Saturday 19 October, 2019

Parenting with Marsha Riley: The Misdiagnosed Bully

This blog is pretty sensitive so for privacy sake the names of the characters have been altered, but the stories are 100 percent factual. 

It's the first day of camp and Jimmy arrives first.  I've coached him during the term before so I know of his temper.  I immediately warn my camp counsellors and I go one step further by assigning a person to him specifically.  

My exact words were "this little boy can fatally injure a child in a split second."

In comes some other parents, most know him and they all show concern for having "him" in camp.  They warn me and of course, I assure them that we have taken the necessary precautions. 

I will refrain from discussing the judgement passed by the parents as this is not the reason for this blog.  Nor will I discuss how insanely hurtful it is to know that we have become a society where we can so quickly exclude children without really trying to understand.  Again, going to exercise control and not discuss how we have become a culture where we bully the bully. 

Most of the morning goes by and Jimmy is as loving and helpful as can be.  I know my counselors now think I am crazy and clearly over reacting so I make it my business to secretly act as back up.  

As predicted, sweet Jimmy's green side is triggered and in an instant he leaps up and goes after an unsuspecting little boy.  I grab him before he can make a move and give me counselors the "I warned you" look. 

They are in disbelief, but now they understand the seriousness of the situation and are all on full alert.  As the week goes by they all learn his tell tales, they begin to figure out his triggers, so we avoid any mishaps. 

At the end of the week, we all sit down exhausted and understandably confused.  I know his parents outside of camp.  They are as kind and well put together as can be. 

Of course, we fall prey of passing judgment and we start to make pronouncements that he must be seeing violence in the home.  Like so many other adults in our society, we come to our own conclusions without any real understanding of the situation.

As luck would have it I get another "Jimmy," at a subsequent camp....

This year I received a phone call from a new mom, the day before camp started.  This was new.  She was so concerned that I be prepared for her son.   I assured her that I have lots of experience with aggressive boys and I was sure he wasn't any worse than what I'd experienced in the past. 

In came John and it was a case of Jimmy all over again.  The judging parents and all. This time my counsellors were fully prepared. 

John's mom did what no other mom had EVER done before.  She volunteered a diagnosis.  A condition called "Sensory Processing Disorder." 

Children with autism may have symptoms of SPD, but a child with SPD may not be autistic.  SPD is still in the process of being widely recognized and treated by all professionals.  Which means that it is possible for a parent in an underdeveloped country to be told that their child is not autistic but not be told about SPD. 

In many countries that have not progressed as far as others even reaching an autistic diagnosis can prove challenging. Again, another topic for another blog. 

John's acting out was so common though.  He in no way acted any worse (in fact he may be tamer) than Jimmy, Jack or Joe, and they have all been labeled as bullies by misinformed onlookers. 

Of course this is not the case with every child that shows signs of bullying.  Some do have anger management issues and must be treated accordingly. 

Get informed! Be slow to pass judgement!  Avoid self diagnosis! 
Let's make a conscious effort not to be quick to place labels on children without seeking to understand the real cause and finally, we can do our part to force the national conversation so that one day our misdiagnosed bullies can get the help they need.

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