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The Child Psychiatrist told me to
compromise at all costs


                Client's Letter........                              ........Our Reply

Dear Mr Dyer,

Would my daughter be a case that you would consider? Details follow:

By the time Rebecca was 8yrs old I was desperate. Her tantrums were violent and extremely aggressive... (lifting pictures off the wall and throwing them, smashing her belongings... even keyboards). She was extremely manipulative and would do anything to win. After waiting over 12 months.... phew!! we saw a Child psychiatrist. She diagnosed possible Asperger's with Oppositional Defiancy Disorder. The label wasn't conclusive because I found the whole experience very intrusive and negative for my daughter ( every appointment she had to sit and listen to me unravelling all her negative behaviour since birth and they wanted to monitor her in the house... waste of time because her defiance came in cycles and she's a clever actress) with nothing to offer at the end. They thought she wasn't hyper enough to have Ritalin... and yet could offer little else.

At this stage I was told to compromise at all costs... basically do anything to stop Rebecca experiencing a huge rage. Compromising became a joke... Rebecca is very intelligent on one level and grew wise to it. She pushed the boundaries until the doors were wide open... she stole out of a friends bag who came to stay from overseas... and she lit a candle one morning in an upstairs bedroom which resulted in a major house fire... (first floor and roof).

Rebecca is now 12yrs old and for the last 4 yrs we have been going it alone. I gave up teaching... my part time profession at the time and set out to discover solutions for myself. I attended Univ courses, conferences and workshops... finally resulting in me writing a book on Autism Spectrum children (not published yet). Basically, I have a very deep understanding of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual mechanics of this syndrome. As a result I have managed to maintain some boundaries and a degree of respect. However, Rebecca has now just turned 12yrs old and the hormones are kicking in... a very tricky time, especially for children hovering along the Autism spectrum.

Her behaviour... avoidance, manipulation and boundary breaking has stepped up to an almighty and frightening high over the last 2 months (she started menstruating around this time too). 2 days ago I had to call the police to control her.... can you believe that! And I've come to the conclusion that I can not put up with this anymore.... spitting in my face... abusive language... punching me, kicking me and pulling my hair. However, this behaviour is only when she flips... and that's normally when she's not getting her own way. I'm now in the situation where I don't care anymore, I'm physically and mentally drained with it all...having to tip toe around my own house! I don't want to experience the level of abuse that is currently happening. It was difficult enough when she was 8yrs old... but now she's a bigger and much more abusive girl.

Even though Rebecca was diagnosed with Asperger's, she does maintain eye contact... and is not your typical case. In fact, many teachers are surprised she was given that label at all. She does have difficulty showing love and affection.... definitely towards me and she has always had skin sensitivity... no rashes, but would only wear certain clothes. She has always had a problem with concentration and fidgeting. She was assessed by an Educational Psychologist at 8yrs old who said she was chronologically 2 yrs behind but not bad enough to be statemented. She is now in the first year of high school... the lowest class along with 10 boys and 1 other girl... this I also believe is a problem. She studies in her 2nd language Welsh... which may have added more stress to her.

My current situation is that I am a single parent... that's why I'm afraid I can't contain her aggressive bouts anymore. You are my last port of call before I pack her off to social services or a special school in America.

Furthermore, I'm deeply concerned about her future... if urgent intervention is not brought in now I dread to think what her future holds in store.

I understand the root of her controlling pattern is a deep sense of personal inadequacy, insecurity and a fear of failing. She needs boundaries now before it's too late. However, every time I try to place them she blows. She has already developed quite a repertoire of avoidance behaviours to wiggle herself away from demands she can't or doesn't want to cope with.

Background on fathering.... her biological father fled at 2 months pregnant. Her non biological father ( who Rebecca's always known and loves very much) was there for her birth and departed when 7yrs old. From then until last August he has visited her every 2 weeks... spoiling her with presents from abroad, movies, McDonalds and sweets! Rarely, keeping any boundaries because he felt guilty about leaving. However, when his new girlfriend came on the scene Rebecca performed big time... he brought her back... and broke down in tears himself. She had continuously screamed from Worthing to Wales (11yrs old!). When he married the young 22yr old last August... he declined to have anything more to do with Rebecca. I didn't tell her but said he had no money to visit. Since December, he's started to send postcards and ring... 5 times. But he has not seen her. I found Rebecca's biological father last year and introduced them... she's sees him about once every 2 months... and he doesn't contribute to her up keep. Just the odd 10 here and there.

Rebecca is an only child. However, she has a half sister and brother from the same father. The sister is now 23yrs old and has been on medication for self harming for several years. The brother is a heroine addict... It's a sad, sad story... I think they're both undiagnosed Autistic Spectrum cases myself. She has met the brother once and has started to build a relationship with the sister who is very loving and kind to her... another spoiler I'm afraid. The dodgy genes have definitely come down through the father.... even he landed himself in prison in the past because of his uncontrollable rage. An amazing musician but a frustrated severe dyslexic.

Does Rebecca sound like someone you could help? I love my daughter very much and want to do the best I can.

Thank you for your time. I apologize for the length of the e-mail but thought you may need to see the whole picture to come to a decision.


Janet Davis

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U.K.   Ireland   and   E.U

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Dear Mrs. Davis,

Since you have had the help of a Child Psychiatrist in the past I would not be able to work with you on behaviour management without their agreement that my help was appropriate.

I can understand any child behaviour professional advising you to avoid confrontation.
Whether a child has serious "interactional problems"  (bad behaviour)  or more serious mental or emotional problems or disorders avoiding confrontation is just plain good sense.
However, it is very interesting to hear what you say here.

For professionals, giving rules for changing behaviour is not difficult.   It is more difficult to specify the circumstances in which common sense rules do not apply.

Some children, when they make a demand, are more concerned with succeeding in  
 "the process of demanding"   than they are with what is being demanded.

Since giving-in to the demand often appears to satisfy these children parents cannot be blamed for missing the real motive.

But a   "compromise at all costs"   strategy for such children, that avoids the process of breaking down your resolve, could, in some instances, involve the child in a continuous escalation of demand.   If this were part of your daughters motive it could go some way to explain the behaviour you describe.

Although you have dropped the Child's Psychiatrist's suggestion that you should "compromise at all costs" it is clear that you are still for your own reasons compromising - and therefore rewarding - her behaviour when it is most extreme

She needs boundaries now before it's too late. However, every time I try to place them she blows

Your boundaries are changed because of her extreme behaviour.   By doing this you mitigate the current behaviour at a terrible cost of a much higher frequency of this type of behaviour and you undermine your own future boundary attempts.

She has already developed quite a repertoire of avoidance behaviours to wiggle herself away from demands she can't or doesn't want to cope with.

She has not developed this repertoire in a vacuum.

She has had a mother who through the years has not been able to recognise and/or counter them.    I do not say this to make you feel bad
(what I ask of parents is often beyond the bounds of good parenting)
but merely to stress that if you work with me this is what you will have to change.

Although your daughter's behaviour is extreme  (I will need to speak to you further about it)  there does not seem to be any reason why this behaviour itself could not be changed if we were to work together.

My only concern's are not about the behaviour but your own conclusions about its origins.    Whether you are right or not about your daughter (and her half sister and brother) having Autistic Spectrum is not material to me. I am perfectly willing to accept that you might be right.

What is essential, if you work with me, is that you no longer give any relevance to

Autistic Spectrum
dodgy genes
her father's withdrawal
her being one of two girls in a boy's class -
as factors that cloud the central necessity if changes to your responses.

These things may have some significance to your daughter

but, in working with me, you will have to see
  yourself    as having had the central role in, the development of, and (now) the change in, your daughter's behaviour.

Warwick Dyer
Behaviour Change Consultancy


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