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.