Child with possible ODD, need help, advice

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by RR2323, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. RR2323

    RR2323 New Member

    Hi there. I am glad I found this website. My daughter is about to turn 5 this month. She has always been a strong-willed child but her behavior issues have been increasing over the last year and getting very bad in the last couple of months. She is very defiant and after reading the ODD symptoms list she sounds like a perfect fit! She is having issues at home and at preschool and she may get kicked out of preschool if her behavior doesn't change very soon. They send her to the office and it has no affect on her. She is pushing and hitting other students, knocking down their block towers, drawing on their pictures, pushing and shoving in line, not doing what she is told, purposefully annoying the other students, lies about things she has done, blames others for her behavior etc.

    She is very smart and has no difficulty learning. She has great attention and does not have any symptoms of ADD at all. Do any of you have children with just ODD and nothing else?

    I called around to some child psychologists today and I'm waiting to here back. Although she has had some behavior issues for a while, it has really gotten bad quickly to the point that it is affecting our home life and her time in preschool in a major way. I am having a very difficult time with this...we have a younger daughter with health issues and there is just so much to deal with.

    Thanks for listening. Any advice/support is greatly appreciated.
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Yes, you can have ODD and nothing else, but frankly in my experience, there is always an underlying reason.

    Some kids just need a different way of handling. It's nothing to do with how smart they are (or are not), but more a complex set of expectations that we have for most kids, that for various reasons are not right for our kids.

    For example, if a child has impulse control issues; task changing issues; doesn't know what is right or not; knows what is right but for various reasons cannot comply on demand; doesn't understand (because of ambiguity); has anger issues - any of these can prevent the usual punishment-based discipline methods from working.

    You say she lies - all kids lie. But some lies are complex fabrications, other lies are merely "I didn't do it" even when they've been caught red-handed.

    Kids who lie do it to avoid punishment, to avoid negative consequences. The more anxious the child, the more they will try to lie. Autistic kids tend to not lie so much (especially when older) because they are bad at it. A bad liar is NOT a kid who rarely lies, it's the kid who gets caught lying.

    difficult child 3 is high-functioning autistic, but he can still lie. Mostly he tries the "I didn't do it" simple lie because his long-term experience of getting caught out when he does try to lie, has over time produced a conditioned response in him to not lie.

    I used to claim that difficult child 3 didn't lie because, being autistic, he couldn't. Then his teacher said, "But I caught him in a lie! I saw him push Jeremy, so I asked hi - 'Did you push Jeremy?' and he said, 'No, I didn't.' But I had seen him. When I told him I had seen it, he then admitted it. But you say he can't lie - but I caught him at it."

    That is when I observed more closely and realised the teacher was correct - to a point. difficult child 3 had shifted to the truth when confronted, because he is smart enough to realise when the gig is up. But another problem about lies - kids like difficult child 3 will try to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. So when the same teacher said to him, "I know you said Jeremy deliberately tripped you up, but Jeremy said he was on the other side of the playground, his friends say he was nowhere near you either, so do you think you could be mistaken? After all, you have autism and sometimes things didn't happen the way you think they did."
    That teacher got difficult child 3 to back down from his earlier statement (also supported by a witness) that Jeremy and his friends had attacked him. difficult child 3 came to me later in the day and said, "Mr S said I must have been mistaken, because my autism means I sometimes don't see things right. I didn't know I could get it so wrong, I was so sure I saw Jeremy trip me up."
    difficult child 3 was genuinely puzzled because he had, in fact, been correct - Jeremy HAD attacked him. And Jeremy's friends all backed Jeremy up in lying to Mr S. But the other kids had worked out that difficult child 3 could be easily bamboozled because he often got identities wrong. Face blindness. Plus the teacher wanted to take the easy way out and not need to talk to the other parents about their boys. It was easier for him to convince difficult child 3 that he was wrong.

    You say your daughter has gotten bad really quickly, especially over the last year. What changed a year ago? Is that when she started pre-school? Or a new teacher arrived? An old one left? Or a change in other kids?
    There is always a reason that makes sense to the child.

    You haven't told us a lot about her in detail; much of what she is doing would need to be carefully observed, so you can try and get inside her head.

    A couple of things to keep in mind while you observe - no child is deliberately bad, not at this age. Children want to be happy, and they want to please us. So when she is raging and hurting other kids, this was not her first choice of action. She is doing this because for her at that time, it feels like she has no choice. So it's important to try to work out WHY she could feel this way.

    I'm not saying she's right - of course she isn't. But she's a very young child, she has a long way to go, in learning the right way to get on with people. She's not 'cooked' yet, and something is making her so angry and frustrated that she is lashing out. So we need to find out what is upsetting her, and why. And how.

    difficult child 3 would react badly to a change in routine. At school he wanted to be the one who read out the class roll and changed the date on the calendar. If in his mind he was expecting the task to be his and for some reason this task was given to someone else. difficult child 3 would rage. He would get very angry at whoever he felt was responsible for the break in tradition. He might hit the child who got the job he felt was his.

    I suggest you read "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. Google it, see what you find. It's all over this site because so many of us have found it helped. There are other books. YOu also don't have to take everything form this book, you just take what feels like it will fit.
    If you go to the Early Childhood Forum, you will find some stickies there that deal with applying "Explosive Child" to younger kids.

    There is help here. Your daughter sounds a lot like many of the kids who bring us to this site. You've made a good start trying to find a good psychologist. Try to find where/how you can get a neuropsychologist assessment done on her. You need a detailed assessment so you can examine the sub-scores and find her strengths and weaknesses. It is also possible she may have difficulty being assessed, especially if she tends to be non-compliant. A neuropsychologist is an important step towards getting a diagnosis that you can use to help her.

    Do a sig for yourself when you can (don't use real names, it's important you maintain your confidentiality).

    And welcome!

  3. RR2323

    RR2323 New Member

    Thank you for the response. Let me tell you a bit more. I did just read the Explosive Child and that explains a lot! I have been able to recognize situations where she might become extremely frustrated and before she does I am talking with her and understanding WHY she is getting so frustrated and redirecting her. We have diffused quite a few possible meltdowns in the last coupe of days :)

    I am having trouble with the things she explodes about quickly with no warning. She dropped her sunglasses in the car (she is in a carseat) and right away she start screaming, crying, and freaking out! It is like she has no control of her emotions when she gets frustrated over something as silly as dropping a pair of sunglasses. I told her I would help her find them (i was not driving) but she kept kicking her feet against my seat and I couldn't even get my hands back there with all her kicking.

    Yesterday she was doing her preschool book without frustration and our youngest daughter 3 was coloring. All of a sudden our daughter starts screaming "she's copying me!" HUH? I said, "sweety she is 3, she cannot write letters she is just scribbling!" It was an all out meltdown because she thought her sister was copying her and she KNEW she wasn't! It was totally irrational, I don't get it!

    On the playground today she was cutting in front of other kids, was not waiting her turn, getting extremely frustrated on the monkey bars. I asked her if there was something else she rather do that was more fun and less frustrating and she went over to the swings. I told her I was proud of her for choosing the swings because she has fun on them. Immediately she jumps off the swing and back to the monkey bars where she proceeded to get frustrated and throw a fit. Again, I don't get it!

    I do feel like she gets something in her head and cannot let go of it. She gets fixated on something and then there is no stopping a meltdown. She loses her ability to rationalize.

    She is very articulate, she was an early talker. She has a great memory, she asks great questions, she has an awesome imagination. She can be very loving, silly, funny etc. She gets so frustrated though, it is NOT normal. I am so looking forward to seeing child psychiatric! Are there certain tests I should ask for? I am new the area of mental health!
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You are exactly right. She currently can't control her emotions due to frustration at the sudden change in her 'world'. There really isn't anything much you can do about this in the short term. Keep doing what you can, especially if you feel it's working. As for her getting suddenly upset in the car - stay calm yourself and try to not comment on her rage. Simply say, "I'll pull over when I can so you can get the sunglasses."

    When she got upset because "she's copying me" - instead of telling her, "no, she isn't" (because to her, it's as if YOU are being oppositional, it's actually teaching her to handle her own frustrations by denying what you say) try turning it into a question. "What makes you think she is copying you?"

    Also you can ask, "Why is it not good for her to be copying you?"

    Try to get her to think about it in a 'different direction" (not the "'tis", "tisn't" alternative). By asking her to explain what it is about the situation that she interprets as a problem, you're partly redirecting but leaving it up to her to explain, rather than you trying to explain it to her.

    I suspect she would have said, "She's drawing too, and trying to do what I do."
    You could then say, "Why is this a problem for you? Maybe she wants to be like you, she's perhaps looking up to you."
    Don't tell her how things are; let her explore the possibilities and try to work it out for herself. You can help, you can ask questions, you can hint, but always include, "I think; what do you think?" and accept her opinions as valid.

    Example - child asks, "Why is the moon shiny at night?" and instead of explaining in detail, you can ask, "What do you think could be the reason?" You could even go look it up on the internet together. It's a move from you as the law-giver and law-enforcer (however gentle) to you as the supporter, the calm in the storm, the person who can help her see things clearly for herself.

    Her getting frustrated on the monkey bars - we had similar problems with difficult child 3 on the school "fort". It was a huge problem for us because the other kids knew how important it was to difficult child 3 to get his 'turn' and they would often abuse tis information to upset him (and thus provide entertainment). difficult child 3 would sometimes be late in to class because he had waited for his turn all lunch (with other kids annoying him, cutting in, or even getting him to rage so the teachers would make him go sit down and miss his turn even more) and by crikey, he was going to HAVE his turn! We had to regiment the play on the fort, so he could get a FAIR turn (and not have the other kids use it to upset him).
    Also if he was trying to do a particular trick or achieve a certain goal (such as getting all the way across the flying fox without falling) then he would keep trying, often getting increasingly upset, until he got it.
    This sort of persistence can be very difficult to handle, but it is actually one of the strengths in these kids - imagine how useful such persistence can be, when working on something important! These are kids who won't give up easily and walk away.
    Did you say to her, "I'm proud of you choosing the swings" and she seemed to go back to the monkey bars in response to what you said? Or did she try the swings briefly then seem to decide she didn't want to swing after all?

    If it's this last option, try asking her exactly what she is trying to achieve on the monkey bars, and ask her if she will let you help, so she can get to her goal more quickly. For example, if trying to hang from the ladder and walk hand over hand along it while hanging, you could offer to hold her for a practice go, so she can feel how to do it without having to take her full weight. Then you could apply less and less lift until she can do it by herself.

    The level of frustration is something you can get in a number of conditions, including Asperger's. And as I said, later on (once she can harness it) this will stand her in very good stead.

    Another example - a close friend of mine has a very stubborn (and difficult at times) daughter. This girl is also very bright - IQ above 140 somewhere. When she was about 18 months old, this girl decided she was going to learn to do up the buckles on her sandals. My friend said the little girl stayed put, bottom in the air, head down, working on those sandals, for half an hour, until she got it. Whenever my friend offered to do it for her or to help, the little girl screamed at her, "NO! ME do it!"
    And she did it.

    The trouble is, we have to cope with them as they learn to control it.

    Roll on, psychiatric appointment...

  5. RR2323

    RR2323 New Member

    Thank you again for the reply. I wanted to add that she DOES NOT LISTEN in addition to all these other frustration issues. Some days she does not meltdown and does not get frustrated very often. However, she doesn't listen. She knows there are rules and she doesn't follow any of them. You name the rule, she breaks it. I am all about choosing battles and letting some things go to avoid frustration episodes but I cannot let everything go. The day is one struggle after another. She is climbing on the counter to get snacks, she is chasing the cat, she is in the bathroom draining the soap and making a mess, she won't come in from outside, she won't go outside when we want to go outside etc.

    I will give her a snack and then she wants more. If it is before dinner I will tell her no more, she needs to eat dinner first and then she can have another snack/dessert after dinner. She insists on and on. If I leave the room to attend to our other daughter I come back and she has gotten more of the snack. I have tried everything I can think of and nothing works.

    We have done the traditional rewards for good behavior and consequences for breaking the rules/undesireable behaviors. Been there done that VERY CONSISTENTLY and does NOT work. I think the philosphy in the "explosive child" is great and is working in some situations. But the bottom line is there are rules for a reason and I am having a hard time throwing all the rules out the window to avoid meltdowns. Having a 5 year old break rules all day long is NO FUN either.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You need to look at hypothetical situations to begin to understand what is happening here. For example, if there are no rules, she won't be able to break them. OK, that is extreme. But if you want to teach her to follow rules, the first thing you do (think - with a baby) is set rules the baby is already doing.

    Next - put in rules the baby can follow, can understand and can learn. For example, you don't ask a baby to do trigonometry in order to earn the right to have a glass of juice. With your daughter, it seems to me you are asking her to comply with rules she cannot comply with, or cannot understand.

    When I say "cannot comply with" I don't mean she is physically unable to comply with, but in her case the compulsion to do whatever it is is just too strong.

    An example from a niece of mine - she was about two years old, we were at a family barbecue at her aunt's place (another of my sister's). I watched this little girl take a clod of earth from the garden, walk to the path and drop it and watch it break. She would go back, get another clod of earth and take it to the path and drop it, watching. It was fascinating to me - this two-year-old was clearly, to me, studying the way the clods of earth broke up on impact.
    Her mother called her for lunch.
    The little girl ignored her. I'm fairly sure she heard (or I was sure at the time - not so sure now) and my other sister (the one whose house it was) said, "Oh, she's being deliberately naughty, she's disobeying you on purpose."
    I said, "I think she's made a decision in her own mind that what she is doing now, is more important than doing what she has been told."
    Our hostess said angrily, "She's only two! Stop trying to analyse everyone and everything! She's just being a naughty girl!"
    But I don't think she was old enough to fully understand "naughty". She was doing something of incredible fascination to her and the most important thing to her right then, was to finish it. If we tried to impose rules on her right then, it was guaranteed that she would ignore them.
    What happened - her mother came and fetched her (did not smack her, as our sister said she should). My niece screamed in outrage at being interrupted, but smacking would have escalated this. So she did eat some lunch, but kept wanting to get down to go back to the garden. She did eat her lunch then went back to dropping clods of earth. When she had finished, I got the broom and made sure my little niece watched while I swept the dirt back onto the garden. Not a punishment - just a job that her game had produced.

    In a lot of ways, kids like ours are still at that 2 year old level. They get caught up in "I MUST do this, and do it now," and any other rule can never take precedence.

    Now, if your child is continually breaking the rules, then you are losing face and she is learning that rules can get broken after all. Of course you then get angry, so she learns the next stage - people get angry.
    The connection between "I broke the rules - people get angry" doesn't happen. And that is the connection you need, in order for rules to be learned. The more the rules get broken, the harder it is to learn to obey those rules (especially if she's Aspie). You can build up negative correlations just as fast as positive ones, and any habits take a lot longer to be unlearned.

    Some rules you have may not be needed. And some rules may be needed but may be able to be learned a different way. She is very young for this, however. Still, the more obvious rules may be able to be learned by using "natural consequences". You could, for example, let her eat the snacks she wants but tell her she needs to be sure she can still eat her dinner; and then when she can't eat her dinner, gently remind her that she misjudged her hunger.

    Or what I used to do - at 5, kids get hungry but also get tired. I made sure I had a fridge full of healthy food, the sort they could eat as snacks or as a meal. My kids would come home to a fridge stocked with carrot sticks, celery sticks, cheese slices and cold cooked sausages. They knew fairly quickly what they were permitted to help themselves to. If they wanted "comfort food" such as noodles or cake, they had to eat enough healthy food first, to satisfy me. I wouldn't make them eat something they didn't like, but we had to work to find what they DID like that was on my 'healthy' list. We found some surprising foods that the kids liked.

    They would, at 5, come home from school absolutely ravenous. Sometimes they hadn't eaten their lunch (we "brown bag" it in Australia) and if it was still edible, I would make them eat it then. And/or I would let them have a sausage or piece of chicken and some salad vegetables. If I had leftover roast chicken and leftover roast vegetables, I might microwave a small plate of fresh roast dinner.

    Often, when they were 5, they would come home, eat a lot, then get sleepy. It had been a long day at school so we often put the kids to bed earlier than before they had started school, and know they had just had a healthy meal.

    If the child ate a full (but early) dinner (as a series of snacks) they could still eat more at the dinner table, but I would serve a lot less so they didn't feel too overloaded with food. The rule is, "Take all you want, but eat all you take."

    I know this sounds anarchic, but from a parenting point of view, it solved a lot of problems - the child ate when the child was hungry. The child ate, over the day, balanced, healthy meals. The child learned to enjoy healthy food and to not over-eat or over-indulge (with the exception of easy child, whose problems in this area puzzle me but I think have a physiological cause). The child was not trying to eat when too tired because the day's efforts have caught up with him/her. We got to eat our meal with tranquility.

    As the child got more accustomed to school routine and the efforts involved, the child was more able to wait and eat a full meal with the family.

    Another thing - we raised a family of faddy eaters. Or to be more precise - they were faddy despite our approach, not because of it. easy child & difficult child 1 were fine, no fads/phobias. But easy child 2/FDF2 would only eat creamy textures, and no "bits" in anything. No food allowed to touch. While difficult child 3 would NOT eat anything creamy, preferred his food to be chunky and mixed together. it was Jack Spratt and his wife... and in the interests of both harmony, andensuring that the kids didn't starve, I catered to it to a certain extent. Modern conveniences make this a fairly easy task.

    Now, I know they say that kids won't self-starve past a certain point, but that is NORMAL kids. When you have a kid who is already so underweight that doctors and government nurse practitioners look askance at you, you do your utmost to get your kid to eat. My three younger kids (especially the youngest two) were always underweight. So I found foods they liked and cooked those foods in bulk.

    The kids like noodles - so I learned how to make my own egg noodles, really quickly. I found methods which worked well for me. Having so much egg in the noodle meant the kids were getting a high protein meal.

    I'm not saying you should do this, only the reasoning behind the way I did things.

    basically what I did - I modified the rules, to make them easier to accomplish. I also cut them right back to the level of what the kids were doing anyway.

    Now, we do have important rules - the most important ones are - we are a family, we work together as best we can. This means working towards good self-care and also where possible, working together to help others in the family (such as chores to help get dinner, feed pets, do something for someone else when they ask if you expect them to do things for you when you ask). Reciprocation. These things have natural consequences as 'punishment' - if you won't stir yourself to help your mother, then she will be too tired to fix your favourite food.
    The next important rule - don't disadvantage anyone else in the family. Or if there is no way to avoid it, then disadvantage people as little as possible and make amends where you can.

    These rules round very abstract, but they have concrete ways of expressing them so a little kid can understand.

    The younger the child, the more they cannot follow these rules. A baby will make a huge impact on the household, inconveniences a lot of people, makes people tired, makes a lot of work, cannot self-care. A difficult child will, in various ways, be like a baby. So you work on the stuff they can do, and leave the rest (no matter how unreasonable this may seem to observers).

    To help you with this problem - I think you may need to take some time for yourself (and with your partner if there is one) and analyse your rules. As you do this, try to find the natural consequences. Look also at the rules she is consistently breaking, and see if, at least for a while, you can find a way to do without those rules.

    Obviously some rules are vital - we have an important one, "no food in the bedrooms". I have had at times to stand there and watch the kids eat at the table, or maybe on a plate on their laps in front of the TV. But not at the computer (because food and drink can do damage) and not in their rooms (because the slightest trace of dropped food makes a mess and brings in vermin).
    In their teens, the older kids broke this rule. easy child 2/difficult child 2 had a bulk bag of jelly beans in her room. difficult child 1 had bottles of soft drink in his room. And the ants found both. Natural consequences - the kids had to deal with an ant plague, and their father's extreme anger at having to deal with the problem in a hurry. And they saw, first hand, for sure (so the message and the CONNECTION got rammed home) that the ants were their fault because they broke the rule and had food in their rooms. They finally understood the WHY of the rule. And now they live in their own homes, they follow that rule themselves.

    Without being able to make that mental connection between the rule and the consequence, the kid will learn that punishment happens. They will draw the connection (especially if they keep breaking the rules for whatever reason) that they are being punished simply because of who they are. NOT a healthy lesson.

    In the long-term, you need to get this message across, that rules are important. But if you have a difficult child, the usual methods often not only don't work, they backfire. But other methods do work, sometimes you have to go back to square one, to the baby stage, and work from there. if she's definitely no longer a baby, she should progress back fairly quickly. But when you find the problems you have now - rules always being broken - then there is something not working. Your methods are the problem - not that they should be, but it's because your child is not typical. Your methods might be gold card rules in the best parenting books, but for REGULAR kids.

    The advantage with this different approach - it works for all kids.

    It's like the meals thing - I no longer stop difficult child 3 from snacking, even on rubbish, even if it's only a few minutes before dinner. Because I KNOW, in his case, he WILL eat his dinner. he happens to be a walking appetite. I've seen him start cooking something for himself to have for lunch, when I had a meal already set for him on the table and he hadn't even looked. I'd even called him, but he had forgotten.
    So he goes and eats the meal I have out for him, then when the meal he's put in the oven is done, he eats that too. Maybe in the middle of the afternoon. Then at dinner time - he still eats all his dinner.

    He's as thin as a rake, I don't know where he puts it. Nervous energy, I think.

    so one rule we've dropped for him - "no snacking between meals" because we KNOW he doesn't seem capable of ruining his appetite.

    But at the same time and in the same home, we had to have a "no snacking" rule for easy child 2/difficult child 2, because she eats so very little, she's never hungry. I had to make sure that any snacks she ate, were what I would have given her for her meals anyway.

    Sorry to take so long - I've had a very interrupted morning, it's taken me about four hours to get this response finished (when normally I could put this together in ten minutes). I hope it's not too disjointed!