... 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.