Hi, New Member!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by michelenicole, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. michelenicole

    michelenicole New Member

    Hello. This is my first post here, and I come just seeking support. I hope I am posting on the right board.

    Anyway. My name is Michele. I'm 28 years old, and got married in June of last year. I have one son, Gavin, who is five, and shortly before I got married my husband gained custody of his two children who are four and three due to neglect allegations against his ex-wife. So, now we have custody of all three boys.

    Just this past week, my oldest step son had to be admitted into a mental health hospital facility for almost stabbing a teacher with a pair of scissors and for making threats of violence against his teachers, which is just a small part of the behavior problems he's been having at school and at home. He was released from the hospital this evening with what looks like a diagnosis of ODD. We're thankful that we now have a name for the problems and follow-up doctor's appointments for help in dealing with his behaviors.

    Basically, I'm just...overwhelmed. I married my husband because I love him (and I love the kids, too). But I didn't know that I would have to deal with problems of this magnitude (the three-year-old also has problems with his development)...problems that have spilled into my own son's behavior and coping skills. My son's speech has regressed (both of my step children are in speech therapy), and he is having more temper tantrums as well.

    I just really need to know that I am not alone, and if anyone has any suggestions I would be extremely thankful.

    Thank you for reading.
  2. mama2abc

    mama2abc New Member

    Welcome! I am new here myself and also have a son diagnosed with ODD. Hopefully, some of the more "seasoned" members can give you some helpful advice. I'm paddling a similar boat and don't have much to share except empathy and an ear to listen. Hang in there Mama...God never gives us anything we can't handle, so you are perfect for those boys. Give yourself some grace, everything is so new for your family dynamics.
  3. michelenicole

    michelenicole New Member

    Thank you for the reply! I really just need to know that I am not alone, so thank you :)

    Oh, and I forgot to say in my initial message than both of my step sons also see an Occupational Therapist (OT) for sensory deprivation disorder.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hi, and welcome.

    You're not alone. I don't have experience with your situation ... but there certainly others on the board with experiences like yours... step kids or adopted kids, early caregiver issues... and extreme behavior.

    Do you know if mental health problems or other diagnoses run in the bio-mom's family? or in your husband's side? Ca you tell us more about their early years, if you know any details?

    Many of us on this board - I've seen a handful of exceptions but not many - have kids who ended up with the ODD label. Except that, as a diagnosis, it's useless. It does document problem behavior, and in that sense it works as a placeholder, but... there are no interventions, accommodations, or medications for ODD.

    Instead... there is usually something more going on. The challenge is to find out what those things are. What kind of evaluations have these boys had, and who did the evaluations?
  5. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Sorry to burst your bubble but ODD does nothing and it certainly doesn't explain why he'd try to stab his teacher with a scissors. All ODD means is that the child displays oppositional and/or defiant behavior. Period. It does not tell you why. It's the WHY that means something. I would highly recommend you read the books The Explosive Child by Ross Greene as well as What Your Explosive Child Is Trying To Tell You by Dr. Doug Riley. Our kids have reasons for acting the way they do. It is our job, with the help of professionals if you can find good ones, to figure out what those reasons are. These two books will help you get on the right road.

    Do any of them have IEP's at school? If not, that should be priority 1. Second is to have both of his evaluated by a neuropsychologist. They do VERY comprehensive evaluations that are much more informative and "usually" more accurate. Did the psychiatric hospital put him on any medications?

    As for your son, he's probably just mimicking what he's seeing. I know that doesn't make it any easier but if there were no problems before, my guess is this is learned behavior.

    Welcome to our little corner of the world. Sorry you had to find us but so glad you did! Stick around and you won't regret it.
  6. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome. My intution - for whatever that is worth - on reading your post is that your step-son's history is not unrelated to the incident of violence. We do not really know how neglect, change of family, loss of his mother might reallly affect a five year old but it doesn't seem beyond the pale of probability that once he is more settled, and reassured with the love of his permanent parents, that this kind of thing will disappear. Don't give up hope yet or feel that that is it, the die is permanently cast! This is just bound to be a time of difficulty and testing, unfortunately for you...
  7. michelenicole

    michelenicole New Member

    Let's see if I an answer all of your questions and give more background information.

    His background. At the end of May (last year), both of my step children were removed from their mother's care because she was locking her kids in a bedroom and leaving them there for extended periods of time. She was locking them in the bedroom by tieing a rope from the door knob to the stair banister. When the police found the children on that particular night, she had the children locked in the bedroom and was over at a neighbor's apartment. Witnesses said the police observed no activity at her apartment for at least 45 minutes before they got involved by knocking on the neighbor's door. She was not sent to jail, but has been found guilty of neglect in civil court. When the children first came to live here, the oldest one was peeing on bedding, furniture, toys in the bedroom, and both had anxiety about closing the bedroom door. We still can't close bedroom doors here. Both children were also not on a routine for meals and bedtime - they slept whenever and ate whenever, mostly junk food. We have trouble getting them to eat anything but McDonald's.

    Both receive speech therapy and have since August. They both just started seeing an occupational therapist a few weeks ago. They both go to a head start child care facility (what I am referring to as "school"), and these services happen through the head start center. The oldest one has been having problems, mostly at school, the entire time he's been living here. I tried and tried to get my husband to do something about it, but my husband didn't see the problems until we received a report from daycare that the child was threatening to shoot his teachers and attempted to stab a teacher in the arm. In August, he hit a pregnant teacher so hard in the stomach that she threw up. He has these "meltdowns" at daycare for not much of a reason at all, which causes him to throw items and furniture, physically assault other children, physically assault teachers, rip posters off the walls, etc. They have a difficult time getting him to calm down, but once he's calm, he's fine until the next "meltdown" happens. At home, he's constantly instigating trouble with my five-year-old by picking on him and arguing with him until my five-year-old reacts (usually through hitting), and he's quick to "tattle tell" after the reaction. He lies constantly; even if you see him do something, he'll lie to you about doing it. Just this morning he woke up at 6am, before all the other kids, and was singing loudly enough to wake me up.

    This child's behavior is ruining my marriage and my relationship with my own son. I am worried that I did the wrong thing getting married and trying to help these kids, and I am very scared.

    As far as what tests have been done, I am not sure. He was an in-patient at a mental health facility for almost six days where he had therapy, visits with the psychitrist, and group therapy, so we're still pretty much in the dark about what tests they completed while he was there. He has both follow-up appointments with a therapist (this week) and psychitrist (next week). Yes, they both have IEPs at Head Start, but both IEPs need to be updated (I worked with them on that in the fall of last year). I'm not sure of mental illness on his ex-wife's side, but my husband says that his son exhibits behaviors that he witnessed in his younger brother who was diagnosed with ADHD (my own brother has ADHD and never exhibited that much aggression).

    He did not leave the hospital on any medication.

    There have also been episodes of self-harm from him. A few weeks after my son lost his first tooth, this little boy was laying in bed one night and I heard him yelling for his dad, so I went to check on him. He had his tooth in his hand. It wasn't previously loose.

    Right now we're having to deal with Medicaid, so I'm not sure about a neuropsychologist. I don't even know where to go about looking for one; we live in a small town in Kentucky. Is that someone that we can be referred to through his other doctors?
  8. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome, glad you found us!

    First of all, I would take the doors right off the bedrooms. Gives them a huge relief of having to wonder if someone is going to close them while they are sleeping.

    Second, you need to realize you can not love or mother this away. They are 2 deeply hurt children who will need lots of help throughout the next 20 to 25 years (likely more). They need to be in therapy. THEIR MOTHER locked them in a room. And they probably still love her. And she is out of their lives suddenly. These kids need big time help to process all this and it will take years.

    You REALLY need to evaluate you & your son's new situation. Is it best for him? Hard to say. Could he still grow up to be a lovely young man? Of course. But, this will change the course of his life for sure. Living this life is tough. He will experience things you will wish he did not. One can not predict what it will do to/for him. He may grow to be the next best psychiatrist around from his upbringing with troubled children. He may decide never to have children for fear they will be like his step brothers. He may do a myriad of things due to being in this environment. Or, he could take it all in stride and it may not impact him all that much. I doubt that last sentence. I think nobody on this site could claim they are the same person they were before having a difficult child.

    It is OK for you to really think about what you need to do. But, first realize that YOU can NOT fix these boys. So, make sure that fact is part of your equation.
  9. keista

    keista New Member

    Welcome! Busywend's idea of taking the doors off completely is brilliant!

    in my opinion these boys have at least two distinct issues going on - 1. reactions to their previous abuse (fear of the door, peeing all over the bedroom - where else were they supposed to go when they were locked up?) and 2. what ever 'disorder' may be part of their inborn nature. There may be no diagnosed mental illness on their mother's side, but I think we can all agree that a person must be pretty disturbed to treat their kids that way and think it's OK.

    Sounds like your husband is sufferring from a touch of denial. I don't blame him. He doesn't want to acknowledge that what his ex did is that bad and could possibly have created some serious damage, and he doesn't want to admit that there is anything else really "wrong" with his kids. Alwas seems to be tougher for the men. Be gentle and non-accusatory with him. His knee jerk reaction right now will allways be defensive.
  10. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Thanks for all the additional information. That makes a huge difference. The easy part, medicaid paid for difficult child 1's neuropsychologist evaluation 100%. I didn't pay a penny and I did not need a referral. You might want to check area Children's Hospitals. That is where most people find theirs. Then you can call them and see if you need a referral. One from a family doctor would be enough if it's needed.

    Now the tougher part. MAJOR neglect, no chance to develop a healthy relationship, not being around others much, no real sensory input, inadequate nutrition, no being taught normal skills, etc, etc, etc. and then being taken from what's familiar and put them is a strange place with strange people with strange expectations without the skills to handle any of it. There is going to be a LOT of issues for these kids. They have no idea HOW to behave and they have no idea HOW to handle anything much less the anxiety and fear. They have basically just gone through a time warp so to speak and are expected to act in ways and know things they have absolutely no way of knowing.

    Check out those books. All of his behavior is for a REASON. He's trying to communicate things but doesn't know how so he's acting it out. My guess is PTSD type issues not to mention expectations he has no idea how to meet. You should also dig around for information about Reactive Attachment Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, abandonment issues (this would logically be something he feels), developmental delays, effects of severe neglect, etc.

    Yes, you need to decide if this is best for your son. HE is your proirity but I don't want you to think there is no hope for these boys. They don't know any better because they've never been taught. The typical "treatment" for ODD is holding them TOTALLY responsible for ALL their actions and to show them who's the boss. That will NOT work with this boy. He is not doing ANY of it intentionally. He is a victim in every sense of the word. He is being expected to act in ways and do things that he has know idea how to do it and then getting in trouble for not knowing or for doing it wrong. It sounds like you and your husband should get into counseling also. It's going to be a long road but it is doable. There IS hope.

  11. michelenicole

    michelenicole New Member

    Thank you for the suggestions. Unfortunately, doors can't really be removed due to us living in an apartment that is inspected constantly, but the doors are absolutely never closed.

    And to address what you said about his behavior being unintentional...Some of it is very, very intentional. How he treats my son, he knows what he's doing.

    All of this sounds so awful. I really, really didn't sign up for this. I have depression and anxiety issues myself (unfortunately can't get treatment for myself due to insurance reasons) and I don't know if I can handle this.
  12. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    It sounds like you've already made up your mind and are looking for validation. This boy is severely jealous of your son. He has a mother that loves him and treats him well and gets everything he's never had and wanted so badly.

    This boy needs EXTRA love and understanding and I don't believe you, or anyone, can read the mind or the intentions of a 5 year old. Especially one who's never been taught to act or think or be like a typical 5 year old. Unless you are willing to consider changing your way of thinking, not only is this situation not good for your son, you might not be good for your stepson.

    I don't mean to be cruel or not understanding. I just know from personal experience that what we THINK isn't always what is REAL and may very well be not anywhere close to someone else's REALITY. Sometimes our thinking as WAY off base. Mine was.
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there and welcome to the board.

    in my opinion your two stepkids need a neuropsychologist evaluation. Also, with their history, you need to read about reactive attachment disorder, which is a debilitating disorder of kids who have had many early breaks or neglect in their early childhoods and no main caregiver. It does not improve with time. You need to get them a special sort of therapy.

    Here is a link about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It is very common in older adopted kids (or any kids who had very unstable infancy/toddler years) and it is NOT FUN! And it's not easy to treat either. But you can do something and you should. However, these boys are going to be very difficult children. You may have to think about if you wish to go through with this. The boys have already been damaged and even with help it's going to take a long time...and A LOT of work and your son may continue to be targetted forever...it is hard to say. We adopted one older boy who had to leave. He was dangerous to all my younger kids, even molested them (watch out for t hat too. I would not leave your son alone with him). You don't know what happened to him in his mother's house. If this boy tried to stab a teacher and talked about killing you...I dunno. I would take it seriously and keep him in your sight at all times; maybe put an alarm on the door at night. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) k ids can be very dangerous, if that is what is wrong. They do not develop a conscience.

    If it is serious attachment issues, love doesn't help. I have to respectfully disagree with anyone who thinks enough love will solve this (I thought love was the answer too at one time). Kids who never had a loving caregiver and learned early on that they only can depend on one person: themselves, often get even worse the more you try to love them. They are often afraid of and/or suspicious of love and don't want it. Not saying your child is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)...there are vaious parts of the spectrum...but his degree of acting out is really quite severe. I don't want anyone to ever go through what we did with our adopted son. We had no idea how dangerous he had been until he was gone...(((hugs))).

    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  14. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome Michelle. I am glad you found us. You're being offered some great advice from other mom's who've been where you are, or know how to help you. I am not in that position to help you because I have not been in your shoes, however, I can offer some empathy and prayers that you find the guidance you need to move forward. Even though your insurance does not cover therapy for your depression and anxiety issues, you MUST find ways to get support. There are groups you can join for parents with difficult kids, perhaps others know about them and can give you some advice. Here in No. Ca. there is an organization called NAMI which covers a lot of Mental illness issues and offers so many groups and services for the families. I don't know if that is an appropriate place for you to land, but perhaps they can suggest other avenues of support. And usually there are agencies which offer therapy at a reduced cost. You may have to do some research into this, but it's going to be absolutely necessary for you to get support for yourself, so you can deal with what is on your plate. A good therapist can help you to find ways to prioritize your issues and deal with them in appropriate ways, in addition to offering the support you need right now. My heart goes out to you, keep posting here and listen to what the others are offering. Hugs to you Michelle.............we understand............
  15. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Of course your stepson didn't sign up for it either, unfortunately.

    I can really understand that you didn't bargain for this in marrying your husband and that you feel it is more than you can handle. I also feel, from personal experience, that it's in trying to escape difficulty that we actually heap more difficulty on ourselves, paradoxically - but it's obviously not for any of us to say what you "should" do and in saying that, I truly don't mean to criticise you. Who knows what I would do in your shoes? Who am I to say I would feel or react any differently? But I do also see the four year old - I think your stepson is just four, right? - who has had such a tough deal in life already, poor little mite. I don't know whether he can be loved out of it... my instinct is to say, yes, at least that should be tried and he is VERY young, much younger than MWM's adopted boy was when he came to her family.

    I am sorry. You are facing a real dilemma and the future of your family and your relationship is at stake. It is very little, but I do wish you the strength and clarity to see a clear and good way forward for all concerned. Hugs.
  16. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hello and welcome--

    I think there is a difference between "intentional" and "pre-meditated". We are suggesting that those behaviors which sure *look* intentional are not the result of some evil plot that your step son has been crafting in his head. Instead - he is likely reacting in the only way he knows in order to deal with large amounts of frustration. I would also guess he has very little impulse control.

    These step children will not be able to be parented the way more "typical" kids can be parented. You really will have to become a Warrior Mom in order to keep the whole family safe.

    If your son is being abused by the step sons, then you MUST keep them separated any time you cannot directly supervise them. MUST! Not an option!

    I don't blame you one bit for being worried and anxious about what the future holds....it is a stressful situation. How on-board is your husband with all of this? Is he going to be able to help you manage these boys?
  17. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Malika, when I said she could not 'love' it away, certainly I was not suggesting that she not love the children. What I was saying is that 'love' will not make these boys better. They need serious interventions. Certainly loving them would be required or one could not be a warrior mom. But, just love will not cure them of their pain.
  18. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Sadly busywend is right, it is not that we dont love them but Reactive Attachment Disorder proper, can't be cured with someone loving the child if they truly have the problem. One really good book is "when love is not enough".

    I too think that you might want to really research Reactive Attachment Disorder. Look at the symptom lists ( you have listed many common symptoms) and with the history of neglect and care giver issues from infancy through three/four....those are the years kids learn to develop their trust and security in adults. This affects their personality at the core. I have a child with attachment disorder and it is a highly specialized field, typical psychologists may say they understand but all experts warn they can not only be ineffective in their therapy but do more damage than help. The type of therapy if very different.

  19. allhaileris

    allhaileris Crumbling Family Rock

    Age 4 was the year from h*ll. You get one bad year, 2, 3, or 4, and my ODD child chose the latter. It was the age that she tested the boundaries the most and had the worst explosions.

    Was something else going on to trigger it? My daughter acts the worst when there is something else going on to stress out the whole family or she's overstimulated.

    She's also VERY sensitive to food dye, and will go completely bonkers if she gets it. Look up the Feingold diet, it's for ADHD kids, but diet changes make a huge difference in many of our kids. It's the easiest thing to take out of one's diet to begin with. Just read the labels, you'd be surprised at the things that are brightly colored that use natural foods for dyes. There are other "diets" you can explore, but are harder to do with an entire family (like the Gluten free/casein free diet). You state he has eaten a lot of junk food, so that may be part of it. I'm sure you're feeding your family well balanced meals, but our cr*ppy American diet is that...cr*ppy without realizing it. There are some other additives that can set people off, I just can't remember them right now. Work on whole foods, cooked at home, non-canned (BPA is in the liners), not out of a box.

    I have locked my daughter in her bedroom, but it's for MY protection and so she can kick and scream in her room where it's safe. I sit in front of the door until she's done, and it's never more than 5 min or so (maybe longer if I need to cry it out). I doubt the ex did it for that reason (because she left), but it's possible she couldn't handle their outbursts so she put them in their room and overdid it.
  20. michelenicole

    michelenicole New Member

    All of your replies make me feel like I am not alone, and I very much appreciate that.

    Is it bad for me to say that I don't think I can be the one to love this child? I just can't. He does everything possible to annoy me and to annoy my son. All he has done is make my life extremely difficult. I know that none of it is his fault, but I can't help feeling resentful towards him.

    I'm trying to complete my last semester of my bachelor's degree. I have so many projects and things that are due, and I don't know if I can handle it right now. I am so upset, just feel like crying. Don't feel like doing anything other than sleeping.

    I don't want to leave my husband because I love him. I don't want to give up on the kids because that's all they have known in their lives. But I don't know if I am strong enough to deal with this. When it's just me, my husband, and my son, I am so happy (except when I think about them). But as soon as they are home, I'm automatically more irritated, annoyed...everything.