Household havoc: one mother’s quest for quiet on the home front – My Story – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Household havoc: one mother’s quest for quiet on the home front – My Story – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Oppositional Defiant Disorder – Brief Article

Beth Kaplanek

IN JUNE OF 1982 I GAVE BIRTH TO MY FIRST SON, CHRIS. AT THE TIME I THOUGHT I HAD ALL THE PATIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE NECESSARY FOR RAISING A CHILD. AFTER ALL, I HAD WORKED IN AN INTENSIVE CARE UNIT, EMERGENCY ROOM AND AS HEAD NURSE OF A MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC. I WAS ALSO THE OLDEST SISTER OF EIGHT SIBLINGS. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was not even remotely prepared far what I was about to face as a mother. My dream of a little house with a white picket fence was quickly replaced with an emotional roller coaster. My son, though intelligent and articulate, was also very easily distracted and incapable of sitting still and staying on task. No matter what I asked him to do, his answer was a defiant, “No.” He was verbally aggressive and yelled at me routinely. During his fits of rage, everything but the kitchen sink came out of his mouth. And every time, it felt like someone was putting a knife in my heart.

Until Chris was 8 years old, I fought to understand why motherhood was so different for me compared with other women. Then he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) along with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which co-occurs in about 40 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD. But my story is not about ADHD. It’s about learning to cope with the emotions I faced firsthand during both the years before Chris was diagnosed and those following while raising a child with special needs.

Chris and I weren’t the only ones having a hard time communicating. The constant stress also took a toll on my relationship with my husband and my younger son. I yelled a lot, my husband was certain I was being an inappropriate mother, and Chris was confused about the level of respect between his mother and father. We were a family falling apart.

Thankfully, things started to change when Chris began receiving appropriate treatment. With help from professionals, I was finally able to let go of the blame and judgment I felt from others. Then I sought out other parents who were experiencing similar issues. My husband and I began attending regular educational forums and conferences, soaking up support and knowledge to design an effective plan of action for Chris’ treatment.

We went through every type of treatment possible; when one intervention didn’t work, we tried another. Adderall, a psycho-stimulant, increased Chris’ ability to concentrate and calmed his defiance, but medication is a short-term solution to a 24-hour-a-day problem. Behavior modification charts were extremely useful. I combined them with positive reinforcement to enforce agreed-upon rules, and each chart was age-specific and used until the desired behaviors had become automatic.

Today, Chris is 20 years old, and his condition will likely be a lifelong struggle for him. But he is learning to accommodate his needs and I have learned to pick my battles wisely.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a workshop sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Child and Adolescent Mental Health on this very topic. It reminded me of the importance of parental networking, and that early intervention is key in both taking control of the disorder and alleviating family stress. I hope my story will help others who feel alone in confronting ADHD. And I’m looking forward to a loving future with my own family, and to enjoying our lives together.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group