Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I will not be attending the "Rally To Restore Sanity"

Apparently at my university, there is to be a localized version of Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. While the big one is being held at Washington D.C, this one will be held at City Hall. I saw chalk markings indicating the time and place today while walking around campus, and I just shook my head, annoyed.
Sure, I genuinely believe that political discourse has become increasingly uncivil as of late, I despise the politics and actions of the Tea Party, and I watch and laugh at Stewart's show on occasion.
But I'm also a person with multiple mental disabilities, and I don't appreciate conservatism being compared to a mental illness. It not only makes me feel like I don't matter and that my opinions are de-facto unimportant because I'm not "sane", but it also undermines the terror and true threat that these people present to our country and our civil liberties.
I hear it from both sides. Michael Savage thinks liberalism is a mental illness and is not afraid to say so. Many a conservative or moderate has teasingly made reference to "The Loony Left". Wingnut is a term I've heard used freely by both progressives and conservatives of all stripes, with variations abound. I've been guilty of using them myself many times, before I stopped to think about its implications, and I've since slowly tried to eradicate it from my vocabulary.
And in terms of the Rally To Restore Sanity, they've made it out to be a battle cry for rationality, in a world increasingly plagued with irrationality and borderline anarchy.
Well see, there you go. If you're genuinely suggesting to me that my mental illnesses, or "lack of sanity" in such gross terms, means that I am incapable of being calm, rational, or informed about current affairs, do you really think that I'm going to march alongside you?
Better luck next time, Stewart and Company. I'm sitting this one out until you and your writers figure out that people with mental illnesses and disabilities are not disposable metaphors.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Horse Boy book review part II: The journey and aftermath of Mongolia

When I last left off reading and reviewing the Horse Boy, Rowan, Rupert Isaacson, and Kristin Neff were on their way to Mongolia via the UK, and were about to arrive in the capital city of Ulan Bator, which is, according to Rupert Isaacson, a depressing, ugly sight, "a carbuncle on the face of one of the most unspoiled, most intact ecosystems left on earth." My my.
But as it is, they're only staying a few days there, before they head off into the wilderness to meet various Mongolian shamans, and maybe establish contact with the enigmatic Deer People, that is, Northern Mongolian reindeer herders.
The "crew" consists of Tulga, a guide, his nephew/assistant Bodo, the film crew, Rowan and his parents. I must admit, I cocked an eyebrow at there not being a medical doctor present. Not just because of Rowan being autistic and possibly needing a doctor there in case of a major emergency, but for the sake of the rest of the crew. If someone were to break a leg, or be trampled by a horse, or get bitten by an insect or a snake, would there be a hospital available quickly in any way other than emergency airlift? It seemed like an oversight to me not to have a doctor on the team so that if something were to happen, something could be done by a medical professional.
But I digress. the next order of business was the first Shaman ritual,at the base of a sacred mountain, where nine Shamans would work on Rowan. But first, a trip to a museum and an amusement park. At the amusement park, Rowan was stared at, as any autistic five year old with a film crew of his own would in any country. But Isaacson noticed something different about the attention the Mongolian people gave Rowan from the attention he received from Britons and Americans:
They were curious about us- You'd have had to ad to be inhuman not to be, as a five year old whizzing about the crowds with a film crew close behind would attract attention anywhere. Yet, once the first surprise was over, everyone tolerated Rowan's pushing, yelping, and joyful rushing about with a good humor quite at odds with what we had come to expect in the United States and Britain, when Rowan was at his most autistic. Here, it was as if we- he- were somehow being accommodated, not merely tolerated, despite the spectacle we were making as we thundered about in his wake like photographers behind some diminutive model or movie star.
Previously, we had been told in America that when Rowan would act oddly or lose his temper in public, the common reaction was tut-tuts of shame at the parents not controlling him, or even coming up to Rowan's parents to inform them that they were failures as parents for not controlling their child's behaviour in public. Isaacson it had been a small comfort to snarl back, "He's autistic, what's your excuse?" and have the people retreat in embarrassment. This Mongolian mode of treatment of the parents seemed preferable to me, even though I don't know exactly what they were thinking. Causing stress and public humiliation to parents of a disabled child does a disservice to everyone. It stigmatizes the disability, hurts the parent-child interactions, and makes life more difficult for all.
The next day, Rowan & Co. set out to meet the Shamans for leg one of the journey. They gave thanks to Isaacson, explaining that under Communism's rule, Shamanism had been repressed, and he was assisting in the comeback of the old folk religion, not only by bringing Rowan, but I think the cameras and the eventual film would help shine a light on the significance of the religion to the shamans.
The ceremonies involved yak's milk, vodka, and elaborate, repetitive chanting and drumming. Honestly... While some parts of it didn't seem so bad, a few moments made me severely uncomfortable:
Still, once in the shaman's arms, to my great surprise, he went quiet and still. Until the assistant passed her spiritual mistress a bottle of vodka, from which the shaman took a hearty pull, then without warning spat the liquid over Rowan's face and body. The result was predictable:
I'm twenty-one years old, mostly a placid person, and not much can surprise me. But someone spitting vodka all over me without warning would illicit some major screams and howls of pain and disgust. Especially if it got into my eyes, nose or mouth, which I suspect may have happened to Rowan: alcohol of all kinds, let alone straight up vodka, is very flammable and stings the skin upon contact, but in the eyes, nose or mouth, it downright burns.
I honestly think doing that, regardless of the cultural context, was cruel.
But that doesn't even begin to compare with the discomfort I felt for Kristin, Rowan's mother:
"Er.... the shaman says that when you were pregnant, black energy entered you womb. You must take this vodka and cleanse the, um, parts where Rowan came down."
Kristin looked at him a moment. "You're saying I have to take this bowl of vodka and wash my vagina out with it?"
Tulga looked at the grass. "Um... yes, the shaman says is (sic) very important.

Kristin took this all very well, joking about photoshopping out her cellulite and washing the C-section scar with the vodka while it was filmed. But I was mortified. Again, alcohol burns when it comes into contact with certain tissues, and I can't even imagine the horrible burn of having to douche out your vagina with vodka, let alone the consequences of the PH balance of the vagina being thrown off or drying it out.
At this point, the skeptic in me was inside screaming "How can you read about this! This makes ABA and refrigerator mothers seem tame in comparison!" And it's true. The idea of black energy causing autism was very anti-neurodiversity. Saying the womb was entry for this black energy was akin to autism's discovery and the coining of the refrigerator mother hypothesis. I just could not wrap my head around either Rowan being sprayed or this douching to be acceptable. I wasn't particularly expecting a neurodiverse view from the Shamans honestly, but having vodka spat onto Rowan took me aback.
It continued with Rowan's parents being whipped by the shaman painfully. Rowan, mercifully, received a more humane whipping, and he was described as being giggly and cooing throughout the whipping, so I was slightly relieved. But at this point I was seriously beginning to worry about this. It was not good that we were only two days into Mongolia and I was already getting sick to my stomach with horror at what was being done. I just hoped that future treatments would be more humane, and that this was just something akin to hazing from a sorority or fraternity at a university.
The next chapter detailed the shamans asking Rowan's mother Kristin if there had been anyone on her side of the family "like a shaman", who perhaps had been "oversensitive of the mind" and "not entirely stable". The shamans were alluding to a close relative, as a type of spirit, disrupting Rowan, and black energy related to water, that black energy had entered Kristin's womb while she had been in water, and this unhelpful ancestor and the black energy were part of Rowan's autism. Anyone familiar with cold reading can see that this isn't exactly a revelation. Most people have a female relative, and almost all families have a relative who has some type of mental disability or may be considered eccentric or unstable, and in many cultures, women are considered more susceptible to mental illness, or at least were more likely to be diagnosed as having something wrong with them if they deviated from the norm. So these small suggestions could have Rowan's parents overthinking and experiencing pattern recognition when there is none. Humans are absolute devils about seeing significant connections that don't actually exist.
At this point, they set off in a van for outer Mongolia to meet more shamans. There is, according to the narrating Isaacson, a decided improvement in Rowan's behaviour. He is speaking in more fluid sentences now, possesses a larger vocabulary, and says "please" and "I love you".
But then an unusual occurrence takes Isaacson by surprise: Rowan refuses to ride the Mongolian horse that he had fitted for them to ride together in the wilderness, opting to stay in the van. His father notes this ironically, but he seems heartbroken at Rowan's refusal to ride. After all, this book was called The Horse Boy. But I couldn't help but remember that Rowan had not necessarily had a natural rapport with all horses, just Betsy and her herd. Maybe this horse just wasn't one that Rowan felt a connection with, or he was just plain tired and wanted to ride. Whatever the case, I didn't particularly see it as a devastating blow.
But Isaacson admits that he makes a mistake, and forces Rowan to ride Blackie with him. The chapter ends with Rowan screaming "help me, help me!" and "retreating" due to his nervous system being overloaded with stimuli. Having experienced similar blackouts before, I was extremely pained to read this, it was down right triggering for me, and I had to pause to put the book down for a few moments and gather my bearings.
When I started up again, Isaacson was miserable and angry at himself for what he did to Rowan, angry that he hadn't considered all the possibilities and accommodations, and wondering if Rowan had been stripped of his connection with horses by this trauma.
Fortunately though, Rowan bonds with a horse named Blue, and they eventually make it to the Reindeer people without much incident, save some food poisoning, a few tantrums from Rowan, and numerous "Code Browns" (Rowan is incontinent, this is parent code for a wash-up and fresh change of pants) The shaman they were seeking, a man by the name of Ghoste, assures them that Rowan will be a shaman one day, unless they do anything to disrupt it. After a ritual and the sacrifice and consumption of a special reindeer, they head out to return to Ulan Bator, and by all accounts, Rowan begins to show decided improvement. His speech increases drastically, he expands his imagination, and, much to his parents' relief, Code Browns become a thing of the past. Everyone is joyous as Rowan learns to use the toilet, begins to tell stories, and seems to lose his neurological overloads.
Upon their return to Texas, after a meeting with Simon Baron Cohen (Many bloggers better than I have covered why Baron Cohen is problematic as a speaker about autism) the family begins to notice Rowan's improvements are not hiccups or confined only to Mongolia. He seems happier, less miserable, and less prone to tempestuous changes in his body due to sensory overload. He makes friends, rides horses, and continues to progress. I define "progress" here as this: Rowan is happier. He is more aware of his surroundings, yet less likely to be hurt by them through a sensory overload.
When Rowan benefits, his family benefits. His parents experience more freedom now that their son is happier and less attached to them. During one of these outings, Rupert Isaacson mused on Rowan's progress:
Rowan is still autistic- his essence, his many talents, are all tied up with it. He has been healed of the terrible dysfunctions that afflicted him- this physical and emotional incontinence, his neurological firestorms, his anxiety and hyperactivity. But he has not been cured. Nor would I want him to be. To "cure" him, in terms of trying to tear the autism out, now seems to be completely wrong. Why can't he exist in both worlds, with a foot in both, as many neurotypical people do? Think of immigrants in the United States, living with one foot in their home language and culture, the other in the West, walking in two worlds. It is a rich place to be. Can Rowan keep learning the skills necessary to swim in our world while retaining the magic of his own? It seems a tangible dream.
I am not ashamed to admit that when I read that, I started crying.
The book ends a few pages after, talking about a new charity that Isaacson set up to combine equine therapy with autism therapy, and that the proceeds from this book would benefit scholarships for families of children with autism who could not otherwise afford this luxury/necessity.
The epilogue from a year and a half later came, detailing Rowan's continued progress and the success of the equine therapy school. With it were acknowledgements and thank you's, sources (one of which was Autism Speaks, ugh) and reading group guide questions. The very last question:
17. In what ways might autism be considered a gift?
It couldn't have possibly ended in a better way.

I went through a lot of emotions when reading this book. I took a different approach to both reading and reviewing it than I did Unstrange Minds or Autism's False Prophets, because while the former two were written by doctors in medicine or anthropology, and Unstrange Minds took a few steps away from Grinker's daughter Isabel, this was completely about Rowan and his family, personal and up close. I knew I would have to take a different attitude besides my de facto analytical approach, and take it all with a little grain of salt. And if you document my shifting opinions throughout the review, you'll notice I went through quite the emotional roller coaster: Anger, confusion, sadness, happiness, relief, apprehension.... It was interesting.
I also knew when I started this project of new age perspectives on autism that I would frequently be challenged by assertions that would upset me as a skeptic and a science advocate. Such is the case in this book, being angered by giving Rowan homeopathic solvents, chelation elements, and Isaacson's uncritical assertion that scientists believed that autism was caused by environmental factors. In fact, a genetic view is much more common, and the main proponent of the environmental theory (I hesitate to even dub it that) is quacks at Age of Autism. The promotion for Autism Speaks though, made me angriest. To have it come at the end of the book made all of Isaacson's beautiful words about curing being an absurd idea to ring hollow to a degree. I'm guessing he's not familiar with Autism Speaks' motives and philosophy, but it was still a bad move in my book.
However, in spite of it all, I really enjoyed this book, and I was overjoyed by the message of embracing autism. I know not all parents can journey to Mongolia, and so this works better as a travel memoir or an anthropological study of shamanistic rituals in Mongolia than it does as a book about how to resolve your own child or your own neurological tempests and troubles. But the fact that it was such a popular book (and film) testifies to the power of these types of stories to educate. Knowing that thousands, if not millions, of people read that passage above about how curing is a fool's errand and were asked to consider autism's gifts made me feel hope like never before.
As I continue to delve into the world of new age thought and autism, I wonder if I will discover more examples of this, of autism being seen as something more, something special. Not just a series of sturm & drang in need of desperate curing.
In the meantime, pick up the Horse Boy for yourself if you desire. The profits towards the book go into this cause.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Age & Autism Part One: The Horse Boy (Book review pt. 1)

My very first instalment in my series on New Age perspectives on autism begins with the book and movie of the same title, The Horse Boy, the book being written by Rupert Isaacson, the movie directed by Michael O. Scott. At the centre of both though is Rowan Isaacson, son of Rupert and Kristin. He is the titular "Horse Boy" and he has autism. The book and film both chronicle his parents taking him on a special trip to Mongolia to consult with traditional Mongolian shamans, in hopes of "healing" Rowan from his tantrums and incontinence, as well as helping him become more social and less agitated by overstimulation. The idea is that the combination of riding horses and shamanistic healing will benefit Rowan emotionally and physically.
For the purposes of this review, I will talk about the book only, and deal with the movie in a separate post.The book was written in collaboration with the movie, because the funding for the trip was made possible with the promise of a movie out of it, and the book deal accompanied it. I read the book first (A present from my boyfriend after a trip to our local Chapters) and saw the movie courtesy of Netflix Instant Watch.

The Book
Here's the good and bad about the beginning: I begged for my boyfriend to buy me this book because I saw a quote from Temple Grandin, arguably the most famous autistic person alive today, who endorsed it with hearty praise, citing it as a worthy book for those who wished to understand the connection between autistic humans and animals. Since I value Temple's opinion, I figured the book would be neurodiverse positive. However, in the back (I tend to read the backs of nonfiction books first, to see the sources used and acknowledgements) the very first "Recommended" place for more information was Autism Speaks. Normally I would reference exactly what they said, but I was so enraged by the endorsement of Autism Speaks that I tore out the page mentioning them and ate it, much to my boyfriend's shock and fright... *blush*
But other books on autism that I've cast my seal of approval upon had mentioned Autism Speaks in passing. It was certainly a major knockoff of points off their score for neurodiversity, but they made the cut, like Roy Richard Grinker's Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.
So I persisted, and began reading. Immediately after Rowan was born and Rupert began describing him, I began to feel apprehensive. He said he felt "Grief, shame- this weird, irrational shame, as if I had somehow cursed this child by giving him my faulty genes, condemned him to a lifetime of living as an alien because of me." when it was discovered that his son was autistic.
I can understand how these feelings are relevant to a new parent who does not know much about autism. But the detailed description creeped me out- it fit the rhetoric of Autism Speaks perfectly: Autism steals, autism is shameful, autism is a curse, autism is no hope. Autistic genes are "faulty". It was not a good start. I suppose it is because I have yet to become a parent myself, but Isaacson's feelings were completely alien to me, and I could not at all sympathize to that sentiment upon his son's diagnosis.
But I do appreciate Isaacson's honesty. It continued when, upon bringing Rowan home from the hospital, he and his wife dreamed about their aspirations and hopes for the newborn: "Kristin... indulged her own fond images of someday engaging in long spiritual and philosophical discussions with her intelligent, spiritually and intellectually precocious son." or, "... already imagining how I'd teach him to ride, share adventures on horseback with him." perhaps I am reading into this incorrectly, but I gathered from the way that this memoir was set up was that this was foreshadowing to the fact that Rowan, as an autistic child, would NOT be fulfilling his parents' dreams and ambitions.
I'm going to deviate a little here and just mention that while it is understandable for parents to project dreams and ambitions of their own upon their children, the Isaacson's example serves as a perfect demonstration as to how flawed it really is, and only precipitates extreme disappointment. It's not just for autism either. Dream of your child becoming a star basketball player? What happens if an accident or disease physically disables them, or they're just not that interested, or their hand-eye coordination doesn't develop properly? Imagining troves of grandchildren and a beautiful white wedding for your daughter to a prince charming? What happens when your daughter comes out of the closet and/or gets her tubes tied? When we do these projections, we almost inevitably base it upon the assumption that our child will be able-bodied, neurotypical, straight, and cisgendered. They're also often based on the idea that the child will grow up sharing and adhering to our own values and morals. It starts from an early age, and continues until something "wrong" occurs. Rowan's autism is one example of this. But what a world it would be, if instead of considering their dreams crushed, parents everywhere took these revelations as a chance to open up new dreams and let their children take their own path in life. It would make a world of difference in the outlook not only of the parents, but of the child as well. Even children that are thought to be emotionally devoid or inattentive to the feelings of others, it can be sensed when one is considered a disappointment or a splotch on the perfect plans of our parents. The psychological effects of this realization are downright traumatizing.
When Rowan's autism begins to manifest itself, in tantrums, lack of pointing and eye contact, and delayed speech, Isaacson documents their attempts to understand why he is acting this way, seeking therapists, grandparents, and friends to offer advice or reassure them that it would pass in time. But as Rowan continues to show signs of autism, the damaging rhetoric begins to start up again, full throttle. "Our boy, our beautiful boy, was floating away from us, and there was nothing we could do." Chapter 2 opens with the words "We had a special needs kid. We had become one of those families."
Excuse me? One of those families?
It was then that I began to think, and was correct in thinking so, that this was all going to go downhill from here. It is one thing to document the struggles your family faces upon a new diagnosis of autism or any type of disability, and how it affects your life and the way people treat you. It is another thing to treat it like a scarlet letter affixed to your forehead which is cause for shame.
The rest of that opening entered much more familiar and sympathetic territory: A parent's search for the right information, and fighting back against the sea of red tape that has come to characterize seeking assistance from the government in America when it comes to therapy and medical assistance.
Even with two college-educated parents, one of whom held a PhD in Psychology, it was still a taxing, terrible uphill battle. ABA, the most commonly accepted treatment for autism, would cost them $50,000 a year. To give you an idea, in 2003, the median household income in Texas was $40,934 from 2001-2003. * Even two college-educated parents pulling a decent income would not be able to afford such an expense, and those that do are often reduced to extreme poverty to attempt to cope with the cost. It is something which perfectly displays the way our society has failed to assist families and individuals who need help managing with their disabilities.
During a talk about the costs of ABA, Isaacson and his wife talk about Rowan "recovering" from autism. At one point, Isaacson reminisces about two autistic boys that he knew while attending a Waldorf School in the UK, where he grew up:
One, Simon, used to regularly strangle the other kids and had to be pulled off of them by force now and then. He'd stand and flap and screech. He had once set fire to the school. The older one, an older boy called Robert, used to get his penis out in the middle of the crowded highways, masturbate wildly, and shout "Cock-a-doodle-do!" at the top of his voice.
Would that be Rowan?
As I read this, I felt nothing short of sorry for poor Rowan. Not because he may end up one day flapping and screeching or doing public exposure, but because his father had so little access to positive images of people with autism that he thought there could be no worse fate than being autistic and ending up like those two boys (Note, I don't believe in making autistic people act neurotypical in order to make neurotypicals uncomfortable. But I do believe that endangering other people or sexually harassing them is unacceptable)

As the book continued, I got treated to a detailed description of what they did to Rowan to treat his autism, and my most hated enemy, chelation, showed up. It was described in the book as rubbing on a sulphur-smelling gel onto Rowan with much resistance, and it was casually noted that chelation "took the good stuff out with the bad". I couldn't even imagine what terror and misery that being subject to chelation (Which can kill, by the way ) But it did not end there. Isaacson also fed Rowan Valaciclovir, more commonly known as Valtrax, a herpes medication, and a plethora of self-described sundry homeopathic supplements. To make Rowan agree to taking this foul concoction, they fed him extremely sugared chocolate milk, which of course worsened his hyperactivity and tantrums. Uh?
I'm already on record as to why I despise chelation, and homeopathy is downright quackery. I was trying really hard to forgive Rowan's parents for doing this, since they could not afford ABA and were unsure, but I do not see this as a parent. I see it as one of those people who, if I had been diagnosed at an early age, probably would have been subject to the chelation and pills. And the thought of choking down a variety of non-regulated supplements and herpes medication in an attempt to make me act more neurotypical gives me nightmares. What they did, even if it was out of a combination of misinformation and desperation, was unacceptable. The entire industry of autism cures is held responsible here, but Rowan is the one who suffers most.
I also took issue with Isaacson unquestioningly repeating claims about autism having an environmental cause, as well as looking to Simon Baron-Cohen, who is not particularly popular among the neurodiverse community, for answers to the "cause" of autism. He did not bother to dispute the claim that autism is linked to heavy metal poisoning or another environmental factor, not even a paragraph.
Considering how much press this book got, as a New York Times bestseller, this is extremely problematic. It aids the continuation of autism misinformation, and I believe something Isaacson could have done best to help not only his son, but all autistic people, was to include at least a paragraph admitted that the smelly solvents were not the solution, and that it is now common fact that chelation is dangerous and deadly.
I began to ease into the book more as it transitioned from bemoaning Rowan's autism to describing his great enjoyment of their backyard and the two zoos in Austin. This was something that brought me back to my own childhood, where I was comforted by outdoor adventures in Hawaii, Vancouver, and Montana with my parents. The quiet of the forests, the comforting rhythm of the ocean, and the smells, sounds, and sensations were the ultimate remedy to the over-stimulation of school and everyday life in a very busy town. One of my favourite things to do was to sit in the grass, look up, and admire the pleasing patterns of leaves and light breaking in through each other to form a type of mosaic, or else swing about on a rope swing. Being outdoors calmed me, and allowed me to collect my scattered thoughts.
These outdoor trips lead Rowan's parents, particularly his mother, to use his love of animals as a gateway to getting him to open up and excite him, to fantastic results. Coming home to see his room covered in animal posters, he was overjoyed, and was thought by parents to kick-start his imagination, using the posters as a springboard to tell stories about Rowan and his adventures with animals. I felt that this was the best part of the book so far, closer to what Roy Richard Grinker had done to help his autistic daughter flourish in Unstrange Minds, Remapping the World of Autism, through art and cello music.
It is during this episode that Rowan is discovered to have a rapport with a particular horse by the name of Betsy. Isaacson, having been raised around horses, believes that his son has a direct link to horses, and becomes determined to use Betsy to open him up and relax him in a way ABA failed to. This is also a time, during a Shaman's conference, where Rowan is exposed to Shamanistic medicine. Isaacson concludes that if Rowan is positively affected by both horses and Shamanism, the logical conclusion is to take him to Mongolia, where Shamanism and Horsemanship is combined in the local tradition. With the promise of a film deal (And this book) and after getting the consent of his wife, Isaacson, her, and Rowan set off via the UK to Mongolia.
In preparation for his journey, he meets with Temple Grandin, who offers an explanation for why the horse therapy has helped Rowan so much, and gives her his blessing for the journey to Mongolia. Just before they leave, Kristin Isaacson describes her son as "a born Buddhist", since he lives in the moment, doesn't take things personally, and doesn't suffer after the fact the way neurotypicals do. A rare deviation from the usual language of autism as a burden, turning to focus on Rowan's gifts and how his differing perspective can be a true blessing.
While on the way to Mongolia, Isaacson muses that he did not want to "cure" Rowan any longer:
Cured as in not being autistic anymore- for that was part of his essence. But I did want him healed. If there was anything Kristin and I wanted to say to the shamans, it was Please let him come back toilet-trained. Please let him no longer be held at the mercy of his tantrums, of his wild-storm nervous system. No longer hyperactive, with that incessant edge of anxiety that was like a fist around the heart, always ready to close suddenly and hard.
I'll be a bit honest here, deviate from the material, and just say this plain confused me. I have never really understood, as a skeptic with no real religious ties, the new-age obsession with healing. I've been offered multiple times by friends and acquaintances to be "healed" in some fashion or another. When I think of the word "healing", it seems to have the same properties as curing, only with a slightly less medical implication attached to it. I admit I can sympathize with the idea of putting Rowan in less pain, since I have many sensory issues that sometimes make it difficult to happily function in the everyday world. But I am still uncertain whether "healing" would be the word I would use, considering its baggage.

Part two of the review will detail the actual journey and aftermath in Mongolia.

* Source: Page 21, Money Income of Households by State Using 2- and 3-Year-Average Medians: 2001 to 2003