Good News, Bad News


Active Member
I rarely post about difficult child any more because frankly the past few years he's been more like a more difficult than average but still managable child. But things seem to be heating up again so I thought I'd post and get your input.

I came here when he started first grade because he was in a rapid downward slide due to school anxiety, and made worse by reactions to the two medications we tried. Every issue he ever had reached sky high levels and it was a long road back to baseline behaviors. The good news is that that same boy who could hardly walk through the doors of first grade made a seamless transition to 5th grade this year. No signs of anxiety, no fear, no sensory overload--it's hard even for me to see that this functioning kid is the same out of control boy we couldn't coax from under the bed. On that plane, we have much to be thankful for. He's developed coping skills which I hope will carry over to future transitions.

difficult child is now 11 1/2. diagnosis is Autistic traits leaning in the direction of Asperger's with all that goes with it (rigid thinking, sensory, executive function issues) He's made such good progress in all areas that school staff report he's no longer distinguishable from his classmates. He's a good student and has two good buddies. On the homefront it takes more to manage him than my easy child's but some extra planning and flexibility we can function pretty much normally. No medications.

Around springtime I started seeing an increase in issues, all seeming to stem from the rigid, egocentric thinking style that goes along with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)'s. Here are some of the things we're seeing--
1) Increased irritability--he's being set off far more easily than we've seen
2) Tears when frustrated at me--he seriously hasn't cried as an emotional response for many years now so it caught me way off guard when I first saw it
3) Increased anger--difficult child's mantra is "It's not my fault!" When someone in the house has wronged him in his eyes he starts with this comment and gets stuck there. It doesn't matter what the situation is--it's not his fault.
4) Heightened anger responses, including aggressive talk and actions, destruction.

This morning he asked to play his Nintendo DS and I gave the okay. A few minutes later he changed his mind and wanted to play Wii instead but I'd already given his sister permission. He was mad, launched into this It's not my fault mode and quit functioning--hid from me, started looking for a way to take revenge on his sister (wound up throwing her karaoke machine to the floor), charged at her physically, came out to the kitchen while we were eating to make noise to irritate us, followed up by being angry at the rest of the family for leaving for church without him.

Do you think this could be the start of teenage stuff? The pediatrician did say at his spring physical that he's started maturing. His "it's not my fault response" seems a lot like the "it's not fair" mentality a lot of teenagers have. He gets stuck and often doesn't get off it until he's had a night's sleep.

The other thing is that my usual methods of dealing with him seem suddenly not to be working. For starters, he's smarter and things like distractions that helped him get over a hurdle no longer work. He literally told me a few weeks ago that such and such wouldn't distract him out of his mood. Another example is that I've always bought a few books to have laying around to help him through those rough first weeks of school--it's been a good, quiet help for him. This year he hid them because "You should ask my permission before ordering books."

I need to go back and reread TEC again to see if I need to revise some of my actions, but I'm feeling like he's reached an age when there needs to start being a shift from mom managing his tough spots to difficult child being involved in managing his rough spots. He's never responded well to punishment but he's upping the stakes by doing things I can't ignore, like last week trashing his brother's room. Virtually all of his progress has been made through giving him time to mature, prevention, and incentives to get over hard hurdles. How do I address the need to be responsible for his actions when consequences have typically made him worse?

Thoughts? Suggestions? Experiences from those who have been there, done that? Thanks for any help with this--I feel like I'm standing at a crossroads wondering where to go and what to do.


Active Member
All I know is that my difficult child tends to have explosive periods right before big growth spurts or reaching other physical milestones (like now his voice is starting to change). I have noticed it and tend to think that the hormones bouncing around are somehow linked to the difficult child'ness.


So much of what you write sounds familiar to me. Just when I think difficult child has finally gotten it all together, I get blind-sided.

Some of this sounds like puberty to me. We went through a period recently that included the irritability, the tears, the anger. The smart mouth was front and center. I also found where he had peeled wallpaper off the wall in his bedroom. This was atypical behavior – difficult child is not usually intentionally destructive.

The downward spiral started right at the first of the year. I can almost pinpoint it to the day of the trigger (but I never found out with-100% certainty what triggered it).

difficult child hadn’t had a severe anxiety episode in a good while, and I missed the cues early on. Not sure it would have made much of a difference if I had tuned in earlier. After it’s passed a certain point, it pretty much has to run it’s course. What that typically means is 3 – 4 weeks of recovery after school is out. This summer it took about 6 weeks for him to snap out of it.

What I’ve found, though, is that difficult child’s anxiety doesn’t present the same way now as it did when he was younger. There are some of the same signs, but some symptoms are different.

I think difficult child has developed other skills when it comes to the anxiety, but I’m not sure you could say they are better coping skills. He’s just better able to hide for a longer period of time and then he falls apart on us.

difficult child didn’t respond well to punishment when he was younger either although he had made such progress that I had reverted to more traditional measures. Before I snapped to what was going on this time around, my reaction to his misbehavior just made things worse. I had to regroup. I even stooped to threatening bringing out The Voucher System. Lol

As you know, difficult child has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). He has made huge strides, and I feel fairly certain that if he were to be reevaluated today, it wouldn’t be picked up on without a lot of background being tendered.

We went through some medication changes also because it seemed the medication had stopped working. I’m not so sure now that the changes didn’t cause some extra problems.

I’ve also learned that he was told at school that his medication had quit working. I’m not sure that wasn’t a green flag for him to more or less give up in some areas.

difficult child usually starts to show signs of anxiety a couple of weeks before school starts. This year, all I “saw” was his response to questions from relatives and friends when asked if he was ready to go back to school. There was no hesitation in his voice when he responded, “No” each time.

I don’t know what to tell you except I know for a fact that puberty and anxiety are not pretty. Wish I could be more help. I know how frustrating it is.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
It does seem like puberty may be triggering this. As for what the answer is, I wish I knew. My difficult child doesn't handle consequences well but is starting to do better with-them. He screams and pouts for a long time but then will take the consequence.

It's great to hear all the progress he has made. I'm sorry though that he is struggling right now.


I just want to ask what you did to get a couple of good years?

Despite being 8 (almost 9), I think my son started pueberty this year. The hair on his legs is noticeable and this year he NEEDS deoderant. His attitude and moods have been the way you described since forever.

I hope he makes the necessary adjustments and that he can get back on track. It sounds like he has a very stable and nurturing home that will provide the consistency he needs to do so.



Hi SRL, I've been thinking about your post since I read it earlier today and wondering how I should respond. I'm with Sheila -- a lot of what you say feels very familiar. My difficult child 1 doesn't have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but he has always had significant anxiety and a bipolar-like mood disorder that "blossomed" at the age of 12. In his preschool and elementary school years, we muddled through on our own by working with him rather than against him. I had not read The Explosive Child until after he was diagnosed with a mood disorder, but somehow instinctively husband and I knew that flexibility and planning (what you have done with your difficult child) made for a happier household.

When difficult child 1 entered 6th grade, everything spun out of control. He was angry, irritable, frustrated and destructive. He hated going to school and refused to do any homework. No matter what we tried, nothing seemed to work. It was at that point that we knew we needed intensive outside help, and difficult child 1 began seeing a psychiatrist for weekly psychotherapy and medication management (we had to switch psychiatrists a couple of times until we found the right fit, but he has now been seeing the same psychiatrist for almost 2 years). While I can't promise that everything is rosy in our household, I can say that things have decidedly taken a turn for the better.

It's been my experience with my three kids that anxiety can take many forms and change what it looks like over the years (my easy child/difficult child 3 has had her anxiety present at different times as separation anxiety, hair pulling, selective mutism, eating disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies). Although your difficult child appears no longer anxious about school, he could still be anxious about other things and you're seeing it at home in spades. Furthermore, anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression, and irritability in children is frequently a symptom of depression. I'm not saying this is definitely what's going on with your difficult child, but I just wanted to put it out there for you to consider.

So what to do. Is your difficult child in therapy? If not, would you consider it at this point? Is it worth reconsidering medications? I know you had some bad experiences with SSRIs (so have we), but there are other medications out there that can make a huge difference in a difficult child's ability to cope.

One other thought: While The Explosive Child is an excellent beginning, you might want to pick up a copy of Treating Explosive Kids, Ross Greene's newer book for clinicians. It has a much fuller explanation of how to put collaborative problem solving to work. I even gave a copy to difficult child 1's psychiatrist, who was very impressed with it and coaches us on how to use the techniques with difficult child 1.

Good luck. I really feel for you.


New Member
SRL, in addition to my pm, I wanted to second what SmallWorld said about Treating the Explosive Child by Greene. It is really good and I too have gotten one of our professionals a copy. I found it to be even more of a help than Easy Child.

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
I think puberty has reared it's ugly head.

Travis was pretty managable til puberty hit. Adolecence wasn't a whole lot better. Both really threw the kid for a loop behavior/attitude wise.



Former desparate mom
While so many of our kids have similar labels, they still have their own basic personalities and genetic mixes. While we can help them learn to function as they ought(hopefully), we can't deny who they are and how it manifests throughout their development.
One of the helpful tools I used was asking difficult child if he were the parent, what would he do? Or pointing out in a movie similar behaviors and opening up a discussion of why it was not the best way to behave. They are smart and dealing with them honestly has been the lesson I learned after everything else failed. I ask, what can I do to prevent this destruction.
I'm sure the books recommended will offer you more practical advice than I can give but looking back my son's personality continues to be the same although it is overlaid with learned socializations. As he has matured he has more depth and complexity but he is still a young adult who does not believe anyone knows a better way than he does. His decisions are justified even if the reality tells him he is wrong. We are fortunate that he is an empathetic young man and is kind through and through but I can see that if he didn't have the emotional openess that he could be very unfeeling.
Using the emotions that bind him to his friends is a good tool to identify with his siblings. How would he feel if his friend did to him what difficult child did to his sister?

I'm a big believer that 13yr olds(give or take a year or two) should be on an island until they become civilized but unfortunately we all have to get through the "dark times"(my difficult child's terminology)


Active Member
Thanks everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. I don't know yet how I'm going to tackle this but you've given me a lot to think about. I have decided before taking any steps I need to do more observation to see exactly what is going on in our interactions. I've also been thinking more about whether to talk to him about his diagnosis or not--he's so much closer to a "normal" kid than one with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) these days that we've not. My heart tells me it would be counterproductive and that he's done well with us addressing his issues just as we would the weaknesses of any of our other children.

One interesting note since I first posted: I realized that the moment the words "It's not my fault!" fly out of his mouth in that rapidly spoken self righteous tone, it's almost as if it's a self trigger for a downward spiral. The more he repeats it, the faster he goes down the tubes and the more frustrated he becomes. I decided to try humor and teased him about it and the other day he actually stopped himself in midsentence and the conflict was avoided. Something there "took" when all of my other attempts failed to convince him his reasoning was off.

Fran, your comment "His decisions are justified even if the reality tells him he is wrong." is what STILL blows me away even after seeing it in action for all of these years. This egocentric, rigid thinking mindset seems to be at the root of most of his conflicts. To be perfectly fair I know grown neurotypical males who are exactly the same way, but not necessarily as dysfunctional as they aren't weighed down with all the other issues our difficult child's are. How far he can go with this remains to be seen but I see this flexibility/inflexibility as key.

Thanks again everyone. I'm going to reread this thread, check out the books, and take a step back to think and observe before acting. Maybe he'll make a quantum leap during that time...ha, ha, ha...wishful thinking going into the teen years, I know. :reading:


Well-Known Member
Wish I could offer advice, SRL, but obviously, you've gotten some great ideas here. This is a great thread for me, too! ... there are so many similiarities. Especially, "It's not my fault!"
Best of luck.


Well-Known Member
Yes, good luck to you in those lovely teen years!

Sorry I did not respond sooner. I just need more time to read all the way through this one. I tried about 5 times, but kept getting interrupted.

Mrs Smith

New Member
There's a great thread from another site that talks about dealing with kids with asperger's from an aspie point of view. Lots of good practical advice.