Brand New to the Forums

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by TFL, May 21, 2011.

  1. TFL

    TFL New Member

    I'm not familiar with all the abbreviations used in the forum, so please bear with a newbie!

    My situation does not seem to be unique. My husband and I have been married for 4 years and we have a combined family of six children. My youngest step son has been a challenge for as long as I can remember, but about a year ago things really ramped up! He has been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar, ODD and then some. He lives with his mother and we have visitation. Although we live 4 hours away, we regularly visit with the children. Last summer when they arrived for their extended visit (1 month) within the first 3 days the wheels fell off the wagon. We had experienced behavioral issues with him before, but never to the degree that was soon apparent. I will not go into details about specifics, however as some point he "ran away" to the back yard and hid from us, watching us "hunt for him". He regularly steals, lies, hides food throughout the house so he does not have to eat the things he does not care for. He gets up during the night and eats sweet treats. He has even gone so far as sneaking food to the back yard (which is fenced) and sneaks out at night to eat the treats. Last year he was locked out by accident when he was sneaking food outside. NOTHING we have tried works. His Mom is non-cooperative with communicating with his Dad and we feel like we are way out of our league. He takes Respirdal and a myriad of pills in order to "control his behavior". Two years ago he was treated in an inhouse behavior facility (medical facility) for six weeks. In the end they decided that he required Lithium. He stayed on Lithium for a year with NO perceivable improvements. In fact, his behavior seem to worsen and developed severe speech impairment and weight gain. As a family, we decided to ween him from the Lithium. The behavior is the same, but his speech has improved. I need help!! I'm researching like crazy in order to prepare for our extended visit this summer. His mother considers our situation here a "personality conflict" between my step son and myself. The child lies excessively about how "mean" I am to him. I have three biological children and have a very healthy relationship with them and my two other step children. I just don't know how to discipline my step with ODD. ANY suggestions would be wonderful. I'm willing to try anything. My anxiety about the upcoming visit is at fever pitch.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what you can do...but the eating is probably the Risperdal. My son was starved on that medicine and gained twenty pounds in one month. He also thought about nothing but food. A lot of psychiatric medication STARVES you. Mainly, you crave carbohydrates (I've taken my share of psychiatric medications).

    Maybe his father should do the disciplining. My hub was a step and my kids refused to listen to him so he stepped back kind of in friend mode and me and ex parented the kids. It worked better.

    Does SS have a bipolar diagnosis? I'm thinking of the lithium.
  3. TFL

    TFL New Member

    When SS was being treated in the inhouse facility, he was diagnosis with bipolar and prescribed Lithium. After a year of taking the medications, there were no visible benefits and several side effects so we discontinued the RX.

    His father does discipline him. I did take a back seat from discipline for the past several months and deferred to his Dad. This seemed to embolden his lack of respect for not only me but his siblings. His father asked me to not be so passive in order to gain respect.

    I want to say Thank You so much for replying to my post. I'm so overwhelmed with lack of knowledge in dealing with ODD and bipolar disorder. I'm a big researcher (this was not the case when I was younger) but as I get older I find that the web has been a great resource for gaining knowledge on subjects that non of my peers seem to know about. I'm so grateful for coming across this site.

    Any suggestions are welcome specifically things that have worked with keeping ODD kids healthy and engaged with the family.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Well, to figure out what else may be going on, can you tell us about his past? Was he passed around a lot when he was little? Is his mother an alcoholic or other substance abuser and did she do this while she was pregnant? Drinking/drugs during pregnancy can cause lots of real damage. Was he ever abused in any way? Do you know about his early development or if there are any psychiatric problems on his genetic family tree?

    I am not sure you can make him respect you. It has nothing to do with you other than some kids plain old resent stepparents and refuse to listen to them, especially when they exert authority. It may be easier on you if husband continued to do the disciplining.
  5. TFL

    TFL New Member

    Here is a bit of history:

    difficult child is a "foster child". His biological mother was heavily drinking and drugging during her pregnancy. His brother has the same mother, but different father. The boys were a "family adoption". The older sibling has been adopted, but due to difficult child's special medical needs he is still classified "foster child". My husband and his ex-wife have always treated both boys as their children. The only difference is their last names, which were on the birth certificate that way. The older SS was fostered at age 2yrs. old and when SS was born, he was immediately awarded to husband and his former wife. At age 3 he was diagnosed with adhd and was put on Respirdal. I did not meet the boys until they were 5 and 7 years old. The oldest boy and my husband's biological daughter are very close to me. The ss used to be close to me until one day he seemed to have just "flipped a switch". We used to tell the bio. Mom that we never experienced problems with him and begged her to allow him to live with us. We felt like maybe just a change in school districts would be helpful. Shortly after she told us to stop asking that it would never happen is when we began to have serious problems.

    He seems to respond to his father, but it's always short lived.

    I understand that some kids resent step parents, but shouldn't all children be expected to give respect where respect is given?
  6. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Have you read "The Explosive Child"? It is a huge help in learning the 'unique' parenting these kids need.
  7. TFL

    TFL New Member

    Not yet, but my oldest son just checked our city library online and THEY HAVE IT. Heading to the library Monday morning. Thank you for the suggestion!
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Okay. Thank you for sharing.

    I have adopted kids from foster care from similar circumstances (birthmothers heavily drank/used drugs even during pregnancy). There is a very good chance that this child is not "bad" or even bipolar or ADHD, but maybe a combination of all sorts of different behaviors due to his birthmother exposing his developing brain to alcohol and drugs before he was born. It is unusual for a child who has had that exposure NOT to have behavior and learning problems because alcohol is horrible for a fetus. I was told it is worse than cocaine. Often it causes explosive children who have compromised abilities to reason or control their impulses. Unfortunately, medication doesn't help these sorts of kids that times it can temper some of the worst behaviors.

    Has he ever been seen by a neuropsychologist? Has anyone mentioned possible fetal alcohol spectrum (this would be anywhere from fetal alcohol syndrome to fetal alcohol effect). If not, I'd get a fresh opinion.

    His background was also chaotic, which doesn't help either. He was abandoned or taken to foster care once and then his new parents got divorced. Now his father is remarried. He has had a lot of different parent figures in his life. This can cause attachment problems. Unless a psychiatrist is aware of the affects of adopted children (no, not all are), he can often be clueless as to why the child is so defiant.

    If this were my SS, I would ask husband to schedule a neuropsychologist evaluation and bring up possible alcohol/drug effects and what your expectations of the child should be AND how best to handle him. Then I would take him to a therapist who specializes in adoption/attachment.

    As to whether or not a child should be respectful, of course, but we can't force them to. I'm not sure that this particular child may resent you even more if husband tries to force him to act respectful. JMO

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do.
  9. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I am so glad that MidwestMom responded to you. I am not a difficult child but @#%@# I offered six or seven paragraphs of support and welcome and experience to have it disappear into cyberspace. Yikes! You do need an expert evaluation. Hugs. DDD
  10. TFL

    TFL New Member

    Thank y'all for the nice welcome and advice. I know I'm spoon feeding information and I tried to figure out the signature line, but obviously not successful YET!

    Our difficult child has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)(quite honestly it's hard for me to keep up with all the diagnosis). He has the classic physical signs of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) as well (in regards to the facial features). He has seen a neuropsychologist and has a psychiatrist he sees regularly. My husband has never been included in the visits although he has begged to be included. During his inhouse treatment, we did frequent visitation. Upon our first visit we were asked how we were related to the difficult child and they were shocked to find a father with concern for the child. She has remarried and his SF insists on being called Daddy.

    husband has spoken at length with the mother regarding treatment in Houston. We live close to Houston and there are the finest facilities available for second opinions. Each time she balks at the idea and states that it's too far for HER to drive. We have offered several solutions, but she seems hell bent on staying with the current status quo. We desperately would like to find an overall solution, but quite selfishly I would just love to learn some coping mechanisms to stop the chaos during the extended visits.

    I am going to read "The Explosive Child" ... after reading the reviews it's seems like it will at least give us a direction to go. Fingers crossed! :)
  11. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    You all are in a bad position if there is inadequate communication with Ex. Other than appropriate medications the most important tool is consistent care. If you don't know how his daily schedule goes there is no way you can adapt to bring him peace.

    Is there any chance that your husband and Ex could have a joint meeting with his psychiatrist and discuss the concerns with-o it turning into a high stress situation? there any way that your husband could meet SS and Ex at an evaluation center for the joint benefit of the child?

    Does husband get copies of school reports? Dr's reports? Or are you all trying to wing it? In my long (lost) post I addressed alot of subjects. The need to eat is, in my humble opinion, huge. How is that handled at his Mom's?

    It seems like your husband is going to have to be more assertive in using his parental rights for the sake of his child's future. The frustration of being a step parent is huge but basically you are powerless except as a stimuli for getting your husband to take affirmative action. I'm sorry you are in this position but based on years of observation I think SS's entire future is at stake. Yeah, I know it sounds dramatic but I have seen it many times and it is an ugly picture. Sending supportive hugs.DDD
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I agree with-the others, that this child is not deliberately being bad. Manipulative, maybe, but not bad. with-his ADHD, he is acting out things that the rest of us might consider for a moment, but never do. But because he has no impulse control, he goes ahead and does whatever he does.
    Have you tried weaning him off the medications and just doing one at a time, such as Adderall for the ADHD? I honestly don't see bipolar here.
    And I agree with-the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) ... that's going to haunt him through life and it is very difficult to deal with. Not to dissuade you ... I mean, he's yours and you will do right by him. But do not expect it to be a picnic at some magical age. He will mature at a very slow rate but changes will come.
    There are others here (I see MWM has posted for ex.) who will weigh in with-more info about Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).

    The other problem is, of course, the lack of consistency with-the extended family. Is there any way you could get full custody? Would you want it? That way, there would be consistency in the family, in waking and sleeping times, etc.
  13. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    What jumped out at me in the behavior was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)--having difficulty controlling eating is a very common thing. We actually have our main cupboard locked up and try to leave out healthy things.

    Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is difficult--often medications do not work very well. A couple of resources to go to are books by Diane Malbin. She argues that you need to change the environment, rather than the kid, because these kids are doing as well as they can and if you get in a punitive mode then you have all sorts of negative secondary behaviors emerging.

    While children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) can have other conditions such as bipolar etc, a lot of the same symptoms go along with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). If lithium isn't helping he may not have bipolar.

    Can you take him for a reevaluation when you have him?

    I would really look hard for a medical professional who knows something about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Not all psychiatrists do. Child development pediatricians rather than psychiatrists may know more.

    Sorry for you and him.
    How much Risperdal is he on?
  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Very well put: these kids are doing as well as they can and if you get in a punitive mode then you have all sorts of negative secondary behaviors emerging.
  15. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    It sounds to me like, despite the issues SS has been dealt, he has a mother and stepfather that are causing huge problems for him. Any chance those two are badmouthing husband to SS? It sounds like they are purposely trying to push husband out of SS's life. Is there anyone that can gently "grill" SS to find out what ex and step are saying? If they are excluding him from appts and refusing to cooperate with appts you and husband are trying to set up, something is definitely going on. Sounds like maybe he is being "programmed" to act out against you and husband or at least given enough negative information to act out what he's hearing. Is there any way you can have him seen while he is on the extended visit with you guys, then she doesn't "have to drive" there at all?

    Just my thoughts anyway. I feel sorry for you all. {{{{(((HUGS)))}}}}