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It's Nobody's Fault: New Hope and Help for Difficult Children and Their Parents

by Harold Koplewicz

Oct 1996

Reviewed by Harriet Bladwin, NAMI Literature Committee, and Brenda Souto and Dee Mukherjee, NAMI staff

It's Nobody's Fault could not have been written 25 years ago.

It reflects the monumental change that has taken place in understanding all mental illnesses--that they are brain disorders, disturbances in brain chemistry, and nobody's fault. This work deals with serious brain disorders in children and adolescents. Its author is an experienced clinician, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Koplewicz is upbeat, authoritative, and empowering. And his book is interesting and readable.

It's Nobody's Fault has three parts. "Living with a Child's Brain Disorder" sets out Dr. Koplewicz's general views: that parents don't cause serious mental disorders, but they are responsible for getting their ill children into treatment. "DNA Roulette and the Role of Medication" explains the role of genetics in brain disorders in children and adolescents, the ways in which those disorders affect brain chemistry, and the role of medications in treatment. "No-Fault Brain Disorders" discusses 13 specific disorders commonly found in children and adolescents--symptoms, diagnosis, brain chemistry, treatment, and parenting. There are three appendices. The first reviews technical terms used in the book; the second lists organizations that provide educational and support services; and the last consists of charts that summarize the medications (by brand and generic names) used in treating the discussed disorders as well as their possible side effects.

Koplewicz is "must reading" for parents who feel guilt and remorse about the brain disorder of a child. The author emphasizes that child and adolescent disorders are the result of genetic predispositions and that medications, often offered with psychotherapy, sometimes transform lives and usually make disorders more manageable. This is one book every NAMI family will wish it had discovered when a child first showed symptoms of abnormality. It belongs in every affiliate library and every public library.

Many NAMI families report that the professionals they meet often deny that prepubertal children can have serious brain disorders. Such families face not only stigma, lack of services, and inappropriate education settings, but they also face great difficulty in finding professionals who are in touch with current research and treatment practice. Furthermore, they are perplexed by misinformation about using medications in treating childhood- onset brain disorders. For such families, It's Nobody's Fault will bring refreshing good news.

The only shortcoming of It's Nobody's Fault is that the chapters about specific disorders are necessarily brief. Suggestions about supplementary reading would have been a welcome addition. NAMI readers are encouraged to consult the new NAMI's Young Family Reading List for further reading. (For a copy, call Brenda Souto at 70/524-7600.)

It's Nobody's Fault: New Hope and Help for Difficult Children and Their Parents by Harold Koplewicz. Random House/Times Books Division, NY, 1996. 350 pp.