Meet the Practitioner- Acupuncture with Jade Connolly-Duggan

As part of the TFH mission to introduce readers to more treatment options for themselves and their children, I am thrilled to share an interview with Jade Connelly-Duggan, acupuncturist at WisdomWell in Columbia, MD.
About 6 months after my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a trusted physical therapist friend palpated her abdomen and told me that her liver was inflamed and that I should take her to an acupuncturist.  “Oh sure.”  I thought…  take my just turned 2-year-old to an acupuncturist.  Ha!
Taking a leap of faith, and desperate to find help for my little girl, I made a phone call, found an acupuncturist that worked with children, and started my family’s introduction to “alternative” medicine.  On the second appointment our acupuncturist, Jade, used a needle for the first time.  Claire did cry with this first needle.  I felt hopeless.  After countless blood draws and an endoscopy I was not interested in anything that would cause her more pain.  We walked out of the office and I asked my daughter, “Did the lady hurt you?”  She replied, “Nooooo Mommy.  She made me feel GOOOOOOOD.” and wrapped me in a hug.
TFH:  Jade, Please explain a bit about acupuncture.  How do you see acupuncture helping children today?  What results have you seen for children dealing with the new childhood epidemics of Autism, Allergies, ADHD, Asthma, and Autoimmune conditions?
Jade:  Acupuncture is really all about reminding the body- the person, whether child or adult about what it already has the capacity, though sometimes latent, to do and be.
Children are really amazing because they often respond so quickly- they have a lot less “in the way” of remembering all the simple goodness they arrived on this planet with.
For example, I have a card on my desk that says “ADHD is a gift”.  It is actually literature from a treatment center in Ohio, which states implicitly that they are “on a mission to unwrap the gifts of this trait”  and I think that’s really important.  You know there are some ways in which we must bear whatever we must bear in life- and yet there’s always some beautiful nugget you couldn’t have gotten without it.  For example some children with autism, despite expectation, really love to be held.  They teach us something about the value and importance of touch, which we have basically done away with societally, for somewhat understandable, and I assert, fear-based reasons.
In terms of what families can expect, it is really individual.  I have seen children with allergies clear up instantly (after surprising me by allowing me to put 10 needles in their back!) and others whose guts heal slowly over time, often along with some level of anxiety or perfectionism easing up simultaneously.  I’ve seen children with autism regain speech and enhanced executive function, or reduce “stim” type behaviors or reduced tics and repetitive behaviors.  And then there are children who are simply more able to connect with family members or peers.
ADHD is kind of a crazy diagnosis.  Sometimes it’s really something the child and family are working through and it’s tough, and sometimes it’s a really bright barely five-year-old boy who of course doesn’t want to sit down most of the day in a classroom full of stuff to explore.  Mostly though, there are different ways of approaching “learning” with many of these young folks.  We all know people have different learning styles, and a fabulous colleague and neurodevelopmental pediatrician Stephen Cowan writes in his wonderful book, “Fire Child, Water Child” about how we can help our children learn to focus.  Focus is really a skill and can be taught.  It just can’t be taught or enforced the same way for everyone.
Acupuncture helps in this arena because we “see the child” in a way the parents are too close to, the teacher doesn’t have space for, and the pediatrician doesn’t have the tools besides drugs for.  
Sometimes simple breathing exercises are the end of medications, and sometimes more support is required.
One of my favorite stories from acupuncture school is about a man named Charlie, who was a patient of my father’s (also an acupuncturist).  Charlie came in one day and said “You know, I never thought asthma would be my friend.” What could he possibly mean? He went on, “When I first came in I was in and out of the ER and on a lot of medicine.  Today I can notice a little shallow breathing many days before any more severe symptoms arise, and when I notice that, I know I’ve not been sleeping well or I’m fighting with my wife- now my asthma teaches me to pay attention to my life and I rarely ever have to even use the inhaler.”
What if our children learned to pay attention to their bodies this way at five and six years old?
Jade treats a 10-month-old boy with eczema
TFH:  When we were talking the recently, you brought up the idea of how “inflammatory” our lives are today.  Can you explain this idea?
Jade:  If you think about what inflammation is you think of an infected wound- it’s red, hot, throbbing- everything is rushing towards it.  If you think about how we live our lives we tend to do that too.
We’re going, rushing toward everything, every problem or concern becomes a crisis.  We are constantly worried about something and getting upset about it- money, relationships, health, or lack thereof, or how to “get it all done.”  
Our news is always rushing to the problems, and we’re kicking up our adrenaline and running on caffeine or exercise to keep us going.    Our work is fast and never enough and long hours.  We don’t take time to cool down.  We are rushing from work to carpool line to soccer.  We don’t even sit down to chew while we eat, nevermind let our children get 10-12 hours of sleep per night, much less ourselves.
Our bodies are built to do some physical work a good portion of the day, but to put it all down at sundown and not start again until after sunrise.  How often do you do that?  It’s almost 9:00 pm now as I’m writing this, and I’m much more aware of building in “not doing” time than most people I meet in the treatment room.  Many physicians recognize at this point that almost all our chronic illnesses are rooted in inflammation and that stress is a major modulator of inflammatory response.  Of course stress is mostly a matter of perception- which is very hard to regulate when we’re exhausted and running 10-12 hours a day!
In upper business eschelons they are beginning to recognize that we are actually much more efficient and effective if we take a little nap or meditation in the middle of the day.  I’m interested in helping it catch on for the rest of us because it will make a huge difference to our personal wellness and the healthcare crisis at large.
TFH:  What advice do you have for a parent looking for an acupuncturist for their child?  What questions would you ask to see if the practitioner will work well with children?
Jade:  Most acupuncturists are pretty honest about how comfortable they are with children, so the first question would be to ask outright “Do you treat children?” or ask specifically about your child’s situation.  A personal referral is of course always the best.  Having said that there are a few things you could ask. It’s usually a good sign if the practitioner has children or has been working with children a long time.  They should also have some questions for you right off the bat about what’s going on.  Even if they aren’t familiar with your child’s diagnosis they will likely ask other questions about your child like sleeping, eating, and pooping.  Don’t be discouraged as acupuncturists don’t require a western diagnosis to be helpful.  We use other diagnostic clues to guide treatments such as pulses, voice tone, tongue color and food preferences.   If they say they “never use needles on children” they may not have even tried!
Think of your child as a person.  Is the practitioner you’re talking to someone your child will respond to? Does the practitioner talk directly to your child or just to you about the child (not a good plan in the long run!).  We are working on a program to have a network of trusted practitioners across the country and maybe the globe.  Meanwhile I know a number of good practitioners on the east coast and a few elsewhere about the country, so you can always call us at WisdomWell for a referral too.
TFH:  Congratulations on your success with your practice, WisdomWell!  Can you please tell TFH readers about WisdomWell and the work you are doing there?
Jade:  We have multiple programs and goals at WisdomWell.  We offer services such as acupuncture, craniosacral, nutrition, etc.  We also have amazing classes- Tai Chi, QiGong, Yoga for Memory, series’ on Living fully with Death- and we have concerts and fabulous parties!
My excitement is really around transforming our larger cultural conversations about health.  We have a couple avenues we work with towards this end.  One is corporate work.  Since so many of us spend a lot of our hours at work we are transforming work culture for adults to bring home to families, so as to affect corporate bottom line so that the greater financially interested will take notice and be willing to put money into wellness practices to preempt the cultural paradigm of “I’ll deal with my health later” or being at war with our diseases. I have a saying “I don’t believe in pathology only unrecognized virtue.” Often this is just taking notice of what’s happening in our bodies, which helps us to be also more aware elsewhere in our lives and work.
The other end of this of course, is re-empowering families and individuals to care for themselves.  We have a program called 100 Well Families that is really all about teaching basic life skills to reduce stress and tension in your household (we all know when mommy or daddy are tense so is everyone else!) and then adding some basic knowledge about herbs, homeopathy, breathing and stretching.  We want everyone to recover the basic stuff their grandmothers knew, plus the stuff we’ve learned from modern science about how malleable our health and wellness really is, and where the light switch is in our own bodies to turn on the capacity to heal.  I really want every person to know how they are in control of their own tension and upset, which are the main precursors to illness and show them how they can transform those into opportunities for healing.  I want children to grow up knowing what wellness looks like (hint: there’s no hand sanitizer and there are a few colds!).
Brandie Jefferson wrote a really nice article about our program in Her Mind Magazine
If you are interested in any of our programs or want to talk with a practitioner we are located in Columbia, Maryland and can be reached at 443.393.2650 or
 TFH:  THANK YOU Jade for sharing your wisdom here at Thriving Family Health!

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Sarah CusackMeet the Practitioner- Acupuncture with Jade Connolly-Duggan

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