Adopted Son's (8) behaviour is concerning. Where to next?

Worried Daddy

New Member
Hello Everyone.
This is my first post, having found this forum in a google search.
I am not sure if I am even posting this in the correct forum. My wife and I are desperate to try and understand our son's behaviour and while reading through these threads we found so many remarkably similar stories. We'd appreciate any advice. Here goes.
My wife and her former husband adopted BOB ( Pseudonym ) when he was a 4 day old infant.
They raised him until he was two. The marriage ended and relations remain amicable.
My wife and I have since raised BOB. He calls me dad, and also refers to my wife's ex as dad.
He knows that he is adopted and that he has a tummy mummy. We tell him as much as he wants to know about his biological mother. We know nothing about his biological father. We know that he has biological siblings and that his half brother has ADHD and that he is medicated for it. We know that his biological mum is a smoker and we suspect that she is a drinker. We have tried to maintain contact with her but she is non responsive.

When BOB was 3, we had another son. A biological one.

My wife remembers that as an infant and a toddler, BOB would never snuggle in - he was always rigid and tense. It wasn't until we had another child that she noted the difference in cuddles and snuggling.

We always knew that BOB was 'full-on' - continually requiring one's attention. It wasn't until he was 4 however that we became increasingly concerned about his behaviour. A day care teacher ( elderly and very wise ) sat us down one day and said that she noticed that BOB was 'different'. She noted that he engaged in parallel play. That he did not play with kids but instead he played alongside them.

We began to notice that BOB hoarded things. Everything, and I mean everything that he considered precious got dragged into his bed. Around this time he started bringing day care toys home. We'd make hime take them back the next day and apologise....but the behaviour continued and became more sneaky. We notice his 'odd' behaviours more readily. Continual thumb sucking. Bouncing around and the inability to sit still. His obsessions around food. Separating foods into different groups on his plate. Not wanting to eat anything 'slimy' - so any food that had a squishy texture was rejected. You could literally see him getting sick at the sight of chicken skin. He also has (to this day) a fascination with my stubble. So at night time pre bed cuddles he would try to rub his face against mine so that that stubble would rasp his cheeks. Much like a cat rubs itself against a post. I tried hard not to reject him when he does this but increasingly I am suspicious that it's morphing into sexual undertones. My wife and I observe him closely when he does this - and the sounds he makes and facial expressions that he makes - is akin to gratification. It's awkward for me because I don't want to reject him - so I have taken to putting my hand between our cheeks when cuddling him - but he wriggles and tries his best to remove it.

My wife and I also noted that during his day care years - he was never invited to any kid's birthday party. He is now 8 and he still has never been invited. Our youngest who is now 5 is a socialite and has been to numerous parties and play dates! The contrast is stark. This began to concern my wife and I - so we took our son at 4.5 years of age off to a paediatrician. He was diagnosed with mild ADHD and Aspergus.

Since then he has been medicated. This has had a moderating effect on his impulsiveness but other issues are still causing us concern.
These include:

  • Stealing
  • lying - even when the evidence is overwhelming.
  • Not making genuine friends.
  • requiring a teacher aide in school to keep him on task. ( A clear signal that the school has difficulty managing him.) We are very supportive of the school - we are in close contact with his teacher and support her unequivocally. We follow through with consequences if she alerts us to anything which concerns her.
  • his need to be the centre of attention - any attention negative or positive. We are increasingly of the view that he enjoys the negative attention.
  • He appears to delight in annoying everyone.
  • He can be defiant - but sneakily so.
  • his loud speaking voice - which rises to be above the crowd.
  • his hoarding ( Things that have no value to you and me but he becomes obsessed with. e.g bottle tops)
  • he choked a girl in his class and when asked - couldn't explain why.
  • his lack of personal hygiene - despite being repeatedly shown and helped - he remains grotty in his personal care. Our 5 year old has superior skills by comparison.
  • he is clumsy - he can fall over his own shadow.
  • he has a cocky strut ( a still like prancing walk ) which usually correlates to his frame of mind at the time. When we see the walk - we know he has done something or is about to do something anti-social.
We are a middle class family - and are able to provide our children with good experiences and a reasonable level of material comforts. We are careful not to over indulge the boys. But they lack nothing.
We are even more careful to treat the two boys the same. ( We are hyper sensitive to the fact that BOB is adopted and that he may feel rejected/ not attached/ angry etc.) We try our best to mitigate this.

However we have a boy who is increasingly getting into trouble - and who can't explain why he does stupid/ implusive stuff. When we read through these forums about the experiences of adopting parents with their 15-19 year olds - we see our son in 5 years time. We are increasingly concerned.

What can we do to arrest his slide into greater anti-social behaviour and perhaps criminality?

Are we just being paranoid?


Well-Known Member
You'd probably get more responses if you started your own thread. Anyhow, welcome to our forum. Sorry you had to come.

I have adopted kids and it is sometimes hard to know why they do what they do if we don't know their history or much about thier biological parents. Nature is very powerful. By your son's symptoms, I am wondering if he ever had a complete evaluation by a neuropsychologist. He sounds a lot like my now twenty one year old adopted son who is on the autism spectrum. My son has done VERY WELL with interventions and I can't tell you how much he has progressed. But first you need to get a professional diagnosis so you know what you are dealing with. Neurosychs are the gold star of diagnosticians in the United States. I would not go with the teachers, a regular social worker or therapist, or anyone without a very, very advanced degree and knowledge of testing children to find out how their little brains are working. A pediatrician does not have the ability to test and to really know what is wrong with a child, other than if he has strep throat or other childhood ailments. He is not really trained to understand childhood disorders and adopted children can have very complicated problems.

One question: Did his birthmother drink or use drugs during her pregnancy? My son's birthmother did and all the professionals believe that this contributed to his autistic spectrum disorder. But it can also cause stuff like cognitive delays, learning disabilities, behavioral issues and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Most of our adopted kids did NOT have a good prenatal experience! My son had cocaine in his system at birth and also was infected with syphillis, which they cured. In spite of all that he has surpassed all expectations and is such a NICE young man. Everyone loves him. His early interventions were gold for him. He has had interventions from very early on.

There is the chance he has attachment disorder, which is more serious, but he was adopted at such a young, young age...that wouldn't really fit the situation unless his early years were extremely chaotic due to the divorce.

Many adopted kids are stellar members of society. I have three amazing adopted kids. One is the one I just described. He is up for an award for Outstanding Young Adult. My daughter who is in school for Criminal Justice has been the sweetest, best daughter on earth and I wouldn't trade her for a billion biological kids. My oldest adopted daughter did get into trouble in high school, but she turned it around and is another amazing, smart, talented young woman with her own house, good values, a nice SO and a beautiful baby.It has been ten years since she has gotten into even a smidgen of trouble. They are the best kids ever.

I wish you good luck. There is hope :) He just hasn't been evaluated right or gotten the right interventions. He does not have a behavioral problem. It is not his fault. Make an appointment. with a neuropsychologist. You'll be glad you did :)
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Well-Known Member
Diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's?
Asperger's can't be medicated for, like ADHD can.

If he is on the autism spectrum (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which Asperger's is a part of)... he needs intensive interventions and a different approach to parenting. Aspie/Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids ARE different. They think different, process differently.

What kind of help has been given for Asperger's?
And what kind of professional made that diagnosis? (it makes a difference)

Worried Daddy

New Member
We attended a clinic - for children with mental health needs. A paediatrician diagnosed him. The medication is for the ADHD - to help settle his impulsive urges and inattention.
We've attended several parenting courses aimed at helping the immediate and extended family to deal with his needs. This included helping us with his routines, managing behaviour lessing his anxiety etc.
We have a review coming up with the clinic.
I feel like an idiot for not knowing what type of specialist the Dr who diagnosed is.
This is the blurb off their website "community based specialist health service for children and young people, living within the Counties Manukau region, who are experiencing serious emotional, psychological or behavioural disturbance, suspected psychiatric illness or serious mental illness."
We live in New Zealand.


Staff member
After I read your post I thought of a video I had seen by James Chandler, a child psychiatrist, about treating children diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum with adhd. Thought it might be of interest to you.

Psychiatric Medications for Autism with ADHD symptoms



Staff member
Here's another one of James Chandler's talks that might be of interest to you:

Psychiatric Medications for Autism with Aggression, Irritability, and Anger



Well-Known Member
Autism spectrum and ADHD are NOT mental health issues, although the way they get treated can cause behavioral problems. They can be treated (both differently as InsaneCanadian said), but doing it through psychiatry is not the best way, unless the psychiatrist really understands that this is NOT a mental illness and how to treat it.

These are treatable disorders. Have a lot of hope and maybe look up a neuropsychologist for evaluating and suggestions on what to do next. And don't feel hopeless. It is NOT hopeless.


Well-Known Member
but doing it through psychiatry is not the best way, unless the psychiatrist really understands that this is NOT a mental illness
OR... if the situation becomes dangerous (as it did for us) - where psychiatric medications can help buy time for other solutions.


Well-Known Member
One thing I have noticed to be useful when dealing with stealing and lying with young kids who have autism spectrum type of issues (my son had mild traits and we are currently having a 6-year-old respite kid with Asperger in our home for a weekend or two a month) is try to look at it from different angle. I have noticed that for them it isn't often so much about telling something they know is untrue or taking stuff that is not theirs, but about them hoping something to be true so much, that they actually convince themselves it is true and then telling that "truth" or taking stuff, that in their minds is actually theirs. They tend to work from "how things should be" instead of from "how other people think things are."

With my son we have always called this phenomenon "an error in the world" and I have found it useful to talk and agree on how there may indeed be an error in the world, but how we have to deal with world full of errors instead of trying to pretend those errors don't exist. I never had much success trying to make my son (or this respite kid of ours) believe that while he considered something an error, many others would disagree. But validating that it is indeed an error that things are not like they would hope them to be, has opened a way to discuss how you still have to live with that error. My son is now an adult and high functioning in many ways and is fully capable of making a difference between how things are and how he wished they were, but it wasn't always so, when he was for example eight. Same is true with our respite kid.


Well-Known Member
That An Error in the World thing has kind of became clearer to me while getting to know and dealing with our respite kid. With difficult child things were often one exhausting mess. With respite kid I'm well rested and prepared before they come and have time to think after they leave before the next visit.

So my theory is that there is always a gap between how person wants things to be and how they are. And while everyone is prone to wishful thinking in some degree, typical people are quite good at making a difference between how things are and what they wish. And after seeing the difference they tend to either try to change how things are or adapt to them. Some pissing and moaning on the side but still moving on with it. With my difficult child and our respite kid it seems that first seeing the difference between what is and their wish is more difficult. And even after they recognise the difference they don't really know how to move forward from that. They stay stuck to that recognition of The Error that exists and don't see the way to move on without some outside guidance.
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Well-Known Member
Welcome, Worried Daddy.
Yes, your son really, really sounds like he's on the spectrum. And ADHD is a symptom, as well as a cause . It is neurological.
I love your bullet list. Perfect descriptions. Strangling the girl sounds impulsive to me. "I feel like strangling her" so ... I do. Why? Don't know. I wanted to at the time.
Hoarding and taking things to bed? That's my son.
No friends? Yep. He'll come home with-a few friends eventually and I'll guarantee you ... they'll be on the spectrum as well.
Stubble on the face? I'd suggest you and your wife take turns "brushing" his back to take the place of the face rubbing. I just use my fingernails lightly and it's not as good, but I can guarantee my son will fall asleep in no time when I do the pattern on his back. Here's a link to one. I'm sure you can find something closer.
Lack of hygiene? Ohhhh yeah! I finally bought Wet Wipes for my son to use in the bathroom, because he'd get stuff on his hands if he missed with the toilet paper ... and wipe it on the walls. This was in middle school. :( He is much better now.
AND the MIRACLE is ... he has a girlfriend. Of course, she's "off" too but they have been together for over 2 yrs. Amazing.
(And she has hygiene issues in her own way. And serious boundary issues.)
Oh, speaking of boundary issues, I totally agree with-the others here--Aspies think differently and can convince themselves of the "rightness" of something when it's blatantly wrong. My son broke into a neighbor's house and stole things ... but according to him, he didn't really break in. They were neighborhood friends, and besides, the door was unlocked. :(
Pick up some books on Asperger's. You'll want to do some research.
And in regard to ADHD medications, they have been a godsend for my son. He's also on the bipolar spectrum (although the dr says "Mood disorder not otherwise specified") and takes lithium. But lithium does not work for Asperger's.
by the way, Temple Grandin takes Prozac, just to take the edge off. She does a lot of public speaking. Bright lights, loud audience, travel, elevators, all of that can be overwhelming.


Well-Known Member
In regard to lying, Aspies are horrible liars. Some of my son's lies have been laugh-out-loud funny. But most of them are obnoxious and make him untrustworthy. The bottom line is, he knows certain things are not acceptable but because of impulsiveness, and just being too much in his own head, so he does things anyway. Lying is a way to protect himself and his wants and wishes. Aspies tend to have anxiety. So he'll continue to lie until he finds that it's easier and less stressful to tell the truth. We had to accept a couple of big, hard truths from our son without punishing him, in order to get him to tell us the truth. It worked for a few yrs. Now he's back at it again. He's older and it's all about money, fast food, and cars. :( He's actually been pretty good about borrowing the car, all things considered. But he wants his own.
Speaking of fast food, we cut down on our son's rages by cutting out red dye, milk, cheese, and butter, and gluten. He works at McDonald's now and can eat whatever he wants at a discount, away from my prying eyes, so he's been grumpy and mean. After all the work we've put into his diet, it kills me to see him abuse his body like that. Soon enough, he'll develop anemia again and maybe that will force him to monitor himself.