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Brief Visit – Visible Improvement (O.D.D)

This article is part 7 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4 , part 5 , and part 6 – I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the next few weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.

Week 10 & 11 were awesome weeks for us. They were awesome (challenging) because we had set-backs & problems from Knight, but we also received some much-needed encouragement. He was doing well with the re-enforced structure we had put in place and with gentle reminders, was doing better. He’d only had a few outburst of massive anger, sever aggression, and extremely argumentative behavior. Each of these had been very trying of our patience and required much love and prayer to work through. But, in the end, we seemed to be on the right track. We constantly reminded him that he was loved, was receiving a lot of attention (that he desperately thought he wanted), and we were not going to give up on him.

During week 10 or 11 (I can’t remember which), Knight had a visit from his out-of-state mother and another relative. They remarked about how he’d grown and seemed like a totally different child to them. They were not excited about him aspiring to play football in the up-coming fall, but were happy he was involving himself in activities to use his excess energy. Their visit lasted a few hours.

Hearing from someone else who knew him well before, that they could see a noticeable difference in him was a happy moment for me. I knew his father was still frustrated with him a lot of the time, but he was improving and I could see improvements daily too.

Exchanging one behavior for another

Knight’s explosive outbursts were becoming less severe and were occurring far less often. As what I understand as an outlet for his tendencies, Knight began to be defiant in passive ways. Some of his passive behaviors including:

  • Chewing on plastic and spitting the chewed up mess in the floor – When asked not to chew on the plastic, he would remove it from his mouth and throw it in a sneaky way behind furniture instead of in the trash can.
  • Spitting sunflower seeds in the floor – I can’t remember who bought them for him, but somehow Knight ended up with what appeared to be an endless supply of sun flower seeds in the shell. As a passive form of defiance, he began spitting them in the floor in every room. When asked to clean up his mess and reminded to spit them in a trash receptacle, he would just walk away and leave the shells. I made a new rule: NO MORE sun flower seeds in the house! After we moved back home, it took me 2 hours to remove all the sun flower seeds from the rental we were staying in. They were under furniture, stuck between the base boards and the walls, inside the tank of the toilet, stuck in the garbage disposal, in the kitchen drawers, and even behind the refrigerator and stove! I still have a no sun flower seeds rule in the house now!
  • Leaving his shoes & clothing in the living room (stuffed under the couch) – again, it’s a more passive way of being defiant that he was aiming at mentally. When asked about why he did these things, he would answer, “I don’t know.”

His passive defiance was more tolerable than his previous behaviors, so I had to pick my battles wisely and not overwhelm him. This meant that I had to live with the lid always off the toothpaste, a cereal bowl with milk in the bottom of it in the sink several times a day, sunflower shells, etc. These things were really just normal teenage boys type behaviors anyway, and that is what we were striving for – normal or average teenager behaviors – not perfect!

Every single day, we were continuing to work on our main plan:

  • Maintaining open dialog
  • Pointing out annoying behaviors
  • Bringing lies to Knight’s attention (Taking Ownership of his Words & Actions)
  • Structure in his daily life
  • Consistency in discipline

…and

it was working!

Structure & O.D.D.

This article is part 6 of a series. If you have not read part 1, part2, part 3, and part 4 , and part 5 – I urge you to do so if you are searching for help on this subject. If you’ve read along with me already, I want to welcome you into the next few weeks of our journey and Knight’s recovery.

One of the most important parts of our plan to battle this Oppositional Defiance Disorder was giving Knight some much needed structure without smothering him.

In week 8 & 9 Knight was showing significant improvements. His outbursts, physical altercations, lying, theft, annoying behaviors, & and destructive inclinations were becoming less with more time between them. I was proud of his progress & reminded him daily that he was doing so much better!

Knight was growing closer to his brothers. Fights & arguments between them were less frequent & all the boys were much more tolerable of each other.

The structure we’d initiated in our home was helping. Before Knight moved in, I thought we had structure, but hadn’t really given it much thought. Turns out, we weren’t as structured as I thought we were. These are the things we changed:

1. We established regular meal times. (I thought we had regular meal times before, but really we were independently eating whenever each of us were hungry.) Dinner time/Supper was the most recognised meal time. We were all going in different directions during the day & had separate interests/hobbies/jobs. So, for supper, we all slowed down, came together and ate together. I credit Knight’s father for this suggestion. It wasn’t difficult at first, but a after about a week into it, some of us had a hard time stopping what we were doing & coming to the table. Within 3 weeks, it was an expectation for most of us & if one of us couldn’t make it home, several of us would be bummed out. Now, a year later, everyone coming together for supper is still part of our daily routine and is a therapeutic part of our combined successful family unit.

2. We invited Knight to help develop a smoother morning routine. I’ve always had a hard time waking the boys up in the mornings. Knight was a huge help to the family with that! He woke up relatively easy & we put his “annoying” to good use. I told him I needed his help waking his new brothers up & that he was welcome to annoy them to wake them up & help me get them moving. He seemed happy & welcomed helping me. It worked!! He was & is the best alarm clock ever 🙂 At first, his brothers complained, but I explained that the annoying would stop once they complied, got up, & started moving. 🙂

3. A regular summer chore schedule was established. They already had chore expectations, but it worked better this way. Each of the boys jade specific chores on designated days.

4. Rewards and treats we regular as clockwork. Privileges such as mall trips, going to the movies, and other favorite things became rewards.

5. A decent bedtime was established.

6. Shower/bath rules were established so everyone wasn’t trying to jump in there all at once & arguing.

These things should have been in place already, right? The truth is they were, but we just needed to start all over again, ensure we had communicated them clearly, and place emphasis on this restructuring. Let’s face it, every family has rules, but after a few years, rules must be re-established as a reminder. Especially during the teenage years when not all of a family may be going in the same direction, with each other, or have separated interests.

By the end of week 9, we had all seen a significant change in Knight’s behavior & reactions to others. We were still working on every key step we had enlisted in previous weeks. I was proud of Knight & still am 😉

Oppositional Defiance Disorder – It’s Someone Else’s Fault

Part 3 (If you need to catch up,  you can read part 2 and part 1 in this series.)

Let’s Build Something

Please keep in mind that working with a child that has ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) is like building a pyramid. While you are laying a foundation, you must keep working on the original cornerstone pieces as you continue to move forward – continuing to work on the next piece. If you neglect one of the cornerstones you’ve laid out before, your entire structure will tumble-down.  So remember as you read through these articles that each week we added 1 new item to work on as we continued to work on the previous things.

Three weeks into this new ODD journey, We had addressed open dialog and bringing annoying behaviors to Knight’s attention in a constructive way so we didn’t sound like we were all against him. On our third week we encountered an old friend, “Someone Else”.

Someone Else Did It!

No one in our house likes “Someone Else”. “Someone Else” was the most annoying member of the entire family unit. “Someone Else” kept adjusting the thermostat on the heating/air unit. He was always causing drama, defying the rules, and challenging authority. “Someone Else” was a huge nuisance! He was always making messes that everyone else was blamed for. 😦

Taking ownership of our actions and telling the truth are basic fundamentals that we teach our children soon after they begin toddling around and speaking. As parents we emphasis this more so once our children begin to intermingle with other children (Daycare, Pre-School or Kindergarten). It’s a continual thing that we all work on and hope we succeed at once our children have become adults.  I would be a hypocrite if I claimed that my boys were perfect at this when Knight came to live with us. They have and always will be (like everyone else’s children) a work in progress.

Children/teenagers with ODD have an exceptional case of  “Someone Else” though. They deny ownership of issues and actions so much that their reality becomes their lies and denial. After a time, they don’t realize their own lies. It becomes second nature and they incorporate it into who they are (their identity).

I spoke to Knight about the lies I noticed him telling. He denied them. He denied everything he did, everything he said, and everything he was caught in the act of doing. His responses were, “I didn’t do it. Someone else did.” 😦   He lied because he said he thought it was funny. He said he lied to be cool, to be accepted, to make himself feel better, and to annoy people. He said he lied so much even he was unsure how to stop. I offered to bring his lies to his attention as he was in the act of doing so, if it would help. He agreed. Once again, I found myself in a position where I was going to have to call out a negative trait to bring his denial into reality for Knight.

I wanted positivity to focus on though, so I had to search pretty hard. I prayed about it and the Lord planted the answer in my heart. I knew I had to pick my battles and not overwhelm him, but I had forgotten how awesome celebrating small feats with verbal rewards could be! Picking my battles meant that I could not expect him to follow the house rules just yet and I had to look the other way in many situations. My only exception to this was in the event of harmful or abusive threats or behaviors. Those I had to stop immediately. As for the putting the lid back on the toothpaste – that would wait. We celebrated an avoided argument, a door being shut instead of slammed, laughter & smiles, admitting faults, or owning up to truths, talking to his mother on the phone without yelling, speaking to his father without running away or raising his hands to hit. (I’m not saying these things didn’t happen. I am just saying that when a day went by without them happening – we celebrated ) 🙂

Make Every Day a Good Day

Every day we had, no matter how bad it began or ended was “A Good Day”. A good day for a child/teen with ODD may look like the worst possible day for any other child, but if you don’t celebrate even the smallest accomplishments, progress could begin to slide backwards. At the end of the day, I would congratulate Knight on a job well done and tell him it was a good day. At first, he looked at me puzzled (because he was becoming more aware of his behavior and lies). I would tell him that everyday is a good day because I won’t give up on you and you are trying 🙂 The first few days he heard this, he blew me off and went to bed thinking I was crazy. After the first week of hearing this, he began to believe it with me. He also began to look forward to hearing it before bedtime.

On the third week, I purposefully neglected to tell him it was a good day. He came to me and asked me if it was a good day. I answered: Yes honey, everyday is a good day… and he finished my sentence “as long as I try?”  🙂

Believe it or not he was getting better – still very very very difficult to live with and be around, but he was healing!

So at this point, I had three major things I was focusing on:

  • Maintaining open dialog
  • Pointing out annoying behaviors
  • Bringing lies to Knight’s attention

To maintain fairness, I shared my plans with my other two boys so they would not feel as though they were being treated unfairly. They know me and their limits and I wanted them to be involved in Knight’s progress plan also. I never shared explicit details, just the basics and kept the conversations Knight and I had only between him, his father and I. My boys were happy to be included because they were feeling they were being treated unfairly.

If you have other children in the home, I would suggest sharing your progress plans with them also (if you feel it appropriate) so your family can grow stronger during this process and not drift apart.

Living with O.D.D

Part 1

The definition of  ODD:

[Oppositional Defiance Disorder]: a child or teenager exhibiting a persistent, regular (occurring multiple times a day over a period lasting more than 6 months) pattern of  random outburst tantrums, argumentative with everyone over anything and everything in a raised voice, angry, hostile, and aggressive behavior toward all authoritative figures, spewing negativity in all forms, completely defiant, disobedient, refusing to comply with requests, purposely annoying others, provoking others, blames everyone for his/her mistakes or misbehavior, acts touchy and is annoyed easily by others, feels much anger and resentment, is spiteful & vindictive, has difficulty maintaining friendships, feels socially unaccepted, acts aggressively toward peers, has academic problems, and most importantly – has a serious lack of self-esteem. A child/teenager with ODD is deliberately destructive to other people’s property, lies often about big and little things, has tendencies and desires to steal from people they know and do not know often – shoplifting, feel entitled to the objects they steal and will justify their actions when confronted about the theft, will often break curfew, skip school, has run away from home (or attempted to or talks about it), may experiment with drugs and sex at a young age, and engages in physical fights often in public – school – home (attacking parents), threatens or attempts suicide.

Diagnosis:

What leads a professional to diagnosis this disorder is the severity and length of time the child has demonstrated these signs. Let’s face it, what child hasn’t shown some or all of these traits during their childhood? Many people see a child in this description as a troubled teen.  Most people will say all children have and they would be justified in saying so. These behaviors are normal for all children at different stages in their youth. But what makes ODD significant is the length of time and the severity of these behaviors.

The significant difference in this disorder and normal youth disobedience is that the child/teenager’s behaviors affect not just themselves and their parents, but also their peers, teachers, friends, grand parents, church members, and everyone that comes in contact with them in public – everyday over an extended period of 6 months to several years. Many people interviewed have stated that they can not stand to be around a child with ODD even though they love them and want to see them recover. Some people have even gone so far as to have said that they hate their child with this disorder. They feel as though they have failed miserably as a parent and some parents, sadly… simply give up 😦  A child with this behavior disorder is not uneducated or of low intelligence. Actually the opposite is true. I have discovered that this disorder is driven through high intelligence in a child with a serious lack of self-esteem.

What causes ODD?

Oppositional Defiance Disorder affects only a very small number of children/teenagers and often times it exists in a co-morbid state with another physiological disorder such as ADD/ADHD, Bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and depression/ anxiety.

Professionals have also linked the onset of ODD to a lack of supervision, lax – inconsistent,  or  harsh parenting (harsh discipline), abuse, neglect, an imbalance of serotonin in the brain, a strained family environment (a lot of arguing, yelling, and marital separations/divorce), and developmental delays in brain development. ODD is considered more of a “personality disorder” really and if addressed early enough can be corrected before a child reaches the teenager years. If treatment for ODD has not begun until the teenage years, there is still hope, but the treatment period may be a more lengthy and need much more time and effort.

I understand how you feel!

It’s very common for a parent with an ODD child to feel like a failure. They feel as though they are at the end of their rope, can’t take it anymore, and often feel like giving up.  And the saddest part is…some parents do give up. Some parents say they hate their children and they hear other people tell them they hate to be around the child also. Many of these children will end up out of the home on their own at an early age, in juvenile, or being packed off to live with someone else.  As a parent you will hear debasing comments from the child with ODD often. Please don’t allow the harsh things you hear from your child “stick” in your mind. Many times, these children don’t mean what they blurt out in an episode anyway.

It’s a challenge. You’ll cry because they have insulted you, loose your temper also from time to time, and want to react to the child in the same manner they are acting toward you. You are not a failure though. Youth with Oppositional Defiance Disorder will use anything they can think of to hurt you and enjoy causing a rift in your marriage or home between all family members. If they know you have a weakness, they will exploit it. I promise you though, your child is not the spawn of evil and there is hope!  We must maintain our composure and when you implement a behavior  modification plan, you’ll be the one in control of this seemingly unrespected and destructive child.

What do I do?

If you think that you have a child that fits this description, behavior modification is the best and most effective approach. Therapy is helpful also (according to articles on-line.) Some professionals recommend a cocktail of medications, but there are many resources available to help parents that feel as though they have reached the end of their rope that will not have any medical side effects as such medications can/may/do have.

In the next few articles, I will share with you our journey through raising a teenager with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and the things that have worked for us and the things that have failed miserably. We are 1 year into this journey and have made huge massive amazing large life changing significant progress that I hope will bring hope to other parents or authority figures out there that are dealing with this commonly undiagnosed disorder.

Here are some on-line resources for further reading:

More on PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Composed a bit more now, I’m ready to hopefully finish this PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) article. In the last post, debunking myths was my main focus. In this article, we will review the realities.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD can be triggered in anyone that has experienced a life altering event, unexpected shock (also referred to as shell shock), participating in body removal, recitation of sick or injuried, unexpectedly witnessing flying, cut off, severed, or dismembered body parts. Being the witness or an active participant in any of these events standing on the sideline can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It is common for police, fire fighter, EMT, military, and other professions of this sort to be traumatized by occurrences in their line of work. It is also common for suicide victim family survivors, and people that suffer from extreme anxieties to fall victim to Post Traumatic Stress disorder as well. As mentioned in the last post, PTSD does not discriminate against anyone.

Classifications:
Class 1 symptoms: the sufferer re-experiences the traumatic incident in nightmares & flashbacks. [This could be compared to a living hell.]

Class 2 symptoms: the sufferer displays avoidance. He/she wants to stay away from anything that may possibly remind her/him of the trauma. They may also display lack of interest to all life circumstances, like sights, smells, sounds, conversations associated or reminding them of the trauma. They could become unable to enjoy activities or loving/compassionate feelings toward loved ones. [This typically is the onset of anxiety disorders or depression.]

Class 3 symptoms: hyperarousal – Classic symptoms are being irritable all the time & an inability to sleep. [Again, anxiety and depression.]

Characteristics
Onset and duration of PTSD is determined by timing and the individual experiencing it.

Acute –when the duration of symptoms is shorter than 3 months.

Chronic –when the symptoms last three months or longer.

Delayed Onset – between the traumatic event and the onset of the symptoms there is at least 6 month period.

How someone experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feels
Diagnostic criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as sited below:

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
(1) Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
(2) Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
(3) Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated).
(4) Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
(5) Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:  

-Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma.

-Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma

-Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma

-Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities

-Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others

-Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
      -Sense of a foreshortened future

Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by two (or more) of the following: (1) Difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) Irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) Difficulty concentrating
(4) Hypervigilance
(5) Exaggerated startle response

If you know someone diagnosed or being treated for PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there are many ways you can help.
But, telling them “it’s all in your head” is the worst thing you could ever say.
Some people suffering from PTSD have taken their own life. Suicide is never a solution. If you know someone suffering from PTSD, be a friend. Don’t push them over the edge.

There’s more to say, but I can’t write anymore at this time. Maybe tomorrow, there will be understanding people in this life.

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