Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Friday, July 09, 2010

Beyond Frustrated

The past month or so I've been beyond frustrated with Hannah's behavior. She's growing more defiant and deliberately antagonistic by the day. She's growing stronger as she gets bigger and her kicking and hitting hurt a lot more now than they used to and she's getting much harder to restrain to keep her from hitting us. At a loss for what to do about her behavior (having tried about every trick in every parenting and medical book out there) we decided to consult a pediatric psychologist for some family therapy hoping he would be able to shed some light on what we were doing wrong and help us out of this downward spiral we seem to be in. Those sessions have pretty much been a complete waste of money. So far he hasn't given us any strategies we haven't already tried and has now swung 180 degrees from his initial recommendation that we use a sticker chart to motivate good behavior to recommending a partial hospital program for Hannah! I about freaked out on the psychologist yesterday when he suggested this. It sounds awfully extreme to me and awfully expensive! When I think of a partial or full hospital program I think about kids that are dangerous. Hannah's not dangerous, she's just extremely challenging. If we don't put a halt to some of her behaviors she could be dangerous once she's older and bigger, but right now she's not dangerous and so I think a partial hospital treatment program is way out of line. Have any of you out there had any experience with programs like these? Am I totally off base here? Needless to say, I'm in the market for a new psychologist because we do desperately need the help. What would be the most helpful would be some sort of therapeutic Super Nanny type person who could come to our house and simply observe what goes on for several days in a row, maybe a full week, and then help us develop a plan to better manage Hannah's behaviors. She doesn't display many of her most challenging behaviours at school so I feel like the same thing would happen at the partial program since it's run very much like a preschool. The herd mentality, or maybe it's just that she's not completely comfortable there, whatever the reason she saves up everything for home. The moment I pick her up she lets it all hang out. I need someone to see her in action like that, not in the structured school/therapy environment. Does a therapist like this even exist? If so, what would they be called? I'd love to know so I could google them and see if I could find someone in our area that could help us out.

Another question for all you veteran parents out there, when is it no longer considered an annoying, but age appropriate stage for a child to get into lotion, chemicals, etc and smear them all over themselves and anything else they can find? This is what Hannah did on Monday. When she was supposed to be upstairs getting her pajamas on she instead went into our bedroom, climbed up to Kyle's dresser (which she can not reach without climbing) and got his Nivea lotion, hydrocortisone cream, and the fish tank chemicals-all things she KNOWS she is not allowed to touch- and then proceeded to smear the lotion and cream all over her body plus the carpet, her bedsheets, a book, and some toys. She then dumped out all the fish tank chemicals on the floor (thank Jesus she did not swallow them!) and then lied to me when I called upstairs and asked what she was doing by saying, "I'm just looking at my books" The next day, after now being banned from our bedroom, she snuck into our bedroom and got my package of birth control and hid it under her bed. The next day she went through my purse (which she KNOWS she's not allowed to do) and took my cell phone out while I was using the bathroom and hid it from me. Then today, right in front of both Kyle and I she decided to smear chapstick all over her face! She ground it into her eyebrows so hard that Kyle had to really scrub to get it all off before taking her to school! Is this something that all kids do at her age? If so, how long does this stage last? I'm getting multiple gray hairs from this new behaviour. I've ordered some medicine and chemical safes to put everything in to keep her from getting at any more medicine or chemicals since putting them up out of her reach obviously doesn't do the trick so hopefully that will stop that part of the problem from a safety standpoint, but what do I do about this taking things and hiding them? What about the other less noxious chemicals such as hand soap and shampoo. When will it be safe to put them back down where they are convenient?


Anonymous said...

The person you are looking for is a behavioral therapist. I don't know how to find one, but if I were looking for one, I might call a place that does ABA and ask them if they know of any behavioral therapists that work as consultants. If that doesn't get you any names, call places like OT or Speech clinics.

I think what you want is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). There might even be a website where you can search by state.

As for the lotions and stuff -well Charlotte will be 6 yrs old in less than a week and she still does it from time to time. I think she enjoys the sensory experience from that, and because she has Autism, she doesn't always have the greatest impulse control.

It's hard to remember that we have change our expectations for our very high functioning kids with autism, but that is what we have to do. Hannah has Asperger's which has both gifts and challenges which make her very unlike the average child.

Another thing I'm thinking of is that when Charlotte is feeling the most dysregulated - that's when she lets loose the most at home. Various things can cause that dysregulation - this week it was when she went to camp the first day and didn't know the schedule. She cried a lot there and then took it out on us at home. The next 2 days they gave her her own copy of the day's schedule, and she had much better time there and at home. Dysregulation can also be brought on by eating something that makes her feel bad (in her case dairy because she appears to be lactose intolerant).

I would encourage you to explore the root causes of her defiance. It may be something you're not even thinking of.

Meanwhile - hang in there, Mama!!

Anonymous said...

Hi! As a psychologist I would say the above post is correct - you need someone with knowledge of ABA - and even better still with FBA - functional behavioural analysis. This will seek to introduce different rates/ styles of reinforcement - so that some behaviours could be extinguished (stopped) completely - whereas others would be reward just for occurring less frequently. Also behaviours that serve a similiar funtion but are more acceptable will be introduced - so the behavior can be shaped to be more appropriate. I hope this makes sense and isn't just a lot of jargon!!

In regards to the love of lotions and creams etc.... how about having really fun bath times before bed? My dad used to squirt shower gel, shaving foam, shampoo (you name it!!!) on my knees when I was in the bath (I was around 3 or 4 at the time!) and I loved it!! He made a big mountain of goo on my knees! It was a great way of playing with these items: exploring the colours, textures,smells and getting messy - but getting clean at the same time!!! After the bath you could put lotion on her and let her have some chap stick as a treat and my guess is that would be enough! Hope this would work - and it could be something you could enjoy together. Take care and wishing you luck in finding a new psychologist! x

Lora said...

Oh Nat, I'm sorry things are so challenging right now. I hope you find the right person to help you. A partial hospital program seems extreme to me too.

About the lotion, I don't know if it's typical of the age or not, but it does sound very sensory seeking. Could you get a bottle of lotion and a plastic tub, and she is allowed to squirt/play with it as much as she wants outside? Don't know if that would curb the behavior or not, but it's an idea.

Taz's Mama said...

hi. i just found your blog from hopeful parents. i have a son, through adoption also, who sounds a little bit similar. he is diagnosed bipolar disorder and sees a psychologist and psychiatrist. we actually looked into getting him into a partial hospital program like you talked about for the summer BUT he is very dangerous. he has attacked us with sharp objects and he has a 1 yr old sister who he can and will hurt. there wasn't a program that would take him at his age though.

but if you're daughter is not dangerous to herself or other more vulnerable people (i don't mean adults, just pets and younger kids) than there's no reason to do a hospital setting.

the sensory lotion stuff sounds typical of autism spectrum or sensory disorder. my son does that once in a while too.

it sounds like you're looking for an in-home service. they do exist but they're hard to get. if you contact your local social services office for resources. a therapeutic supernanny woudl be great! i'd like one too!

Kate said...

souns like it might be useful to look at the differences between school and home - does Hannah have a routine and schedule she follows at home? is it posted in a place everyone can clearly see? is it followed? from what ive heard most acting out behavior comes from trying to adjust to different routines or lack of routine, so making it as similar as you can to school might help. or else it might be that she just needs to blow off steam but needs safer ways to do it. i like the idea of the lotion tub. and yes ABA therapists may be a good idea, contact the autism society in your state for recommendations.

Elizabeth Channel said...

I know this mom has experience with hospital and in-home therapists: She has seen it all, and is exceptionally compassionate and understanding.

I agree with you that the hospital program sounds extreme in H's case. It sounds like her sensory diet isn't meeting her needs, and maybe ramping that up at home will help. Maybe your OT will have ideas, such as whether or not H may respond to some self-calming techniques.

I'm not an OT, but perhaps systematically planning some sort of lotion/soap activity every day may help that impulse. We had an OT that would fill a wading pool with shaving cream and have the children play in that with only a swim suit.

Have you used the Alert (How does your engine run?) program before? We found that to be a useful tool in helping Edward define how he feels and what he can do to self-calm.

I agree with GoodFountain about the food sensitivity. It is amazing what the wrong foods will do to a child's behavior; I've seen it first-hand with all three of my children, both on the spectrum and not.

I do want to encourage you because I know you feel frustrated. The great thing is that Hannah is so intelligent that you have a lot of options in how you can help her. (I know her intellect also makes her sneaky but it can be such an asset when explaining self-control and impulsivity to young children, as well as teaching them self-calming techniques.)

I have friends who have seen success with some homeopathic calming aids too, should that be a direction you would consider. We have tried them as well but I know that direction is not for everyone.

Hang in there! Like so many things, this phase will fade at some point, and you will be on to the next challenge...

Blessings to you...

Elizabeth Channel said...

Sorry! That web site is,

Angie said...

As for the lotion stuff.. lol I was still smearing all kinds of stuff on me when i was 10-11! lol I think i did it just out of curiosity.

Mama said...

Thanks for all the help. Your suggestions have all been very helpful and I'm making good use of them! I'll let you all know how things turn out.