In hypnosis and NLP we are taught to look for proof there is a problem. What are you doing or not doing that is different from what you want to be doing? So we would not say a child is ODD, ADHD, Autistic etc (and Xavier was diagnosed with all of these) but we would look for evidence – beliefs, patterns, strategies, gaps etc that show the problem. The diagnosis itself is not helpful – unless you are a pharmacist and your role is to find a drug to treat the problem with.

In fact, ADHD is not even possible 100% of the time. It is situational. Xavier has never gotten distracted in the middle of sleeping and forgotten to stay asleep. Ridiculous I know – but it leads to asking “where else does Xavier forget to get distracted?” Watch Yugi-oh cartoons, playing Minecraft, telling me a story he is excited about. Meds or no meds, these activities keep him focused.

And there are places where his activity is not hyperactive – riding his bicycle, petting a kitten, making me a latte (that is a process).

In ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis), they focus on the specific behaviour that you are targetting to work on. So we do not say that the child has tantrums, we say “he threw his hands in the air and yelled ‘I hate you’ then stomped away”.

So, when I gained these new tools, I started to look for ways to help Xavier.

When he was 10, after years of trying to teach him to pee in the toilet, not on the toilet, or near the toilet – and for God’s sake don’t leave your pee all over the bathroom, clean it up child… you get the idea. Anyway, when he was 10 I asked him if he wanted to stop. He cried and said yes. Now he has always said that he didn’t want to leave pee anywhere, that he really did want to pee in the toilet, and we knew that there was nothing physically causing the issue of peeing in the wrong spot. And he certainly could bend and clean seat and floor. And yet year after year, several times a day we would find these unpleasant surprises.

This day however, I chose to believe that he wanted to stop. And I asked him, “What would if be like for you if you finally had success with this? How would you feel?”

Know what he said? Get ready for tears… “I would feel like a man.”

So I gathered myself together again and asked “Can you remember a time when you felt like a man? Mature and responsible and respected? Can you remember a specific time?”

It took some coaching but we were able to recall a special memory of the day he and grampa (my husband) had cleaned the whole garage together. They had worked so hard and John thanked him and appreciated his help thoroughly and authentically – and more importantly, verbally and with a hand shake.

So I asked Xavier, “when you think of that time, do you have a picture?” He did. “Step into that picture as though it was happening right now, so that you are seeing through your own eyes, hearing grampa with your own ears and really feel those feelings of respect and love and pride and maturity, let them fill you up.” Then I suggested that is how we would all feel when he was peeing like a man – responsible, loving and proud. He agreed vehemently.

Next we took 10 minutes to do something from NLP called a Swish. Actually we did a revised rubber-band Swish. After fully explaining what was about to happen – exactly how we were going to edit that path in his brain, I set Xavier up, sitting down, imagining in front of his face a picture of that old way of behaving, walking into the bathroom and about to pee on the seat and leave it there.

Then I loaded up an imaginary massive 10 foot long, 1 foot wide rubber band with a picture of the new way of doing. And I slowly and excruciatingly stretched it back till I couldn’t hold it anymore and then let go and fired that new picture of maturity towards him at 100 miles an hour, blowing out that old picture so it exploded into tiny pixels and replaced it with that new behaviour.

Then we tested and future paced it. And I told him that old strategy was gone forever. And it is. It has been 3 years. After 7 years of his feeling frustrated, humiliated, sad and angry multiple times a day. After 100s of stickers and rewards and cheerios and games and Smarties that never made any difference.

10 minutes.

Then two years ago, Xavier’s personality…. flipped. I cannot describe it any other way. It was like all of the sweetness, generosity and thoughtfulness drained out of him almost overnight. I talked to him about trauma, fear, abuse, what had happened? Nothing. He doesn’t have much time unsupervised. I talked to his teachers, neighbours, family. Nothing.

He started lying, stealing, stopped doing chores, started swearing, stopped showing remorse.

For two years, he has been getting worse.

We locked our room, he learned to break in. He stole from us when we were out or even when we were sleeping. Money, technology, treats. We added a deadbolt, he learned how to break in through the window.

He started stealing from school, camp, the neighbours. Lighting fires. Breaking things.

And when he was upset by one of the neighbours, he snuck out and egged his house. That vindictiveness worried me.

We tried to watch him closer. Often we would miss his return from the bus, or he would disappear from the yard when he went out to play on the trampoline or basketball.

A few weeks ago I found out it how bad it had gotten (at least I hope that is the worst news). My fabulous forgiving neighbour came over and share a story of vandalism and criminal behaviour that at first I could not believe was true. As he described the child that had stolen every set of keys to every car, motorcycle and snowblower etc, it started to sound familiar. The keys had been hidden and Xavier had driven two of the cars and totally destroyed them. Our neighbour unfortunately bribed Xavier – told him that if he gave back the keys, he wouldn’t tell. And he didn’t. For months. Until he realized a few weeks ago that Xavier had not stopped.

Last week, we got another diagnosis. As soon as I had spoken to the neighbour, I called Youthdale Treatment Center. We had been on the waiting list for months. We have also been on the ABA waiting list for a second round, Mackenzie Health waiting for the results of the intake, waiting for a child psychiatrist appointment we booked early this year that has been delayed and delayed – till December at this point.

Youthdale moved us up the list.

We filled out a 45 page package.

We went in for a 3 hour assessment.

Conduct Disorder.

Conduct Disorder – about as hopeful a diagnosis as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Those were the two I had dreaded when Xavier was small. When we first realized he was “Not normally organized neurologically”.

The past month has knocked me on my butt.

I have been stuck in the hypnosis of the diagnosis.

And now I am searching. For answers, treatment, ideas, for hope.