ADHD, kids

hi all,

A serious post, hopefully i may get some guidance and as its not in the naafi bar no daft posts about what i should do about the problem. (i've gone thru them already thanks lads!)

i have an 8 yr old step son, he was diagnosed with ADHD at 6 yrs old and is taking medication (concerta) this has improved his levels of concentration and reduces him doing silly and immature things to a certain level. He does better at school now as a result although they still have concerns about his general behaviour.

i met him and his mum when he had just turned 5 (within a week) and prior to him being diagnosed. He was a nightmare, his bio father was not on the scene and my partner was struggling to control him, he was violent, very badly behaved and generally not a nice boy to be around.

i observed this for perhaps 10-12 months and had my own ideas of what to do, my partner was doing her best, she was trying to make up for her ex not being around and this lad wanted for nothing, he had a good life besides bio dad disappearing.

after a time i suggested that firmer discipline was needed, violence from a 5 yr old boy was intolerable and my partner allowed me to get involved, to cut a long story short, the violence was stopped and general behaviour was improved by a firmer hand (not physical) and removal of treats and a reward chart system introduced.

behaviour over the next couple of years has been better (it was a nightmare) but its nowhere near good enough, having to be constantly reminded over the simplest tasks, behaviour is just on the limit, not quite bad enough to result in severe reprimand but always teetering on the edge of what's required. chance after chance and compromise from our side always.

as he has got older, ive come to realise that generally there is no real improvement and no real indication that he is growing up, and taking on that little extra responsibility, ie well your 8 now, you can take your plate to the sink, you can pop your dirty clothes in the wash basket etc etc, simple things but part of growing up.

he starting seeing his bio dad in January, a good thing in my book, (i get a bloody break 2 weekends a month) he is pleased about this and i totally agree he should have access to his real dad, his real dad is on side about his behaviour, he has had problems also already and finds his behaviour unacceptable too, basically we seem to sing from the same song sheet.

If, he has had treats removed, ie playstation, nintendo DS, TV time he can be well behaved for a week or more as he is working towards getting them back, as soon as its normal service resumed and he has access to all he wants he goes back to his old ways and will do stupid things and misbehave big style.

This to me says he know damn well how to behave and it cannot be totally blamed on the ADHD, in my mind he is very calculated, very intelligent young man and knows how to work the system (his mother). As a result me and his mum are usually at loggerheads, her saying i should accept he will never be really well behaved due to his illness and me saying well he can do it when he wants something. To me he is very selfish and its all about him.

We have now had a baby who is 16 months who he adores and gets along well with, over the last 3 months with no apparent trigger his behaviour has taken a drastic downturn, drawing pictures with people cut up and stab wounds and blood etc saying enter his bedroom and you will die, he stole and hid 2 kitchen knives in his room yesterday which i found as i knew they were missing and this morning he attempted to set fire to the curtains in the front room as we slept.

this now has obviously made me fear for the general safety in the house and my young daughter, his father has collected him today and taken him to his for a few days at my request. The doctors have been informed, and a mental health team are seeing him Monday AM.

When he is off the concerta, he is a loon, running around like an idiot and doing silly things, a definite sign of ADHD, i can accept that, these things are happening with the meds in place, and i proved that the behaviour is not all ADHD related as there was an improvement prior to meds and ADHD being diagnosed when i enforced harsher discipline when he was 5/6.

Before anyone asks, he is not physically punished, i don't think you should have to smack your children to get the desired effect, but i am not soft and do not tolerate bad behaviour and punishment is given where necessary.

I'm at a loss to be honest, if any proffessionals can help or anyone who has had similar problems could advise I'd appreciate it.

i apologise for the long post.
Appreciate what you are saying here mate, one of my best mates has ADHD. Recognise a lot of the symptoms you are stating. Have the doctors mentioned Ritalyn. I know my friend takes it and it makes a big difference, although can make him paranoid sometimes.

He's 34 now but he's had a hell of a life, mainly due to people using and abusing him. I lookout for him as much as I can as people tend to target him for an easy bite and easy windups. He's also easily led and people take the pyss a lot and tell him to do stupid things as they know he'll do it without a second thought (you know, when they sort of get into the hyper zone).

We went on holiday a while back and the lads had him doing all kinds of daft stuff, which they reckon was funny, and at times it was a good laugh. But its unfair on him, and I spent most the holiday watching his back and generally keeping him right. Felt more like I was babysitting. Came home nackered! I can sympathise with your situation. saying that, hes got a heart of gold and does everthing in the best of spirits.

Suppose what Im saying is, its a good thing you are onto this at an early age. My friend had a difficult upbringing and wasn't diagnosed with adhd for a lot of years.His dad pyssed off and his Mam struggled to cope. People generally considered him difficult and a bit crazy which was really unfair on him and got him the wrong sort of attention.

I dont want to sound soppy and that, and I don't care if anyone rips the pyss out of me for saying this, but I wish my friend had someone like you in his early years. Someone taking care of him, keeping him right and looking out for him.
ArmySurplusSpecial - I can see your pretty desperate from your post, but I'm not sure what it is your asking mate?

Are you after parenting advice for a kid with ADHD, or is there something else you want to know?

Edit: Just re-read your post, and saw it's the eldest your having difficulties with.

I think you're probably already doing quiet well already. Although I suggest you might be able to improve the reward system you have going. Rather than having the reward system as a means of earning back lost privalidges, maybe you could also use it as a means for the lad to earn new ones?

For example, every-time the lad completes one of his chores (like tidy his room, put his plate away etc), you could reward him with a credit. Then at the end of the week the credits could be traded in for something, like maybe a family day out, or a movie rental or something. I'm not sure it would be a good idea to ration family time in this way (with my first suggestion), but hopefully you get the idea of how you could improve it. Google 'token economy' for some other ideas.

You might also want to ask the Mental Health Team if they could send you on parent training course - don't think of it as a criticism, but you might be able to learn some other behavioural techniques to compliment the ones you're already using. They also might advise you on how to deal with the change in family dynamics that would have happened with the introduction of a new member to the family.

Also, regarding having to be reminded over the simplest tasks. That really is the nature of ADHD I'm afraid. There are a number of very real cognitive problems associated with ADHD (and these are the ones that are typically carried into adulthood) - these including problems with short term memory, attention (as in, the attention part of ADHD refers to a problem with paying attention; not requiring it from other people, as some people wrongly assume (not saying that's you in this case, btw), time perception (as in difficulty judging how long something will take) and inhibition - so sadly, needing to be reminded of the simplest things probably are genuinely down to his ADHD. I quiet understand how the lad can seem as selfish, but there really are some difficulties he will not be able to help.

However, there are things you can teach the lad to overcome these. For example (I know he's young, but) he could be taught to work from lists of what he has to do around the house each day - like tidy his room, lay the table etc, get his bag ready for school the next day etc.

You also might be able to lower your own frustration if you at first aim to reduce whatever behaviour it is you want to change - for example, rather than get him to tidy his plate away every single time, aim to decrease how often he forgets to put it away, and then try to gradually improve on that.

You might also try to introduce the lad to a hobby - maybe martial arts, climbing or something like that - he might benefit from an environment where he can expel some of his energy, as well as gain some useful skills - like working in a team, socialising, taking responsibility, increasing self-esteem (it's very common for kids/adults with ADHD to have low self esteem - basically, because they fuck up so much, and have difficulty forming friendships, succeeding in school etc).

I'm off to bed now as it's late, but hopefully I've given you some useful advise (which has come across in the right way).

If you want to know anything specific, then let me know and I'll try to help - I have some knowledge of ADHD, both in a personal & academic sense , so hopefully I can help, or try to point you in the right direction.

But again, well done for taking such an active role in his upbringing - just because he has ADHD, doesn't mean he is destined to be a failure - I personally know some successful people with ADHD (e.g. one is a successful Harvard academic) - it's just important that the lad learns early on how to deal with his problems, and maybe even use some of his enthusiasm/energy to pursue something he's good at.

Also, this website might be able to offer you some useful links:

And this is a great alternative explanation of ADHD (not one that I think is seriously established, but it's still a nice way to consider ADHD):
Thanks for the replies and links, i guess I'm at a little bit of a loss as to how to proceed was what i was saying A_L, what we are doing seems to be having little effect on behaviour.

The knives and setting fire to the curtains thing was the last straw.

He says "he is angry" because we have removed his privileges for previous bad behaviour. The fact of the matter is he is only punished for bad behaviour (we do take into account he has ADHD and don't punish for the slightest little misdemeanour's) so its his own fault he has had his DS and play station banned.

The fact he can behave fine in order to get things back says to me that the behaviour is not all ADHD related, firmer discipline in the past well before ADHD was diagnosed and meds were given also saw a vast improvement in behaviour.

I guess i was asking if anyone else could look at the story and offer advice on the ADHD side.

Personally in some ways i think he is working his ticket, he is extremely intelligent and appears very calculated in how he does things, especially if he wants a reaction.

He has also been actively encouraged to do karate, judo, football and we have enrolled him in all these clubs previously but he loses interest very quickly and gives up, particularily where he has to concentrate, take notice and do things in the way the instructor says not his own idea of how it should be done.
Reference the anger: Maybe you could change the reward system so that he doesn't get punished?

There is some school of thoughts that punishments can aggravate a situation, or have undesirable effects - for example, like it or not, by punishing him, you are making him angry.

So an alternative way of dealing with this could be to remove the punishment aspect of the reward system (bear with me on this - it's not as crazy as it sounds), - but also change the reward.

So rather than being rewarded with his toys, and punished by losing them, the system could be based on earning time that can be allocated to playing his games - and when he is naughty, he doesn't loose anything, but he doesn't gain from it either.

So in effect, his behaviour still has a direct effect on his access to his games etc, but he hopefully will not feel punished, so in theory he shouldn't get angry, but you are still encouraging good behaviour.

Although don't change your current system on the advice of some random guy from the internet :) but it is something that you could maybe run past the mental health team when you see them on Monday (which, ironically, is the start of ADHD awareness week :) )

edit: I think some of the principals on this page for a school setting are probably equally relevant to the home (especially, the part that says vary the rewards, because the kid will become bored of them over time): reward system punishment&f=false
I prepared two very long posts last night and deleted them both, but I'll stick with this one...

I can well appreciate your thoughts that your stepson's actions are not related to ADHD. When he was 7, my son appeared to lack attentiveness at school and his handwriting was illegible. That was enough to trigger the LEA into action, arranging tests for ADD. In the course of this, we mentioned that he had a sleep disorder, violently rocking his head from side to side while in a deep sleep, which visits to the doctor had been unable to resolve. Visits to the local hospital ensued, EEGs and sleep deprivation tests were done, but nothing was diagnosed. From there to the Mental Health Unit for more tests. Still nothing. He was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital. There the consultant totally ignored my son, but condescended to chat with my wife and me for 5 minutes. Two months later, we were called back and the same thing happened - even the same questions. Two months later and my son was diagnosed ADHD - on the basis of nil testing and nil contact with him. They hadn't even looked up the results of the earlier tests. I suspect the diagnosis was nothing but a means to attract funding for their new ADHD unit. I told them where they could stick their diagnosis - the only symptom of ADHD that could be remotely considered was attention deficit - i.e. linking to ADD, rather than ADHD - but even then that would be incorrect. He only appeared to be inattentive - ask him anything about what he had been taught and he'd spiel the lesson back word for word. He just wouldn't write it down. The LEA came up with a solution - when SATs came around, he'd be permitted to dictate his answers to a teacher who would do the writing. As it turned out, by that time we'd cajoled him into writing by getting him a particularly comfortable pen that he could be proud of, so no dictation was necessary.

The episode has left me disenchanted with GOSH - everyone from receptionist to consultant seemed to have their heads up their own bums - and with doubts as to whether ADHD is a real illness or merely a convenient politically correct tag for kids who could be anything from bored, naughty or severely mentally unbalanced.

Upshot? Watch out for quick diagnoses by supposed experts. You live with your stepson and know how he behaves, they don't. Grill them to make sure that they're taking all your information on board and not just taking selective bits to fit a convenient diagnosis. I have more respect for someone who admits that they don't know the answer than someone who bends the facts.

Research not only ADHD, but any other disorder that matches any of your stepson's symptoms. The bluffers fall apart when faced with someone who can ask pertinent questions, so you'll hopefully be left with a consultant who is trying to help your stepson rather than further their own self-aggrandisement.

Rant over.
I can't give you much in the way of advice now, but my youngest brother was/is ADHD, he was on ritalin (which helped a bit) and had to come off it because of side effects. It was a nightmare, he took a knife to try and get a mates mum after she'd told him off, I had to pin him down for half an hour on cadet camp after he tried to attack one of the NCOs....he was home schooled, etc etc. However, as he went through puberty he grew out of it, he's now doing well at university and has done fantastically well in sport - just wanted to reiterate amazing_lobster's point that kids with ADHD can go on to do very well - I'm extremely proud of my brother.
A lot of kids with ADHD are also on the autistic spectrum, and many are also very intelligent, so it is a challenge to keep them interested, and also for them to understand norms of society and people's emotions and reactions. If you can find something he gets hooked on (for my brother this was planes, and later on his sport), this may give him something to direct his energy into.
We also had him on a strict diet as many foods made it worse - not just e-numbers, but things like fresh orange juice, bleached flour and nitrates in meat. It was really obvious when he'd eaten something he shouldn't. TV was restricted too as the more he watched, the worse he was.
I've babysat ADHD kids and it was similar with them. I have to say, all of them were sweethearts underneath it all, they just lack the 'brakes' on their behaviour and maybe have too much adrenaline in their system (don't know if that's scientifically proven but it makes sense).
Don't give up fighting for the support the lad needs, and also don't forget to look into respite care if it's neeed.
Good luck, I have every sympathy for your position, it must be difficult and exhausting.
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