My daughter is 7 years old. She has been diagnosed with AS, ADHD and possible ODD. I really need some suggestions here..
I DD was diagnosed with AS and ADHD not too long before I became pregnant with my DS. DD was very happy about having a little brother on the way and was very excited. When I started 'showing', DD ( who has always been a handful..or two) began to hit, kick and through things at my stomach. I would always talk with her about how this hurts mommy and could really hurt her little brother. She would normally trick me in order to hurt my stomach by asking me for a hug or kiss and then proceed to hit/kick me. This was upsetting for me and my DH and it was very hard to be around her or even hug/kiss her out of fear or her hurting me. This is mentioned to her Ped who suggested putting her on meds to help even out her moods ( she would go from being angry to happy to sad very quickly and would often cry for no apparent reason ) which I turned down.
After DS was born, she would attempt to dump him out of his swing, pull him from my arms and so on. When he was a bit older ( just starting to sit up for a few minutes on his own ) she ran him over with her little ride on scooty car, through it across the room and started crying and said " he shouldve moved!!" even though she had the entire living room area to 'drive' in.
She was always given plenty of attention from myself, her grandparents and my DS and we worked hard to always include her in everything. She would go from holding DS to give him kisses ( with our help ) to bouncing a ball off of his head and then laughing when he cried. We have always been very consistent with our discipline and always followed through- but she still continued to act this way.
To try to make this a bit shorter- she went to live with her GPs for awhile because she was a danger to DS. I couldnt do ANYTHING without her screaming, crying, or trying to hurt me or her LB. I simply couldnt handle this on top of dealing with PPD and other heath issues
There was a point where we tried the meds that her ped perscribed to her, and they did help with her moods. She was taken off of the meds after awhile because her ped wanted her to work on learning how to control her emotions a bit on her own, not to mention the meds made her very sleepy. That was quite awhile back...
Now, she is 7 and very smart, funny and excels in school and is a pretty happy little girl for the most part. But no matter WHAT I do or say, she speaks so hatefully to her LB. He is a very sweet little boy and loves and looks up to his big sister. But she acts like she hates him. If he tries to hug her, she pushes him away most of the time. If he draws/ makes something, she points out whats 'wrong' with it. The arguing is CONSTANT. We cant take family trips together because she acts this way, we dont go out to dinner as a family..or do anything..because she will start and argument with DS or go out of her way to say something hurtful, even though hes being very kind. She has told him to hit her before, so that she could lie and see him get into trouble. They can RARELY play in the same room together for longer than 5 minutes without her hurting his feelings, or taking over and controling everything he does and plays with.
This hurts his feelings and he will often cry and say " Mama, I love my sissy..but I dont think she loves me." And of course, this breaks my heart. Next month DD will be headed into 2nd grade the gifted program, and DS will be headed into pre-k and Im very worry about how she will treat him on the bus rided to and from school or if shes look out for him. She doesnt seem to care much about him at all and has even told me that she wishes he would leave.
Other family members have observed them playing together and always make remarks on how rude, hateful and bossy she is with him.
We have all talked to her many times about this. She is a bossy child in general and tends to not have many friends at school because of her controling/ bossy nature, but shes always THE worst when is comes to DS. We have tried giving them time apart by letting DD visit her GPs for a weekend, and it doesnt help at all. DS will tell me how much he misses his sissy while shes aways and when she walks through the door it feels like everyone has to walk on egg shells/ distract her to keep her from starting an argument with DS.
This is a big issue for our family. I feel like her behaviour controls what we can/ cant do together and when we can/cant do it. Its affecting DS and I know that DD will have even worse issues if we dont find a way to get this behaviour to stop because no one will want to be her friend.
What would you do? The GPs kept both of the kiddos last night for a family party, and their GF called to discuss her hateful behaviour with me. He suggested talking to a social worker and asking them to watch them interact. He said that hes worried about DS emotional state and even asked if DD needed to come back a live with them for awhile! DD is does not hit DS or hurt him physically in any way- its just how to speaks to him..no matter how many times you correct her or she see how it effects him/ us, she still continues. Though I am concerned with her over all behaviour- their interactions is my biggest concern.
What would you do/ suggest?
This is really becoming an even bigger issue. This is something that we where hoping she would 'grow out of', but she isnt and this concerns me because DS is now old enough to actually understand her bossiness and the hateful things shes says- and take them to heart. Im tried of seeing him get treated like crap by her.
PS: Sorry if I sound a bit stressed- I feel at my ropes end with this situation and Im very worried for both of my LOs. THANK YOU so very much in advance for your advice.
This is absolutely one hundred percent a sign and symptom of her spectrum thought process. She has high functioning autism. I know that it must be hard to come to grips with that. This is what it can look like in a family.
I totally get it. My son is 11 and has HFA and my daughter is 5 and a half and she is clearly precocious and happy. He is always telling her what to do in a bossy manner, interfering with her creative play by telling her it is made up or not real, and doing things that upset her. Partly, it happens because of the different way that he uses language and i'm sure that that is also true with your daughter. He is literal and concrete in his use of language so he doesn't understand her meaning when she speaks in a more elaborate, expressive way. He just interprets her in the most literal way possible. He also does not easily see her view point and perspective until after the fact so he needs to think through what happened before he knows his part in it. So he is angry when a limit is set, then very sorry an hour later, after he's thought about it. To top it off, he isn't always motivated to "try his best" with his sister because he doesn't want to share us and would rather be an only child ( who could blame him!! we're great parents!! )
I have worked very hard for many years labeling his behavior for him, telling him it is motivated by jealousy at times, telling him he thinks factually and his sister is thinking "magically"...neither is better, just different....telling him that he needs to "think through the steps in his behavior to understand it" . Over time, he can identify himself why he is acting and behaving the way that he is. It doesn't always change how he acts YET but he will better accept responsibility for his own actions and words so we can be harmonious. He'll listen to us and change course, he will take space to relax and come back in a good space, and he will explain himself and his thought process so that we know how to add to it, to help him understand where he is going wrong.
I also used for many years a "good word and good deeds" chart where I helped provide external motivation for better words and behavior toward his sister and for other problems that would come up in his routine and family life.
I'm a social worker so many of these things come "naturally" to me, but, I think it is a MUST to begin understanding how you can help your daughter at home, by creating safe routines, common clear language for problems, and a way to set limits and expectations while teaching her how to TALK to her brother and everyone in a loving respectful way.
I also think it isn't too soon to begin speaking with your son about his sister and help him understand her, with a child like frame work, such as, your sister's way of thinking makes it difficult to see your feelings and understand them. It doesn't make her mean, we have to be extra understanding....
But, you do, really have to be extra understanding with your daughter. It truly helps not to personalize it and even to somewhat normalize it because what you're describing, is exactly what it looks like to have a child on the spectrum. Despite or maybe even "because" of her intelligence, she was tricking you to hurt you physically. It may seem that she is purposefully and maliciously harming you and your son now with her words.
However, the best clinicians don't use the label ODD when the AS label fits, nor, will they use the ADHD label. It is because there is a great deal of overlap in behaviors in these diagnosis'. A child with AS will often look like they are oppositional. They will often look impulsive and have energy that they can't control. But, especially in the case of AS "looking like ODD", since someone with AS has such impaired language pragmatics and they can often be unable to "read" facial expressions or even a "tone" of voice, they are communicating with out the typical range of tools available to most people to solve problems in a meaningful way. Therefore, they do not act in opposition to you or your family for malicious reasons or to hurt. It still feels hurtful to you and to your son. BUT, think of it from her vantage point. She may be very "smart" but what would it feel like to walk through the world with a whole range of feelings inside of you, but have no language or context to describe them. To not understand others feelings at all either. To possibly be unable to even understand the tone of voice she herself just used and how it feels to hear that tone. (my son doesn't hear tone of voice, others or his own, he just hears the words so must interpret meaning based on the words alone, not "how" they were said)
This does not EXCUSE harmful words or harmful hands. I would never accept that behavior and you must create a good plan to make change. But, if it helps to know that the world of language pragmatics is like FRENCH to her, you can begin to be her interpreter.
To start, take this out of the realm of your pediatrician, who isn't trained to handle these kind of issues. A social worker may be helpful (I am a social worker) but only one who has a great deal of experience working with gifted children on the spectrum. Home based therapy is helpful, so that the clinician can see your two children playing together and help you create behavior plans. This will be WORK, hard work. But, it is the best work of your life. It has always been my goal to help create the best conditions for my son to grow and thrive so that he can make his own contribution in the world. It is intense and hard at times to raise a child with enormous potential for good as well as for harm. But, you can help your child learn about themselves and slowly begin to be a warm contributing member of her family. It can and it WILL get better.
I'll add a little more about things that helped my child: my son benefited the most from the collaborative problem solving approach when working with a coach/therapist. Our behavior charts helped enormously. Dietary change helped enormously (gf/cf diet improved his MOOD enormously and helped his emotional regulation) and homeopathic treatment helped him as well. All together what we've done has helped him to become a very nice young man....who I can see taking shape into a good person! That's all I wish for.
I also wanted to suggest if you haven't already, to let her know that she "thinks differently", it is part of her gift as a child in this world, but, also means that she has to work harder than her friends at school on how to speak kindly and understand the feelings of others. Whether you tell her it is autism or you tell her just that she "thinks differently" it is important, I believe, for a child to begin to understand who they are in the world, to get this kind of conversation started. It will help you too to begin to get it out there.
I also work with several families with similar dynamics, and totally agree with livinglife's post above. You need specialized help/support to make your home a calm and safe place. Various ways to look for that help (in no particular order):
Does your county have a Mental Health crisis line? In my area, they are a source for referrals to a large variety of services; at least a starting point.
Ask your ped for referrals to Occupational Therapy, and a Developmental Pediatrician or Pediatric Neurologist for a full evaluation. A full evaluation should come with concrete steps for treatment - a behavioral specialist, clinical social worker or therapist who specializes in high needs kids (especially autism spectrum) - someone, like livinglife , who "gets" your daughter and your family dynamics. Your medical insurance may dictate what routes are available to you.
Check into your local Autism Society, ARC, Department of Developmental Disabilities, and/or NAMI for locally based support and referrals. Other groups in your area may be available too; those are the biggest in my city, and all have a national or statewide presence. None of these programs are dependent on your insurance or income.
There are many therapeutic approaches worth a try. Diet, medication, homeopathy, talk therapy (and more!) have all been used successfully by some families. I agree with the suggestion of Collaborative Problem Solving as a starting point, that you could perhaps work on while waiting to get more help. See the book The Explosive Child, by Ablom and Greene. Even if the behavioral interventions they suggest aren't helpful right now, I highly recommend the philosophy of this book. It really helps with understanding and patience.
One fairly minor suggestion I might try: when you all need a break, could Little Brother sometimes be the one to go to grandparents' house? Maybe some intense one-on-one time with Mom (I was thinking of fun, bonding time, not therapeutic or punitive flavor) would repair your relationship, and give you some insight as to how her brain works. . GPs might enjoy some time with the "easier" kid too, and it would give you a chance to see how things go minus the biggest trigger.
I wish you the best, and hope you will check in and let us know how things are going.