Tuesday, May 21, 2013

who are you calling ODD?

Here are a few thoughts about O.D.D.

Isn't that the most ridiculous acronym? "Don't mind him, he's is ODD." When Ossi learns how to spell he's not going to appreciate being called that.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Okay, so what does that even mean? I knew my child was defiant but are you trying to tell me that there's nothing I can do about it, or what?

The qualifications for Oppositional Defiant Disorder are quite negative and bleak and they suggest nothing of the internal wiring problems or chemistry that are causes or catalysts. Basically kids with ODD are among the most dreaded to the adults who are required to deal with them. Isn't that sad?
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I let myself become frustrated with Heavenly Father.  "Father," I asked, " if children are the purest examples to us, and if they are the most Christlike of people on Earth, how can my son be so mean? Is that the real him? If not, why did you give him so many problems? He's just a baby."  I went back and forth a lot and felt a combination of great resentment and pity for Ossi. Until I finally was given the impression that I was not getting the full story and that I needed to learn more about this "disorder."

Matt and I read the book "The Explosive Child"which expanded our understanding of the source of Ossi's outbursts. His frustration management skills are extremely stunted. Looking back I feel as if I can almost pinpoint when his ability to cope with the demands of life plateaued. The behaviors, the book asserted, were signs of his total distress in challenging situations. This redefined ODD for me.
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Then entered compassion into my heart. How awful would it be to go to the fridge for the cereal milk and have the "none-left" disappointment be enough to plunge me into the deepest depression and despair? Poor, frustrated boy.

This book was a heaven-send in helping me understand exactly how vital certain skills are to normal functioning, and how much each of us take for granted. We analyze complex situations and formulate solutions constantly without even recognizing what we are doing. No milk, I hate dry cereal, oh well, I'll have waffles. Without these simple skills a person is destined to fail at every turn.
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So we followed a lot of the advice we found in the book about lessoning the frustration level of the environment. We picked out battles incredibly carefully, made sure the favorites in clothes and food were always handy, and built a very scheduled life. We made sure that every adult who would have occasion to work with Ossi would recognize the signs of a coming tantrum and redirect him or whatever. It was a lot of work for everyone, but our home was so positive and happy. All the relationships were healing and I was even able to help him through drawing to find solutions to some frustrations.

But there was that inspiration still prodding me onward. "This is not the full story." I thought ahead to Ossi's girlfriend some day. I thought about sitting her down and saying, "okay, if Ossi ever threatens you or tries to intimidate you, then here's what you do to help him calm down..."
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I asked a therapist who'd had quite a lot of experience in the field what did she see happen to kids with ODD as they grew older. Did they grow out of this? She said that typically they stayed this way as children and got a lot worse during teenage years, some small percentage having trouble with the authorities. Then, she told me, in young adulthood they realize that this behavior isn't doing anything for them and they change.

What? Did I just hear that right? She said it so nonchalantly that I almost missed it.

They realize that the behavior isn't doing anything for them and they change.
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At that moment I felt very strongly that we were being too accommodating. And it wasn't doing Ossi any favors.

I don't know how to say this next part with out sounding like I'm being sponsored by this company. Hmmm... Well, I'll tell you how it came about. Matt's mom had heard a commercial on the radio for this behavioral help program and she told us about it a while ago. I never had time to check into it, then. But my parents also heard about it and felt inspired to order it for us. I was so skeptical. I called them up and told them if they were cheating my parents I would be really upset and that this better be good.

Matt and I have been using the program and we have seen Ossi behave in ways we'd previously decided he was incapable of behaving. It's been an eye-opener.

Here's the long and short of the philosophy behind it... Disrespectful, obnoxious, and abusive behavior compensates for a child's faulty reasoning, poor problem-solving skills, perception of powerlessness, need to control, low tolerance for frustration, intellectual and functional laziness, and fears and insecurities. These disrespectful, obnoxious, and abusive behaviors are not symptoms of mental illness but are learned and rewarded.

The program is designed specifically to help children and teens with these deficits learn to be accountable for their actions.
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Let me go back.

Ossi was diagnosed with several different things...

1. He has autistic tendencies like not making eye contact when he talks to people, becoming obsessive over certain things he likes, and having very little empathy and understanding of people. He can't read facial or body cues very well. Although he acts this way, he is not autistic and there was no cause pinpointed for his delay in these areas.

2. He was labeled ODD without a blink.

3. He was diagnosed with a mood disorder-unspecified. Possibly ADHD with a violent onset or Bipolar Disorder, although that's looking less likely. They say only time will tell.

I have a lot of compassion and sympathy for the social deficits Ossi struggles with. And I think it's pretty rough that he has the extra challenge of an unstable mood. But I am not okay with abuse.

I have come to believe that ODD is not a real "disorder." It's just a description of the crappy, uncool things that some people use to get their way. As long as the behaviors work, they'll be employed. That's why people "grow out of it." Because when they broke stuff at home their parents changed the home atmosphere to accommodate them but when they broke stuff at work they got fired. I'm getting pretty good at simulating real-world-boss these days, and you know what? Ossi can adapt.
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I am so thankful for this journey that has brought us to a balance of mercy and justice. I am so thankful for the specific tools that very wise people have provided for struggling parents to apply, and for the friends and family members that recommend them.

I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who gives me the answers I need at the time and urges me onward in the pursuit of the whole story. I still may not know exactly why Ossi has been given so much to overcome but I know that God has a plan for him.


Lisa said...

Megan, thanks for posting this. What a great reminder that The Lord can help us even when we don't see any possible solution. And that in order to get the help, we have to do the homework. You're a great example.

Latenightstamper said...

I read your entire post, every word.
These words stuck out to me MOST
"in young adulthood they realize that this behavior isn't doing anything for them and they change."

Most of us can eventually see what we do brings outcomes. Positive or Negitive, helpful or distructive but results/outcomes just the same. Eventually we keep doing what works well for us and stop doing things that bring unpleasent consequences.

It may take time but I know if you continue to pray to know what to do and how BEST to react, life will get easier.

May you feel in tune with God's spirit and always think to yourself How would God want me to handle this?

Do your Best and leave to God the rest.
Don't give up, you have the power within you to help guide his behavior.

Matt and Erica Johnston said...

i love you. i love your honesty. you are heaven sent! just an fyi we have bi-polar and other issues on our side. and you know grandma struggled with depression... call me and if you ever would like to know more about our side and numbers to talk to people. although you have a direct link to heavenly father and are so in tune you prob won't need it :). thank you busting down the walls of pretention with a sledge hammer!

Matt and Erica Johnston said...

i love you. i love your honesty. you are heaven sent! just an fyi we have bi-polar and other issues on our side. and you know grandma struggled with depression... call me and if you ever would like to know more about our side and numbers to talk to people. although you have a direct link to heavenly father and are so in tune you prob won't need it :). thank you busting down the walls of pretention with a sledge hammer!

Holly Bierly Young said...


I am your official cheerleader!!! Heehee...I have been reading for a long time, but don't usually comment...sorry! I do enjoy reading though!

I teach kindergarten, and I see so many parents who want their children to be "diagnosed" with something. So many times, it is just a lack of care/discipline, but the parents want the blame OFF of them....if their children are diagnosed with "something" then it is easier for them to just blow off their negative behaviors. I had one parent say, "She can't help it. She has ADHD."

WHAT? Hold the phone!

(However, I do want to note that I have seen children who literally seemed to have a imbalance and were so much happier/better behaved/more like themselves on medicine).

I am NOT saying Ossi lacks care/discipline. I think you are a great mom. I am just saying I commend you for not accepting the answers as many have told you and trying to REALLY "get to the bottom" of what's going on.

I remember the story about how he broke your bird and said he was sorry...that he would buy you a "better" one, and I remember thinking...he just wanted the attention, you know? He just wanted to be the hero. I don't think that has anything to do with a "disorder."

I hope I haven't offended you...or anyone. I just wanted to say, in a roundabout way, that while I am NOT an expert, by any means...I have taught for 9 years...and...

I feel like you guys are starting to "Get it." I hope you feel that, too. Be encouraged!!!! :)

Megan Marie said...

i just love my blog readers. i prize honesty and openness. and people who think i'm right, haha. but really, thanks so much for your comments, all of you. i love you guys.

Laura said...

I think this is so interesting. Especially what they said about them changing in young adulthood --What hope that must give you! It's obviously not a mental illness if logic eventually wins through, but why does it have to wait till then for the change to happen? I imagine there's still some developing to be done, and I'm sure what you're doing is helping immensely.
I have two brothers a sister and a sister-in-law who worked for the Anasazi program in Arizona to help troubled youth. Many of the kids were super out of control in many aspects of their lives, yet luckily hadn't landed themselves in prison yet (maybe in and out of Juvie a few times though). Interestingly, most were children of members of the Church, since the owners and councilors were as well, and I'm sure having the influence of the Spirit helped it to be so successful.
Anyway, the way Anasazi worked is that they would take these kids out of their everyday environment, basically to a remote desert location, put them in a small group with two adult councilors, say here's a map here's the next rendezvous point for food and supplies, see you in a week. This would repeat many times over a period of 8 weeks. My brothers, as councilors were basically just along for the ride, to be a listening ear, give some spiritual guidance, teach a few survival skills, and basically to make sure the kids were safe, but all in all the choice to hike was up to the kids. They learned really quick that no one was going to make them hike, and that their rebellion and stubbornness really only hurt themselves as they were allowed to suffer the consequences of their choices. More importantly they learned that they were the ones who were in control of their own lives, and that it was their own choices that had got them where they were and that many of those choices were leading them down a path to destruction.
It was an amazingly effective program (I can't even say how much more effective than some sort of bootcamp scenario) and it really empowered these kids.
I know from some of the stories that many of these kids had so-called disorders, some violent, some addictive, you name it, and at the beginning they let those things define who they were. Yet with all the enabling forces and bad influences stripped away, they could really get to the heart of their problems which in the end was their own agency. Once they took responsibility for their choices, and realized they had the power to choose for themselves how they would act, they became new people.
I think it's so cool that you don't just allow people to slap a label on your kid to be used as an excuse for everything. I know you know that Ossi is capable of so much more, and expecting the most out of him will do him way more good than any labeling or accommodating would do.
So basically that was a really long comment just to say, "Yeah, you're right on. Way to go, keep up the good work."

Aimee said...

Megan, thank you so much for your post. You have given me encouragement and some sources for help.
We have been struggling with our little guy. He's as sweet as can be but often acts out in violet anger, and has recently regressed from fully potty trained to "if he was smaller he'd be back in diapers." My favorite parenting book is Christlike Parenting: Taking the Pain Out of Parenting by Glenn I. Latham. It has been a great help. Yet we still have some way to go and so I am grateful for any help.
I am definitely looking up 'The Explosive Child.' I may even look in to the program you mentioned, though I have been very skeptical about it in the past because of their ads. The ads sound so negative to me. They seem to say "Do you have a horrible child? Well, we can fix him for ya." The ads really turned me off. I am a firm believer that the only person I can "fix" or make change is me. So, when we have a struggling child we need to look at ourselves, learn some skills, and change ourselves. I also believe that we employ the behaviors that are reinforced and get results. So, though we can't "make" our children change, we can change the way we interact with them. We can change which of their behaviors we reinforce, which will in turn improve their behavior. Anyway, from what you say about the program it sounds like it fits right in with what I believe and have learned about behavior.
So, thank you for being willing to share. Here's one more answered prayer.

Megan Marie said...

aimee, i agree about the ads! they are awful. i think they are trying to reach parents who are at the end of their rope and have had children manipulating them for many, many years. the man who put this program together was a child like this, with a scary background and every excuse to justify his behavior and the guy eventually went to prison. after he got out of prison he became a councilor and worked with troubled kids for many years. so he's really quite gruff and blunt. which is weird. but i like it in the program.

it's so amazing to me when i hear that other moms are having similar struggles with their kids! all these strong spirits have been waiting to come to the earth for so long! they're going to do great things, but we've got to help them channel all that gusto! what trust the Lord is showing in us!

laura, i love that program idea! i wonder if i could simulate something like that on the four-year-old level. there are so many options, one must never feel hopeless!

Aimee said...

Megan, that's also the conclusion I came to about the ads after what you had to say about The
Total Transformation. They are trying to reach those parents who have lost hope.
I like what you said about these strong spirits and their gusto. I've referred to this "gusto" as a super power (kinda in jest), you know one that can be used for good or for evil. But, really if these kidos can learn to bridle and channel their intensity and/or passion it can be just as much a strength as a weakness.
Laura, I've heard of that Anasazi program once before, and was very intrigued. Like I said I'm so grateful for all ideas and helps.