When your family has a very odd child

I feel strange posting in this section as I do not have children.  However my husband and I are concerned about some of the kids on his side of the family.  Especially 1 odd young girl who seems to get odder with each passing year. Since we aren't parents, we can only discuss symptoms and possible causes and maybe give them an idea to talk over with their doctor.  Her ADD seems to be the bottom of the totem pole for their treatment though because she also has had some serious allergy/sinus issues.

But after spending time recently with this child, we are more worried than ever.  Her cousin is probably about 35 and went to a special school for ADHD and dyslexia (which her parents considered sending her to the same school but decided not to due to $ and also because most of the classmates would be male and she seemed to be too interested in boys for her age).  This cousin will never be a real contributing member of society, his parents have to care for him as his attempt to live on his own was a disaster, his marriage was a nightmare, and this was with all the help medical science could offer at the time, and she is getting little to no help with her ADD and we are just concerned.

I know a lot of you are dealing with ADD children.  And I guess some of you are probably dealing with children who come across as odd to other children or even adults.  How do you go about giving them the very best chance to have a successful life?  How do you.....I don't know address the oddness that keeps the other kids from wanting to be their friend and even adults in the family from wanting to spend too much time with her?

She is almost a teenager.  She can be a terrible sullen brat (yeah most teens can but she seems early for it and doesn't seem on par as far as behavior with the other children we know well at her age).  From childhood she was a tantrum thrower.  She seems completely unable to self-soothe and her parents have dealt with that completely over the top by rushing to soothe her all the time.  Since her ADD seems to cause within her terrible attention seeking behavior, well you can just imagine how she goes about getting her parents to rush to her side.  They received good counsel about curbing this behavior but now they are divorcing sooo.....well competing for the kids attn seems to be happening.

Her mom (likely also with ADD) was a horrible drama seeker....and kinda maybe still is....and there is a younger brother in the mix now.  VERY ADHD and very charming (and young) so ppl tend to laugh at behavior that is just so ugly when she does it.  This girl.....it sound horrible to say it about a family member but she is not personable & has literally no charm.

She was better when she was the only child, but now that she feels she is fighting for attention......like I said yearly she gets worse.  It can feel like an assault to spend an evening with her.  How will she ever get friends like that?!  We can't think of one real friend she's had in her 12 years.  That is sad......and doesn't bode well!

Socially she is soo painfully awkward.  We think it could possibly be because her parents have changed her school almost every year of her life and a couple times she's had more than 2 in the same year.  They seem to think a new school is the answer as soon as she has issues.  That compounds the friends issue as well as the fact that they physically move a lot and where they live now has no kids her age.

She is a smart young lady....definitely did better in school at younger ages.  She likes creativity like writing and jewelry making, but what she makes and writes isn't very good.  Now you obviously don't tell a child this, but her parents seem to come from the school of thought that you praise everything the child does to the utmost regardless of what it is.

This poor kid is baffled now cause her family seems to think she is a genius but at school she has no friends and her teachers are not impressed with her efforts.

Anyone in this boat?  What can be done to help her?  And as the adults who cringe to spend too much time with her sometimes, what can be done to help us be more tolerant?  I understand what is at the root of her behavior......I really do......but at the end of the day it just needs to stop no matter what is at the root, right?

Hi Aspen, As a teacher, I

Hi Aspen,

As a teacher, I have seen this type of thing before; not just with parents of children with ADHD.  I am of the opinion that kids with issues that affect their social skills require MORE discipline, structure, and EXPLICIT instruction on what proper decorum is, not LESS because you feel badly for them.  Her parents made her already formidable challenges worse by not giving her the guidance she so desperately needs.  No one does a child any favors by choosing not to teach them how to live in the world amongst other people.  My son might have a temper, but let me tell you that his 1st grade teacher found him to be very compassionate and kind.  He's a really good kid.  Sure, we still have to remind him to say "Please" and "Thank you" more than his 5 year old sister, because he gets distracted.  But he's improving.  And he's unusually sweet and thoughtful.  We have to work extra hard on some issues, and will probably have to remind him of formalities for quite some time until they become cemented.  But we are very proud of him; we recognize both his amazing qualities and his flaws.  We let him know what they are so he can continue to shine and improve what is necessary.  We don't flatter him unnecessarily, knowing that the world won't do that and he would have a difficult time adjusting to reality.  Even if we wanted to let him live in a bubble, his peers would let him know how it really is; that's how kids are. 

I don't think not having children precludes you from having concerns.  You are a very insightful woman, Aspen, and I'm sure that you and your husband have made an accurate assessment of the situation.  That young lady really needs some guidance from someone who can give her a fair and accurate assessment of her character and skills. 

I don't know how close you are to your niece, but you would be an excellent mentor, provided her parents at least have enough sagacity to realize that they have done their daughter a disservice.  Sounds like it could be a touchy situation, given their status. 

Pbartender's picture

Not so different from my autistic son...

My son always had similar social problems due to his autism.  It took years of concerted effort from us and his teachers and his counselor at school, but he gets it more often than not now.  A firm, but gentle guiding hand, clear expectations of proper behavior, no tolerance for bad behavior, and appropriate congratulations for a job well done will work wonders, with enough patience.

When they do something, point out what they did well -- what you liked.  There's no need to criticize mistakes or what they did wrong (most kids are savvy enough to understand when they do well and when they don't), but simply offer a helpful tip for improvement...  use the mistake to teach them how to do better next time.



ODD child.   You almost

ODD child.   You almost described my son ... he is very ADHD and dealing with this for years has become ODD, although he HAS been getting better the past few months. I am sure the constant moving around has not been helpful for your niece either. My son has very few friends also, but i think that is also very common for kids with ADHD, other kids just don't 'get' them. When my sons ADHD meds are effective meaning the 10 hours they are working, he is sweet, polite, intelligent...ADHD meds seem to really help ODD behavior, I believe the impulsiveness of ADHD really makes the ODD come out full force. He is also a teen and the ODD really seemed to get bad when he turned 13, ADHD coupled with just being a teen, not pretty. He also is very reactive to his ADHD/ODD father, that is where the ODD is worst.  Children with ADHD and/or ODD need structure, stability, they need COMPASSIONATE discipline not yelling...some people seem to think discipline means punishment, I don't...I state what behavior I expect and tell him when its unacceptable I always get an apology from him without telling him to apologize, but if I yell i get this angry monster in my face. 

praising her writing/crafts - now thats a fine line...I would not tell my son if he wrote a story that i thought wasn't any good  "wow that was awesome", but I also would not say "that wasn't very good" either.  When my son has to write something and he hates to write, getting thoughts on paper are hard for him even though he has all this wonderful information in his head...I usually praise his Effort if i can see he put alot into it even if the content wasn't great, but then try and help him make it better, like "wow I can see you tried really hard you put a lot of effort into that, how about we just try and get some more detail." I read his work and give him constructive criticism, this can be hard because he can get defensive, its all about how I say what i want to say.  Like ' this sentence about world war II is very interesting can you give me something more specific about this particular paragraph though I want to know more"...something like that...  I would not want to just say hey thats awesome if I know he can do better. This really works for him...he has written some poems and essays that have brought tears to my eyes because the finished product was so moving, yet the 'draft' was uninspiring.

There have been two other things that I have tried with him lately that seemed to have really helped, the first is fish oil and the second neurofeedback. I started both with him around the same time so I can't honestly say which has worked or if both have, but as fish oil is fairly inexpensive and neurofeedback is not, I would give the fish oil a try. His ability to Not get angry and have an outburst has lessened dramatically...sure he can still be a bratty teen but its not the same as the easily enraged ADHD boy.  The first though is if they aren't getting her medical treatment for the ADHD, no matter what they do I doubt she will be able to control the beast inside her.

The other thing that has helped my son, and not his ADHD or ODD but just his self esteem is that he joined the school drama club last year. because he has so few friends, wasn't athletic even though he tried he just never fit in with anyone. His joining this club has been Wonderful for him. The kids seem to be much more accepting than any other group/club/activity he has ever tried. I cannot express how this has helped him feel better about himself.  I imagine your niece needs to find some group she can click with, it must be very depressing not to have friends at that age...depression often causes anger so does anxiety.

You niece may actually be a 'genius' but not perform well in school also...seems many ADHD people are truly gifted. My sons are both in the genius range as far as IQ tests go, yet they both do average in school. When you talk to them however you can really sense the intelligence that lies within them. Unfortunately school is all about getting homework done, learning in a box, if you learn 'differently' than how they expect their grades may not reflect their true potential. One of my sons I think is a little Albert Einstein - brilliant yet his head is always somewhere else...Einstein also did poorly in school and teachers thought him 'dim'.  My son gets angry with himself all the time he will say "I have such a bad memory'...short term memory is something many ADHD people have difficulty with, he forgets to bring homework home all the time and I know he doesn't do it on purpose because when he opens his backpack and its not in there he gets really upset with himself. he can't go from one room to another and remember what he went in that room for.  How frustrating that must be....I mean I do that too sometimes, but to always do that must be maddening.

Hope this helped, and I hope her parents get her the helps she needs so she can be the best she can be.

MagicSandwich's picture

Left behind

Technically speaking, the term gifted refers specifically to kids who give evidence of a higher performance capability rather than the potential to do so. This elitist and unfair system discludes most children and has an especially depressive effect on ADHD/LD kids. Part of a teacher’s job is finding the right key to “unlock” the unique potential in each student. It's not OK that our educational culture has chosen to devote most resources to the 15% of students who arrive at school already "unlocked." The discrimination bothers me SO much - I find myself having to leave the room when my friends start talking about the fabulous enrichment activities offered in their kids’ Gifted & Talented classes. 

I hear you there. I have

I hear you there. I have friends whose children are straight A students because they do their homework, study, get good grades, but I don't find them remarkably smart, no smarter than any average kid, they just conform to the rules and can pay attention.    My son was 4 when he started kindergarten, he could already read and could do multiplication/division in his head..I can't do 243 x 765 and get the answer,   I never taught him math it just comes naturally. The school gave him an IQ test this year because he was struggling, wanted to see if he had a LD....he got ONE question wrong on the IQ test....they were floored...but he was sitting in a room with no distractions and was under no time constrainsts.   I told them you can't just stand and lecture in front of a class, he needs to be engaged, or he will be thinking about the universe...or watching the birds fly by the window.  When they did more engaging type learning activities, he shined. Unfortunately 90% of the time a classroom just isn't all that exciting. He forgets his homework at school ALL the time and therefore gets a big fat zero, never mind that when they give a test on the subject he gets 100%.  Does it matter that he KNOWS the content, or that he didn't do his homework ? Drive me nuts.    My kids are square pegs that the school system tries to fit into a round hole, and it just doesn't work.    What was sad is this child of mine who is exceptionally sweet and bright, would put himself down, i'm so stupid...etc. because school is so frustrating. The school psycologist who gave him the test and worked with him really helped boost his confidence, he told my son he was smarter than most 12th graders, and my son is in 6th, this one comment had such a dramatic effect on him, made him realize he wasn't stupid...wish someone at school could 'unlock' his potential.   Now don't get me wrong, this all sounds like i am more focused on his intelligence, I'm not, I really don't care what he does with his life or what he becomes, what i want is for him to be Happy about himself, and lead a fulfilling life...its hard though when school seems to judge a person based on grades, and you therefore don't think much of yourself because of it.

Sorry this post has nothing to do with the original post about ODD - this child is not the one that has ODD, thats my other son, not to say he wont eventually, seems many ADHD children and adults eventually become ODD though.

MagicSandwich's picture

"Does not work to his/her potential"

Hi FF,

In our current culture it’s as if the report card phrase, “does not work to his/her full potential” green lights teachers and school admins to behave similarly. And I TOTALLY agree with you on the tendency toward averageness + obedience among the students grouped for ‘higher ability’ instruction.
In short, there’s a reason the American Fermilab particle accelerator was decommissioned last year and all of the exciting “god particle” work is now being conducted in Geneva. 

Pbartender's picture

Hah! I work there...

It doesn't really have anything to do with the American education system...  Fermilab is an international laboratory employing scientists, engineers and technicians from all over the world.  And there are likewise scads of American scientists, engineers and technicians working at CERN in Switzerland.

It was shut down and decommissioned simply because it's 30 years old, we don't have the budget to keep it running, we need the space and money and manpower for new experiments and accelerators that we are currently building, and CERN built an accelerator that does the same job and is better, stronger, faster (we have the technology!).  If fact, Fermilab designed, built and tested perhaps half the equipment that went into building the LHC at CERN.  We cheer their successes and they ours.  A large part of their success in finding a new particle that could be the Higgs Boson so soon, is because of the correlating data the Tevatron has been collecting for decades, and the tried and true technologies that were innovated when the Tevatron was built and that could be adapted and improved for use in the LHC.

It all boils down to...  A bad economy sucks, when you're a government run and funded laboratory.

Sorry for the digression.  The crummy state of our education system can be held accountable for a lot of things, but it didn't shut down the Tevatron.... Indirectly, Congress did.



MagicSandwich's picture

ADHD innovative brains

Disagree just a wee bit. These days, if something can't be gridworked on a standardized test, you won't find it in the American curriculum.  This means that facilities who need thinkers that work off the grid (ADHD-ers) are also devalued. It's so sad. 

Pbartender's picture


When I was a kid, my mother had the grand delusion that I was some sort of genius.  I never quite understood where she got the idea from...  I'm smart enough, and I have a talent for problem/puzzle solving, and I got pretty good grades, but my then undiagnosed ADHD memory and attention always made me feel like people always thought I was smarter than I actually was.

Anyway, my mother was convinced enough, and I got good enough grades that she pushed me into every "gifted" program she could.  I hated them all, and never did much better than mediocre in any of them, because I dealt with them with the usual ADHD lack of interest, inattention and procrastination.  In almost every instance, I quickly forgot everything I learned in the class, and would have to find a way to relearn it and catch back up later.  All in all, I probably would have been better off -- more successful in school, college and employment -- had she just left me in the regular classes.

I don't have a problem with teaching more or less advanced kids at a rate suitable to them, but the whole "gifted" thing is a foolish way to about it.



MagicSandwich's picture

Gifted and parental denial


Now that my brother has kids and I can see the family dynamic at work in the next generation I’ve realized that the “giftedness” thing is a manifestation of parental denial and shame. Their older son has been diagnosed LD/ADHD. He’s nearly seven years old but operates in class with the emotional maturity of a pre-k child. He’s a clever and interesting kid, but the hallmark ADHD symptoms get in way of nearly everything he tries to do. My brother and his wife do talk about it but have no clue what the diagnosis means for their roll in his life going forward. Their second son who is five is not LD/ADHD and he is a smart cookie as well. Last week I went with them to the ice cream shop and recoiled in absolute horror as Kid #1 ran around the restaurant yelling and crashing into the other patrons while Kid #2 sat on the barstool at the counter happily swinging his legs while devouring a sundae. My denialist brother and wife did not seem to "get" how intrusive Kid #1 was being. There was a mild attempt to redirect him and a useless "I'm going to count to three" before they gave up. I stayed neutral until it became obvious that the manager was about to ask us to leave. At that point I managed to catch Kid #1 by his collar as he raced past and said "Sit down and eat or I am taking you home." He responded by kicking me in the shin. I yelped in pain. Kid #2 to started whimpering.  To this, my sister-in-law chimed in with "he sure has a lot of energy" and my brother did nothing.

Anyway, guess which son they are pushing the school to label as “gifted?”

I think this has been quite

I think this has been quite derailed from Aspens original post about ODD.     I was just making a point that having ADHD makes it very difficult to perform well in school, and that 'grades' may not be a good measure of someones intelligence or potential. 

I don't put my son in any gifted classes because I know how hard it would be for him, not because he wouldn't 'get it' but he doesn't need the pressure of it all, he can barley keep up with the 'average' homework. His self esteem was tanking because of it. He is a child that no teacher has ever made a comment about as being disruptive, antsy or anything of the like, he is always called 'gentle, kind, quiet and a pleasure to have in class...although the not living up to potential is a very common note in his report cards. 

I would never let my children behave in the manner described in public either, i would have grabbed them both by the arm and walked out of there immediately.  What you described sounds like them letting him get away with improper behavior.

Now that my brother has kids and I can see the family dynamic at work in the next generation I’ve realized that the “giftedness” thing is a manifestation of parental denial and shame. 

Not sure if you meant this in regards to your brother, but I am not manifesting his 'giftedness', nor am I in denial or ashamed of my son.  Sorry that comment really sort of got me.

MagicSandwich's picture