Shortly after the boys moved in, the words “dysfunction” and “disorder” became commonplace in our everyday language. There were a multitude of them, some diagnosed, others lying in wait to be discovered in the boys’ everyday behavior. We were aware of Randy’s ADHD, FAE, and learning disabilities. We soon learned Daniel had real and critical problems with Attachment Disorder and hoarding issues. However, it took us awhile to realize there was a serious issue with Randy; he had been diagnosed with Impulse Control Disorder, but we weren’t aware of it until we experienced his behavioral symptoms.
Our first inclination of a problem began with temper tantrums, violent displays involving throwing objects, screaming, uncontrollable rage, and excessive crying. We assumed this behavior was a result of the pain he was experiencing due to abandonment by his mother. This was an accurate assumption, but we had no name for it, other than just plain being mad at his situation. As his symptoms progressed, we realized there was more to it and discussed it with his psychiatrist and therapist. Paul and I learned Randy had ICD. His abnormal behavior patterns made more sense after learning his diagnosis.
Since becoming aware of Randy’s disorder, we have worked diligently to help him learn to control his aggressive behavior. There has been one incident of fire starting while he was in our care. Randy had been responsible for starting two house fires prior to living with us and had been hospitalized for observation. His caseworker found a counselor that was trained in this area and she made several home visits to assist us with the problem. We learned his fire starting was not due to the diagnosis of pyromania, instead it was a symptom of anger and lack of the ability to channel that anger in a normal manner. After completing the class, Randy signed a contract agreeing to abstain from playing with fire and acknowledging in writing he realized the consequences would be legal recrimination if he continued. We discussed the penalties and made sure he realized the seriousness of his behavior. We have never had another problem with fire starting.
Randy was not able to control his emotions or his actions. Whatever he was feeling would immediately be acted upon. If he was angry, it would be an explosive anger. If he was excited or elated about something, he would display an exaggerated response of uncontrolled excitement. He exhibited these tendencies even in minor everyday behavior which included sneaking and gorging food for pleasure and the satisfaction of “getting away with it”. On one occasion, he ate twelve gummy bear vitamins because they tasted good. He had difficulty in realizing any consequence for his actions. His anger or elation completely motivated his behavior.
We used many tools in teaching Randy to control his exaggerated reactions. The primary strategy being example. Paul and I have behavioral balance. He is a low key, subtle personality and I am more of an animated, reactive personality. By observing how we interact within the family, Randy has acquired a balance himself. It is okay to react spontaneously to a situation; to be animated and display excitement. It is not acceptable to overreact with animosity or extreme aggravation. When he would display these tendencies, we would discuss the appropriate response and encourage him to behave accordingly. Learning proper reaction is like learning how to read, it takes practice. Basic explanations of appropriate reactions are necessary. We also made it clear that extremely violent behavior would not be permitted in our home, under any circumstances. He had no clue what the proper reaction to anger was. He responded physically because he had no mental strategy to help him process his thoughts and channel his anger in a socially acceptable way.
Randy has developed some normalcy in his behavior management during the last couple of years. He has diligently and consciously worked on control. Being aware of his problem was half the battle. Helping him to realize it was not acceptable was also a plus in learning appropriate reactions. He continues to struggle with impulse control, but to a much lesser degree. Randy is learning to evaluate before reacting. The strongest strategy he can use in controlling his disorder.