Warning! Birth story ahead!
I knew my son was different before he was born. It all started with his birth, really. A month before his due date (and that due date was spot on because I was taking fertility drugs to conceive him) I started having contractions. At first I thought they were Braxton hicks but they kept happening and increasing in intensity and number. I went to the hospital a few times and was told I wasn't dilating and to go home. I asked if they could give me something to stop the contractions and they said that I was far enough along that they couldn't stop the delivery if it happened, but not far enough along to speed things up by inducing me. I was in no man's land. It sucked. Finally, after five days of this torture I called the on call physician and begged her to admit me to give me fluids and some pain meds so I could get some sleep. I hadn't slept in five days, I was exhausted and sore, and I just needed a break. I get to the hospital, they check my cervix and I'm at 3 cm. Fantastic! So I get admitted, they give me an epidural and 3 hours later my son was born. He came out and stretched head to toe as if to say "Oh, GOD it was cramped in there!"
He was beautiful and perfect and four weeks early; but he never spent a moment in NICU and didn't need any kind of resuscitation or anything. He was just...different.
At 10 months of age he was running and climbing things but couldn't speak and didn't understand the word "NO". One day I left him in the play room to go pee (an obvious error) and I head a crash. I come out and see him walking toward me with a worried look and whined while pointing at his feet. He never cried, never screamed. I pick him up and see little tiny cuts on the bottom of his feet and two pictures on the ground that were once on the wall. He had crawled up the play kitchen we had for the kids and had pulled the framed pictures off the wall, dropped them, then climbed down and stepped in the glass littering the floor. I cleaned him up and he was okay and I learned how to pee with a 10 month old staring at me.
At 18 months of age he had begun to speak a little. He could say "Mom" "Daddy" "Sissy" "Dog" and, of course, "NO!" He learned a few extra words in there but overall that was pretty much it. At this point I was starting to have that nagging thought in the back of my head "Something's wrong". But we went about our lives and tried to deal with the punches as they landed.
He was kicked out of three preschools/day cares before he was three years old. At four we took him to a therapist and they diagnosed him with Sensory Processing Disorder. This, in a nutshell, was my son:
He would frequently have melt downs and we would have to guess what was wrong. Was he hot? Cold? Hungry? Tired? Tag on his shirt bothering him? Pebble in his shoe? His favorite thing to do was to duck his head down, fling his arms behind him and run full sprint into people or walls. One school asked us if we had considered getting him a helmet and when we laughed they looked at us and very seriously said "No, seriously. He needs a helmet."
So, with our new diagnosis of SPD we plodded on for another two years and taught him how to use his words to tell us what was wrong. He learned how to recognize signs of hunger or fatigue instead of just breaking down into a screaming and crying mass on the floor. Things seemed to be going well when they changed again.
He began getting notes from school again. He was waking up several times at night and we would find him in the morning curled up in the computer room asleep. We frequently found him watching a movie while playing on his tablet and reading a book and playing with some sort of toy. He would provoke fights with his sister (and us) on a daily basis. But his favorite thing to do was to immediately refuse to do a simple thing that he normally did every day without question. For example, brushing his teeth at night before bed:
Me: Bug, time to brush teeth.
Bug: No. I don't want to
Me: Well, that's too bad because you have to. We brush teeth every night before bed, this isn't a big deal. Let's go brush your teeth.
Bug: I don't have to! You can't tell me what to do. I won't do it! You can't make me!
Me: I can make you and I will. You're going to brush your teeth or I will brush them for you and you won't like it.
Bug: No you won't!
And just imagine the escalation from there. It was a nightmare and the house was held hostage by a 5 year old. It was time to get another evaluation. I found an awesome pediatric neurologist and psychologist who was able to see him pretty quick. After a lengthy interview with me and the Bug the doctor gave a tentative diagnosis: Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD. Out of all the things that doctor could have told me, the one thing I had prayed that it NOT be was ODD. I had read and heard horror stories about kids with this disorder and the traumatic lives they can lead. I was crushed. Then he said he wanted to put the Bug on medication for the ADHD.
Look, I have no problem with giving kids medication who NEED medication, but I'm real cautious about it. I was one of the first kids they put on Ritalin when it came out in the 80s. I'm not too keen on dosing my kids on speed. I mean, it's really good quality speed, but still. So I give the doctor my standard "Explain, please" look and he says he doesn't want to put the Bug on a stimulant, like Adderall or Ritalin, but something else. It's a drug a never heard before and I did as much research as I could on it. All in all, it didn't sound too bad, not a lot of side effects, and the studies I'd read showed no real ill effects from long term use (especially in young children). Okay, we'll try it. We also changed the way we interact with the Bug and the way we deal with his outbursts and general defiance. That was two months ago and he's a different kid. Where we used to have meltdowns daily we've had maybe one every other week now. The almost daily notes from school have disappeared and the screaming matches between him and his sister have greatly diminished. I'm not gonna say they've gone away completely because they are siblings and their goal in life is to annoy each other; but it's better.
So, now to the meat and potatoes of it...What is ODD? How does one get this disorder? Dear God, is it contagious? (No)
My son is 6, so no, he doesn't have substance abuse problems but the rest is correct. Now some people say "Honey, that's ALL kids" and I say "Oh, ho! No it's not!" ODD is all these wonderful qualities dialed up to a 10. When your kid is punching holes in walls at 5 and goes out of his way to break rules and test boundaries, something is WRONG. It's not just a discipline problem or your kid being spoiled and bratty. This is a serious issue that leads to gems like this if not dealt with early and appropriately:
And now for the quackery...
1. Just spank the kid!
First of all, there was a recent study published showing that spanking not only doesn't work but is harmful to kids. I know, I know. You're saying "I was spanked and I turned out just fine!" Well, you're the one in a billion who has absolutely nothing wrong with you at all. Bully for you. But, according to science spanking is counter productive, especially in a child with ODD. These kids thrive on chaos and disorder. They can handle anger and aggression and even violence with an ease that'll make your hair stand on end. But talk to them in calm tones and be rational and they are out of their element. They can't manipulate an adult who doesn't rush to anger and yelling and hitting; so they have to look internally at their own behavior and figure out a way to get what they want. And the best way to get what they want is to comply and not be oppositional.
2. They're just spoiled.
Ha. Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Does my kid have toys? Yes. Does he have certain luxuries like the internet and a tablet? Yep, he does. Does he have his own room and his own things? Again, yes. Is he spoiled? No. I don't break down and give him whatever he wants just to not have to deal with a fight. I don't let him yell at me or become violent with me or others. He's not rude to people. He's doesn't have a sense of entitlement. He's not spoiled.
3. I heard about this great natural remedy...
Look, I'm all for going green and being natural but when it comes to my son's health and the well being of my family I'm going to use things that have been tested and proven scientifically to work. So this great supplement you read about on the internet that isn't FDA approved and has no studies backing it up isn't gonna cut it.
4. Sounds like autism. You know vaccines cause that.
OMG STAHP. NO. JUST...NO. UGH.
So, now you know a little bit about ODD and ADHD. I've always known my son was different. But that doesn't make him any less lovable and entertaining. He's a great kid.