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Topic : 01/17 Extreme Disorders

Number of Replies: 1019
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Created on : Friday, January 13, 2006, 02:18:32 pm
Author : DrPhilBoard1

Does your child rage, scream and kick doors? Is his or her behavior the typical brattiness of a spoiled child, or involuntary behavior beyond the child's control? Dr. Phil sheds light on a pair of widely misunderstood extreme neurological disorders. First, he looks at Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism which can cause a person to lack control over his or her emotions, including anger. Rich and Karen's 15-year-old son, Alex, was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 6. His sudden fits of rage and erratic behavior have put a strain on his whole family. Should his parents be afraid of Alex, or is there something they can do to bring his behavior under control? Plus, Craig, 37, can't control his physical tics, nor can he keep from constantly uttering obscenities, literally hundreds of times a day. Craig suffers from Tourette syndrome, an affliction that's gotten so bad, he won't go into grocery stores, movie theatres or any public place for fear he'll be kicked out. What will the disorder mean for his plans to start a family? Talk about the show here.


Find out what happened on the show.


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January 17, 2006, 7:25 am CST

So glad to see Dr. Phil do a show on this topic!

I have a 5 yo boy who was dx'd with high-functioning autism when he was 3. What a hard label to be sent home with -- no magic answers and a whole lot of 'try this,' not to mention the major wait to get services. "Early Intervention" is touted as so important, but getting that help, unless you're independently wealthy, can take a long time. The sad thing is that so much of the help that is proven to work, or at least often works, isn't covered by insurance and is far too costly for average parents to afford, so we get the help that is available and learn a lot on our own. While we still don't like the 'label,' it's gotten him the help he needs and he's progressing in many ways.  


We chose to try medication when he was 4. It was something we'd initially decided against, but watching your son hurt himself repeatedly and see that in his eyes, he was just out of control, we knew we had to try something else. We don't want him to be on medication forever, but for now, we take it one day at a time. It's helping him, and it's allowing him to be more focused and cooperative for other types of therapies. Just getting a good night's sleep has done him wonders! (And I have to say, it sure helps us, too!)  


Dr. Phil, thanks for doing a show on this. So many people out there don't realize that kids with high-functioning autism or Asperger's can be *very* verbal, extremely smart and even look 'normal' at times...until they see a meltdown. Even then, without seeing the constancy of meltdowns or the self-injurious behaviors, they don't necessarily 'get'  that it's more than just a disciplinary issue or a 'typical behavior.' For us, our child's anger/self-injurious behaviors are among the worst of his issues, but there indeed others -- repetitive behaviors, difficulty with change or not having his routine, obsessions with certain things, social skills, sensory issues, tics/stims...and did I mention he can't sit still? (He just escalated last week by hitting other kids..two times. Sigh.) 


I've dealt with the nasty looks in public, lots of times. I've had people give me parenting advice, unsolicited. I've had family members say 'are you sure??' as though we just allowed some doctor to label our child without second, third, and fourth opinions, and as though a good spanking would just render better behavior. I'm not always great at ignoring the ignorant comments or glares, but I know that my son is such a blessing, an extremely smart little boy who will go far in life and can be the sweetest thing I've ever seen. We're fortunate to have supportive friends in our lives, but I've also had to learn to deal with those who disagree or aren't supportive. It's a lot to deal with on its own, and I try to focus on the priorities. We have three other children who also are affected by the difficulties, and it's tough at times, but overall, I don't want to 'fix' or change my child. I just want him to learn to be happier, to be able to function more consistently without the blow-ups, and to love himself -- if that all happens, the rest of the traits are minor. 

January 17, 2006, 7:27 am CST

Thanks Alex

Quote From: karen_kiki

I just called Alex in as I read your note.  This sounds like me writing about Alex.  Alex not only has AS but he has Mood Swing Disorders, that causes the influx of his meltdowns.  Alex too has the obsessive need to play video games and WIN.  You cannot reason with him and he too will yell, scream, hit, throw and call me names. 


Alex wants Bradley to know that what he did in middle school to get through the social aspects was to show off all of his talents, in Alex's case it was Singing, and still is.  Alex also is a sports fanatic and he got himself involved as a team manager when he wasn't able to make the team.   


In Middle School he ran cross country (and although not fast he competed against himself week after week and improved!)  Alex says being on the sports teams gives him the opportunity to mix with Upper Class men which works for him, they seem to accept him better then his own classmates. 


Girls also seem to be more understanding as well....although at an age where they want to begin dating, having a male friend is important to them and they will gravitate towards Bradley too. 


Alex wishes Bradley all the luck in the world.  Please keep in touch and know we care, we've been there and we're still there! 



Karen - 


Tell Alex, thank you for the ideas.  My son who is 12 is trying his best to fit in.  His passion is gaming (computer and Xbox). He excels in this area.  He has found a group of friends who also have an interests in gaming (what boy doesn't these days), so he is able to fit in there.  It makes sense to show off those attributes which enables you to display your confidence.  Girls are still a definent "Stepping Out of The Box" issue -  LOL.  This is an area he has NO confidence in.  We're trying to work on that one. 


He is also not a sports person.  He gets very anxious when involved with a team or sports activity.  I've tried single player sports, (tennis, golf), but these activities set him up for "Meltdowns."  So we've kind of given up on these activities.  We don't want to force something on him which will diminish his confidence.  Why make  him do something he has NO interest in.  It's just setting him up to fail.  That's just my opinion in dealing with my son.  We have to do what works best for each. 


I know you're getting alot of help and advice from professionals, but if I could offer something that works for me and my son.  You can do what you want with it....When Austin has a meltdown or outburst, I give him a few minutes alone in his room (or a place he feels "safe' - my daughter's place is in the living room under a coffee table.)  I then go in his room and talk as softly and calmly as I can. Soft enough, but loud enough he can hear me.  I then ask him what is bothering him.  It usually takes a little while to get to the root of the real problem.  Most of the time, it's not what just happened that knocked him over the edge.  It's usually something that happened early that day or even a couple of days ago.  It's kind of like talking someone off the ledge.   The calmer I am, the easier it is for him to calm down and think rationally.  I don't know about Alex, but Austin is very analytical and Black and White.  Just a simple explanation of why or what is happening will sometimes help.  An example of a time recently:  At Christmas we always of a family get together with alot of family members.  Austin does not do well with load noices, multiple people talking at the same time, and crowds.  Because of this, I knew he needed extra sleep to be able to deal with these pains.  So I told him he needed to go to bed early.  He immediatly had an meltdown with outbursts.   He went to his room, I gave him a few minutes along, then I went up.  He didn't understand why he was on vacation and had to go to bed early.  I softly proceeded to explain to him about his pains (loud noices, groups of people, etc and Christmas gathering the next day).  By going to bed early, it will give his brain enough rest to help him handle all of these upcoming issues.  It made sense to him, he calmed down and went to sleep. 


Once again, I wish you luck with Alex and my prayers are with your family too.  Thanks again for helping bring attention to ASD. 

January 17, 2006, 7:28 am CST


I have read many of these messages on aspergers and they do help.  My son is 13 and was diagnosed with aspergers last year.  Until then, he was just diagnosed with ADD.  He did fine in school (as in grades) until the 5th grade, then everything started to fall.  He is barely passing his classes and the sad thing is, he has no emotion either way.  I know he wants to do his best and trys but still struggles.  He gets along with everyone and does not have outbursts.  He is not very social and for the most part, will not talk to any of his teachers.  He has been on several different medications, but I'm not sure they are doing any good.  They do help him to be a little less argumentive, but thats really all I notice.  He is a sports finantic!  He can tell you anything about basketball, football and baseball that you would ever want to know.  He is also good with statistics.  Our concern really started this year.  He has played sports for many years, so when it came to the 7th grade, he tried out for football and made the team.  He made it through the many hot weeks of practice and the first game.  Then he decided to quit.  We weren't sure if it was the right thing to let him quit, but we did.  He seems happy, so I guess it was.  He does seem to have a few friends (as in talking at school) but not outside of school.  He is very talkative with immediate family and very close to one of his cousins (who is a girl).  I worry that he won't pass school and go to college.  I also worry about his social life.  I would like him to have many friends and do all of the friend things  (riding bikes, talking on the phone, going out, sleepovers), but they don't  happen.  My son is also not very affecionate.  When he was 3 and younger, he seemed to be, but not any more.  He does seem to show affection to his baby brother, but you can tell it is hard for him to hug him and kisses are out of the question.   I am also very confused.  We've had him diagnosed by a psychologist, but the special ed dept. at school doesn't agree that he has aspergers.  But then again, they don't see the extreme symptoms that some aspergers children have.  I just still feel lost in trying to help my son.  If anyone has any advice or information, please share with me.  Thank you,  Lisa. 

January 17, 2006, 7:34 am CST

asperger's help?

What form of treatment was produced from the brain scan?   Hopefully this has happened since the show was taped.  
January 17, 2006, 7:35 am CST

Aspergers & Tourettes

We have 13 year old daughter who has these disorders.She acts just the same way as the boy on your show today.Our family is just as theirs is.We don't  know where to turn to for help in our area.Our daughter gets bullied in school all the time.She is in 7th grade now,when she was in 5th grade she was called retard,dumband lessie.She got so depressed that she was saying she wanted to kill herself.Dr.Phil,Thank You for doing this show on these diorders.Please help our family the way you helped these families on your show.I swear & scream just like the mother on your show & my husband & I have the same kinda of relationship as the couple on your show.Our daughter cries,yells,screams,lies about things that are not said,But most of all she really spends all her time away from us.Please,Dr>phil call us and get us some help.A sad helpless mother and father who really love their daughter. 
January 17, 2006, 7:37 am CST

alex represents many boys with neurological disorders

I watched the show today (normally at work) because I was very interested when I saw Alex and his behavioral issues.  I also have a 17 yr old son Joe with Klinefelter Syndrom and have experienced concerns with social behavior problems with my son for years.  My son was diagnosed at age 9 after years of trying to find out what was wrong with him.  After the diagnosis and medical treatment we are still left with serious issues to deal with currently and in the near future.  Insurance - where does he get health insurance when he is considered an adult with on going medical (although not life threatning, but most certainly life impacting) concerns.  How do I get him into the  working world when he is and looks very normal yet social skills are less than perfect, due to lack of motivation and logic skills.  I worry that he will not be able to sustain a normal existance where he can take care of himself.  I fee like he will always require my guidence and help, yet I won't be here forever.  What is a parent to do to alieviate this fear (of what will happen to them when your no longer there to be an advocate for them) which I am sure All Parents with kids that have problems face.   A very worried Mom
January 17, 2006, 7:42 am CST

aspergers is not bad

I watched the show on aspergers and felt upset about it.  My son is 6 now, and was diagnosed when he was 4.  He is the sweetest boy and has never had any outbursts.  We have always made it a point to not over react and treat him just like a normal child.  He doesn' t even know he has it.  I think Alex on the show has been told he has this all his life, and his parents used the disorder as an excuse for every situation they ran into.  My son now also has cancer and we approach that the same way.  We treat him as normal as possible and as a result he is very well adjusted and wonderful child.  I hope people don't watch the show today and think that Alexs' story is the norm and start having a negative opinion about aspergers children.   
January 17, 2006, 7:47 am CST

can't take much more

I watched your show on this disorder and I can sort of relate to your first guests.I'm in a step relationship with a Man with a child with ADHD and ODD.  I've been in this relationship for 5 yrs and am almost to the point of getting out because of the child's growing behaviors in lying, cheating, stealing, fitting throwing, tantrums, food throwing, etc....  We're in therapy and he takes medicine but, the therapist and doctor's advice of  swift and severe punishment has not deterred the child's behavior in the least.  I almost feel like he wants to get rid of me so that he can do whatever he wishes since I'm the main caregiver etc...  Does anyone have any advice what I should do?? I've tried timeout, spanking, priviledges taken away, toys away, etc...
January 17, 2006, 7:52 am CST

living with aspergers

My son is 21 and is living away from home for the first time.  He is attending college 4 hours away.  This is a hopeful thing for us and for him.  He was diagnosed with Aspergers at 18 but as a parent I knew there was something different about him from birth.  He was nicknamed 'Thumper' because he always would kick his leg and thump on the floor, bed,etc...(his stim)  At 3 he could tell us all about dinosaurs and the tv schedule.  He knows trivia about sports and music.  But he has trouble comprehending what he reads.  We homeschooled him through graduation.  He goes through times of asking 'why me?' but overall does very well.  His life needs to be orderly and consistant.  He has not been easy to live with but has never been violent.  He is paranoid about his health.  He will nag until he gets what he thinks he needs (going to the mall, new wheels for hockey, etc...)  One thing he discovered when he researched a term paper for a community college course was that a diet free of gluten and dairy was helpful.  I encourage all people with any autistic spectrum disorders to try it.  It took my son from having to withdraw from a prep math class with a failing grade to passing the same course the next semester with a high B.  While not everyone will be able to accomplish this, it may help with behavior.  He does long for friends.  Those people who will include him in their activities.  People are polite to him but what he needs is a real friend. 

January 17, 2006, 7:53 am CST

You are not alone.

I think that ya'll are some pretty fantastic parents! You are really on the ball with your son, and continuing your search for help for Alex is to me the finest thing you can do for your family.  


Having a child with a dissorder is very challenging, it's embarassing at times, it puts stress on your marriage and it dominates your lives. I know that since I have a son who has both High Functioning Autism and Tourettes Syndrome. In hindsight I see now that the best thing I ever did for him was also the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and that was taking an unusual type of action that would garantee that we would get help. This was not a small set of words, like would you please help me with this, but a loud and hard cry for help for my son - so loud that no one could turn away from the situation.  


At first the problem was more or less bounced back on to me to solve as I was his mother. The popular reasoning was that this normal looking kid had problems due to a) his parents were divorced, b) we had moved from his place of birth, c) I came from another country, d) I had english as my first language and spoke it at home e) his older siblings had recently and in a traumatic way lost their other parent, and e) I was a single parent of four kids.  


The assumtion that my son was having rages, not taking contact with others even with his eyes, not speaking, crying nearly constantly, not sleeping at night, ripping down the wallpaper in the house, screaming when we touched him or talked to him, and on and on, had nothing to do with these other factors. His problem was that he had a disorder. My problem was that I was having a hard time convincing anyone that he needed professional help. I eventually found a doctor who set a preleminary diagnosis of MBD and Tourettes. He suggested that we give him 10mg Anafranil per day and see if it helped and he said we would have to wait at least 10 days before seeing any changes since it would take that long for anything to happen. To my greatest surprise on the tenth day he came down the stairs from his bedroom in the morning, looked at my face and eyes, and said for the first time in his life, good morning mom. I was in shock. He was not screaming or crying. Every day preceeding this day I would have to go up and catch him, drag him down the stairs while he screamed, cried and slugged at me to get him into the bathroom to change him and get off his pajamas (always under protests) and get him dressed. He wasis was a major change, and it helped us tremendously, but it did not solve everything.  


Living with a special child changes your whole family. The normal interaction that takes place in a family is set out of gear when one child reacts in irrational ways towards the other children. If Peter fell one of us naturally went to him to see if we could help, blow on the bobo or get a bandaid. But in Peter's case he recoiled from us, spat back, screamed louder and cried more. That sort of got all the other children wary of trying to help anyone. They took it personally and each and every one must have thought that they were of no use towards other people. They began to refrain from having skin contact with each other since Peter "taught" them that touching hurt. They turned outwards from the family when they needed what a family can provide, instead of inwards to where the family unit was. Another factor that sped this unfortunate turn of actions was that the other children saw that I was up to my neck with Peter and that there was slim chances of getting help or attention from me. They could hardly get a word in! This led to what I felt was my family falling apart. My new husband and I were trying to put together a family of six kids but all we could see appening was that the opposite was happening.  


I needed more help with my special child but I wasn't getting it so my last attempt to provide help for him was a drastic one. At this time I was pregnant with my fifth child and was so distraught with not succeeding in helping my son that I had become depressed and was in the hospital. I thought I was depressed because I could not stop crying, but it was simply a huge outlet of sadness since I knew what I had to do. I had to more or less give my son away, and I felt that I had totally failed him as a mother. I called the local authorities to report about a child that needed help since his parents were not able to provide what he needed in order for him to live a happy and good life. (I was in essence speaking of me.) 


Now that got a serious reaction. He was moved into a home with a two parent family that never had experienced divorce, or had a parent die, who spoke the language here and who had never moved. It was only then, when the problem was on someone elses shoulders and my son's life was experienced from someone elses viewpoint, that his situation was taken seriously. The family that he lived with was not doubted to be a fine and normal family but if they did not receive help with this child, they would also begin to fall apart.  


Today my son is 18 years old and he goes to a special school that houses four other children in his age group with similar disorders. His dosage of medication is 20mg and we are sure that he cannot manage without it is since he has tested minimising or taking it out, but this does not work for him. There are several people involved in his care at school and after school. To get to school on the mainland he goes by taxi. Peter lives mostly with his foster family as we call them on our island though he spends one night and day with me per week, two weekends with his father, and one weekend with an assistant. I go over to the foster family every other week, or they come here, and we interact (have coffee and cookies) with Peter and have done this since he moved. Everyone who is involved in his life meet twice a year, including Peter, to evaluate and plan the next upcoming months and years. We call it his Individual Plan. Peter has been actively involved in this since he was 16.  


Peter's preleminary diagnosis changed from MBD to High Functioning Autism and Tourettes Syndrome when he was around nine. At that time no one in the community that I live in was competent enough to serve his needs. The community went to work immediately to educate a person in that area who was working in the center for handicapped people. That was nine years ago. Today we know so much more about several diagnosis and that should make it easier for children and families in need to get the right kind of help they desperately need, much faster. One key type of help is relief. With all the people that assist in my son's life you can be sure that it us usually more or less constantly ten.  


My relationship with my son, and his relationship with his six siblings is very good. Thanks to the help that both he and I received then, and still receive, we are a tighter, healthier and happier family now that we were ten years ago. Peter is a true joy to us also. There is something very special about him that makes him different than all of us and that we all appreciate. A person with High Funcitoning Autism can bring insights into your life that no one else can. We laugh a lot when we are together and we have fun together. He can be very difficult too but so can our other teenagers. He also has to work harder to acheive many things than the other kids do, but his outlook on life is brighter, and it carries him better.  


The end of his story has yet to be written and only time can tell. I dearly hope that you will be able to find the help that you need for Alex and eventually or simultaneously for yourselves. Thank you also for bringing public the situation you three have in your lives. People need to gain more understanding of this problem in order to eliviate it. Our entire society must become more informed and more assistance needs to be made available for special children in the various aspects of their lives: family, school, work. More knowledge being spread about these disorders should also stop blame from being bounced around on you and your son, and eventually it should lead to the goal of finding out what it is that causes these disorders. That is my wish.

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