Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by jacqb, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. jacqb

    jacqb New Member

    Hi Everyone,
    I am new here. I just found this site out of sheer desperation and I hope that I might get so help and support from all of you who face similar stuggles. I have custody of my 8yo niece who I believe is bipolar. I have had custody of her since she was 1yo and she started showing behavior problems at 3 that have become progressivly worse over time. My nieces mom (my sister) is bipolar. I inherited her when my sister went from rehab to jail "again "where she is earning some frequent flyer miles :0). She gave her to me because I was the only one who was willing to take her. I am at my wits end with her behavior. Over the past year or so it has gotten so bad that I am not sure that I will be able to care for her much longer. Her bad behavior is constant and it is putting stress on my family and driving me to tears. I tried to take her to the community mental health agency for an evaluation but they refused because I only had a noterized document and I do not have legal custody from the court. If I don't get help I wont be able to hang in there much longer. She is very defiant, lies, steals everything that is not tied down, is very destuctive, refuses to bathe of brush teeth, hurts our dog, drown our gerbil and showed no remorse, goes to the bathroom everywhere, etc. I could go on and on. This has become a daily occurance. I am very worried because as I said before she is oblivious to how her actions affect others and she shows NO remorse. Her mom gets out of jail (AGAIN) in a few months and I am actually thinking about giving her back (something I said I would never do)I know it sounds bad and I feel guilty about it but she is creating constant stress and I need to protect my family and my own sanity which is hanging by a thread. I would appreciate any help anyone could offer.
  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi Jacqb, welcome.
    So sorry you had to find us.
    What a saint you are for taking this on.

    You need to have testing done. Call the dr's office (a regular office, not county) and ask what kind of form they need to authorize the visits. Is your sister footing the bill for this? Just a thought.

    Urinating all over the house does not sound like bipolar to me. Others here will jump in and offer more suggestions.

    She does sound impulsive and immature, beyond/below her years.

    Did her mom drink and do drugs while she was pregnant with-your neice? What was her developement like as a baby? Did she walk and talk on time? Did she scream a lot? Have you tried eliminiation diets, aka no milk, no wheat, no red dye?

    Is she on any medication?

    What kind of sleep habits does she have? Does she sleep for days on end, then ping off the wall for days on end? Does she sleep too much? Too little? Does she have nightmares?

    Does she bathe or notice that she needs to bathe and brush her teeth with-o being told?

    If she steals things, I would put locks on the bedroom doors and keep your purse, jewelry and money in a safe place.

    Is she hoarding food?

    Does she have any friends? If so, what are they like?

    Can you create a profile/ID at the bottom of the page so we can remember you each time you post? My memory is shot these days. :)
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    When you say she lies, can you give us examples? Because it's really important to get this properly assessed and at the moment you're in "it's bipolar" mode, when it may not be. The more info you can give us, the more clues we have and the more suggestions we can share with you, of things to ask the doctors about.

    We can't diagnose here, but there are many ways that we can help.

    A few things to maybe help you - you seem to feel she's without a conscience, she doesn't care or could even be doing all this deliberately to cause distress. You say she doesn't seem aware of the distress she causes, plus she shows no remorse - the thing is, if she really isn't aware of the distress, ten why should she show remorse? That is perfectly normal - a person who is in a china shop and, as they leave, accidentally knocks over a vase which breaks but tis happens behind them and they are unaware - they wouldn't show remorse because they wouldn't know there was anything for them to be sorry about.

    She's 8 years old - what has her life been like in her early years, especially before she came to you? If this was at all difficult or disruptive, then that also could have a bearing on the problems currently. Even if she showed no sign of problems for a while after she went to you, any early problems in her environment could still be causing problems now.

    There are many possibilities, maybe more than you realise. I hope we can help you cope, so you can keep your options open and maybe even find ways to help that currently are cut off from you.

    When your sister comes out of jail, one way or another the question over who has custody and therefore the right to seek treatment and request services for your niece, should be resolved.

    Keep us posted on how you get on. I can't help much with the US legal stuff, but there are others here who have been where you are now and can help.

  4. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Jacquie, welcome! I'm glad you found us, but sorry you needed to.

    Is there any way you can consult a lawyer to figure out the proper paperwork that needs to be filled out and signed so your niece can receive an appropriate evaluation and treatment now? No one should have to wait until your sister gets out of jail.
  5. jacqb

    jacqb New Member

    Hi Everyone,
    Thanks to all who resonded to me. When I was talking about lying she lies about things she did or didn't do. For instance, she either lies or refuses to answer when questioned about her behavior. She lies about things like doing homework, taking a bath, brusing her teeth (we actually have to do a body smell & bathroom check). I guess she lies about her behavior or she will give me a blank look and refuse to answer even with the threat of punishment. I don't know if she is doing things intentionally. To me it seems as if she is very impulsive.She does things because her brain tells her to and she does not consider consequecnes. When you ask her why (and she actually answers) she seems to have no clue. For instance, yesterday she drew all over her sheets and her pj's with black marker. Then she tried( later I'm guessing) to clean it up with water so she knew she did something wrong. This happened at night. When I asked her why she did it when she has plenty of paper she just looked at me. She has destroyed most of her toys & books, broke her bed, destroyed her dresser with back sharpie. We have locks on our storage room, refrigerator and pantry. She steals food and eats anything she can get her hands on including weird stuff like unpopped microwave popcorn an entire jar of cake icing and koolaide powder without the sugar. It is mostly sugar she craves and she will do anthing to get it. one day we found 8 soda cans under her bed and she ate an entire box of chocolates. We try to lock up or hide anything she can be destructive with like scissors, markers, etc. but if someone forgets she will take it in a second. We are going to have to resort to putting locks on every door ( how sad is that). I gained custody of her when she was about 1. No abuse that I know of because my sister was living with her in a locked rehab until I got her. My sister drank when she was pregnant but I am not sure about drugs. She didn't start showing problems until she was late 2 or 3 but I dismissed it for the first few years that maybe it was a phase.When it didn't go away and we started getting really weird behaviors I started doing research. Also. she was born with low muscle tone on her left side which required a few years of PT. She is still clumsy. She is also Learning Disability (LD) and has a normal IQ but a processing problem although she did well on her last report card. I looked up bipolar in children and she had almost every symptom except the sexual part. She gets up at night, defiant, lies, hoards food. steals, has nighmares, switchs moods quickly, goes off when told no, takative, giddy,unaware of her behavior, etc.. This is why I thought it could be bipolar, especially when I think her mom is bipoloar although her symptoms didn't show up until she was a teen.We have no information about her father and he may be bipoloar or have some other mental health issue too. I would love to get her help. I wanted to hold out putting her on medications for as long as possible but unfortunately it may be her reality. I will try to see if I can get help through her primary care doctor. If I can't I will have to wait until her mom gets out of jail. Otherwise, I would have to go through the court which cost a lot of money and who's to say if her mom would even sign the papers since I have not spoken to her in a long time.
    Thanks for your help and support.
  6. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Hi & welcome.

    Smallworld is right - your first move is to get the custody paperwork sorted out so your niece can be evaluated. Additionally, you do not want your sister to be released & try to get custody again (visitation maybe) & mess up what you have been able to accomplish. Your niece has been with you a long time.

    It's admirable that you took on this little one ~ I give you a great deal of credit. AND again welcome.

  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Yup. Go for custody. She's in good hands now and you can make a difference.

    Drawing on sheets ... my son did that. I asked him why and he said he didn't know. Of course.

    Keep in mind that bipolar and autism spectrum issues are very similar in young children.

    Poor muscle tone on one side and Learning Disability (LD) are great clues! However, I have no idea what the medical name might be. Others here can help. Obviously, a bona fide medication evaluation can help.

    In the meantime, don't buy so many sweets. If they're not there, she can't eat them. Lock up things you don't want her to have. Carry the keys in your pocket or on your body. She is impulsive and you are not locking up things to spite her, you are locking up things to help her help herself.
    At some point, you will have to do an elimination diet. Clearly, her metabolism is out of whack and you need to get her on the correct diet. (I'm guessing higher protein, less carbs/aka sugar.)

    I also agree with-Marg that you have to explain things to her. Things that may be obvious to us are not to these kids. Explain them to her over and over. I guarantee, you will be sick of it! But these kids don't learn by just one experience. Sigh.

    Mostly, take care of yourself. If your well is empty, you cannot fill others'.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Welcome! I am glad you are here but sorry you had to seek us out.

    If you could, go to the User CP button at the top of the screen and add a signature, like the one you see at the bottom of my post. It will give us a way to keep track with-o having to keep going back to look things up. It helps to mention if there are other kids in the home, pets, etc...

    Custody has to be the first thing. How have you managed medical care up to now? With no official custody you probably cannot get access to many things that she NEEDS.

    Right now, today, go to or the library or bookstore and get a copy of The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It isn't a long read and is extremely helpful. It IS a different way of approaching parenting, and often seems counter-intuitive. Most of us here have found it to be extremely helpful though.

    I also strongly suggest getting an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation for sensory integration disorder. She almost certainly has some forms of it, and it is one way to help with-o medications. There are 2 books that really help explain this: The out of sync child and the out of sync child has fun. The has fun book is packed with activities to do with her and any other kids. They can help keep her busy and also help her start to show you what kinds of sensory input are stimulating, calming, soothing, wind her up, etc... School can do an Occupational Therapist (OT) assessment, but they only focus on what affects academics. You need a more in depth look at the whole child so I recommend a private assessment.

    Chances are she has some problems from fetal alcohol exposure. Mostly if a mom is open about drinking she is also using drugs, at least from what I have read and heard on the subject. If her mom ever had a taste for any drugs chances are high she used while preg. Fetal alcohol is awful and cruel to the child and the family. From what I know on the subject, there is fetal alcohol syndrome that has specific physical traits and brain damage. Then there is fetal alcohol effect, which is harder to diagnosis andmay or may not have the physical signs such as a certain look to the eyes and a crease on the palm. If she has fetal alcohol problems she may not be able to learn certain things. There will be brain damage similar to swiss cheese, irregular holes in the brain, areas of damage. It will be very very hard to learn from her mistakes and she may or may not be able to use her IQ. I think the muscle tone problems may be a sign of this, not sure.

    You NEED a doctor who is experienced with all types of fetal alcohol problems to help you.

    I know this is really hard on you and your entire family. And that you are doing the best you can.
  9. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hi Jacquie--

    Welcome to our group!

    As I read your posts I am wondering if these behaviors also extend into the school day and how the school is handling it? Is she attending regular public school? Does she have an IEP? Does she get any kind of assistance at school for the behaviors and the Learning Disability (LD) and processing problems?
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks for the extra detail, Jacquie. It really makes a difference.

    These are the sort of lies I suspected - they're very simple, "I didn't do it" kind of lies which are well within the capability of autistic kids. ALL kids lie like this at times.

    Kids lie generally out of fear of punishment. Its normal. What is NOT normal, is te quantity. But in tis case from what you describe - I think the quantity is due to a combination of things but notably, the impulse control issues. She either doesn't think, or doesn't think fast enough, before acting on impulse. Then she looks at what she's done and thinks, "uh-oh," or it's when you discover the problem and ask, "What happened here?" that she thinks, "uh-oh," and tries to cover with a simple lie. It would be interesting to know - what is the most complex lie she is capable of?

    A child with bipolar is capable of complex lies. A complex lie is, "I was walking the dog on the leash like you told me I must because dogs are not allowed off leash in the park, when a group of big kids came up to me, grabbed the dog and took the leash off him. Then they let him go and threw balls for him and made him chase a little kid who fell over and now the little kid's mummy is cross, but it wasn't me, it was those big kids. No, I don't know who they are, I've never seen them before, but it was them who let Snoopy off the leash, Mummy, it wasn't me. Honest."

    From your description, she was born with some problems that may have nothing to do with your sister's drug/alcohol habits. Sometimes these things just happen. It could be the way the baby lay in the womb, it could have been a problem with the use of forceps in the wrong place during delivery, it could have been any one of a number of things. It's valuable information, though.

    Is it a possible cause (partly or fully)? I don't know. Maybe you will never know. It could be.

    The thing is, this is what you're dealing with NOW. You need a helpful working hypothesis. And maybe a good working hypothesis could be, she has impulse control issues. She then has heightened anxiety which pushes her to try to cover up what she has done for fear of punishment/your disapproval. She keeps doing the wrong thing, so she isn't learning from these experiences (which means whatever punishment you're using, even if it is just your disapproval, is not working). She has some mild physical issues (poor muscle tone especially on one side) which could have a bearing on the observed learning problems.

    A couple of thoughts - you say she has a normal IQ but did well on her last report card.
    Take that "normal IQ" with a grain of salt. It is unlikely to be higher than it should be; you can't fudge a higher score than you should have. But it is VERY easy, especially for a kid who is "different" in any way, to get an artificially low score. The real measure is how she is actually able to do in her schoolwork. Not just in tests, but how well does she grasp the work and how well could she do it if she really focussed on it.

    However, if she can do well at schoolwork, that doesn't mean she can necessarily cope with some level of abstract information. For example, we often use sarcasm with our children. With "normal" children, this is not generally a problem. It's often used with humour, but needn't be. You might respond to the marker on the sheets with, "And I suppose that marker just leapt out of the box all by itself and scribbled on the sheets and you didn't touch them?" and you will see that little head nod out of gratitude that you fabricated a neat excuse for her, saving her the trouble!

    Another thing you need to consider when you're asking her what happened - be very careful to not lead her, or prompt her to the answer you expect with your question. This was a problem I had with difficult child 3's teachers, one in particular - difficult child 3 would report being bullied, he reported one day that a particular group of boys had tripped hi up as he was running, and he fell and bloodied his knees (they were a mess when he came home from school). I had an independent witness, a classmate of difficult child 3's who stuck by him as a friend, who quietly confirmed difficult child 3's story to me. So I wrote a note to the teacher, asking him to look into it. The teacher told me what happened plus I asked difficult child 3 what the teacher said to him. It was a disaster, because the teacher desperately wanted to find there was no problem. Otherwise he would have to punish the bullies, and he was scared of their parents. So the teacher questioned difficult child 3 by saying to him, "Now tell me, you didn't really get tripped, did you? Those boys said they were nowhere near you. You must have fallen over your own feet while you were running. That is what happened, isn't it?"
    In that case, it was more than merely a leading question, it was actually pressure on the kid to say that things happened otherwise. difficult child 3, eager to please, accepted the teacher's version of events and said yes, it must have happened tat way. But he was confused. difficult child 3 said to me that afternoon, "Mr S said that I must have been mistaken about what happened because my autism means I don't always see things the way other people do. I don't get it - I was so certain I saw Jimmy's foot stick out in front of me and all his friends were laughing. But Mr S said they were on the other side of the playground at the time."

    difficult child 3 was not mistaken - one thing with autism, they generally don't invent things. That's why they're very bad at lying. Being bad at lying doesn't mean they don't try to lie, but they generally always get caught out, because they're so bad at it. Over time they learn to not lie, especially when they eventually learn that telling the truth is better long-term for their anxiety.

    Now, my next question for you has nothing to do with possible diagnosis, but more to do with how she functions. I have one child with this problem, another without it, both with autism.
    Can she multi-task? A good test for tis is, can she follow a multi-step instruction?
    Example - difficult child 1 at a stranger's house, we had gone there for a casual dinner. difficult child 1 asked to use the toilet. He was about 6 years old. The man of the house said to him, "You go down the hall, turn left and it's the third door on the right."
    difficult child 1 got down the hall and came back. "I got down the hall but I forgot the bit that comes next."
    We took him by the hand and showed him. He had no difficulty remembering where to find it next time, because he had been there and remembered the way. But remembering the multi-step verbal instruction was his problem. He still has trouble with this but has developed a lot of strategies to cope.

    Regardless of the diagnosis, "Explosive Child" should help you. You read it, take form it what you can and leave the rest. But revisit the book later because what you can use will change. There is also some good discussion on how to adapt the book to a younger child. Go to the Early Childhood forum and look at the stickies there, for more info on that book. It could be a lifesaver for you.

    You mentioned odd behaviour - can you give some examples? Also, are you alone in trying to manage her, or is there someone else in her life who can help you? Some of us have husbands or partners, some of us have parents or other family members who live with us. And some of us are managing alone, which is a struggle with kids like this. But together we can support one another and this can sometimes remove that last straw from the camel's back.

    I'm glad you found us, but sorry you need to. I was concentrating hard on your problems so I didn't say it before - welcome aboard.