Sounds like you might need an evaluation as the first step. My kids are into adulthood, so there are others who can better relate to your daughter. Just wanted to welcome you and let you know you are in the right place to find some good advice.....
Welcome, Stephanie. I strongly agree - get her evaluated. It can be expensive but a good evaluation can change your lives.
Do homework yourself, too. Keep some sort of diary of her behaviour. You've already made some valuable observations - she's a leader and not a follower; she's great fun when things are working her way; she doesn't cope with change; she's got some tactile/Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) issues. I suspect she's also very bright and has certain subjects she particularly is good at and enjoys.
This is screaming "Asperger's" at me, but there are other conditions which are superficially similar. and the tendency to Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) in its various forms (the umbrella which covers Asperger's, among other conditions) is hereditary. This doesn't mean that all who inherit the tendency will display the condition - scientists are still working on that one. But it could connect to the family history.
You've queried ODD. In my view, ODD-like symptoms can result from trying to parent a child in a way that is not appropriate to that child's specific needs. This doesn't mean it's your fault - it happens, in some underlying conditions, that the usual discipline techniques which we've been brought up to believe in, which worked on you and which are great with your other children, actually make some children worse. And there is also the possibility of stand-alone ODD, which I consider to be separate. For now, I would recommend taking the Ross Greene approach - try and get his book, "The Explosive Child". As a start. Grab a copy out of the library, if money is a hassle. If it works for you the shop can always be there for you. Also, there is some discussion on this book on the Early Childhood forum.
I feel it's worth considering the following:
1) She feels a desperate need to control her environment, perhaps because for her, it's not as easy as it perhaps looks. Change brings unpredictability and uncertainty, which makes her afraid and anxious. Often these kids react to anxiety with anger and violence. It's a defensive thing - "you made me feel bad (anxious) and I'm going to be angry about it until you make it better." They often aren't equipped to recognise anxiety for what it is, especially if there's any Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) in the picture.
2) She's impulsive. Knows what she wants and will get it however she can. Determined. Stubborn. You can't block her and if you try, you get rages. Because SHE knows better.
(You get this in bright kids for whom the world is a confusing place - these kids have put a lot of brain power into developing their own understanding of t heir environment and how it works. This includes developing their own understanding of how people interact and how she can get what she wants from other people).
If I'm right, you need Ross Greene's book. A lot of us on this site have found it to be helpful. To be fair there are some who say it hasn't helped them, but from what you say I feel it should make a difference to you.
Make a list of as much as you can. Document, document, document. Write down everything unusual or interesting she did, from her earliest moment. Discuss this with husband and any others who know her, ask others for their recollections too. It's amazing how something apparently trivial or maybe amusing can also be enlightening - for example, difficult child 3 showed an affinity for trees from the first opportunity. I brought him home from the hospital and when trying to settle him, I carried him in my arms to the garden. I could see his eyes on the leaves on the tree and the closer the leaves were to his face, the more he seemed to settle. This happened every time and was even more noticeable in the west-facing backyard in the late afternoon - I realised later that it was the flicker effect of the sunlight through the leaves. He was stimming (self-stimulatory behaviour in autism, like flicking their fingers in front of their eyes - it soothes them, like stroking their arm.) And then a few months later he would be lying on my bed watching "Sale of the Century" on TV, as if glued to the set. he would get fretful during the ad breaks, then shut up and focus on the TV when the show was on. We thought it was funny, cute and it HAD to be coincidence - until later on, when it turned out he was hyperlexic. At only five months of age he was fascinated by the competitors' scoreboards. Then it was the display on the microwave oven as it counted down the seconds. His first words were the numbers he was reading. And letters.
A lot of this came with 20:20 hindsight. difficult child 3 was apparently a bright baby who loved music so I let him sit on my lap when I played the piano. I would guide his fingers on the keys but he never bashed at the piano the way babies often do - he would instead 'feel' for a harmonising chord. Eerie. I have a musically gifted cousin, I figured maybe difficult child 3 was following in his footsteps. Then I used difficult child 3's interest in letters to begin teaching difficult child 3 about the different note names. He got it fast and was reading music by about 2. By then he was able to name and type the alphabet, upper and lower case, into the computer and read a few simple words. But he still wasn't talking.
All this seems odd but not necessarily significant, until we put it together with what we know now - difficult child 3 is hyperlexic and high-functioning autistic. We've not been able to spend a lot of money on treatments, but we've worked out a lot for ourselves. There has been support at school and now we use correspondence school, he's doing much better. Because we understand where he's coming from, and he also understands that he is different and why, we're making good social progress.
Once they know it's not their fault, it helps a lot. They realise that life isn't fair, they've been dealt a raw hand and at first they really resent it. But we sold it to difficult child 3 (and also to difficult child 1, when he was diagnosed with Asperger's) as a condition which brings blessings with the disadvantages.
We've been told that difficult child 3's history of language delay means his diagnosis has to be autism, not Asperger's. Even though an assessment now would show no language delay ("within normal range" does not necessarily mean "normal for him, if he had no problems") it's the history that makes the difference.
Your daughter may have something very different, or it could simply be the sign of a wilful child who has not been disciplined properly. But if you have a son with no problems I doubt this is a straight-up discipline issue.
Something to give you a starting point for thought - check out the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) questionnaire on http://www.childbrain.com. It's not officially diagnostic but it can help you get started. You can print the result and take it to your specialist (even your GP, if that's where you're starting) and it will show the range of things that are concerning you.
But whatever you do - keep a diary. Document. Try and recall history. And maybe talk to her about how she feels. She's a bright kid - she knows something is wrong and probably thinks badly of herself for being so difficult sometimes. Or thinks badly of everyone else, for always being obstacles to what she wants.
For now, your best coping strategy is to give her what she wants, if it really doesn't matter. Only argue about it (and no shouting at her) if it really is a big problem, like a major safety issue. Give her choice and control, where you can afford to. For example, if you want her to wear a sweater because it's cold, but the colour doesn't matter, tell her that she can choose which sweater to wear. SHE now has control but YOU have given it to her. She will learn to value you for that. This is not spoiling, if you do it right. It can be salvation and actually lead to a more cooperative child.
Further down the track - you will need a specialist who deals with this sort of problem (this will vary depending on where you live - for us it's a pediatrician) as well as a psychologist/counsellor for her to talk to and maybe another one for you. You also need her seen by someone who can review everything and give you some formal assessment, as well as an indication of what sort of help you can provide yourself.
Too often we look for either a "magic bullet" or a doctor who can wave a magic wand and turn our child into Miss Perfect. We want the expert to do it all. But it doesn't work that way - you need to become the expert in your own child. And to a large extent, you already are. Expert consultation is your tool.
Have you thought of asking the school to test her? My son was having similar things going on at school and I had him tested through the school. But we did an extensive IEP testing and I had my son evaluated by a therapist and a psychiatrist.
Hi and Welcome...Your story sounds so much like ours. We too adopted our difficult child at birth....many of your difficult child examples are what we live with each day...
Similarities: It sounds strange but changes seem to set her off. Things such as the start of school, end of school and etc. When we are in a regular routine things go great.She has problems with authority and rules in general. They just weren't made for her. In her diary she wrote she wished there were no rules. She argues, refuses to obay rules, can get quite angry, can loose her temper easily and the yelling drives me crazy....
Our difficult child's birthmother is bipolar(but in major denial)and so is her brother and their mother. It is very hereditary. Our son was diagnosed about two years ago with Early Onset Bipolar. He is extremely moody, with many triggers for angry outburst and can turn into rages very quickly. Triggers are when he is tired, bored, told "No", when he hasn't eaten or when he doesn't get his way or what he wants.. He can be violent and verbally abusive when not on medication. We started with antidepressants when he was seven and they only made him worse. A year and a half ago we moved to mood stableizers which have helped a great deal......I can not say your difficult child is bipolar, just that we share a lot of the very same characteristics in our difficult child's. But I would sure get a full evauluation soon..then you can get her some help and hopefully some relief from herself..an for you. It is exhausting, frustrating and heartbreaking but please know you are not alone.
Hi, Stephanie and welcome. I have four adopted kids. A few questions:
Did the birthmother drink or use recreational drugs when she was pregnant? Even drinking a little bit can affect a developing fetus.
Any diagnosed psychiatric or neurological problems on either side of the family tree? It could be that birthmother has a mood disorder too and, yes, behavioral issues tend to be hereditary. Many adoptive parents I know feel their kids are more like their bio. family than themselves, even though they were raised apart from them.
Have you ever had a complete evaluation? I highly recommend a neuropsychologist. We had very poor results with two school districts and regular therapists. Adopted kids can be tricky--it's not YOUR genetics--and in my opinion you need the most "fine-tuned" professionals to figure out what is going on. It took us a long time. Things like ODD and Sensory Issues are usually part of another diagnosis, rarely stand alone. I'd try to see a neuropsychologist--there is often a waiting list so it can't hurt to get your name on the list. in my opinion they are the best evaluators because they do intensive testing, and they have no agenda (like school districts often do). Welcome again.
Wow thanks for the help and info. I never thought I would get such responses. Sometimes one doesn't really know where to turn. I have always entrusted a very dear friend and my sitter for the first 5 years of her life. She has a daughter in college that is oh so similar to mine.
Someone hit it right on the head when they said she sounded bright. He is very bright and also very athletic. There isn't anything athletic she can't do. She is an awsome dancer too. Most days I think she is just a strong willed child but other days, I feel something else is going on. She is a girly girl/tomboy all rolled into one.
We know lots about her birthfamily as they are from our home town and we knew the family before. I know her birthmother doesn't and never has used drugs. Could she have drank a little during pregnancy, well she could have. But I have never ever seen her drink even in situations where others were such as family BBQ's. We have an extremely open relationship with them. That in itself has never seemed to be an issue though.
The neuropsychologist thing has me interested. I doubt there is one in my town though. I also checked out the symptoms of Asperger's and she doesn't seem to fit that at all. I still feel she mainly has ODD. We never had problems with any delays in any area. She talked, crawled, walked, etc. early. She once opened a child proof medicine bottle at 2 and dumped it out right in front of my Mother and I. Nothing gets past her. LOL She is quite sneaky and I still hide things like fingernail polish, scissors, paints and etc. My husband said just the other day, "I am going to talk to your parent's you had to have done something bad in your childhood." You know the "mother's curse" thing or the "I hope your child is just as bad as you are" phrase. LOL
Sounds oh so similiar. I was a wreck (still need much improvement) I was so overwhelmed when I joined this board that I do not know how I made it through the day. After using much of the advice here, and research and endless reading, I came to realize that as angry as difficult child can make me...He does not choose to feel that way. He is feeling horrible. He would much rather please us than cause us stress. He is impulsive, later he is remorseful. I take things hour by hour because his mood can change in an instant. A lot of trial by error. Ruling out. Takes time. But when you have days, weeks of those big smiles, and you can smile back..it's worth it.
There are so many experts here with such good advice. I still have a long way to go. For ME.