Breaking the cycle?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by craftysis, Feb 27, 2008.

  1. craftysis

    craftysis New Member

    Just found this forum and am sure I'll have dozens more questions, but the big thing my husband and I are struggling with right now is how to break the cycle when my brother is melting down.

    Background: I'm 29 and my brother is 12. My mother fostered and eventually, victoriously, adopted my brother in 2001. She has had custody of him since before his first birthday. During the process leading to adoption, he was diagnosed with fetal alcohol effects and resulting ADD, ODD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In 2006, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and my husband and I moved in with my mother and brother to support him and provide care for her. My mother died in January 2007; in one fell swoop, I lost the only parent I know and became a parent myself.

    My mother created many great support systems for my brother which I have attempted to maintain or improve upon. He has an IEP at his school, but I expect my relationship with them could be much better. Mostly, I feel like I'm flying under the radar with them.

    Current issue: Sometimes I just feel like my brother can't get out of his own way. That is, he gets into a spiral of bad choices and tries to engage my husband or I in non-stop power struggles. We both know that piling on punishment or trying to apply logic to these situations isn't successful, but we don't know what our actions/responses should be.

    Examples: My brother doesn't want to complete an assignment. He wants to argue about why it's stupid, why the teacher is unfair to him, ad nauseum. I ask him to focus on the immediate task at hand, but he just continues to throw up road blocks or lays his head on the table, nonresponsive.


    After nearly getting into a fight with a younger neighborhood kid, my brother is brought inside, where he continues to yell and make threats. We can't talk about the fight, his behavior, or his choices when he's like this. If sent to his room, he continues to act disruptive, throwing things, slamming doors, generally acting out. He'll repeatedly ask if he can come out of his room or just sit right on the threshhold as a way to try to engage us in some sort of argument.

    The first example has happened repeatedly this school year, but the second example has only happened once--but it was definitely stressful enough to get my husband and I to the library and led me to these boards. We absolutely want to do right by my brother and give him a positive environment, but we don't feel like we have a lot of resources (ie, my in-laws live in other states, no grandparents involved in raising him, all of our friends are just now starting to have kids so their struggles are more of the diaper variety). So, you can imagine my joy when I found these boards and not only other parents working toward solutions, but people who knew what all these acronyms mean! :D

    Anyway, any suggestions of things that have worked with your family or even things that failed disastrously (so I know what not to do!) would be appreciated.
  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Welcome craftysis!

    So glad you found us, and so very sorry that you needed to. Sounds like you have your hands full.Others will be along soon with wisdom and recommendations to offer, but I just wanted to take a moment to say hello and welcome.

    I don't have a lot of experience with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), but my difficult child who has Asperger's syndrome also has ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), ODD etc. which are all related to the Asperger's.

    You are right that building a good relationship with your brother's school is a great idea. Check out the Special Education forum for some ideas on the best ways to navigate your SD's requirements.

    As for dealing with the defiant behaviour, rages, etc., there are many different strategies that work well for different people.

    When my difficult child was younger and losing it, we found that time out worked really well. In order for this to be effective though, we had to strip his room. Bed, dresser, no doors on the closet, a few open shelves for his things. No drawers that closed, nowhere that he could hide things. Everything in his room visible with a quick glance from the doorway.

    When faced with the defiance, try not to react (well, at least not obviously). If they don't get the pay-off, sometimes it's less worth their while. Your mileage may vary, these are just initial suggestions off the top of my head.

    All the best, and come back often. This is a great place.

  3. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Welcome Craftysis. You and your husband are to be commended for taking on such a task of completing the job that your mother began. You're in the right place for help.

    Some of what you are describing could be attributed to typical teen behavior--my 14 year old non-neurologically disordered son can carry on until sunset about an assigment he doesn't want to do. It doesn't make it any easier to deal with, but that's not outside the realm of what all parents deal with now and then.

    Your description of what happened after the fight is another story, however. For starters I would suggest getting the book "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. Many of us here have had success with it. Secondly, I would see what you can find locally in terms of resources--maybe putting in a call to his guidance counselor or case manager and see what's available in your area. There may be parent support groups that you could link up with to help you out there.
  4. wakeupcall

    wakeupcall Well-Known Member

    Bless you for doing what you are. Your brother is a very lucky little boy. Could be he's still grieving? That could be at the root of the most recent turmoil. BOTH of you lost a mother. You have poured yourself into helping your brother, but perhaps he's not found that something to help fill the void. Being 12 is difficult for those who DON'T have other issues....and our children have loads of other issues. I'm trying really hard to give my
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hon, have you studied up on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder? It's a sad disorder that causes the ability to understand cause, affect and consequences to be skewed due to organic brain damage. Unlike other disorders, Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) can't be fixed and often kids never learn that their behavior gets them into trouble. Many Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) adults end up in jail. The newest findings I've read say that adults with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) do best in an ongoing structured environment where caretakers can help them stop making bad choices, otherwise they repeat them again and again (because they truly don't understand and can't learn to understand). Do you have a clinic that works with alcohol affected kids in your area? There is a great one in Chicago. Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) is not like a psychiatric disorder because, again, it is permanant brain damage caused by bio. mom's drinking. The ADHD/ODD etc. are just part of the alcohol affects. Do you think your brother understands cause and affect? Sometimes these kids are highly verbal, but they don't understand as well as they speak. You're in a tough spot and a very good big sister.
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Welcome, I am glad you found us. Well, sorry you need us but glad you are here.

    Do you know what his IEP at school covers?

    Do you have access to post-adoption support? Many states offer this so that a child with mental health issues can be adopted. It should be in your mom's papers, or you may have to do some research. The adoption papers would be a good place to start.

    Is he on any medications?

    When was his last evaluation and what type of professional(s) evaluated him?

    Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) is really really tough to treat, from what I know of it.

    ODD is mostly a SYMPTOM of another condition (Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) would certainly lead to this, in my humble opinion).

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be treated with SSRI medications (like prozac and paxil), and probably other medications. I know paxil has videos about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or they used to.

    Definitely get your hands on The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. I would also encourage you to do LOTS of research on Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).

    If your bro is not under the active care of a psychiatrist (psychiatrist or doctor with the MD), a therapist, and if at all possible a Developmental Pediatrician (that would be my personal first choice), then you want to find these. These are NOT conditions your bro's pediatrician should be treating. You may want and NEED further testing - for this a developmental pediatrician and/or a neuropsychologist are wonderful. Many here swear by the neuropsychologist. We found a developmental pediatrician and our difficult child was tested by a variety of professionals through him, including a neuropsychologist.

    Has he had any testing by a neurologist? I would certainly think a child neurologist as part of the treatment team would be critical. At the very least, push for a sleep deprived EEG. It may uncover seizures or other neurological issues.

    You are also probably dealing with a lot of grief, personally, on your husband's behalf, and with your bro. Are YOU seeing a therapist of any kind? Many of us here have our own therapists, some of us (like me) also have our own psychiatrists (with the md).

    It really is true that if momma isn't happy (or taken care of) no one else will be. Just like when you fly, put your own air mask on BEFORE you put your child's on. (Or your little bro's on).

    If you go to this link: Parent Report you will find an outline of a document to help describe your brother, your/his history, and lots of other stuff the docs ask about. This is a time consuming project to start, but a very very important one. It will help you organize ALL the info about your brother. And help you communicate with the professionals who will help your brother and family. One recommendation is to put a photo of the child on the cover page. I found it helpful to include a smaller photo at the beginning of each section.

    Break the report up into chunks to work on it. And a partial report is better than no report. Your mom probably had the info pretty well organized, and this is just a suggestion. I found it helped me include info I would not have otherwise remembered/thought of.

    You will probably want to have several copies along with the original in a folder or binder (leave room for growth!). That way you can give copies to anyone you want to have this information. Be careful with the info you share with school. Not all schools handle information appropriately, and some schools have been know to use info AGAINST parents, esp when parents are pushing for services or to have IEP's followed appropriately.

    This report will also help you fill out all the paperwork seeing a doctor generates!

    Sending very gentle hugs,


    ps. Your brother is very lucky.

    pps. On thing that helps many of us is to remember that our difficult child's are operating on an emotional level appropriate to roughly 2/3 their age in years. So your 12yo bro is operating more on the level of an 8yo or younger child. Not a hard and fast equation, esp with the Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), but it can be helpful.
  7. craftysis

    craftysis New Member

    Thank you many times over to all who have responded. I sent this link with my husband, and we are talking over some of the possibilities, suggestions, etc. shared.

    @trinityroyal: I could definitely see us getting to the point where stripping his room down was the way to go. I hope it is not where we end up, but I have certainly considered it.

    We both very much believe that when we raise our voices or in any way show my brother is getting our goat/pushing our buttons, that we've already lost the power struggle. It's the mantra that has gotten us through such struggles so far.

    @SRL: You're absolutely right, and I find that to be one of the trickiest things about his problems--what is Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and what is preteen hormones? The book you mentioned is on my hold list, as are two books by Cline Foster (Parenting with love and logic and Parenting teens with love and logic), and Taylor's From defiance to cooperation. I definitely look forward to these resources coming in and having some extra input.

    @PamelaJ: Absolutely. I think the combination of grief+puberty is a very potent one. Because it is so often in my mind, I approach every day with him as if we're both oversensitized and heavy with grief.

    @MidwestMom: I don't think we have anyone local who deals specifically with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)/Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS); originally, my mother took him to a nearby city to be diagnosed, and I honestly don't know when the last follow-up was completed and if it would be useful to contact those doctors again to see where he is in development. Sometime this month, I'm going to dig through all her papers on the adoption and get that contact info, as well as joining FASlink, which I know was very useful to her when he was a toddler. Other than my mother, my only Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) resources to date have been what I've read online and The Broken Cord.

    @susiestar: Point by point:
    * I do have his current IEP and attended the meeting approving it this year. In general, I feel it is pretty nonspecific, and I plan to rally for more behavioral topics in our planning for next year.
    * Based on the last conversation I had with our local adoption rep and my own reading of the adoption papers, all post-adoption support ended with my mother's death.
    * He is not on any medication, though he sometimes uses a small amount of liquid melatonin to help him sleep at night.
    * His last evaluation, to the best of my knowledge, was when he was 5-6 by neurologists and psychologists, but I don't know their specific background WRT Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)/Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
    * My basic understanding is that the Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) is his main diagnosis, with all other symptoms resulting.
    * I spoke regularly with a Hospice grief counselor for a couple months after my mother's death and attended a group session for a few more. My brother has had irregular visits from a Hospice school counselor who he didn't really connect with. In general, I feel he is pretty open with me about his feelings and talking about our mom, though I definitely felt he needed to have other outlets, too.
    * Thank you SO much for that report link. I really needed something like that to focus my organization and to help me go through her papers. She had a full binder--court documents, doctor reports, letters, school reports and grades. It's a mound of info and having that report to help me filter through will be so helpful.

    Phew! Again, thank you to all who responded and for helping me get on the right path to good information and to helping my brother and our family.

  8. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I just wanted to add my welcome.

    The others have given great advice and you sound like you are really on top of things.

    My daughter does not have Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), but I can relate to your brother's behavior when he is melt-down mode. At that point with my kiddo, there is no talking or reasoning with her. She isn't capable of processing both emotions and logic at the same time. I've been asked several times if she was deprived of oxygen at birth and while the cord was around her neck, I was never told of any oxygen deprivation. Apparently, though, her behavior and what was found during the neuropsychologist evaluation suggests that she was. Once she has calmed down, we can talk. She has had several full-tilt meltdowns that she has little to no memory of afterwards.

    You're very right about not raising your voice. When they're in melt-down they're already out of control and raising your voice will probably just send him further over the edge. Easier said than done, I know. There were times I bit my lips til I bled. Other times, I wasn't as successful.

    It's a learning process for us, too...finding out what triggers the behavior and trying to head it off at the pass.
  9. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Just popping in to add my welcome! You are not alone!
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It


    I think that you may still qualify for post adoption support, why would it stop when your mom died? He is still in need of help. It may take some work but an attorney might be helpful here. Haven't been through adoption, but others have and may have more info.

    If he was 5-6 at his last evaluation, he NEEDS another. Many of us drive long distances for evaluations, esp those of us in small towns. I go 75-80 miles one way to see any of my kids docs or my own, other than the pediatrician/general doctor.

    Visit over in Special Education Forum. They are amazing at helping you through the school maze. You can call an IEP meeting at any time - YOU are a member of the team. The ladies in Sp Ed will know more about how to call a meeting, get school to do some evaluations, and how to get specific, useful things in the IEP.


  11. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Also wanted to jump in and offer my welcome!

    I think what you are doing is admirable. The world needs more angels like yourself.
  12. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Hi and welcome. As you can tell, you've found a group with a lot of support and a lot of knowledge.

    My daughter may have some Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) but, if she does, it is very, very mild. I'm lucky in that regard. It is an ugly illness. Your brother may have some attachment issues on top of the Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE). It is pretty common in adopted kids, even those adopted at a young age. You might also want to check out Adopting the Hurt Child by Keck.

    Do get any and all support you can from adoption services. It may take threats of disrupting the family unit to get their attention, but let's hope not. If he has a social worker (mine did until age 18), contact that SW and see what they can do to help you. Get the names of local therapists, especially those dealing with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and/or adoption issues. If none local, the closest ones.

    Ask, beg for and demand respite. You guys deserve some time to be a couple.

    I'm not a big fan of asking the government (whether local, state or federal) for help but you are in circumstances where any and all assistance should be grabbed -- whether from the school, the county, the state, your neighbors, etc. Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) kids need long-term help.

    Best of luck. I hope you get the help you so truly deserve.
  13. craftysis

    craftysis New Member

    I know; that was exactly my line of thinking! His adoption agreement for payments and services, however, is explicit:

    It completely warped my mind when the social worker told me this and when I read it with my own eyes. Honestly, I feel as if the state completely turned their backs on him at a point when his life had the opportunity to be the most chaotic. Luckily, it wasn't chaotic, but I don't see how, given the potential for chaos, they just wipe their hands clean at the adoptive parent's death.

    Thank you, I definitely needed to hear this, as the schedule for evaluations was not something I had the opportunity to discuss with my mother. My husband and I will go through his papers, get the contact info and make this a priority.

    Thank you so much for your helpful advice and to all others for their warm welcome.
  14. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Welcome Crafty -

    I applaud your ability and willingness to 'take charge'. So few people possess that great gift. Most of 'us' get shoved into it and do the best we can to prevail.

    I would highly recommend some form of family therapy. I would also recommend finding/reading/putting to memory a parenting tip called Effective communication. There are books and classes on it - do a Google search.

    Someone else recently told me about something called Triple P therapy. It's for parents and children to help you communicate with a child who won't or can't communicate. You're supposed to get mad-skillz to deal with situations. I can't swear to it, but it came as a recommendation from pretty high up in a teaching/college level. It's also supposed to be for any age. (not like having a 40 year old kid at home - - lol but you know what I mean)

    You say you feel like you are flying under the radar with your IEP - why? Is your brother having trouble or increased trouble at school? A great help for that is to post concerns in the educational forum here on CD board. This is a great family.

    We're glad to have you and your brother. See you around.