About Elaine Gibson
For thirteen years, I wrote a weekly parenting column for The Bryan Eagle in Bryan, Texas. I did a lot of things I never expected to do after the arrival of my second child in 1978. Even though I had a degree in elementary education (B.S.), teaching experience, a degree in educational psychology (M.A.), and counseling experience, I was not prepared for a child-like Chuck. We knew he was different at birth. His older sister Erin (by 2 years), had been so easy. I thought I really was good at this parenting game. Chuck proved how little I really knew.
Fortunately, I had an introduction to the concept of difficult children back in graduate school at The University of Nebraska. I found it interesting. When Chuck was two and absolutely impossible (meaning nothing I did worked), I went back to my notes and reread the studies on "temperament." Instead of trying to change Chuck into our concept of "normal," we tried to accept his personality as unique and attempted to deal with the way he reacted in stressful situations. Since he was remarkably like several cousins, I didn't expect to change him. We just wanted to be able to live with him!
I became a Mothers' Group Leader in a special school for two-year-olds and their moms. I started doing workshops for other parents who were trying to live with difficult children. From those experiences, I was asked to do a weekly parenting column. Always, I wrote from experience and need. Chuck made me learn more parenting skills than I would have chosen to learn.
We knew that Chuck was Chuck and that the world was difficult for him. Our job was to keep him together and survive. I knew he couldn't help the way he was or how he initially reacted to life's stresses (and most things were stressful for him). I tried to see things from his perspective and according to Dr. Paul Wender, we created a "prosthetic environment" for Chuck. Not until adolescence did he fall apart. Chuck felt that something was wrong and no one was helping him.
As we were looking for answers, professionals often asked," Has he ever run away?" I thought, NO, but sometimes I wish he would! When he was three he said, "Mommy, I love you so much I'm going to stay with you forever." We considered it a threat. Always at issue was his psychological survival and we tried to respect that. Chuck thought that we were being difficult, he was just being himself. From his point of view, that was true.
Chuck had more and more difficulties. The older he got, the less we could buffer the world for him. By the age of sixteen, we were working with pyschiatrist to find out what was wrong. We have gone through many psychiatrists and diagnoses in the years that followed: bipolar, mixed states bipolar, rapid cycling bipolar, bipolar and ADD, only bipolar, only ADD. All along, doctors saw aspects of autism in his behavior as well.
Dr. Paul Wender at The University of Utah Medical Research Center, confirmed Chuck's initial diagnosis of Bipolar and said, "Chuck, you are ADD. The problem is in your genes." To us he said, "Who told you it was not your fault?" That is the most important remark that can be made to parents with a difficult child. There is no time for guilt or blame when we are trying to cope with difficult children.
We are still struggling with Chuck and he is still struggling with life. I wish I could say, "It will be better, don't worry." I can't. It will be difficult and it will be different at different ages.
At this point, we are exploring the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome with ADD. So far, it is the best fit. He has a pyschiatrist who put all of this together and said, "Sounds like Asperger's to me!" Now we will explore the next wilderness.
Perhaps the early studies on temperament found the early aspects of several disorders. Neurological disorders are just now being recognized in the early stages in the medical community. Depression in childhood, childhood bipolar disorder, Asperger's syndrome ... none of these conditions were known twenty years ago by mainstream practitioners. The US is behind other countries in recognizing Asperger's Syndrome. The damage that has been done to children who were never treated and became non-functioning adults is horrific. We have so far to go.
If I can share some of the things I learned that helped us parent a difficult child, maybe other parents with a difficult child will find something of use to them. If parents educate themselves about ADD, Bipolar, Asperger's and other conditions, we can be the advocate for our children. In the end, I hope the experience we are living will help other children "have a good day."
Gibson, E. (2019, August 7). About Elaine Gibson, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/challenge-of-difficult-children/about-elaine-gibson