During a long emotional meeting in the midst of a disastrous family crisis, the support worker who was meeting with us said that, amongst other things already suspected, our son showed signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. I’m sure the cracking of a little piece of my heart breaking off was audible in the room.
The classrooms that I work in supporting children with special needs also often have children with behavioural difficulties and I had met Oppositional Defiance Disorder before in the shape of a child who could smile and argue with any teacher present – all lesson long. He would argue about sitting down, sitting still, not talking, doing work, not doing work, what the teacher just said, how she wrote a word – in short he would argue Hot to Cold and visa versa. Or he would sit and constantly refuse to do anything asked of him. It was exhausting sitting in a class with him, even if you weren’t part of the negotiations.
After three hours with the support worker, this was the biggest thing that I took away home to worry privately over. Everything else seemed to be things we could sort out – but I didn’t know how to deal with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. What if it was so ingrained in him, that we couldn’t break the habit of it with him? He wasn’t like the child in the classroom I sat in on. The first word out of my son’s mouth as a baby was ‘No!’…and if I had a dollar for every single time he said it well, folks, Oprah and me – we’d be on a first name basis…it would be Oprah and Al…Al and Oprah..she would probably have stayed with me in my mansion, on my 1000 acre farm with water views and Hugh Jackman would be recovering in the guest room next to my room. Ahem. I’m just saying, the boy has said ‘No’ a lot in his life. Often with a smile and an exclamation that has gotten more irritating over the years.
It hasn’t meant that we have just accepted his ‘No’s but he has always used his ‘No’ as his first line of defence and then used various tactics to wear us down. Apathy, ignoring us, waiting us out, sleeping, disappearing…and we haven’t always given in either – but, for example, he knows I won’t cook if the kitchen is piled high with dirty dishes so he only has to wait until I go in to cook, call him a dozen times, and then I’ll do it anyway – and he doesn’t care if he goes hungry as a result.
So I went home and worried. Yeah, and probably cried a bit too because quite frankly it all seemed a little too much.
But then I got a phone call from a lady from SupportLink, who after a chat said we sounded like we had lots of supports in place and that she’d leave us be – but if we needed her we only had to call. And I said “Maybe you can help show me how to deal with his Oppositional Defiance Disorder – I don’t know anything about it or where to start,” and bless her, she laughed.
“Honey, of course you know about it. All kids have Oppositonal Defiance Disorder…teenagers swim in the stuff, all PEOPLE have Oppositional Defiance Disorder!”
“Uh…” I said, intelligently.
“Truly,” she said “Just last night I was about to go and make a cup of tea for my husband and myself and my husband called out and asked me when I was making him a cuppa, and I said when I was ready, I’d make him a damned cup and he could wait…and then I didn’t make one for an hour!” she was laughing so hard, I joined in.
“See?” she said, “Don’t worry.” We cracked some jokes about PMT being ODD in full swing and then this lovely stranger hung up.
And I felt better. What’s more I felt something that I had lost in the previous weeks…Perspective and Hope.