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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2011
This enthralling memoir reads like a novel, but its message is all about how family dysfunction and parental divorce can affect a child's developing psyche. At the tender age of 15, the court determines that it is in the best interest of the author to place him in a state facility for the insane, where a panel of psychiatrists label him schizoid, schizophrenic, autistic and neurotic. They even determine that his prognosis is guarded and that he should remain there indefinitely. Fortunately, the court returns him to the custody of his mother, rather than following the psychiatrists' recommendation. Unfortunately, though, while in the mental hospital the author experiences situations so horrendous and life-threatening that one wonders how he survived and did not actually lose his mind in this dangerous and mind-bogging environment.

The story captivated my imagination and put me inside the mind of a seriously troubled youth. But it was the Epilogue, written by now Dr. Waln Brown, which tied everything together for me in such a way as to provide revealing insights into the recovery process. Dr. Brown also details how the failures of some professionals nearly condemned him to a life of institutionalization, while the persistence and practices of other people and professionals saved him.

This book should be read by every parent whose child suffers from emotional and psychological problems, parents with children living in an abusive or dysfunctional home and separating and divorcing parents. Mental health and child welfare professionals who take their roles seriously will find this memoir more instructive than any social work or psychology graduate course. The author definitely knows his subject, as he spent most of his childhood living it and all of his adulthood studying it. That's what makes this memoir so unique, educational and inspirational.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2015
“Adults don’t listen, they just tell” says troubled young teenager Waln Brown, sent to a grotesque state mental institution after an escalating series of mostly petty offenses: smoking, truancy, running away, fighting, poor grades, talking back. “I was a square peg that someone mistakenly decided to hammer into a round hole and I hated every stinking minute of it.”
He fit the now-common profile of a kid caught in a bitter divorce battle, with parents using their kids as weapons. These were flawed people, foundering through painful lives: a mysophobic mother too emotionally battered to nurture, a distant father now devoted only to his second family. Ignorantly, without particular malice, they let their eldest son feel responsible for their dysfunction. Unable to be a hero, he was a scapegoat. “I stood out like a sore thumb. People were constantly putting me down and making me feel small, dumb and ugly. I didn’t belong there, and I sure as hell wasn’t wanted there.”
“There” meant most everywhere he went, as puberty played its cruel game of bad skin and social stigmatization. It was not exactly what he did — youthful hi-jinks, mostly (though he skirted outright criminality and carried a switchblade) — but the intensity of his acting out and rage it revealed that spelled capital-T trouble. Good kids stayed away; bad kids provided opportunities and enticements for further decline. Clearly, here was a youngster drifting toward a predictable and tragic end.
At the end of the 1950s, before the youthquakes to come, there wasn’t much focus on helping sore thumbs and square pegs. Most people believed that the traditional socializing forces — church, marriage, school, the military — would prevail. Bad boys would “grow out of it,” though there were few tools to help them grow.
Some ended up at places like the Harrisburg State Hospital, where Brown found himself at age 15, labeled incorrigible by the court, tagged with a fat case record. He was being fit into a diagnostic round hole (schizophrenic?), and prepped for the treatments of the day: electroshock, crude psychopharmacological drugs, and, perhaps, some listless and irrelevant conversation with an overworked, ill-prepared, and mostly uninterested therapist. Mostly, he was being warehoused, possibly for life, and no one was listening.
Twenty years later, Brown had earned a PhD from an Ivy League university, and was well on his way to becoming a recognized authority on at-risk youth, and astute critic of the conventional wisdom on child and adolescent problems — he is still something of a square peg, though not a sore thumb. How this acclaimed author of more than two dozen books on family dynamics, youth dysfunction and effective intervention ascended from the abyss is briefly sketched out in the final chapters, and perhaps will be the subject of a sequel.
For now, though, we have this vivid and courageous memoir, a compelling and painful story that — even though we know there is a happy ending — will engage the reader at a deep level, sometimes uncomfortably. You will want to put this book down in the first 20 pages, but you will be unable to put it down for the rest of the way. You’ll be left wondering about the other Schizo Kids, who were perhaps not saved.
Doctor Brown’s valediction reveals a man at peace with his past, and hopeful for the future — if only adults will listen:
“Dysfunctional behavior is our immature way of expressing anguish, our unsophisticated plea for help. Please don't judge us by our symptoms; look to the causes. That is where we can meet and work together to find solutions. Treat us with dignity and compassion and your best efforts, and we will respond in kind. Grant us the tolerance to change at our own pace. Our problems took time to gestate, and they will require comparable time to reconcile. Most importantly, don't ever give up on us.”
We’re glad he didn’t give up on himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2012
I could not put this book down from the moment I opened it's pages as this described the life of my child after our divorce. I only wish I had read it earlier as my story has a tragic ending; my child took his life three years after our divorce. At times I thought I was reading about my child as it paralleled the emotions he acted out. In my situation my child never got the help he so desperately needed; perhaps had this been required reading both parents could have seen more clearly what was going on and have taken actions that promoted his health and healing. There is so much written about divorce and it can be very difficult deciding which book of hundreds will give the insight you need to deal with the issues that present themselves at the time, especially when you are in a sea of pain yourself. Even well meaning therapists do not always give the best advice. This book truly paints a vivid picture of what children go through and yet cannot put into words. It should be a "must read" for anyone contemplating divorce or anyone who has children and wants to have a better understanding of what goes on in the minds of children. I saw my child act out these very emotions; not that he ever became a problem child in the sense of getting into trouble but it was hard to read as I can now look back and see so clearly what he was desperately trying to communicate but could not put into words because of his anger. As adults we sometimes forget what it is like to be a child. Waln Brown has through his own experience been able to relay just how alone, desperate and hurting a child feels when his family falls apart and gives good solid advice as to how to help your child navigate through this season of loss and despair. I hope anyone reading this book will take his message to heart, as Waln gets at the very core of why children act out. When we realize the effects our actions are having on others we will be in a better position to be part of the solution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2014
Waln Brown's book, Saving the Scizo Kid, pisses me off on a lot of levels. As a Vietnam veteran, I hear a lot of talk about PTSD, but what about PTSD for the shell shocked kids who went thru their own kind of a war. Hopefully, books like this and people like Dr. Waln Brown, will help bring these kids out of the shadows. The fact that Dr. Brown came out of this and went on to become a Phd. and accomplish all that he has, tells me that there is still hope. He tells it far better than anyone and this wonderful book should be required reading for any parents considering a divorce or for any kids from a broken home. We have all heard the great quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Dr. Brown is living proof.
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on November 21, 2014
In this memoir of troubled youth, Dr. Brown takes us back to his time of emotional upheaval and shares his experiences in the juvenile justice system through the wobbly eyes of an adolescent in crisis. His parents' divorce and malice toward each other torment him into believing he's the mistake that caused their trouble. As a consequence, he feels rejected by his father and misunderstood by his mother; he feels like a mistake of life, a misfit who literally has to fight to understand. Fortunately, he finds connection with other youth, in gangs and misguided adventures at first, until a few adults he can trust find a few answers that make the difference in his recovery and eventual resilience.

I don't know how I would have fared in similar circumstances. Perhaps I would have lashed out at the unfairness of life, as he did, throwing punches at anyone or anything that represented the emotional dysfunction that surrounded me. Perhaps I would have shunned connection with others and withdrawn into my own world, as many did inside the state hospital. Perhaps I would have slipped into forays of ever-increasing crime, in an effort to cause comparable harm to others. In short, his agony remains beyond the full understanding of others who have not lived through his pain.

Accordingly, his memoir deserves wide readership among professionals and parents who guide youth through times of emotional disturbance. Consider it a report from an adolescent who foundered in the depths of despair and yet found a way to transform his pain into healing for others as well as himself. Consider it a manifesto for finding answers that will help others avoid the missteps and mistakes of our juvenile justice system. Consider it a positive outcome. Consider it the indomitable spirit of life finding the strength to prevail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2014
A powerful book that leaves the reader inspired. Well written, this book by Dr. Waln Brown is sure to touch the heart of every reader, and encourage them to make our world a little better. Highly recommended!!!
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on November 21, 2014
As a mother, grandmother, and a retired educator, reading Waln Brown’s, Saving the Schizo Kid, was difficult. The mental and physical suffering of a child is not an easy read, but it is necessary. Being written in first person makes it even more painful. People need to know how much children can suffer because of things going on in the family, and at school. I believe the best message in the book, however, is not to give up on your child, ever! Even though Waln’s mother faced huge problems, she loved him and helped him by getting him the medical attention he needed. Thank Heavens for professionals who care about children and know that they can be saved. Waln is to be commended too for surviving a painful childhood then redeeming himself through hard work and perseverance. Saving the Schizo Kid is important for parents and educators and all those who work with troubled youth. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2014
So relatable. I cried many times for the main character and auhor, Waln. I couldn't put this book down!
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on December 23, 2014
Some disturbing dichotomies are revealed in this account of teen dysfunction:
painful yet poignant; hopeless yet exhilarating; vulnerability yet triumphant. Dr. Brown skilfully portrays the highly charged emotional challenges of an abused, neglected, and maladjusted teen. Abused by his dysfunctional parents; abandoned by his father; neglected by child protective services, wrongly institutionalized by the justice system. As difficult as it was for the young teen (and painful to read about), what's remarkable is his resilience and eventual triumph into a well educated, caring, giving and responsible adult. A most interesting read!
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on November 11, 2014
This is an absolutely wonderful book, written by the author, telling his own story in first-person- present-tense. So, the reader experiences exactly what he has to endure, as a teenage boy living in a terribly dysfunctional world. Though many try to help, most have no idea what they are doing. We readers live through the schools, experiments and treatments. The doctors, judges, teachers, social workers and inmates. It's not all bad news, it's just one of those books you don't want to stop reading. And, it all ends well.
I recommend it for anyone. Parents, grandparents, step-parents, anyone, everyone.
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