My 5 and 1/2 year old son

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Angela41, May 18, 2012.

  1. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Hello, I am new here and could use some uncensored advice on my son's behavior. A lot of people mean well, but just don't understand what we are going through.

    My son throws violent temper tantrums at home. The triggers appear to be perfectionistic tendencies, defiance of instructions, acceptance of consequences, and inflexible problem solving (e.g. becomes easily emotionally overwhelmed when faced with disappointment, anxiety, etc.). The problems are by far the worst when he is out of his routine or when he is tired/hungry/sick. When he is angry, he hits, kicks, throws things at us and our walls, becomes destructive and at one point, even urinated on our floors (the peeing appears to have stopped thank goodness). As many of you probably know, consequences don't even cut ice. When he's down the road, we just have to hang on until it passes.

    I know that most people would say that this is oppositional defiance disorder- the thing is, he is generally well-behaved at school (in trouble sometimes, but not more than most of his peers), and is often extremely mature in public. When he is calm, he is an absolute delight, frankly. Creative, enthusiastic, and loving.

    A few things about him- he is smart. He will be starting kindergarten in the Fall and is reading, can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and has advanced verbal and spatial abilities. Of course, I'm his loving mother, but others have also observed that he is intellectually very advanced. He was always a challenge- fussy, curious, alert infant. Willful, highly energetic, into-everything, tantrum-my toddler. He had a pronounced difficulty with transitions (e.g. massive meltdowns when leaving the park or stores) and even now, perseverates on topics for months (dinosaurs, weather, math, etc.). His social skills are not great, but he is very interested in making friends and will adjust his behavior if he thinks he might lose a friend (e.g. he's bossy, but will dial it back if I point out that his friend doesn't like being bossed).
  2. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I always feel nervous saying things like this because I know it seems like a bandwagon thing, but having been in sp. ed for (ahem) and having a child with similar issues, I am going to give you what you are asking for, uncensored thoughts. That said, please realize that it is impossible to know from one post, and certainly (and hopefully) others here who can relate and may have a different idea for what could be going on will come along and give you other impressions.

    Any of the things you mentioned can be viewed as just this side of typical alone, but to me....put them together and I would be getting a full evaluation done by a neuropsychologist and maybe even be more specific and go to a clinic that specializes in autism. (the new diagnostic manual will just diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), autism spectrum disorder, but he sounds like what many of us would refer to as Asperger's Syndrome....again could be way off base, and it is a huge do not have ALL of the symptoms you read about).

    1. has narrow/restricted interests (which can vary over time) that he talks about excessively...this is more than a hobby...the types of interests you mention are really common is Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    2. difficulty with transitions, schedule changes, etc.

    3. major/over the top meltdowns

    4. early signs of giftedness....reading early, good with numbers etc....a common characteristic

    5. social challenges (esp the "bossy" thing, things are preferred to be their way, in their comfort zone, etc... and many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are quite social, but just have difficulties navigating things, the gap often widens as they get older)

    6highly energetic....many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) seem to have adhd-like symptoms (can be a true adhd or can be part of other things in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), sensory issues, processing issues, etc.)

    7. anxiety issues.... same as the adhd-like things.

    8. all the things that set off the tantrums (odd-like stuff, over the top when there are consequences, etc...) are very common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

    Again, many of these things cross over to other diagnoses or conditions, but put together, these are classic things in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Well beyond severe adhd, or ODD, and other diagnosis.

    Have you had any evaluations done? Does he have any issues with sensory problems... like clothing, eating, smells, touching things or not liking touch, sounds???? How are his motor skills?

    How is his eye contact (some kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) do not have this issue and some have it to a degree that is more like a child who looks shy).

    Any other risk factors in your family history that could explain these challenges? For example bi-polar illness or early illness where he had to be in the hospital without you or lots of pain, etc? Is there any history of pregnancy problems (not judging, you dont even h ave to answer, just for your own consideration), is he adopted... just throwing out other ideas.

    Anyway, given his level of struggles, and that he is entering formal school, I personally would get a complete evaluation done.

    One thing that really bites, I'll be honest, is having a really smart kid and then realizing there could be a life long challenge going on. BUT there i s a good part to it, that is that early intervention is really helpful! They are still smart, still have tons of potential, but with the right diagnosis (whatever that ends up being, if anything) can avoid inappropriate labels, especially those that are not too helpful in terms of therapy like "rude" or "disrespectful" or "that kid" etc.....Know what I mean?? Many diagnosis. labels can open doors to good accommodations and therapy. Mostly it helps to realize there is an underlying reason for this and we can work on helping to organize and reduce their stress and triggers and to help them make progress.

    If he is so visual, and already reading etc....while you are working on evaluations, you might try some structured interventions like having a schedule on a white board, and he can check off the items. He sounds like a child who may benefit from having a nice predictable structure for his days. If changes need to be made, you can do it on the board and help him process it. He may also need early warnings (countdowns) before making a transition. (you may be doing all of this). He m ay need different words to help express his feelings when he is so frustrated that he tantrums. And to learn "deep breathing" to relax in the early childhood ways like holding up his hand or you hold yours up and (nice to catch this when h e shows early signs) have him blow out the c andles, or you can use bubbles...that forces them to take a deep breath to relax.

    Do you have either or both of these books? THe Explosive Child by Ross Greene and What your Explosive Child Is Trying To Tell You by Doug Riley. Helps to give understanding and ideas for kids who do not respond to consequences etc...and who are wired a little differently than most kids. (though I suspect there are more kids like ours out there....)

    Anyway, just thoughts, if they dont fit it is really ok. We just share from our own experiences, and the thought of something this big can be a lot to take in. Hugs to you and welcome ! You are not alone.
  3. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    I appreciate your honesty- I have a brother with Aspergers and yes, as my son gets older I see some similar qualities. Perseveration, anxiety, inability to transition, pronounced interest in "facts" etc. were all part of my brother's personality. I think that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (very high functioning) is possible, or at least some traits-if not enough for a diagnosis. My guy is very social and appears to be self-aware enough to adjust his behavior at school and in public. I have often wondered if I am getting the "real" personality/issues at home as he struggles to hold it together in other places. I also wonder if he will become more challenged as the academic and social expectations become more complex. We have read "The Explosive Child" and yes, he fits the bill. We're trying to adjust to being less demanding and more collaborative and choosy about our battles. It helps, but we will be seeking the guidance of a counselor starting in a few weeks. If the issues spill to school, we're going to obtain a formal evaluation.
  4. keista

    keista New Member

    I don't think buddy is way off base at all. My UNCESORED opinion as asked is to please explore the autism spectrum. The reason he may behave so well in school is because school by nature is structured, he knows what to expect. Also having that greater intelligence, even high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids strive to conform to limits and structures they understand. However, this can come at a cost with melting down when released from the public environment. Home is his safe haven, so he feels comfortable completely letting loose.

    I have a feeling that you are thinking along the same lines only because I almost never hear the term "perseverates" in any other context. It also possible that he just has some serious traits that won't qualify him for the diagnostic cut off. That doesn't mean that you can't treat him as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Buddy's suggestions are all great. If he's very verbal and opinionated, I suggest allowing him to collaborate on schedules (within reason, of course) for example, if there is flexibility for dinner time in the house let him choose the time 6 or 6:30. HW done before or after dinner. Little things that he can help input will go a long way.
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    JMO, but... I'd be seeking a formal evaluation NOW, not waiting until there are problems.
    1) it takes a long time to get into a good, full-spectrum comprehensive evaluator, and
    2) by the time you have problems, you're way behind in getting help... and then things have to get worse while you work through the evaluations process...

    Schools (most, anyway) don't cut much slack for parent opinions and pending evaluations.
  6. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I agree, the school evaluation process is request, they write an evaluation plan, they have (depending on the state) 30-90 days to finish the evaluation and you have lost a lot of time out of the gate.

    However, you show up with a kid who you can say (if this happens) my child has autism....they will typically take notice right away. Even before an IEP is written they can have accommodations, have him matched with a teacher who works will with kids who have his kinds of challenges, etc. Since you have experience with a family member already (which also ups the risk that this may be the issue) you know how there are better settings and harder ones. but in any given family people with the same Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis can look really different, you are right, as kids with higher functioning autism get older....the gap widens, more subtle social skills are needed and without direct teaching and support there is a chance of some behavioral concerns. But that may not end up being his biggest issue, you just never know.

    You are a mom who is on top of things so he will be well advocated for, no worries there! Just like to help others not to have to go through what some of us have had to go through...the harder way.

    Besides that, I am a proponent of private therapy along with school therapies, even as a school therapist! there is enough to work on and to spread around, if his issues do not affect school yet, they may not offer much at first, but you can be working on what anticipated issues there may be and reduce the challenges (in theory) by working on the kinds of things you are dealing with outside of school. Will be great to see if the counselor is a good match for him. My son has a great one right now, but when he was younger we were never lucky enough to find one who understood his way of learning/interpreting etc. You know him best, as I did mine, but for me anyway, it was a process learning when to say enough and to fire them, LOL.

    Your son sounds like he really has a lot going for him. With your awareness level, he will likely do very well. It is a rocky road though, just know we are here for you!
  7. Angela - I don't have much to add to what the others have said except that I would vote for the evaluation to be done before he starts school. And you may have to pay for it out of pocket but it will be done and you can set up a plan with the school for early intervention and special accommodations - whatever is necessary.

    In Ontario (where I'm from) it can take years to get a child evaluated through the school system. And if you wait until the fall you may have a long wait for private assessment as well because there will be lots of parents looking for private assessments at that time of year. Look into what it's like in your area and then make a decision from there.

    Wishing you the best.
  8. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    I replied but I don't think it posted for some reason. I want to thank all of you for your candid responses. It helps tremendously to talk with others who are going through some version of extreme challenge with their child. It's hard to talk with my social groups and admit that my son hits me and throws tantrums that are just bottomless. It makes me feel like I am failing or that there is something terribly wrong with my son. His aggression is wearing me down and I'm running out of solutions and energy to deal with these outbursts.
  9. wilma

    wilma New Member

    To whatever is necessary, you can set up a plan with the school for early intervention and special accommodations. You are a parent, you would want with what is best for your children. Even at a young age, he should be home schooled is really okay.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Chiming in late.

    Get a neuropsychologist evaluation. Lots going on that sounds like Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to me too. If it's in the is hereditary.

    Welcome to the board :)
  11. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Welcome! I'm jumping on the bandwagon as the evaluation before'll take a long time to get in for a neuropsyche but they're worth their weight in gold! I'd also take a serious look at sensory issues - you'd be amazed what a weighted vest can do for a kiddo with issues!

  12. Hi, Angela:

    You have gotten some great advice here. I don't have much to add in that regard. Just wanted to tell you that my son sounds very, very, similar to your son! He too has been a "challenge" since birth. He is also extremely intelligent and like your son displays anger and defiance. He still to this day urinates on the floor in what I see as defiance or lack of impulse control. Many similarities with your son except that my son did have lots of problems with preschool and had to leave three programs (even asked to formerly leave one) before we found him a school that would work with him and not challenge him. We were "fortunate" that he had epilepsy so we were able to get a neuropsychologist evaluation done at a children's hospital without us going through much trouble to get one. His diagnoses were primary ODD and secondary ADHD when he was three and most recent evaluation at 7 years old flip flopped them saying ADHD primary and ODD secondary. He now controls his anger at school (like your son) so it is still possible that your boy has ODD. So many of these conditions overlap it is a challenge at best to determine what exactly is going on with them. Some of these kids can hold it together at school. My son does have lots of other issues at school besides anger though. He works a grade level ahead on all subjects, gets all A's on academic subjects but his conduct grades are always "N" (needs improvement) for talking, lack of impulse control, not following directions, etc.

    Just wanted to share some of my story with you so you do not feel alone. In my experience, friends and family just don't get it most of the time...some may start to understand once they are informed or educated regarding Conduct Disorders but many never will. I am sure that you have gotten plenty of "helpful" parenting advice from people that just don't get it. We get it.

    hang in there!

    PS. You write "we" so I am going to assume that you are married. Pardon me if this is incorrect. Make sure to take care of your marriage. As one of my son's docs told us early on, families with kids like ours are at high risk of divorce. I don't think it causes divorce but if there are any weakness or areas that need attention, having a difficult child child will surely bring them out and magnify them.
  13. Angela41

    Angela41 New Member

    Thanks again everyone. We're seeing a counselor and she is going to start with working on some of his "triggers." He seems a little more adaptive the past few weeks with just a couple serious aggressive incidents at home. He does often show remorse for his actions and can be extremely kind- when he's calm. When he's angry, he seems to "flip a switch" and empathy and reason go out the window. We know he explodes and are just now getting to the root of things- possibly some sensory, very definitely anxiety, perfectionism and lack of flexible problem solving skills (e.g. "my lego tower fell over, so my only option is to become unreasonably angry and fling it across the room" kind of inflexibility). Yes, these are Aspergers traits, but there is enough social engagement and empathy that it may just be partial (if that's possible). What is it they say- "allergies, eczema, autism." Well he has seasonal (no food) allergies, eczema and a family history of autism, so we'll see how it comes out in the wash.
  14. keista

    keista New Member

    DD1 is this way, more so than son.

    in my opinion and experience, it's not so much that these kids do not have empathy or do not have the ability for social engagement, it's that whatever abilities they do have are lacking in appropriateness. My son and my father are both VERY empathetic, but they haven't the first clue how to express it, so they stand around doing nothing. Son is getting better at this through practice, and Dad simply lends his ear (little do ppl know that he's not actually listening, but he nods his head to make it look like it) Kinda interesting. My Dad is the "best friend of the terminally ill". He's got many friends, but when any contracts a terminal illness, be becomes their BFF. The reason being that they can sit and talk to him for HOURS about everything, and he just pretends to listen. As long as one of his videos can be on in the background it becomes a 'perfect' relationship. He never offers, advice or sympathy or condolences, just that understanding nod.