Adoption and ADHD/ODD Issue - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Adoption and ADHD/ODD Issue


I am interested in connecting with other families who have adopted and their child has been diagnosed with ADHD/ODD? My son is 10 years old and adopted from South Korea. I just met another parent who has two boys adopted from South Korea and both have mental health issues. One therapist suggested that an adoption is a traumatic event which can be a reason for my son's "fight or flight" response.

My son was in foster care since birth and we adopted him at 11 months so he doesn't have any recollection of his adoption. we don't have any medical history of his birth parents but we suspect mental illness in one parent.

For a year, our home life has been extremely stressful since he started exhibiting all the signs of ODD. He has a privileged life and a supportive family, and we can't understand why/how he has become a rude, disrespectful, angry, unmotivated person who cannot communicate to us what is making him so unhappy.

Any advice/thoughts would help.

17 Replies

ADHD is a condition that any group of people can get. Your son like many has so much to deal with and doesn't understand that what he has been given to him should make life easier. Many children with ADHD only look at themselves and they are not trying to be challanging, it is the way in which their behavior is displayed.

Have you considered medication? Our son acts the same way before he takes his medication or when it wears off. He is a completely different child when stable. Please don't take it personal, another suggestion is behavioral training with a professional. We do both and couldn't survive without them.

Best of luck and happy new year.

I adopted twin boys. They were placed in foster care at 2. We were their third home a year later. They are 7 now. They were both diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. Medication has help a lot, but mornings and evenings still tough. They still get in trouble at school but it’s gotten better. We tried attachment counseling, but it’s hard to want to bond with a child that is so difficult. We did give it a good effort though and it helped some. We’ve had success with 123 magic, recommended by psychologist. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet for this. There are lots of little things that have to go into it. Most kids aren’t going to be grateful that you’ve rescued them. They don’t know what they were rescued from. They take what you’ve given them for granted. I hope one day, when they are older they will see.

My daughter was adopted although she is in her thirties now. But her grandson is the one who lives with me and has major problems. Both his mom and bio dad had mental illness problems. Dad is still very unstable.

Daughter had many problems growing up although is pretty stable now. When you think about it if a child is given up for adoption the parent probably was not stable. And heredity plays a part in some of these diagnosis.

Where they come from is not as important as what you do for them now. Parent them the best you can and get whatever help they need.

I never knew anything about my adopted daughter's parents until much later in her life. It didn't make any difference in how I got her help anyway.

Interesting question and I thought I had noticed a few of us mention adoption. My daughter was adopted at birth through private US adoption. We know nothing of the bio dad. We do know education was a priority to her birth mom who was in college at the time. We also are becoming more aware each day it seems of the extent of my daughter’s learning disabilities. The ADHD was obvious as long as I can remember. It is surely a missing link of answers not fully knowing the genetic; but in the end nothing really changes because of it. I am still one of the most grateful lucky women ever in history to have the privilege of being her chosen mom.

Speaking from experience with my adopted children, ADHD and ODD are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diagnosis. PTSD, DMDD, SPD, ASD, RAD and other attachment disorders are all on this bubble of ADHD and share similar symptoms. Your best bet is to get him evaluated because each case and child is going to be different with how their symptoms present. It had been a struggle to diagnose my 8 year old due to his symptom fitting almost all of the disorders but making it difficult to treat because traditional adhd treatment doesn't work. Therapy has been our biggest salvation however!! Our 6 year old daughter has adhd and has found success in therapy and medication. They have similar symptoms but different diagnosis and treatments. I agree to not take it personally because it is what you are doing that's causing this reaction. If you are able to get him a neuropsych that would be amazing! I've heard people getting a pinpoint diagnosis from these. Medicaid denied my kids because they are too young otherwise I would be all over it!!

There are more studies being done about fetal trauma (i.e chaos outside the womb affects children in utero), in addition to early separation trauma (whether it is conscious/remembered or not). ADHD is a separate, medical diagnosis, that can exist along with these issues. I hope that you can find a physician that works medication management for ADHD, in addition to understanding possible, co-existing anxiety, anger, etc. issues. "" is a wonderful site. I would also highly recommend looking at "Heritage Camps For Adoptive Families". They offer family camps/seminars for families that include country-specific weeks/options. The children spend time in groups, fun activities, etc., and parents can attend net-working and various seminars, support, discussion groups, etc. Even if the child is resistant, it can be very helpful for parents to be around other parents in the same situation. There is so much pressure put on adoptive parents that we may often tend to "blame" ourselves and feel guilty about our own actions and responses for our children's behavior (often under a tremendous amount of pressure). Seeing others experiencing similar issues and understanding some of the issues/causes can help to let go of the guilt, and better approach our kids with flexibility and empathy. Good luck!

Hi. My son is 11, adopted at birth. He had an old brother (4 years old full sibling) who the parents were raising who had ADHD. I met the Dad and he seemed a bit ADHD as well but I don't know if he was ever diagnosed. So, I believe its in his genes. I know that prenatal stress is a thing and effects all babies, especially those that are "unwanted", but I don't know how much it plays into this. I have another adopted child who has no signs of ADHD at all.

I'm still brand new to this, but my husband and I have been fostering a 16 y/o girl with ADHD/impulse control disorder, who comes from an impoverished background with a complex set of traumatic events. We are her umpteenth foster home, but more recently she has been with group homes. She was doing so well in our home for awhile, but when we exited the "honeymoon phase" she began getting very angry with us, but school reported her being very social, engaged, and happy. We sat down with her caseworker and she explained that she's never had hair appointments, an iPhone, Christmas lights in her OWN room, etc. Basically she told us we created a "fancy" teenager. *facepalm* After reestablishing that every privilege can be lost based on attitude and behavior, we're re-stabilizing again (this all, of course, is combined with therapy and medication). Good luck, Searching18!

My son was adopted at 3 weeks, after 3 weeks in interim foster care. I often say that I am raising a combination of Tom Sawyer and Tarzan! He is diagnosed with ADHD, combined type. He is affectionate, charismatic, smart, athletic, impulsive and emotionally labile. He is "young" for his age. We are not currently using medication. We get "adoption competent" therapy through the Center for Adoption Support Education (CASE). I think it is important that the therapists have training specifically in issues related to adoption as adopted children may face many issues. Our son thinks he should be perfect (always get 100, always win, always be right) and I think he has a lot of anxiety. I think these things can mimic or fuel ADHD. Who knows how much of it is related to the fact he is adopted, and how much is just him? It doesn't matter. He was meant for us and we were meant for him.

ADHD is a neurobiological condition that has behavioral symptoms. ADHD is not a behavioral disorder. The brain structure of those with ADHD is different. There is a chemical imbalance, which for 70-80% of those with ADHD can be treated to varying degrees with medication when part of a multi-modal treatment plan.

Many with ADHD have comorbid conditions such as anxiety, ODD, learning disabilities, auditory processing disorder, etc. Many with a primary diagnosis of Autism have a secondary diagnosis of ADHD.

Adoption, even as a newborn never in interim foster, care can be traumatic. Often the trauma does not surface until a child starts to question why they were placed which can lead to resentment of their biological parents as well as those who adopted them. I have 17 family members through adoption including two sons. Adoption trauma among them varies greatly.

Parent education and awareness around ADHD, potential comirbid conditions, the impact of adoption trauma is key to developing a comprehensive treatment olan; ADHD behaviors can’t be “punished or yelled away”. Our team includes our GP, child psychologist, psychiatrist (for med management, a behavioral consultant who is a BCBA, a speech language professional, a school psychologist and a school mental health counselor. My son has an IEP for behavior that does NOT include specialized academic instruction. He is gifted and able to earn straight As. Don’t let anyone tell you a child can’t have an IEP or 504 Plan if they excel academically. If a child mental health services at school, they are available under AB 114.

We adopted our son as an infant and were even at the hospital for his birth. We have an open relationship with his birth family, including 3 wonderful half sisters. There is definitely ADHD running in the family, and thus he has a severe case. He’s ten now & is both a joy & a challenge. He developed both anxiety & opposition defiance that was getting worse until we learned new parenting strategies to manage it. He’s medicated with Focalin XR , & while it helps during the day, he is VERY edgy & disrespectful, even aggressive in the morning & evening. I believe part of it is a medication withdrawal side effect or ‘crash’, but primarily, a product of his anxiety. Here’s why. When we ‘reward’ behaviors with negative attention, scolding, anger, he actually gets worse. When he makes a bad choice & we berate him, he goes into ‘fight’ mode. I believe his poor self esteem drives the ODD and so if we are negative to him, it gets worse!! He’ll repeat the behavior or do something even worse. Yell at him for saying the ‘S***’ word, he responds with the ‘F***’ word. If we escalate with angry threats, he’ll add more insults. When we respond to the original infraction with CALM but FIRM consequence, it goes way better. So instead of yelling ‘WE DON’T SAY THAT WORD IN THIS HOUSE! HOW DARE TOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT! I’M TIRED OF YOU’RE DISRESPECT!! ONE MORE TIME AND YOU’RE GROUNDED’. We say very calmly, ‘okay son, go sit in the chair and calm down. You know the rule #1 posted on the fridge, we speak respectfully to each other’. You’re better than that’. If he refuses & attempts to escalate, I usually take him over to the chair physically but not violently or showing any anger. My wife will just say with calm confidence, ‘ok it’s your choice, sit in the chair or lose gaming today’. If he chooses not to, gaming is gone and we ignore his protests. He’ll swear more, maybe throw something but eventually he gives up. My wife will leave the room if he tries to direct any aggression at her. 80% of the time he chooses to do the timeout. After he’s calm, I’ll come over & say, ‘are you calm now? Can we get on with our day?’ Then I’ll give him a nice hug and we move on. No lecture, just positive reinforcement with a hug.

This is how to win back your home...

in reply to Mmagusin

How long did it take you to master those skills?

in reply to Boymom3

Lol! I wouldn’t say mastered. We screw up a lot ! For example if we come home stressed it’s easy to lose it. To get him from chaos to getting control back took 6 months at least & lots of patience because he tested us often

We adopted our daughter privately in the US. I actually cut the cord. My daughter (now almost 7) has shown signs of adhd for years but we just recently started medication and counseling. I’ve heard there is a higher incidence of adhd for adopted children but regardless it’s not uncommon among non-adopted kids. I myself was also adopted and in foster for 13 months before and I do not have adhd.

My daughter also started showing signs of ODD in the last year and I’ve read that often this starts around school age kids with adhd in part because they are so frustrated with not being able to do the tasks that are asked of them. For my daughter for example- she is unable to sit quietly from when school starts at 8:50 until her recess at 12:20. She acts out when she’s frustrated and pushes back when she’s physically unable to do something. Medication has helped about 50% for the focus and impulsivity at school but now we are dealing with insomnia (which leads to similar symptoms of adhd). Her ODD symptoms have improved tremendously with the medication and with us being more calm with our reactions to her behavior when it is not good. My opinion is that adhd is so difficult because there are many different types and there is not a one solution to fix all. It’s really a continuous trial and error. Medications may work for awhile and then change is needed. I’m trying to learn to be more patient and understanding myself. I’ve gotten into emailing my daughters teacher weekly for updates and we have a daily behavior chart for her from school. There have been small improvements with each step. My advice is to keep on trying...each day brings new challenges and new solutions!

I have worked with children as you have described. I find even when they have been adopted early in life and are in a stable family with lots of loves, the development in those first months are important. Many many children deal with ADHD that are not adopted so that may not be a link. My strongest encouragement to you would be to get your child assessed by a behavioral therapist so you have a full picture and then seek help medically for your child as well as emotionally for all in your family. It is not easy on anyone's heart when dealing with such stress on a daily.

I have seen wonders with children receiving behavioral therapy combined with medication and diet restrictions. Some food sensitivity can result in behavioral issues and be overlooked. I have extreme anxiety when I eat gluten. I had anxiety for YEARS before a doctor shared the link for me. It has been life-changing.

I pray that you get answers and great support! Is there an adoption support group in your area or just a playgroup in general for his age group? Sometimes parents dealing with the same age group can give wonderful insight as well as adoptive families.

My daughter was adopted at birth and suffers from ADHD

Thank you everyone for sharing your story and advice. This online community is amazing!

My son did try the neurofeedback therapy and we do have the 123 Magic book that his psychiatrist recommended. I think for our son, he just doesn't like feeling "different" - he was adopted and now he has ADHD which makes him feel different and "dumb" He struggles with anxiety, self esteem issues and the overwhelming pressure to be "perfect" - know everything, be able to do everything in 5 minutes, be self sufficient and get good grades, be the best in sports etc.... Even though he wants to do well, he is very opposed to accepting help or feedback because to admit to help means he's dumb because he can't handle it on his own. He is a complicated little guy!! We constantly say it's ok to not know, not be the best, and to get help but he is not mature to understand this yet. It's very frustrating as a parent to not be able to help him when he needs help. He is just going to be a kid that has to learn by mistakes because it is only at that point he will realize why he needs to change his way of thinking or change his way of doing things (like getting ready earlier, committing to activities, dealing with writing). Our latest struggle is bedtime - he doesn't see the need to get to bed by 9:20 pm (he is in 5th grade and this is the time he originally picked/we agreed to) but cannot get up in the morning at 7 am for school. He says he is not tired, and gets to school on time so we can't force him to go to sleep earlier!

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