A Case of an Oppositional Child

Darin, age five, had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder one month previously. His mother, like many parents of children who have just received that diagnosis, did not know precisely what the diagnosis meant for her child, the implications for his learning, nor the best course of action to take. Darin’s mother, like many parents, had opted to try Ritalin first. The medication did improve his concentration, but his mother wanted a more natural alternative.

The child smiled as the interview began. His mother explained that he had some difficulty following instructions at home (2). His mother couldn’t seem to find a teaching approach that worked for Darin. Both mother and son became frustrated on a regular basis. His mother reported that he started daycare at three. Darin corrected her, “No, I was two.” Darin’s mother described him as very generous and happy most of the time. “He doesn’t have a good time playing by himself. He needs a lot of reassurance that he’s being good or doing the right thing (2). He frequently asked his mother, “Am I being good?” or “Am I being quiet?” Darin told me, “I try to be good.” He would offten tell his mother, “I try to be good, to do the right thing, but my head doesn’t let me.”

Darin had problems listening (3) and following rules (3). (We noticed at this point in the interview that he appeared shy and did not answer our questions.) His mother had to ask him again and again to do things (3). He just didn’t seem to act on her requests. Specific problem areas were being unable to settle down at night to go to sleep, to stay quiet, and to stop bothering his brother. (At this point Darin hid his head and cried. He then curled up in a ball and withdrew.)

“Darin gets really unhappy when he’s reprimanded. It makes him cry. He just wants to be good. It takes time for him to settle down at night. I have to go in three times and eventually spank him five nights out of seven to get him to go to sleep (3). The wrestling, kicking, and hitting are hard to stop” (Darin looked very embarrassed.) His mother reported that “The feedback from school is that he has difficulty settling down for structured activities. He is unable to sit still, messes with his neighbors, and has a blatant disregard for direct requests (3).”

Darin argued constantly, even over the simplest requests (3). He always engaged in dialogue. His mother continued: “Yesterday he saw some cookies. I told him he needed to wait until lunch to eat them. He kept asking me about it for five minutes. He tells me when he thinks something is unfair. If I say ‘white’, he says ‘black’ when we discuss anything at all. He’ll be certain that he’s right. It’s very tiring for me. He wants things his way and becomes upset if they’re not. He cries very easily.”

“He’s enthusiastic about everything (2). He’s very impatient (3). He can’t wait for things to happen (3).” (We noticed Darin was moving his leg restlessly.) “He needs a lot of affection in an almost frantic, anxious way (3). It’s a desperate kind of feeling. He clings (3). He doesn’t like when I read or even talk to someone else (3). He’s very possessive of me (3).

If his brother is on my lap, he wants to be there, too. When he travels, he becomes fidgety and pesters his brother. When he spends time with his dad, from whom I’m divorced, he wants to come home after a few hours. He calls me to say he misses me. He tells me he likes to spend time with me more than with his dad.”

“Darin’s anxious (2), insecure (2). He’s fearful, but determined. He wanted to learn to ride his bicycle without training wheels from the very start. He’s afraid of the dark (2), sleeping alone (3), and scary dreams (2).” (Darin was squirming in his chair.)

We asked Darin’s mother about her pregnancy. “The entire pregnancy was very stressful. It was not planned. His father was not someone I wanted to be with. I worked at night. I was so exhausted that I would go home and cry. I was very unhappy throughout the pregnancy. I felt frustrated and vulnerable. I was no longer independent. I had to rely on someone who was not responsible. I was living with my oldest son at the time.”

We had a particular remedy in mind and asked Darin’s mother if homesickness was much of an issue for her. “It’s a big issue for me right now and has been for a long time. I have wanted to move to Arizona to be with my parents. I need that security of family around me. When I was pregnant with Darin, I wanted to go down to be with my parents, but it wasn’t possible.”

We asked her whether Darin was more like her or his dad. (We find this to be a very useful question in order to learn more about children and to see which remedies or miasms run through families. It is quite common for more than one member of a family to need a particular remedy and sometimes the entire family needs just one remedy.) “Darin’s more like his dad.

His dad doesn’t like to be by himself or to do things alone. His dad’s always on the move. He procrastinates a lot. They’re both very accident prone (3) without actually being clumsy.

Darin’s forever suffering from multiple bruises, ever since he started walking. He’s reckless (2). He doesn’t pay attention to where he’s walking (2).”

Darin finally spoke: “I don’t like when you talk about me.” He said nothing else but continued to pout in a rather demonstrative manner.

Darin slept well and generally on his back. He was warm and became very hot in bed (3). He sweated on his head every night (2). He loved sweets (3) and bubble gum (3) and liked fish (2). He had never liked starchy food (2). His thirst was moderate.

The only physical complaints were bumpy rashes on his hips and occasional headaches.

His face was always pale, his ears red, and he had chronic puffiness under his eyes.

Now study this case and turn to page _____ for the analysis and follow-up. As with all cases, be sure to pay particular attention to what makes this child unique rather than the characteristic symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

This case reminded us of a similar child whose video case was presented to us by Dr. Sujit Chatterjee during our month-long course in Bombay. It was that understanding which led us to ask the mother about the issue of homesickness.

What is unique about Darin. His difficulty concentrating? His refusal to do what his mother asked? His unwillingness to settle down at night? Or pestering his brother? You will find all of these characteristics in many children diagnosed with A.D.D. What really stands out about Darin? We considered most unusual his oppositional nature (if his mother said ‘black’, he’d say ‘white’), his strong response to being reprimanded or talked about, and the theme of homesickness in both Darin and in his mother during the pregnancy and even presently.

We used the following rubrics from the “Mind” section of the Complete Repertory : “discontented”, “fear of being censured”, “homesickness”, “absent-minded”, “brooding”, “disobedience”, “obstinate”, “offended easily”, and “restlessness; busy”. We also referred to the “Mind” section of Phatak’s Materia Medica of Homeopathic Remedies : “Homesick… Peevish, irritable, angry, easily offended. Clumsy. Awkward; runs into everything. Refractory esp. children… at slightest cause gets angry. Always on the lookout for insults. If she wants a certain thing, she will opppose, if proposed by someone else.” It is interesting to note that Darin was very similar to his father in his temperament and even his clumsiness, but that he got his tendency to homesickness from his mother. The remedy? We prescribed Capsicum (red pepper) 1M.

Darin’s mother brought him back on August 9, 1994. “It was a gradual change. He’s calmer. He’s talking more and able to work things out better. His appetite is good and he’s more willing to try new things. He’s still accident prone and gets scratched, banged, and bruised easily. There has been some stress this week. We want to move to Arizona to be near my parents. His father agreed, then changed his mind. I have to take him to court.”

“He’s no longer asking if he’s being good or quiet. There aren’t as many arguments. He’s more reasonable. He rarely says the opposite now. If I tell him he can’t do something, he won’t argue. He still pouts, but he gets over it easily.He’s a little on the defiant side, but very easily becomes reasonable. There’s been a gradual easing into being more agreeable. He’s still impatient and senstivie to scolding and sad situations. Now he’s much more appropriate about wanting attention. He’s less clingy and possessive. He was unhappy for a few days about my starting to work, but now he’s fine with it.”

“He’s had no scary dreams. He hasn’t talked about wanting to go home. He’s had no headaches. The bumpy rashes on his hips are gone.”

At the end of the half-hour interview, Darin said, “I want to go home… go home.”

Darin has continued to do well for the past seven months. He has not come in for more appointments because his mother feels he is doing quite well. We did not have the opportunity for another in depth follow-up. It is very likely that Darin’s clumsiness also improved with the remedy. She recently asked us for a referral to a homeopath in Arizona, where they have just moved. He was quite surprised to learn that Capsicum had been given to Darin.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are board certified diplomates of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians. They teach homeopathy to licensed health care professionals through the International Foundation for Homeopathy, of which Judyth is President and Robert is Vice President. They practice at The Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine at 131 3rd Ave., N., Edmonds, WA 98020 and can be reached at (206) 774-5599. Their new book, The Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, will be released in May.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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