cognitive inflexibility--HELP!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by pepperidge, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    I'm looking for some help here on how to help difficult child 2 who seems to get very stuck on one way of thinking or in some emotion.

    When he had his neuropsychologist testing done the tester obseved that he had the highest number of attempts she had ever seen on this one test (moving pegs?)--he persevered doing it the same way each time even though he failed to accomplish the goal the first time around. I think she finally stopped him on the 18th try.

    If we say we will do something and event overtake us and we can't it is major drama. Sunday we said we go to the movie if he got his work done. Well, Sunday came and I ended up having to take my other son to the doctor because he was real sick. I didn't want to leave him alone to take difficult child 2 to the movies. We tried to brainstorm some other solutions--finding a friend to go with him (would have been ok but no friend around), renting a video to watch, etc but it all fell apart. Now he doesn't actually rage, which is good, but he gets so stuck in anger and nastiness. We can't even problem solve constructively. At my best, I end up having to disengage and go to a private place because I can't handle the abuse anymore and then he finally calms down--though whatever solution we might have come up with is long since gone out the door.

    If I tell him that he can watch TV after he does his homework and then when he is ready I remember that he has to brush teeth as well (long standing rule) there is major accusations of lying etc. I do my best to be consistent, have lists, but you know sometimes you forget every last little thing. And he is now almost 13.

    I feel like we are going backwards. I'm at the point where I don't want to promise to do anything. I feel like I need to qualify everything with the small legal print. Its not that we change plans often or are inconsistent. Its being forced to live in such a black and white world that all the joy or desire to anything has vanished.

    I have read Explosive Child. I know it talks alot about helping kids learn the skills of great cognitive flexibility, but I must say I am not doing a very good job of finding an approach that helps with these issues. Even if we try to bring up situations at a later date, it seems to trigger all the anger and nastiness all over again.

    Has anyone done anything systematic in this area and made progress? I've love to hear about it. Thanks.
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    P, I really feel for you. Did the neuropsychologist have any recommendations for you?

    My daughter M was like this until we got her medicated properly, which has taken us the better part of 3 years. But she does not suffer the same sorts of possible Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) issues that your son does. Her primary diagnosis is anxiety, which I believe is driving her cognitive inflexiblity. Until we added Lamictal last spring, her emotional reactivity was off the charts, even though she was far less anxious with Zyprexa and Remeron on board. Lamictal has really reined her in. But I think you have said you tried Lamictal with no appreciable difference, if I remember correctly.

    I'm wondering how your son would respond to written rather than verbal agreements. That would leave very little wiggle room for argument.
  3. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Just wanted to add: Have you read Ross Greene's book for clinicians, Treating Exposive Kids? It goes into greater depth about Collaborative Problem Solving and might help you refine your techniques with your son.
  4. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    I am not sure if I have any answers, but my difficult child can be exactly like that when he is not doing well. With him, as well as with sw's dtr, when the medications are right the inflexiblity is better. There are times I cannot use the word maybe with difficult child--he just cannot comprehend it.. I have been accused of "lying" more times than I can count.
  5. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm with CM, in that I don't know if I can be much help but can definitely let you know you are not alone. My difficult child is so much like this. In my difficult child's case we are very careful about saying if this, then this because even if he doesn't do the first part he will argue to no end that he did and now deserves whatever he was trying to earn. Sending hugs your way.
  6. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Boy, does that all sound familiar! Especially when he says you're lying.
    Sometimes I say, "I made a mistake."
    Sometimes I add, "Can you help me?" That throws the ball back into his court.
    One time I was so mad, instead of yelling, GO TO YOUR ROOM, I yelled "Go to h*ll!" LOL! Boy, you should have seen his eyes. LOL.
    I let that one go for a cpl hrs, and then told him it was just an expression and I owed him 25 cents. (25 cents per swear word.) He was so happy to get the money, he kept his mouth shut.
    Clonidine helps. Lately he's been awful so I give him 1/2 or one whole tablet at night. Sometimes I have to give him one right when he gets home from school.
    It is not systematic. Cognition for these kids comes in fits and starts. Sometimes it goes backwards. But I can truly see a difference between say, age 6 and age 12. It seems like for these kids, it takes 3-4 yrs to catch up just one yr. Sigh.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    In Corys younger years, and still to some degree today...he was infamous for taking either a "maybe" or some other noncommittal answer as a YES. If we said something would be nice if we could do XXX. He took it as gospel that we were going to do XXX and if we couldnt do XXX then there was H to pay. Or he would ask for something and if I said, well I dont know, maybe I will think about it and ask your Dad and get back to you later. He would take that to mean that I said yes and do whatever it was that he wanted to do. I didnt come right out and say NO!

    Even now I have to be fairly careful if I tell him I am thinking of something and preface it by saying...NOW CORY...I am only thinking of doesnt mean I am going to do is only in the thinking stages and my not go any further.
  8. tessaturtle

    tessaturtle New Member

    Our difficult child is exactly like that, so you are definitely not alone! difficult child also takes "maybes" or "I'll think about it" as yes...actually, any answer you give him he tends to hear what he wants to hear, even if it is making up something that had nothing to do with what you actually say.
    ANyway, our difficult child's sound kind of similar in that rigid thinking. Also in making a big drama out of everything. Our difficult child lately too has not been able to come back to things either to talk it out - he just gets all wound up again. sigh

    WIth our difficult child, I've noticed some of it getting worse as he gets older...have you noticed that with yours?
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    he was infamous for taking either a "maybe" or some other noncommittal answer as a YES.

    Yes, Janet and Tess! If I could go back in time, I would change all of my maybe's into a firm, "NO." But at the time, I was considering the options for each situation, and didn't realize that difficult child had cognitive difficulties. I thought I could think it over or change my mind, like I did with-easy child. Live and learn!
  10. Audrey

    Audrey New Member

    he was infamous for taking either a "maybe" or some other noncommittal answer as a YES.

    HA! We live that hourly I think. My difficult child is only 5-1/2 but a few months ago he told husband that "I'll think about it" really means 'yes' right"

    If I switch any plans or routine at all due to an unexpected situation, he's hiding under tables, slamming his head into the couch, crying, tantrums...
  11. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Nice to know at least that I am not alone...thanks for the moral support.

    SW-- I'll check out the clinician's guide. That might help. We have tried Lamictal, Trileptal, Tenex, Strattera, Metadate, Adderall, Wellbutrin, Abilify, Prozac, Zoloft... and probably some others I am forgetting. Abilfy had a small positive effect and now he seems to be tolerating a low dose of Concerta and that has improved his behavior at school. I feel like we manage from day to day but aren't really making any positive behavioral impacts. All I can hope is that others in his life are.

    We have never found therapy very helpful--he loves the time with the therapist, which is good, but it really doesn't translate into anything he takes away and therapists don't really get to see the problem in action.
  12. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    OMG. I remember the first time we all watched a movie together at home. It was a Friday night and difficult child 2 was 7. From then on - every Friday night was "movie night"! Huge meltdowns every Friday for the next 2-3 years if we didn't watch a movie.

    No you are not alone.

    I no longer do "if ... then" arrangements with my difficult child 2. I decided that major melt downs were not worth it and that approach was very clearly NOT teaching the desired lesson. He just can't handle that format at this point.

    So instead, whenever possible, I choose activities that meet my needs and his needs, figure out how to structure his time given all the constraints and then tell him what he is going to do when. For example, I might tell him - you will work on your homework from 4 to 4:30. At 4:30 we will go for a walk. If he's not finished with his homework at 4:30 we still go for the walk.

    Don't know if this is helpful but it might be worth a try. And it can't always be done.

    The other thought I had was to have him write down all his complaints and his feelings that you are lying, etc. in a notebook for you to read instead of telling you them out loud. If you can get him to do this it might be very helpful to both of you. Then you can write a reply in his notebook if you want and he will have it to refer to in the future.
  13. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace New Member

    Me too!!! I have spent countless hours explaining the difference between "lying" and changing my mind (especially changing my mind due to difficult child behavior), changed circumstances, etc. Your son's age is particularly tough, but in our house, it has gotten better as difficult child has gotten older (I hesitate to use the word "matured" -- LOL!). He still gets stuck in emotional reactions sometimes -- especially if the word "no" is involved!

    Black-and-white thinking is really common in difficult children. And really tough on parents, who deal in shades of gray.
  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Pepperidge, you can always provoke him in the therapist's office, you know. Call ahead and tell them you're going to, so they can see his reaction. It shouldn't take much. Just promise him he can have something that a.m., and then later, at the ofc, tell him you changed your mind. And watch the fireworks.
    It sounds manipulative (and it is) but it may be the only way they get to see him in action, and then work out a way for him to address it. He needs to understand that the world is not black and white.
    My son has made a lot of progress in that regard, but still has a long way to go.