O.D.D. at First Glance
For the sake of this subject, I will name the child in question “Knight” for no other reason than I am not using his real name and I am terrible at making up random names.
When Knight came to live with us he was already a teenager exhibiting ODD behaviors for a lengthy time (period of years) and was 14 years old. We were told many horror stories from parents, others who knew him, school records, psychological reviews, and from Knight himself. He was being medicated for ADHD although this medication was not seemingly working its magic. His past included theft, habitual lying or truth stretching and was out of touch with reality. He had been to juvenile, participated in many fights at school and in public. He showed complete and total defiance to all authority figures, had trouble making friends and trouble maintaining established friendships. He had a history of school suspensions, random outburst, purposely annoying others, threats and acts of violence against others and to himself, hitting or hurting his siblings and parents, failing grades, drug usage, and he was a gang member wannabe.
People he had lived with had made statements like, “I just can’t handle him any more!”.
Knight moved in with us and we began to merge him into our family. I spent many hours with him one-on-one talking to him about his life and what he wanted for his future during the first two weeks. He was very open and verbal. *In fact, he seemed to enjoy being heard and voicing his own personal concerns, opinions, and thoughts. I emphasized to him that his opinions matter and count toward decision-making, but that my decisions would ultimately trump his if I felt something was not in his best interest.
When we began to have our conversations, he lied to me about some parts of his past and present. After several more talks though, he began to open up, confess and share with me the real him. Once our open dialog protocol was established (over a 2 week period), we agreed that he should not hide anything from me or else I could not help him. He agreed and has kept this agreement to date (a year later).
Loud Outburst and Annoying Others
We stopped Knight’s ADHD medication. He was not taking it regularly anyway and it was causing his heart to flutter and increased his natural anxiety. Teachers typically recommend against this because they assume that the medication “helps” (and in some children it does). But Knight’s condition was not so much ADHD – this child could, did, and does pay attention. He was/is hyper to the extreme though and enjoyed using his energy to annoy people. He openly admitted that he enjoyed annoying people.
Knight’s first few weeks with us were trying on our nerves as we all needed to adjust to his hyper tendencies. Once he picked on the fact that his hyper actions drove some in the house batty, he played on this weakness. I had talks with my other children about how to react to Knight’s behaviors and expressed that we were to all focus on giving Knight positive attention instead. I ask them to follow my lead in ignoring the outburst, going on about their business, or changing their location if possible (leaving the room). This provided to be difficult because their ages were so close and my boys were feeling as though I would allow Knight to get away with things they were not allowed to do – ever. After a bit of practice on the boys parts, they were able to follow my instructions with Knight’s negative behavior. They simply had to change their mindset.
Example: Knight is on the couch playing Xbox with one of his new brothers and randomly starts pausing the game at important parts when his new brother is about to achieve success on a mission. Knight’s new brother waits until the game is resumed and then begins to play again. This pause/resume of the game continues throughout a 5 minute time frame about 20 times. Knight’s new brother is frustrated. He sets his controller down and walks away. Knight screams COME BACK and play with me NOW. His new brother says, “You’re annoying me. There’s something else I’d rather do. You can play alone.” Knight is now upset and confused. He comes to talk to me about it. I explain to him I understand how he and his new brother both feel. I also told him that bringing annoying behavior to his attention should help understand why people were wanting to avoid him. Last I explained that if he wants to make lasting friendships, he will need to figure out a way to channel his hyper energy in ways that do not annoy people.
Example: Knight would walk through the house at different times of the day randomly yelling as loud and shrill as he could. I spoke with Knight about these random outburst and explained that he was giving everyone a headache. This went on for a couple of months. Outburst changed from a shrill screeching to random words. We all ignored this behavior and made a huge deal/celebration daily about Knight being able to share his Xbox and game play with his new brothers.
So, in just 3 short weeks we had made progress. We celebrated the accomplishments daily (and we still do) to re-enforce Knight’s awesome traits and the great person he has and is becoming!
I will write more soon about our next steps we took on this ODD journey and what worked – and what backfired!