In the last few weeks I have read a variety of posts and opinions on families with children with special needs.  Parents of these kids have an entirely different set of issues to deal with.  There is a sub-set of these families, of which I think mine belongs to, that seems to get lost and forgotten.

I hesitate each time I refer to my daughter as having special needs.  I am not sure if she qualifies.  Is there a threshold for being designated special needs?  I know that she is not a “typical” child, but she can walk, she can talk,  and she is not severely cognitively impacted.  My daughter has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, along with ADHD and maybe some other “stuff” too.  ODD sounds like a fake diagnosis, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t it sound like a cop-out for bad parenting?  Although I have made some mistakes, I am not a bad parent.   ODD is a hard diagnosis to live with.  Both in the literal sense, that it is challenging to deal with, but also in that there is this stigma of “bad parenting” and “annoying kid” that goes along with it.

ODD makes the easiest of things with your child, difficult.  Like, for example, getting dressed.  Most children learn from natural consequences when they wear improper clothing.  For my daughter, she would rather be “right” and me be “wrong”.  In fact, in one circumstance when I was trying to teach her how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, she ignored what I said and burnt one side, and was angry with me because I “am always right”.  Everything is about right and wrong, not about teaching and supporting.  In some ways we are lucky, our daughter no longer has violent angry outbursts like she did when she was younger.  There were times that I got kicked in the ribs and was black and blue from her anger.  In grade one she would kick over desks when she disagreed with the teacher.  She resorts to passive aggressive methods, although I am not sure that whether that is better or not.  In addition to this she has social skills delays.  Which, I know doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but trust me it is.  She does not understand most jokes, has difficulty making and maintaining friendships, and can’t express her feelings or take someone else’s point of view.

So does she qualify as “special needs”?  Her challenges are invisible unless you know her.  Similar to parents of children with high functioning autism, I sometimes wish that there was a physical indicator, like turning plaid or something.  Unlike autism, we do not have an “acceptable” diagnosis to explain her behaviour with.  ODD is largely unknown and not understood.  In the worst times I have wished that she was more severely impacted, or that she had another disability.  So I would maybe know what the future held.  If your child is developmentally delayed, you know that they will need your support for the rest of their lives.  You know.  We don’t know.  We are only now really realizing that she may need high levels of support into adulthood.  But she doesn’t want them.

Our daughter suffers from an invisible diagnosis.  One that we have a hard time explaining.


About mcwhclan

Mom of two, student, wife, daughter... where does one keep all these hats?
This entry was posted in parenting issues, up on my soapbox and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Invisibility

  1. Nancy E says:

    I have a friend in BC who’s 9 year old was just diagnosed with ODD… I feel for both of you. I deal with ADD every day, in a child who has no internal drive to succeed and that is more than frustrating… I can’t imagine adding ODD into the mix.

    I wish there was more I could say…. there just aren’t words that will help. I have no knowledge of this situation. But believing in the diagnosis and trying to understand it means, at least to me, that you are most definitely NOT a bad parent.

    Sending you strength….

  2. mia says:

    hello, i just discovered your site today. we also have a special needs child who doesn’t appear to be one at first glance. i have browsed quickly through some of your other posts and i am glad to have found someone who writes so honestly about parenting: about the things that nobody talks about, such as loving but not necessarily _liking_ your child; about not knowing how to make things better. am following your writing with enthusiasm.

  3. I was not aware of ODD and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can only imagine the frustration and anxiety you must be feeling. Perhaps, the more we discuss these issues more information will come to the forefront on ODD. Hopefully, in the next few years doctors will be able to inform us more about this problem and you can find different avenues for coping with your daugther.

    ODD doesn’t sound like an excuse for bad parenting. It sounds like you took the right steps to find the diagnosis for your daugther’s issues and in my books that’s a pretty good parent!

  4. Chrystal says:

    I have a seven year old who was just diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I have been hit, spit on, and almost every day I am stupid, mean and I dont love him according to him. Its very frustrating. This is all new to us although we have known for a couple years that something was different about him. I havent admitted to myself yet that we have a special needs child. Any advice?

    • mcwhclan says:

      Sorry I didn’t get back to you right away, I was away for holidays. And typing on my phone is not my greatest skill.

      I don’t know if I have any advice. I guess stick to your guns. Both with you son and with other people. Be good to yourself, don’t blame yourself. Accept all the help you can get. Listen to your gut. If you don’t think your child can handle something, even if other people think they can, you are right. You are the expert, and parenting these kiddos is a different thing entirely than parenting other children.

      I don’t know if any of that helps, but there are people who understand. If you need someone to listen, you know where to find me.

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