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ODD-sociopathic 10 year old boy - no hope?
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ODD-sociopathic 10 year old boy - no hope?

Our 10-year-old son fits traits of ODD perfectly and began showing those signs almost from day 1. Extremely bright, imaginative and verbal. The usual behavior mod. "systems" (time out, credits, withdrawal of privileges) not effective. He has been increasingly violent/destructive at home, though not at school or elsewhere.  Tried Risperdol but discontinued since improvement seemed minor in proportion to risks. Tried NHA (Howard Glasser), again only moderate and short-lived improvement. Am now exploring possible food triggers (wheat, sugar, dairy, chemical additives) but it's hard to get compliance with elimination of foods when he's at school (we send a good lunch, but he trades, gets treats, etc.).

He once gleefully spit over the balcony onto people's heads at the museum, right in front of his friends! We left immediately. As always, no remorse. Just sort of this calm satisfaction.

Son has exceptionally loving 5-year-old sister whom he takes great satisfaction in tormenting. We have taken pains to avoid showing anything that could be construed as preferential treatment toward her, but still he HATES her and has the verbal skills to tell her so in very illustrative terms, constantly, from the wakes up. Classically, he shows no remorse, never accepts blame, lies naturally, is selfish, "lazy" and is unmoved by the anguish or misfortunes of others. He sometimes remarks that he doesn't like his appearance, and is unwilling to try new things for fear he won't instantly be good at it. (Of course he won't admit to these feelings of insecurity.)

All along, I have take some consolation in the fact that his behavior is usually fine (or at least age-appropriate)at school and when at friends' homes. He seems to reserve all the horror for his parents.  Also, I take some consolation in the fact that he seems genuinely sorry and loving when he accidentally bumps his pet bunny (as opposed to torturing animals, I mean).  And I HAVE seen him be kind to his sister when he doesn't realize we are listening, although he still never DOES anything for someone else unless there's something in it for him.

So, here's the question: now that he's approaching adolescence (he's only 10 but shows some early signs of puberty), and he seems to also fit the characteristics of sociopathic personality disorder (TOTAL lack of conscience, NO empathy), what are our prospects for this child?

By the way, both his parents have had long-time struggles with dysthymia -- mine is helped enormously by Prozac, dad's is worse.  My pregnancy with son was normal, no alcohol or drugs, and I'm pretty sure we did not fall into the pattern of "rewarding negative behaviors." We rarely caved in to tantrums, and gave lots of affirmation for good behaviors -- which he sometimes saw as trying to "trick" him. Thanks for ANY insight or direction you can offer.  Thanks.
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By way of a little encouragement, the fact that he manages well in the out-of-home settings indicates that there is not an absence of conscience or empathy. This is not to minimize how troubling his presentation is at home, but it's important nonetheless to recognize his accomplishments. I point this out because the indication is that he does not display a sociopathic personality, though it's easy to understand why you might think so based solely on his behavior within the family. To tell you the truth, his performance in the out-of-home settings might be more telling re: long-term prognosis than his performance within the family. He is the sort of child who often does well in boarding school settings, and it might be worth checking into this. Such children are able to enjoy more positive relationships with their family on the part-time basis than they do on the full-time basis. Many families don't consider boarding schools due to a child's relatively young age and due to the cost. However, I encourage people, in situations like yours where you've tried all the sensible interventions and appear to be seeing little progress, to consider the boarding school option and do some research on it.
5 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
While I don't think I can offer a lot of help or reassurances, I can tell you that I feel deeply for you and wish you the best.

My oldest son didn't have your son's constellation of traits, but his were bad enough to affect his life permanently.   There was no therapy that helped, no reward/punishment system that had any effect.  He simply did anything and everything he wanted without regard for consequence to himself or others.  As you noted, adolescence brings with it an escalation of events and problems.  My son was not only doing drugs, but selling them right from our house (we had him arrested, but nothing much came of it).  He was truant more than he was at school.  He lied and stole money and other items from us.  Refused to obey any curfew we set.  Was violent and sometimes would punch or kick in walls (we had him prosecuted for it once, only to have the DA drop the case, saying it was a "family matter").  He refused to bathe, many times for months on end.  He didn't "fit" the outpatient programs our insurance would pay for, and we couldn't afford the others.  

The final straw was when I came home one night and found he had impaled our bed with all the  kitchen knives in the house sticking up out of it.  This chilling sight led us to have him hospitalized for about 5 months in an adolescent psychiatric facility.  Unfortunately, our insurance ran out after one month (most do) and we are still paying enormous expenses to this day from that time.

There is a semi-happy ending though--he is 25 now, and has been able to hold down a fast food job for several years.  Unfortunately, he got a high school girl pregnant and now they are married and raising child #2.  It chills me to think of him being responsible for children, but they are doing fairly well.  We are not close, but remain cordial enough to be able to visit from time to time to moniter how my grandchildren are doing.  We implored CPS to get involved to be sure they are safe, but they say they have to wait until something happens to the children.

For my son, this is probably the best he will ever do.  For a little boy who was so bright he was reading well by age 4, his future did not turn out the way I had envisioned. But he is at least holding down a job, has a steady relationship, and hasn't harmed anyone that I know of.  

I hope and pray that things turn around for you and your family.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it.
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a big fan of parents.  It sounds like you have tried to "fix" your child, but not seriously looked objectively at your parenting.  Have you been to family therapy?  Parenting classes?  Support groups? You say he's shown signs of ODD- was this confirmed by a professional? It is a very strong comment to say you did not do anything that could have led to his behavior, (as you implied in your note that you did not think  you gave into negative behaviors, etc..)  Many parents, without knowing do encourage negative behaviors, and cannot put the patterns together until an objective party is involved.  Family dynamics are amazing, and in some situations its almost impossible for you to know whats happening, unless you have someone from outside pointing things out. (Kind of like if your family is separated in a garden maze with 10 foot high hedges, trying to find each other.  You can only see whats in front of you.  However, if someone was watching from above, they could see all of you and tell you which direction to go to find each other.)

Spitting over a balcony onto peoples heads gleefully...sounds like a pretty normal kid thing to do. Selfishness, normal, self-centered, torment sibling, typical.  Not good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Empathy can be taught and learned in many different ways and there are lots of books and materials on the subject of pulling a child out of themself, learning the world does not revolve around them.

With your 5 year old, he needs to know that is not acceptable, and if he is vicious there needs to be a consistent consequence.  (If "nothing works", then you haven't found his button yet, what makes him tick...keep looking.  What works for you?)  And it doesn't matter if he feels punished or remorseful at this point, its that you're protecting the 5 year old.

That he's ok at school and other places says  a lot.  And I agree it doesn't sound like a sociopathic personality, and does not seem like there is no empathy.  

I give you credit for being strog enough to get treatment for depression, antidepressants work well for you.  Too many children are on meds for the wrong reason, and sometimes its the easy way to "fix" the child.  Just for now, try to avoid the assumption that something is wrong with your child, and look at the family dynamics.  An objective person like a therapist would be a perfect place to start. and of course a Physical exam to assure good health.  

Take care and I wish you the best

M.S. Counseling and Child development

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A related discussion, Sociopathic 11yo was started.
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A related discussion, Sociopath??? Or just plain cunning?? was started.
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My 5 year old daughter is doing some of the same things. Its so out of control and there is nothing you can do to help get through to her. The Dr's are not helping BC its not a common problem. You just don't hear about it I guess. All I do know is its deviated and shaken our family. Its like she wants to see how far she can push you. She has a smirk on her face when she has these episodes. She does Thing on purpose for attention like damage other peoples things and has tried to kill a cat and has killed two baby ducks. There is so much of the behavior I can go on and on and on. We have got to no help at all and its very discouraging to have no one to turn to. we are so tired and my heart is broken but she acts as if she could care less. I've never had a child her age be a smart *** to me. I hate to use those words but to challenge me, something she does very well, she will answer my questions a be such a smart a**. She is so intelligent too! The problem is bigger than us.
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A related discussion, I have the Same Problem!! was started.
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