Newbie ... in desparate need of help ...


New Member
... or just some friendly voices ...

My situation is fairly complex, and yet simple at the same time. I figure I'll give some background first so that everyone gets an idea of who we are.

I'm a 33 year old divorced mother of five. I live in a merged family with my SO. Two of our children are biologically mine and the other three are step angels. Our eldest son, my biological difficult child, is 13 and Autistic. Over the years he has made great strides and is currently one of our blessings, rather than challenges. Our second eldest does not currently live with us. He lives with his bio-dad, is 9 years old and has been recently diagnosed with ADHD. Our youngest is a daughter, she's 4 and though I don't believe in the concept could be termed a easy child in that she seems to be typically developing, bright, cheerful and full of self confidence (for which we are eternally grateful!)

Our current Challenge Children, beautiful difficult child's are both boys. They are both eight. One is my biological son, Zack, 8.5 years this month, and diagnosed with ADHD and Panic/Anxiety disorder. He is currently medicated with Concerta and trazodone and we are currently exploring options for medical treatment of his anxiety. His first expiriment was with Celexa, but seemed to aggrivate the problem rather than alleviate it.

There is some movement among the school professionals on his team to perceive him as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, although his Neuro-psychological Evaluation, held last October, ruled out this possibility. I think that some of his learned behaviors (from his elder brother who is moderately to severely autistic, though dubbed an "0verachiever" by professionals and who is very well acclimated when one considers his challenges) are muddying the waters for school professionals. His team has actually called in the Autism consultant who works with my eldest to consult on Zack's classroom activities and behaviors.

Our biggest challenges with Zack are at school. He commonly hides beneath his desk, or wanders around his classroom in order to avoid the stress of schoolwork. His teacher is a "high stress" personality, and his oversensitivity to such things leads to a very tense time for him in school. Mid-way through this school year, I held a team meeting and required that the school system acquire him a one-to-one aide for the classroom so that he would have more of the support that he needs in order to deal with the stress of being in school. Recently, though his grades have been improving since the aide's arrival, he has begun to be more recalcitrant ... even refusing to return into the school building after recess period is over.

At home we have concentration problems, and the frequent need to reassert ourselves in order to get him to comply with directions. He is very rarely directly defiant, and redirects when he is defiant very easily. Our challenge with Zack is getting him to focus and follow multi-step directions, and getting him to participate in school despite his difficulties.

Our other eight year old, Ryan, my step difficult child, is several months older than Zack. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, Enuresis, and ODD. He is our most difficult challenge at the moment ...though as I'm sure you can imagine that is a state which is constantly in flux. Ryan is on Concerta (though we may be changing this with his prescriber soon, as it doesn't seem to be helping him as much as it should.) Unlike Zack, my bio son ... who has been through every other ADHD medication and found that only Concerta works moderately well (though his dose is high) without the myriad of unpleasand side emotional side effects that the other medications caused him; Ryan has not tried anything other than the Concerta ... so we still have options available to us. He is also on Trazodone for sleep. His dose is higher than Zack's and still he wakes up before anyone in the house ... ready to cause mischeif. He is also prescribed Desmopressin for the Enuresis (bedwetting).

Ryan is extremely defiant, is rarely (if ever) honest. He seems unable to claim or accept responsibility for his actions. He steals, defaces property, acts out and is sometimes even violent with other children. He is a very bright little boy, and has learned to get around almost any deterrent system set in place to keep him from stealing ... including but not limited to finding (and hiding ... he does a lot of caching ... stealing things and hiding them like a squirrel in special spots) screwdrivers and removing the hinges to locked cabinets in order to remove the doors and steal what's inside. He has lengthy, disturbing tantrums, where he screams, yells, kicks, throws things and curses (not with swears) everyone in his world.

His behaviors in and out of school are trying, and he is currently suspended for two days. He has endured suspensions off and on since kindergarden and is in second grade now. His grades, up until this year, have held well enough that the school refuses him an IEP, opting for a behavior plan that as yet has not manifested itself. However, the drastic drop in his grades this year gives me hope that I may be able to advocate for more services for him. He has not had a neuro-psyche evaluation, although he sees the same prescriber as Zack. We have been on a waiting list for a weekly therapist for him for some time, and only received a phone call about that prospect yesterday (my calls are yet to be made today.)

This morning, we woke up to the usual round of discovery of what he'd taken, with one additional surprise. Our eldest son's laptop computer (a several thousand dollar investment which was gifted to him by his grandparents), which had been taken away from him for the night (to encourage sleeping) was broken, the screen cracked in a pattern which indicates that it was probably stepped on. We can't discover if anything on the higher shelves has been taken, but it might have been stepped on merely to look to see if anything worth obsconding with was up there ... for example our daughter's snack from yesterday (which she ate after dinner last night) had been left on the high shelf all day ... before dinner time.

In any event, my SO was so distraught over the discovery of the damage that dividing the family ... leaving me with only my two biological children ... seems to be in consideration. Ryan has been a constant stressor in our relationship, although less so for myself (as I've been dealing with challenging children and school officials, doctors and teams for nearly twelve years.) My SO feels that the added factor of Ryan in our family is detrimental to the well-being of the rest of us.

Obviously, I do not want my family to be torn apart.

Ryan is a conundrum that I have yet to face. I don't know how to deal with his particular brand of defiance and set of behaviors. Oddly, it seems any attempt to create a positive bond with Ryan (on either of our parts) only intensifies his negative behaviors. Positive reinforcement is as inneffective as negative reinforcement has proven. No matter what attempts are made to increase positive one to one time with him, outside of the constant mill of the rest of the family, he still feels that he is left out and unloved. More-over, whenever we do take him out for special one on one time, the following day his ODD seems to be worse ... his compulsive kleptomania increases, and his emotional outbursts reach a terrible and frightening high.

I am at a loss, and if I am to contrive to maintain my merged family, I need to find some way to help our beautiful son. On good days, he is compassionate, loving, schnuggly and bright. I know that there is a good person inside Ryan. I just don't know how to help him to embrace his inner goodness and learn to combat his own demons.

Any advice or assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Please help us.


kuliraga..there are so many experts here on this board. Someone more qualified to reply will be along shortly. Just need to add my 2 cents.

My difficult child is definately ODD. But does not break things or steal. Is not violent, just very verbally defient. Ryan doesn't seem to be stable at all. Before your family splits it may be best to have him evaluated and stablized. He must be feeling awful himself. I am sure he doesn't want to feel that way. The sooner you can get him stable the more your family will adjust. However it does take time.
I initially found this board when difficult child was only 4 or 5. husband would not allow me to be on it so I left for many years, actually until this past year. I just could not handle things any more. I am here almost every day. I find it much, much more supportive than psychiatrist or therapist or any counselor I have gone to. (for me personally) because all of these people live with difficult child's like we do. All different degree's. All very special people. I have learned so very much from these people. I feel as if I really do know them. They have so much knowledge and experience to share.
Breathe. You will recieve great advice here.
I know the book, The Explosive Child is highly recommended. Find some "me" time, go to the library, take a look at this book. You will have a lot to absorb.


Active Member
Kuligraga-- try adding a signature, it's a way to sum up issues, diagnosis's and medications.

I have learned alot from this board, and it has been great for me. Sometimes (alot of the time) I just read other posts, and I know that I am not alone.

I would encourage you to take boy(s) to see a child psychiatrist, the one with a MD who can prescribe medications. It would be hard to do therapy with a child who will not tell the truth, in my humble opinion. Others will be along to give you better advice.


Going Green
Sorry you had to find us but welcome to the board! It truly is a soft place to land and is definately a sanity saver.

My difficult child (now 17) is also ADHD with the addition of BiPolar and ODD and those oh so fun behaviors of destructiveness and sticky fingers. We have had similar situations with him as what you've described that you go through with Ryan. husband and I have now worked our way up to a deadbolt on our bedroom door so we have at least one place in the house that he can't get into. (He ignored rules about personal space and broke in after we got a key lock door knob) What I will suggest for you to do to help prevent the stealing and destructiveness will seem drastic, inconvenient/unfair to all in the household but at times it's necessary to prevent the disappearance and destruction of belongings. Basically, lock up everything that's not nailed down. High shelves just don't cut it as you already know. If that means putting a deadbolt on your bedroom door (hinges are on the other side so not accessible by screwdriver) and/or getting a safe, do it. We have also considered and probably will once I get a full time job, getting a storage unit to keep everything that's not used on a daily basis. It's a rotten way to live but if you want to keep your things've got to do something. I personally am not able to keep any toiletries in the bathroom as difficult child will use inappropriately/play in/destroy my things. My curling irons are now trashed as he cut the cords off to "make things". Make what? I have absolutely no idea but he thought he could use the cords so he just cut them off with no regard to them belonging to someone else. Actually he doesn't have much regard for anyone's belongings including his own. He will claim that something or other of his means something to him but eventually it goes the way of the do-do, usually in pieces. He's been this way since we got him as a foster child at age 9 (adopted at age 10) and according to stories we later heard, since a very young age. I won't go down the list of things that have been lost to him over the years. It's waaaaaaay too long and just makes me mad all over again thinking about it all. Depending on what peaks Ryan's interest, you may have to keep the other kids things locked up when they aren't using them also to keep him from taking it. It's not fair to them but at the same time, neither is having R take their stuff. Like I said, it's a rotten way to live (trust me, I know) but sometimes necessary. We also instituted a rule for difficult child that if it's not his, don't touch it period. It doesn't always work of course but at least the rule is in place and he's aware of it. We also have had to stay with him at other's houses (not quite as much now that he's older) because we discovered that once he feels comfy at someone's house and likes them, he displays his affection for them by ripping them off. :hammer: Oh, one other thing we've run into that could be an issue for you if it's not already. difficult child is still to this day, coming home from friend's houses with "stuff". Usually the claim is that he traded something for it (gotta watch that he doesn't trade our stuff) or that so and so told him he could have it. Sometimes that is true although the other parents aren't always aware of the trade and sometimes are not happy about it. Other times, the stuff was brought home on the condition (by the friend) that difficult child is just to borrow it but he will conveniently forget that part. One instance of this is that difficult child had some of his friends comic books (just in the past few months). He swore up and down that they were given to him but in actuality they were loaned to him. He wound up giving some of them to my nephew and we had to get them back.

From the way you describe Ryan's behavior, I would definately get him evaluated. He sounds very similar to my difficult child when we first got him before we got the BiPolar (BP) diagnosis. I'm not saying he's got BiPolar (BP) but it definately sounds like there is more going on than what's already being treated. Also, if there is and he's not on the right medications, it can make things worse. Therapy and/or counseling is also a biggie.

I'm sorry if this sounds discouraging in a way but with a child who likes to "collect" things, you have to do things you wouldn't normally do. (Sorry this is so long also) I didn't really have advice for the other situations you mentioned, but this one.......I've got just a bit of experience. Feel freem to PM me if you want.

Welcome again to the board. You will find so much support and advice here.


New Member

You've got Ryan nailed.

The cabinet that he gets into is padlocked with a keyed padlock ... he just takes the hinges off ... which we only discovered when Zack picked up a screwdriver and said (talking to himself) "Thanks Ryan, for the great idea!" And began working at one of the screws. Sometimes even inadvertant ratting out is helpful ... though, I don't know what else we can do ... our closets in this apartment don't have doors, and we are very limited in what we are allowed to do to alter the structure of the building ... including things like doorknobs and such. There is an agency affiliated with Community Resources for People with Autism called Adaptive Design. Once upon a time they build special keyed locks for my refrigerator, when my then eight year old autistic son was accidentally shutting his toddler brother into the fridge (because he didn't notice him following him around like a lost puppy.) I am thinking of calling them in and asking what, if anything, they can do to Ryan proof the house.

The computer thing was partially my fault, as I'd left it out after taking it from Alex, along with Alex's tv remote and DS. The DS was appropriated by Ryan, and the computer screen cracked. Poor Alex is going to be devastated.

I called the psychiatrists office back and let them know that for the time being if all they have are outservice clinicians then we are willing to start with that and then move to clinic based therapy when it becomes available. It isn't something we can really wait for anymore. There seems to be a glut of special needs children in our area, leading to long waiting lists and a lot of "we are not accepting new patients at this time." So, it's been a long process.

We have had similar problems with Ryan stealing at school and at grandparents and family friend's houses. We can't even let him go to birthday parties and such that friends from school invite him to, because his behavior cannot be guaranteed. I'm sure this only re-inforces his feelings of isolation and stuff ... but we're at a loss as to how to help him.

We don't want Ryan to grow up and be unable to function in the world. Worse, we DO NOT want Ryan to end up involved in the wrong end of the justice system.

Any more advice would be greatly appreciated. At this point, Ryan's difficulties are top priority for us. Having so many special kids, it's sometimes hard to coordinate services and time that has to be devoted to each special child.

Trust me, a friendly word here and there is a GREAT help.

Thanks again for replying ... we both appreciate it.


Active Member
Welcome Kuligara

I am so sorry you are going through all of this. It sounds like you are an amazingly dedicated Mom as well as StepMom and your children are fortunate to have you.

I hope you will forgive me - but I am gonna go out on a limb here with a couple of suggestions.
First of all - I would get Ryan hospitalized as soon as possible. He sounds like he needs to be stabilized immediately. While he was there he could get the intensive testing he needs, some medications that might work better than the ones he is on, and some intensive therapy that might give you some more clues as to what is going on with him.
Second of all - your SO other might be correct in having the families separate for awhile. As much as you need each other, it might be in the best interest of the children to live in separate houses for a bit. This especially might benefit Zach and Ryan - because they would have undivided attention from their parents. Your SO might be able to really focus in on only Ryan for a bit, go to counseling with him, spend one on one time with him, and really focus all of his energy on trying to break him out of the self destructive cycle he is in.

Whatever you choose, you have found a great forum, where everyone is caring and supportive. Hang in there.... and know that you do not hike this trek alone.


New Member
Your difficult child sounds alot like mine minus the raging. As you know Ryan needs a complete neuro-psychiatric evaluation. Continue to work toward that end.

As far as the stealing goes, can you get a large metal cabinet that you can lock up to put the valuable things in?
My difficult child's psychiatrist also recommended a nanny cam to monitor him at all times. I also had a security system installed to keep him in the house as he would run if I so much as went to the bathroom. You can get wireless ones now so that you do not have to make any alterations on the house.

I will not go into all the many dangerous and destructive things my difficult child did but I will say that the only reason he is alive today is because he was constantly supervised. For respise, I hired older kids to supervise him at family functions and sent him to day camp for disabled kids in the summer. I had to pick my battles carefully otherwise my difficult child would have been punished all the time. I even had to lock up his own toys and only let him have them when he was supervised because he destroyed everything. He didn't want to he just did things so impulsively. -RM

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Just wanted to add my welcome and some hugs-glad you found us-sorry you had to. The support here is amazing-this place can be a lifesaver.


Going Green
As far as the stealing goes, can you get a large metal cabinet that you can lock up to put the valuable things in?

I like that idea, especially in an apartment that you can't do much with. Of course you would need to find one without hinges!! lol Maybe some sort of fairly inexpensive upright gun safe?? I was thinking a foot locker also but I'm not sure how the hinges/screws are. Does your apartment have storage spaces assigned to tenants or one of those off the patio? Just trying to throw out ideas for you here.


New Member
Wow! Thank you all for the advice and support. We do have an alarm system for the house, because when my eldest was younger he was a flee risk due to his autism. I wish we could get a nanny cam system, but it's out of our budget, unfortunately.

I'd thought of getting an alarm for his bedroom door, but he shares the room with two other kids, and they do have to go to the bathroom in the night from time to time. Plus the youngest is afraid of having the door shut at night.

I like the idea of a safe of some kind, we'll have to look into that ... at the very least it might end up being more work to get into than he'd be willing to put to the task. His unmedicated attention span isn't that long.

We had another intake appointment to put him on another waiting list for therapy services last night. We'll see which agency comes through first. The waiting is the hardest.

Again, thank you all so much for your support. It means so much to have friendly voices in the storm.

Yesterday was a good day. We had field day at school, and then family picnic, and then came home for a few hours before our intake appointment. All the kids were happily worn out and there was something almost like peace in the house for the day. Woo Hoo!!!

We'll see how today goes.