Yesterday we met with my daughter’s behaviorist for the first time. Let’s start first with how she got recommended to a behaviorist in the first place.
She has behavior ticks. For example, rolling her eyes up and to the side as she spreads all of her fingers on one hand. Sometimes this even included a pattern of deep breaths. She also has, very obviously, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) tendencies. For example, she has to dry her hands on multiple towels if they are present, lines things up, sets things in certain places, counts nearly everything, must finish doing a set activity before doing what she needs to do. If you interrupt her pattern, move an object she placed, interrupt her counting, interrupt her current activity, take away a towel and not let her use it, etc., She becomes unrealistically upset and acts as if you have physically assaulted her in some way. It is like it physically hurts her. We told her pediatrician of these things and he recommended her to a behaviorist. Better to be safe than sorry later on. I want to be a good Mom, I want to do what is best for Betsey. I love her more than life itself.
Before we went there…
I was totally under the assumption that I would be told it is normal childhood behavior. Betsey is normal, just with some odd ticks. I would get some parenting advice on how to deal with her OCD issues. Maybe even how to curb them somehow, make them stop.
But that isn’t how things played out at all…
The specialist observed Betsey. Watched her play with toys, seen her behavior ticks, and asked her questions. During this time I, of course, got nervous because I noticed the specialist also watching me just as much as she was watching Betsey. She talked to me and asked me questions as well before moving on to Todd, Betsey’s Dad. She told me I need to be taking ADHD medication and pointed out why. I couldn’t argue because I have been diagnosed with ADHD and what she said was right on point about my own behavior. But first, let’s focus on Betsey.
What we learned about my little girl wasn’t as positive as I had hoped…
We learned that Betsey is hyposensitive, not to be confused with hypersensitive. In other words, she doesn’t feel things properly. She doesn’t feel things as strongly as others do. This is also why she has a high pain tolerance. This is also why she seeks small, tight places, being held and hugged, snuggling, and co-sleeping. She also likes her back rubbed and to be tickled on her back, arms, legs, and toes. She seeks sensation. She seeks to feel.
At this time Todd pointed out that I, too, have a high pain tolerance. I thought about, but didn’t say anything at that time, that I like to sleep under a giant stuffed fox. Yes, under. Sometimes I snuggle with it, but most times I put it on top of me. I like the weight.
So we learned something about both Betsey and myself. We are both hyposensitive.
We also learned that Betsey’s outrages aren’t normal. This I kind of already knew. It isn’t just with the OCD that she has outrages… It is also in routine. It can be something as simple as carrying her book bag from the car to the house that sets her on a hellbent tantrum. An example of this is Daddy always carried her things. It got to the point where she was just dropping it on the ground and saying, “Carry this Daddy”. When I was present I made her carry it herself telling Todd he is spoiling her. She screamed bloody murder, sobbed, and made a huge scene in front of the house. I thought I was doing good by not giving in and making her carry it. Come to find out, I was and I wasn’t… I had the right idea in mind, but I went about it the wrong way. This happens with many different things that I hadn’t even thought of before.
I learned I need to change my parenting, and a lesson in medications.
First I will address my own ADHD and get it out of the way quickly…
I was diagnosed with ADHD a few years back, but stopped taking my meds simply because I didn’t like the way they made me feel. Fast forward to yesterday… I learned that despite how it makes me feel, I should be taking them. Not just for myself, but for the sake of Betsey.
Anyone that is close to me knows I get frustrated quickly with leads to anger. I also have a horrendous time remembering things, important things, and my train of thought very often ends up completely derailed and in a pile of rubbage on a mountain in my brain somewhere. Just writing blog posts is hard. As I sit here my mind is going faster than my fingers ever will be able to and I have at least 100 different thoughts hitting me at once. It is very very hard for me to focus and concentrate on anything and it is getting worse. So bad, in fact, that I often can’t even remember what I ate yesterday for dinner.
Back to the easily frustrated and angry bit. This is not helping my parenting at all! I know this… I know I have little patience, get overwhelmed quickly, stressed, and frustrated. But what I didn’t know is that these things are actually part of my ADHD! This is why I need on medication to help Betsey. I will be able to parent much better. I had no idea that these things were due to ADHD.. And could be solved with a pill. Thus I will get back on it for the sake of my daughter.
Secondly, Betsey needs meds too…
This was hard for me to accept. Both Todd and I have always been very strongly against medicating children for such things as ADD. We always said that most kids are normal and that things can be dealt with without medications. I looked negatively on others for medicating their children. Thinking they just wanted to be “lazy” and have their kids in an “obedient zombie” state so that they can do what they wanted to do… I owe all of those parents a HUGE apology…
I admit I was shocked when a medication was brought up. I kind of froze unbelievingly. Todd and I both hesitated a lot. The specialist explained that it won’t change Betsey at all (like into an “obedient zombie”), but it will take the edge off of her outbursts. It will also help her to sleep better at night as she often wakes during the night… Nearly every night and sometimes multiple times during one night. Getting a good night’s rest will also help with her overall behavior during the day.
So by the end, Todd and I agreed to try it. But, of course, medications are not the end solution. Other things need to change…
A lesson in parenting…
Nearly everything I was doing… Was wrong. Does that make me a horrible parent? No, it doesn’t. As parents, it is a learning experience. We all mess up at some point and none of us are perfect. It is even harder when our little ones have issues such as Betsey’s… And even harder than that when we have issues as well, like me.
What is basically happening is that Betsey and I “butt heads”. She has her way that she needs to do something and I have mine. (For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I’m also going to be seeing a woman that specialized in autism in adults because of a professional counselor as well as my doctor thinks that I am autistic as well. With self-analyzation and researching I’ve done, I agree.)
So let’s say Betsey is reading a Ty Beanie Baby tag and I need her to put her socks and shoes on now because we are already running late getting ready for school. I get frustrated, take the bean-filled animal away in my fit of anxiety and frustration and tell her she can read it after she gets her shoes on. Because she keeps reading it and ignoring me and not doing as she’s told! This results in her throwing a tantrum, my anxiety and frustration getting worse and just an overall disaster. It also results in harming the relationship in between my daughter and I. Before now, I would have told you I took her toy away because she wasn’t listening, just like any parent would, right? But given each of our issues… We end up getting angry at one another and our actions feed each other’s bad behavior in a way… I hope that kind of makes sense, I’m having trouble putting it into words.
What I can do to make things better besides just getting back on my ADHD medication is to change how I approach nearly everything. I need to have more patience with her, I need to give her warnings way ahead of time, I need to change the way I punish her for misbehaving, and also take all emotion out of punishment as well. If I’m frustrated or angry I need to do my best to suppress it and be as neutral as possible. I need to talk everything out in detail as to why things are happening differently that she’s used to as well.
The bookbag incident mentioned earlier could have been prevented entirely. What I should have done is explain to her that Daddy will carry it for one last time today, but from the next day on she is to carry it. (The forewarning gives her enough time to properly process and accept the change in routine.) Any change in her routine will now be handled this way.
Reading the Ty Beanie baby tag when she needs to get her shoes on. This happened this morning, and instead of letting the above-mentioned example incident happen, I just took a deep breath and let her finish reading it. But before she was done reading it I just said to her quickly, as to not interrupt her reading too much, “after you’re done reading that you need to put your socks and shoes on, ok?” She said ok and after she was done reading the tag she reached for another beanie-baby. I reminded her about her shoes and socks and I was delightedly surprised when she just said, “Oh, yeah. I forgot!” She put the toy down and went and got her socks and shoes on without a fight! I was beyond happy this morning. Both she and I did super well!
Punishments will only be in the form of time-outs from here forward. As stated above I will have a neutral attitude. I will calmly explain why she is in trouble and why she has to sit still for a given amount of time. This may not take any affect on her immediately, but the behaviorist assured me that this is something that needs persistence and if I stick with it, we will see a definite improvement in Betsey’s behavior.
So with persistence, patience, and more of an understanding of how to actually prevent a lot of outbursts, we will move forward to healing as a family.
So… What’s her diagnosis exactly?
There is none. The behaviorist said that she isn’t going to diagnose anything this early on. She wants to see her more, and see how well the changes and medications (for both Betsey and me) help. She wants more of a history built before she makes any kind of diagnosis. Which I like, actually. She isn’t slapping a diagnosis on her after seeing her only one time and for me, that actually tells me she is a good doctor. Yes, she is a doctor. A psychiatrist that specializes in child psychology.
Now instead of spending hours, and sometimes whole days, fighting her trying to get her to do as she is told right when she is told to do it… I will back off. I will tell her what needs to be done but let her finish her current activity before reminding her to go do whatever. When I want her to stop doing something, I will tell her I want her that after this time I want her to not do whatever it was again. In this way, it won’t feel like such an abrupt change to her and it won’t feel like a punishment to her to stop doing it. If she does something that she knows is bad, she will sit in a timeout.
Thus begins our journey of healing as a family. And I urge other parents to talk to their doctors and seek help if they need it. It really isn’t a bad thing. A lot of us, including myself, was in a mindset that if we need help, we can’t be good parents… But that is far from the truth… If you need help and recognize that you do and seek help… Then that makes you a good parent. I want what is best for my daughter and so I set my pride to the side to help her.
One thing I would like to go back to real quick is the medication and why we chose to try it. One thing sticks in my mind that the behaviorist pointed out to us. Because of privacy laws, she can’t say who… But she did tell us that she works with many children and lots of parents against medications… She said that those that don’t try it when it is needed, end up hurting the relationship between parent and child. The child grows older and then it is harder to treat because not only does the child need medication, but now the child has had a lot of negativity between parent and child which makes things much worse. I don’t want this for Betsey. This also includes me getting back on the meds that I need as well. Trying the medication this early on will help in determining what she will/won’t need in the future. It helps us now so that we can avoid future negative complications.
Now we will put all of the negativity behind us and heal. I want Betsey and me to have a better relationship. I want her to have a better relationship with her Dad. I want what is best for her. I want her to grow up strong and with a strong foundation (family).