To spread awareness of early onset (childhood) schizophrenia and to offer support and hope to families and children who suffer with the most severe mental illness known to humankind.
When schizophrenia happens in adults, we can see that they are crazy. When it happens to kids, we think they are brats.
In December of 2006, Janni started to scream. A deafening, piercing scream that would hurt our eardrums. She did this when she didn't get what she wanted. Still, we didn't think anything was wrong. Janni just needed more stimulation. She just needed more stimulation. People told us she might have Asperger's. We got her tested. Her IQ at 4 was 146. For reference, the average adult intelligence is 105.
Let me give you a problem from the Stanford Binet V intelligence test: If a rooster lays an egg on the top of a pointy roof, which way will the egg fall?
Know the answer?
It is a trick question (which I always hated). Roosters don't lay eggs. Janni got this. I had to break out a calculator.
The lesson here is the answer is usually fairly simple, but our instinct is to think its complicated.
I finished my MA and became and spent the summer of Janni's fifth year freaking out over not having a teaching job. The local community colleges wouldn't hire me. Susan was pregnant with Bodhi.
Then the hitting began.
At first it seemed like a really bad temper tantrum. Janni would fly into rages that would last 5-15 minutes. During this time, when we tried to discipline her, she would hit us, scratch us, bite us, and kick us. People thought we were raising a brat. Even our own families thought this. We were so worried about trying to explain ourselves that we didn't notice at first that Janni's eyes changed when she went into this rages. We didn't put it together that a five year does not swing from "I love you, Daddy" to "I want you to die!" in seconds. Teenagers do that, not five year olds. Five year olds are still desperate for parental approval.
Yes, kids have temper tantrums. But Janni would dig her nails into my skin and pull...leaving a bloody track down my arm or face. She would grin while she did this, a demonic grin that would have scared me had I had time to really think about it. But I didn't.
We tried everything. Positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement. Hitting her back (I won't tell you how many people told us that all she needed was a good beating). We took all her toys away. We gave her toys away. We tried starving her. We did EVERYTHING we could to try and break her. Nothing worked.
Even then, it did not occur to us that our daughter was mentally ill. Now I wonder who was really delusional. Susan and I held fast to our belief that Janni was just a misunderstood genius.
Then Bodhi was born.
The violence became so bad that at times Susan and I both lost it and hit Janni as hard as we could. We hit in impotent rage.
We got a referral to a psychiatrist.
Two months later, Janni was hospitalized for the first of what has since been four times, but in truth will be many more times.
Today, Janni is no longer a brat. Today, Janni is schizophrenic.
1. Schizophrenia affects 1% of the world population and 1% of that 1% develop the illness before age 13.
2. There are no anti-psychotic medications developed for children. We need to fund research.
3. Because child brains are still developing, childhood schizophrenia is much more difficult to treat than adult schizophrenia.
4. Many people still believe that children cannot develop schizophrenia. This reinforces the myth that symptomatic kids are just "badly behaved."
5. Unlike for autism and related spectrum illnesses, there are NO services for schizophrenic children.