Reply To: HS son still refusing school-when do I say enough is enough?

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Wow, I can relate — to your son! In high school it became evident that even though I was always one of the smartest kids, I just wasn’t good at school. I always felt misunderstood by everyone: teachers, parents, and even my friends. I was so depressed and anxious with undiagnosed ADHD until the end of sophomore year. My teachers would berate me, telling me I was wasting all my potential. One morning, I missed the bus again after recently having started on Adderall and Zoloft and my dad was so angry he said, “No f’ing doctor is going to help you with your problem.” That was 20 years ago and I remember it like it was this morning.

If online school had existed, I would have loved it because I could have worked at my own pace using my own methods. No guidance counselor to tell me I needed to study in silence (I can’t!), no classmates to distract me and make me feel incapable. No teachers to tell me I’m just lazy and punish me.

Your son may need a more kinesthetic environment to engage his senses and help him get out some energy — that could help to keep the energy from coming out emotionally.

He feels misunderstood and he’s probably very right. Has he read articles on this site? It can be really validating. Have you tried an ADHD coach or does your area offer VoTech programs?

After almost failing high school and then failing out of college three times, I decided to go to hair school. The kinesthetic nature was good for me, but it took me 2 years to complete a 10 month program because a big part of ADHD is being unable to self-motivate. I missed so much school and graduation was based on hours logged, so it really took a lot to graduate. It was hard for me to get up in the morning to catch my train because ADHDers are usually not morning people. I couldn’t motivate myself to get out the door in spite of the consequences. I still have trouble with getting myself going to do household chores since I live alone and there’s no one there to nag me to do the dishes.

He may also legitimately not see the point in school, or see the path to the future. As ADHDers, our relationship with time is skewed. Time isn’t linear to us. We live in the moment, often unable to see how current actions lead to future situations. It can be hard to set goals and pursue a path when you really internalize that life happens in the moment. For me, when I was younger (until I was like 30, really) I just couldn’t set goals because I couldn’t see a path past my current situation.

It took all of my 20s to get a job that paid me a truly living wage. But I also had to put in a log of legwork to improve my relationship to my ADHD to earn a job that paid well and offered benefits. My employer ignored my requests for reasonable accommodation. My desk was next to someone who legitimately has Tourette’s and I couldn’t stand the constant outbursts as they were very distracting. I finally ended up in an office of two doing work that is constantly changing with short project deadlines — great for keeping me engaged and helping me work under pressure.

I guess my point is: find out what your son needs from you to be successful. As frustrating as it may be for you, I can almost guarantee he is infinitely more frustrated by feeling misunderstood and probably not even being able to understand himself and why he can’t “just be normal” at a time in his life when being “normal” and assimilating is the most important thing there is, socially. Punishment won’t work and may quite possibly only alienate him from you further.

If his doctor doesn’t *specialize* in ADHD I would also suggest finding one that does. It can make all the difference in not only getting him the help he most needs, but in validating how he feels and how he experiences life.

Best of luck to him and to you!