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Jess8

8 year old step daughter

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Jess8

Hello! 

So my 8 year old step daughter has had problems since I met her (over 3 years ago) Her dad will occasionally mention concerns but her mother just thinks she has a speech impediment. Here are her symptoms:

* she can never sit still. While eating, chilling and watching a movie, doing homework, reading, playing on electronics. You name it and she is always awkwardly moving and shuffling around. She constantly falls off couches and chairs. She even falls standing up while doing nothing at all. She also constantly runs into things. Poles, signs, walls, fences. She's not even distracted, she just walks right into them. 

*She also started randomly smiling a few years ago (not sure if it's new or if her actual parents just haven't noticed) She will be sitting and doing nothing and will just have an odd twitchy smile every few seconds like she doesn't have control of her facial muscles. She also awkwardly smiles while getting into trouble (which is quite often)

*She can't follow very simple tasks. We will tell her "don't talk to strangers" before going outside with our other 4 older kids. When asked to immediately repeat what she's not supposed to do she will either spout off some random thing like "I'm not supposed to play on my bike" or freeze with a look of shock and horror on her face and not respond at all. 

*She seems to have poor impulse control and is very messy, for her age, while doing any task. She is also constantly in trouble at school for not paying attention, not keeping her hands to herself or for not following instructions. 

*She seems extremely socially awkward. Either retreats to a hiding place or clings to us like velcro without saying a word to anyone while in public. 

*she seems to constantly repeat saying things. If we say "we are going to the park, get your socks and shoes on" she obsessively says and tells everyone about a park but it will take 30 minutes, multiple remindings and normally it will take someone to get harsh with her (never anything physical) to eventually do what she was told. 

*She freezes or throws tantrums for simple things. Every single morning it will take almost an hour to get her ready. Sure I can help but I'd also like to see her develop properly and do simple tasks that our 2 year old can follow. She seems to have constant meltdowns. She will take every single sock out of her drawer (which i pair together and put away to make it easier for her) and try on all of them and then tell me she has no socks.

*She once had 1 flip flop slide almost off of her foot at the store once. She froze and had a crazy meltdown because she refused to move her foot the one inch that would have placed her foot back into the flip flop which seems very odd to me.

*I know every childs development is different but I feel like an 8 year old should be capable if simple instructions and tasks. I'm very worried about her but, as her stepmother, I have no authority to take her to the dr. I feel that if we could get her help we might be able get thr right tools to help her adjust not only at home but also in school. I feel like she is different and therefore should be treated differently. We just need the knowledge and tools to do so.

I would also like to add that she is a very sweet girl. Despite her issues she isn't a monster child that is throwing tantrums and just being a jerk (trust me, I have a 10 year old nephew that is very ill behaved and does things on purpose to get in trouble) I just want others opinions on what could possibly be wrong with her. I've read up on autism conditions and think that might be what's going on?? Just need some advice! Thanks in advance for any help!

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Alice
4 hours ago, Jess8 said:

Hello! 

So my 8 year old step daughter has had problems since I met her (over 3 years ago) Her dad will occasionally mention concerns but her mother just thinks she has a speech impediment. Here are her symptoms:

* she can never sit still. While eating, chilling and watching a movie, doing homework, reading, playing on electronics. You name it and she is always awkwardly moving and shuffling around. She constantly falls off couches and chairs. She even falls standing up while doing nothing at all. She also constantly runs into things. Poles, signs, walls, fences. She's not even distracted, she just walks right into them. 

*She also started randomly smiling a few years ago (not sure if it's new or if her actual parents just haven't noticed) She will be sitting and doing nothing and will just have an odd twitchy smile every few seconds like she doesn't have control of her facial muscles. She also awkwardly smiles while getting into trouble (which is quite often)

*She can't follow very simple tasks. We will tell her "don't talk to strangers" before going outside with our other 4 older kids. When asked to immediately repeat what she's not supposed to do she will either spout off some random thing like "I'm not supposed to play on my bike" or freeze with a look of shock and horror on her face and not respond at all. 

*She seems to have poor impulse control and is very messy, for her age, while doing any task. She is also constantly in trouble at school for not paying attention, not keeping her hands to herself or for not following instructions. 

*She seems extremely socially awkward. Either retreats to a hiding place or clings to us like velcro without saying a word to anyone while in public. 

*she seems to constantly repeat saying things. If we say "we are going to the park, get your socks and shoes on" she obsessively says and tells everyone about a park but it will take 30 minutes, multiple remindings and normally it will take someone to get harsh with her (never anything physical) to eventually do what she was told. 

*She freezes or throws tantrums for simple things. Every single morning it will take almost an hour to get her ready. Sure I can help but I'd also like to see her develop properly and do simple tasks that our 2 year old can follow. She seems to have constant meltdowns. She will take every single sock out of her drawer (which i pair together and put away to make it easier for her) and try on all of them and then tell me she has no socks.

*She once had 1 flip flop slide almost off of her foot at the store once. She froze and had a crazy meltdown because she refused to move her foot the one inch that would have placed her foot back into the flip flop which seems very odd to me.

*I know every childs development is different but I feel like an 8 year old should be capable if simple instructions and tasks. I'm very worried about her but, as her stepmother, I have no authority to take her to the dr. I feel that if we could get her help we might be able get thr right tools to help her adjust not only at home but also in school. I feel like she is different and therefore should be treated differently. We just need the knowledge and tools to do so.

I would also like to add that she is a very sweet girl. Despite her issues she isn't a monster child that is throwing tantrums and just being a jerk (trust me, I have a 10 year old nephew that is very ill behaved and does things on purpose to get in trouble) I just want others opinions on what could possibly be wrong with her. I've read up on autism conditions and think that might be what's going on?? Just need some advice! Thanks in advance for any help!

This reminds me so much of myself as a kid. I dont want to assume too much, I dont know the child, but based on what youve said this is how I relate to it as an adult diagnosed with both Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADD (inn-attentive subtype) and she does sound similar

- I was uncoordinated, bumpy into things, eye-to-hand coordination tasks like sports were a nightmare, I would blank out whenever a ball was coming anywhere near me. Common in both ADD/ADHD and autism
- random smiling for me was either being off in my own world, a funny part of a film or sentence reoccurring in my mind (like mental echolalia), finding something funny that only I would understand or find funny or that I didnt know how to communicate or perceiving something non-typically that seemed funny to me. Normal in Autism and ADD.
-The instruction part is possibly a sensory issue. When someone is speaking the sounds take up all the space in my mind - I cant also process and comprehend them at the same time. Im just looking at someone talking and hearing sounds until Ive had a moment to process, she may not be recognising its an instruction even if she understands the words. When prompted with a demand, she may be panicking and just picking the first instruction that comes to mind. Stress lowers sensory processing capacity. She will perceive the anger before comprehending words, meaning, instructions - so you turning from explaining mode to anger/demand will be shocking.
- constantly repeating things, sentences words or phrases could be echolalia. If there is a positive association with the word/sentence, or it just sounds nice, autistic people often repeat it because it gives a nice feeling or is a form of auditory stimming. Even now as an adult I repeat lines of disney films to myself, outloud or in my head, or parts of a disney jingle etc.. It has a positive association
- Meltdown are never about what it appears to be about on the surface - there is an intense internal experience going on that is awful to experience, I can understand it may seem odd but for her it feels a bit more life or death. Its definitely not crazy. 
- The fidgeting is a classic ADHD symptom (the hyperactive subtype) which I didnt have, impulse control is an issue for either subtype of ADD/ADHD. Unless its stimming, a repetitive movement used to soothe, reassure, ground etc..
- I recall several times where my mum was telling me off where I began smiling inappropriately or even laughing. The reasons were varied, but I didnt really understand what she was doing or saying - the angry telling off seemed like an odd comical act, another time I just didnt register her words or even the sounds and was just smiling at the person I loved, another time I was having a weird perception of feeling like I was zooming in and out of my body - her head would get smaller and further away, then come back closer, I couldnt understand what was happening and it looked funny. Sometimes she ended up laughing with me and it broke through her anger, other times not - and that wasnt my intention but she was pretty good about it saying she didnt want to have to tell me off anyway and cant do it to my smiling face. These days we know children dont need punishment, just reasoning, but it was a while back. Its very hard to have your perception, sensory experience, comprehension so opposite to everyone else, it makes the world a very confusing place - and makes people very confusing especially when you are a child and are learning to make sense of the world. 

You cant force someone with a developmental disorder to develop at the same rate as 'normal' kids - it will only cause harm and potentially trauma. You seem to have valid reasons for your concerns and wanting to get her appropriate help and support is really good. Can you speak kindly and openly about this to her mother, perhaps provide some brochures or print off some info from the net. Even if its not this, its good to find out either way. If she is developmentally behind, support would be good in whichever form she ends up needing.

In the meantime, try slowing down your speech, give her time to process and respond. Ask her what she is experiencing - 'whats happening for you right now?' 'what does that feel like for you?' 'what do you need to feel better?' etc.. You could put up a little picture based list, like a flow chart of images of what you would like her to complete in order each morning to get ready - like a picture of brushing hair, cleaning teeth, her uniform etc.. pictures are easier - a lot of autistic people think in pictures so its more natural, you could try this out and see if it helps. Try and extend some extra compassion beyond what seems normal and even though her behaviour seems out of proportion, if she is on the spectrum, her experience is so far out of proportion, and getting through each day like that is very solitary, brave and an achievement. 

Edited by Alice

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HalfFull

Before I even read Alice's reply I felt that your step daughter could very well have ADHD. It reads more like the Hyperactive type to me, though it would be diagnosed as ADHD anyway. I don't really see any Autistic traits as such other than the social awkwardness but that could also occur with some ADHD cases, as being hyperactive doesn't necessarily mean being uninhibited. It does seem worth discussing with her dad.

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