Changing my lens on Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Today’s guest author is Kat Wolfe. Kat is a Colorado native and she misses the mountains greatly as she currently hails from Ann Arbor, MI. She has natural two sons 15 1/2 months apart. Her oldest is medically challenged which has led to rare genetic duplication which caused global delays, asthma, alopecia, and diabetes type 1. Kat’s youngest is gifted, ASD, and ODD.

Kat Wolfe

I have struggled with letting go of my viewing lens for my youngest son; I seem to have seen him as oppositional (and subsequently then push him to be defiant) since he was about a year old.

We recently went to his first real optometry appointment because he advocated his need for glasses (it was only a matter of when) and it was very enlightening. In case you aren’t familiar with the procedure, one portion has a patient looking into a phoropter.

During this portion of the exam, the doctor is switching viewing lenses and asking the patient whether one is better than another. It sounds like:

Doctor: Is #1 better OR, #2?
Patient: #1
Doctor: Now, #1 Or #2?
Patient: they’re the same
Doctor: Pick #1 Or #2 anyway (#2)
Doctor: Is #3 or #4 better, etc.

Well, as a third party listening to this, it was obvious the process was winding down especially when the doctor said, “Now is this better?” with a tone of triumph and knowing. And then it clicked for me when I heard my son reply with an honest deadpan delivery, “No, it’s worse”.

Yes, there it is! We as adults have NOT been using the right questions and tools to understand our children’s perspective. We stay stuck seeing them as oppositional without understanding that our child perceives the world in an “opposite” way than we do.

On my journey to learn how to better communicate and apply an empathetic lens, I was first introduced to Ross Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions which provides an excellent communication model. This led me to Stuart Shanker’s Self-Regulation which helps me soften my behavioral lens to see stressors rather than manipulation. I’ve attempted to wrap my brain around neuroscientist Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal theory, but find Kelly Mahler’s Interoception or Amy Laurent’s Autism Level Up a bit more accessible. 

Until we learn more from neuroscience and collaboration on understanding the ODD mind, I say we should rename it to Opposite Frame of Perspective so we’re more open to our end of communication gaps and misunderstandings.

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