from being fully delusional and believing that I was an android after losing my own personal identity to the extent that I didn’t know even my own gender. It’s simply an unfathomable state to consider finding oneself in, I mean after all, we all know where to look to discover what gender we are. Brett Heasman and Alex Gillespie suggest in a study “…that neurodivergent intersubjectivity reveals potential for unconventional forms of social relating and that a within-interaction analysis is a viable methodology for exploring neurodivergent communication.” In essence, scientists out there are working on improving the understanding of how to improve on the degrees of communication required to more fully bridge the gap to create a neurodiverse interactivity that would allow us to tap the remarkable talents of all the people out there regardless of genetic predisposition and structure. For me, this is also an acknowledgement that currently, we aren’t quite there yet.

           All things considered however, I too share a dream of inclusion like Mr. King did years ago. That one day those things that make me unique amongst all the other two legged flowers out there won’t be a hindrance, but might yet be construed as an asset that I can bloom to my fullest extent. We are all radiant in our own ways, neurotypical and neurodivergent alike; it’s part of the dramatic portrait that paints humanity the multitude of colors we show as on the spectrum of life.

Works Cited

Corrigan, Patrick W. & Watson, Amy C. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. 2002 February 1

Heasman, Brett & Gillespie, Alex. Neurodivergent intersubjectivity: distinctive features of how autistic people create shared understanding. 2018 August 3

Walker, Nick. Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms & Definitions. Neurocosmopolitanism. 2014 September 27

Troubled by troubled teens

…took awhile to get there, but yeah, I’m sorry mom despite it all.

After just starting my 2nd quarter back in school after 16+ years since I last attended I wanted to share a few pieces that I was really proud of from the quarter that actually start to show a change of pace and rhythm in thought after all these years. Finished with an “A” in English comp, first time I think that letter ever showed on the board with me my entire life, so feeling accomplished and appreciative for the chance to continue this education journey. This was an argumentative essay on a topic near and dear to both my wife and myself. Thanks so much for reading. -S

            There is a hotly debated though rarely seen battle for the freedom from, and recognition of, ongoing systemic child abuse done knowingly at the hands of privatized institutions known as Therapeutic Communities (TC’s). Their purported goal is to take the disenfranchised attendees while they are in their formative teenage years and reroute them from a destructive path through life. The perfect client is primarily from an affluent or privileged family able to afford the exorbitant cost of this outsourced fostering which takes place in a boarding school setting which allows them to function under the pretense of educational establishments. In fact, there is a multilayered industry complete with expensive “educational consultants” and “transport agents” who very precisely go about the process of removing a prospective charge from their family environment and relocate them to isolated facilities scattered both nationally and internationally. What is baffling, is that there is a seemingly lopsided agreement on the distress that these programs cause by virtue of treatment methodologies that many suggest were originally developed by the CIA as part of their interrogation and brainwashing research. With such a resounding recognition on the lips of each survivor of these programs who tells their tale, how is it that they still exist? I’d like to explore the ins and outs of what makes these programs tick because I believe the concept that parents are sold on of a happier and more satisfied adult through personal understanding is not misplaced—but the current manner that is used to facilitate growth is unacceptable and MUST be changed.

            The sales pitch for the “Troubled Teen Programs” (TTP) to parents is concise and overwhelming in opportunistic advantage when presented to parents in situations where they are afraid for the health and wellbeing of their child or children. By offering a well regimented schedule including extra-curricular activities, schooling, access to a therapeutic component and family workshops, TTPs offer to provide an articulated course in productive living which will be adopted by the now healthy minded youth and improve their overall approach to life, making them happier and healthier, body and mind. However, as documented in a congressionally reviewed study by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled “Residential Treatment Programs: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth” the promises made are rarely delivered on and often are nothing but fluffed wording to entice desperate families to make a costly mistake in sending away their child. To quote, “GAO found thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death, at residential treatment programs across the country and in American-owned and American-operated facilities abroad between the years of 1990 and 2007…For example during 2005 alone, 33 states reported 1,619 staff members involved in incidents of abuse in residential programs. GAO could not identify a more concrete number of allegations because it could not locate a single Web site, federal agency or other entity that collects comprehensive nationwide data.” This seems wildly incongruous with the stated mission of safely guiding teens to a more productive path.

            The GAO study continues by citing specific deaths at the hands of the multiple wilderness based programs such as Catherine Freer which commonly act as the gateway to longer term residential locations. Two of clear note in the study include:

  • Female, 15, cause of death dehydration. Showed signs of illness for 2 days such as blurred vision, vomiting water, and frequent stumbling. Collapsed and died while hiking. Lay dead in the road for 18 hours. Program brochure advertised staff as highly trained survival experts.
  • Male, 15, cause of death internal bleeding. Head-injury victim with behavioral challenges who refused to return to campsite. Restrained by staff and held face down in the dirt for 45 minutes. Died of a severed artery in the neck. Death ruled a homicide.

I note the inconsistency with the marketed literature from the female victim’s program as intensely indicative of the overall industry approach to such—present parents with what they know they want to hear, not the real story which would note the incompetence of staff or their unwillingness to raise their own standards to such a level as to meet with their stated qualifications. In an open statement before congress the head of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) which “oversees” at least 180 programs nationally as the accrediting party—more on that to come—stated to congress in 2007 that “we are committed to working with Congress, the states, other organizations, and parents to ensure that regulations and legislation provide for realistic and workable therapeutic programs that meet the highest standards of care.” Her statement was directly resulting from investigative media and the GAO study noted above into the alarming rates of abuse at the facilities licensed by NATSAP, however, no further oversight committees were formed, no legislation passed, nothing changed.

            Why so much abuse? The program methodologies approved for use include the use of restraints which as noted by Sean Hennessey, a direct care staff coordinator at a program describes as, “….pinning a kid to the ground until they stop fighting and start crying, it’s barbaric if you think about it.” One question I would ask the reader is whether the above scenario enacted in the home with a teenage child and parents would be construed as acceptable practice or viewed as overly disciplinarian. Moreover, many programs ascribe to behavior modification techniques and tactics—while it is not critical to this paper to delve deeply into those techniques to share a suggestion for necessary changes to be made in this field I would like to note to the reader that these methods include sleep deprivation, repetitious exercises, hard manual labor, starvation, and Pavlovian conditioning designed to break the spirit and personality of a grown adult, hence why they are often also used during interrogations by the CIA. Overall program philosophy in practical application is massively divergent from what is presented to parents, something that despite a lack of transparency in communication between child and family should be readily apparent based on what is most commonly the first interaction with teen and program, the transport process.

            Regarding the “sensitive ethical issues related to involuntary treatment of adolescents…” as documented in a paper published by the Child Youth Care Forum (CYCF) where the transport process was investigated to determine whether it was supportive in nature of the goals of treatment it is important to understand what that transport looks like. For Heather Lamberton at the age of 15 it was two male plainclothes individuals flashing falsified police badges at her while she was at home wearing just a t-shirt and underwear. She was handcuffed and refused time to put on pants before being bundled into a car and subsequently a hotel where she was forced to bed down next to a male stranger who would not explain what their destination was nor why she was being detained. The following day she was delivered to her program where she would spend the next 2-years in hard manual labor, no parents present to say goodbye or explain what was happening. Aside from the illicit nature of presenting as police officers and kidnapping a child what is shocking is that the study from CYCF supports the process by relaying a finding that “…transported youth were more likely to have larger decreased [sic] in mental health symptomology than non-transported youth suggesting that being transported did not have a negative impact on treatment outcomes.” In what sort of a well governed and managed industry are illegal activities researched and regarded as non-detrimental when they involve the degradation of the mental health of children and accept a certain amount of loss as normalized?

            One of the few articles I was able to find that was supportive of the current program approach to treatment lists details of a study conducted at the request of Aspen Education Group and says their findings show, “Troubled teens with serious emotional and behavioral issues not only improve during treatment at a private therapeutic residential program but they maintain their healthier outlooks and functioning long after leaving the program.” While the statistics used seem to suggest the legitimacy of how the study was conducted including multi-year follow ups I am skeptical considering that the two parties responsible for the study include Aspen (one of the world’s largest program operators) and NATSAP who purports to be the licensure group overseeing 180+ programs as their national trade association. It raises concerns when the only pro-program documentation that can be found is published by the association that takes its earnings from the fees assessed to its member organizations which are the programs in question, there is a degree of hypocrisy and self-interest apparent that casts legitimacy into doubt.

           Taking all of the above into consideration it is apparent that current TTP operation is a long way from where it should by all rights be. To my original point, I would advocate that TTPs be forced by extensive national/international, state, and local oversight committees to abide by clearly defined regulations prohibiting the use of transport agents, restraints, and behavior modification techniques when working with children. Annual reporting should be made to a single centralized branch of the government responsible for ensuring the safety and conditions of children, any deviation or violation from the established protocols established should be met with actual legal ramifications rather than simple fines. These schools are exorbitantly costly, up to the tune of $6,500 a month per student, despite minimal overhead, and I believe it is important that rather than hit the deep coffers these kinds of rates make available, punitive action in the form of legal recrimination would be far more effective. Communication lines should be fully accessible and available between children and families at all times, not monitored phone calls as low as once a week or month as is currently the case. This would enjoinder much clearer transparency and allow clear accountability in the event a suspect case was emerging.

            The dream that these programs sell is one that I would buy off on were the other parameters more effectively in place through a trustworthy organization to manage and oversee universally with adequate staffing and documented funding in place. Parents that choose to send their children to these programs are often at their wits end and devastated by watching the challenges of behavioral and mental health issues materialize. They are as much victims in many ways as the children themselves and it is heartbreaking to learn more about an industry that is so domineered by pariahs that they choose to prey on a tear-stained mother or hand wringing father. No good parent wants their child to suffer, much less to the tune of thousands of dollars and misinformation. The changes I’ve suggested would change the entire dynamic within the industry and demand better and more successful treatment methods be used in gentler fashion with a highly vulnerable segment of the population. Stop abusing children in the name of the almighty dollar.

Works Cited

“GAO; Residential Treatment Programs: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth.” USA Government Accountability Office. Published: October 10th, 2007.

“NATSAP; Aspen Education Group; Teen Therapeutic Residential Programs Can Have Lasting Positive Effects, New Study Says.” Biotech Business Week, Atlanta, 2007, p. 433.

 “State Licensure and Oversight Necessary.” Health & Medicine Week, 2007, p. 766.

Tucker, Anita, et al. “The Role of Transport Use in Adolescent Wilderness Treatment: Its Relationship to Readiness to Change and Outcomes.” Child & Youth Care Forum, vol. 44, no. 5, 2015, pp. 671–686., doi:10.1007/s10566-015-9301-6.

Waldman, Annie. “Kids Get Hurt at Residential Schools while States Look on.” ProPublica, Dec 15 2015, Proquest. Web. 8 Mar 2019

Homeless Drumbeat


It’s intrinsic,

Chaotically living life in transit,

Dystopian swing shift watch the hours count down is all you can manage.

A metronome rhythm rattling then clicking the only sound.

Grains sliding then slipping,

Crumbling, dividing then quickening.

Grit in the eyes where bleary sand sticks,

Blending euphoria to exhaustion is one nasty mix.

Sure–change glued in amber,

Stuck like a beetle or bug,

Mosquito frozen solid while filled up on blood.

That locus of focus shifted heavily to stone,

Life essence trapped then mired,

In the middle of all while forever alone.