Would a neurochemical disorder- like bipolar, depression, adhd, etc- manifest itself differently at home than at school?
My daughter has frequent meltdowns at school- usually in response to transitions, being told no, trying to help someone but getting in trouble because she's not actually being helpful, etc. Sometimes she lies on the floor and flails her arms and legs, kicks off her shoes, screams at the top of her lungs- sometimes she makes comments, such as "my mom is going to kill me!" "Put me in the trash because all I am is trash!" "I'm going to kill myself!" etc. At these times, she'll also engage in some self harm- biting her arms, punching herself, etc.
At home, where there is less structure (but consistent rules/consequences) and no audience (of her peers), being told no will result in eye rolling and some comments- but not the kind of comments they see at school. I may tell her to clean her room, and she'll mouth back that she is going to have to spend the rest of her life cleaning.
I know I've given very little information- there's much more I could write here. She's seeing a psychologist who, upon reading some of the things she has said at school, said she was either probably autistic or psychotic. (Obviously she'll need to spend more time with her.) When she's not in trouble, she's very bright, articulate, inquisitive, creative, artistic, etc. My friends have told me they want their child to be just like her- she can be truly delightful. Or, she can be really, really hard to handle.
It's difficult because although she used to behave that way at home, boundaries and consequences extinguished the behavior and we really don't see anything to the degree that we used to. I would think that if she had bipolar disorder or something, she would experience the same kinds of mood swings at home and at school.
This profile is not typical of a mood disorder (incl. Bipolar Disorder), nor is it indicative of ADHD. I would approach it as a behavior disorder that invites systematic behavior management. In this regard, refer to Lynn Clark's book SOS Help for Parents (see www.sosprograms.com).
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