Don’t know what to do anymore

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    • #111556

      My 13 year old, diagnosed at 8 with ADHD, anxiety also has ODD; is not going to school. Grade 8. He’s always hated school, always always always. Has no friends bc nobody ever gets him (his social skills need work…) he burns bridges and kids are so judged at this age; it’s heartbreaking. He’s very in touch with his feelings so he tells me he is just trying to be happy. He’s at home, doesn’t run around, so it’s a school refusal issue, not really a truancy issue. He keeps himself busy at home, always learning new things etc but on his terms in his way, test free of course. Lots of building and designing type video games too, that would be tops. However he is on the violent/controlling side so implementing consequences ( ie shutting off internet) for not going to school blows up in my face – like calls me nonstop at work, leaves horrifying messages if I don’t pick up, etc. He can be quite verbally abusive; it’s so draining. Yes he is taking meds, sees a psychiatrist regularly, and the school is soooo accommodating. Why is he throwing all the opportunity away? He insists he doesn’t want to be a dropout. ??? I’m so tired, feel so defeated, and so stressed. Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?

    • #111612
      Penny Williams

      This is school avoidance and school refusal. We’ve been living it for 6 years (started in 4th grade). What I learned is that it’s a toxic level of stress for the child at school. It feels so bad at school that they will accept anything to not go. Before we understood it, we’d threaten to take away all screens for a month… and he still didn’t go to school.

      Your next step is to determine what is provoking such anxiety at school. And that can change from day to day. Addressing these triggers is the ONLY way to improve avoidance behavior. And I learned that having conversations about what’s troubling him at school were exponentially more helpful if I wrote his concerns down right then and we talked through a plan of action of how I was going to work with the school to resolve the issues.

      School avoidance has gotten a ton better for us, finally. But, it’s because we transitioned to a half-day of school in-person/on campus, and a half day of virtual public school at home. Now, when he’s super stressed or anxious at school, he’s able to tell himself he only has to be there a little while longer (he’s only there 3 hours a day) and then he will be able to leave. That has ended the daily emails begging me to pick him up and then hiding in the bathroom when I didn’t. Plus, because I go through his online classes with him to keep him on track and accountable, he has A’s in two difficult classes that he’d probably barely have a C or D in if he took them at school. He currently has straight A’s for the first time in his entire life (10 th grade) — two pretty easy electives at school and Civics and French online. His self-confidence and self-esteem have shot up.

      Your son wants to do well. He wants to succeed. He just can’t under current conditions.

      Why School Stress Is Devastating for Our Children

      Listen to “Teaching Students with ADHD” with Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

      (I recommend all of Jerome Schultz’s articles and his book, Nowhere to Hide —only material I could find that really explained school avoidance and helped tremendously.)

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #111620

      It sounds like you might want to investigate alternatives to traditional school. Middle school is a rough time of transition. Is homeschool an option? Would he be disciplined enough for an online education program? Are there charters near you that focus on tech or an area that would interest him more? I have a 7th grader who isn’t giving me problems about going to school but he’s not actually doing much when he’s there, the school is kind of passing him thru using the “modified work” portion of his IEP to let him skate by so he doesn’t give them any problems, and he’s not really learning anything. I would find out what his real requirements are for middle school to enter high School on track and see what alternatives you have for helping him complete them. I never knew, but at least in our state, middle school kids only need to pass and complete two years of math, two years of ELA, one year of science and one year of social studies to technically meet the requirements to enter high school. Maybe you can find an alternative way for him to meet his requirements while spending the rest of his time taking classes that interest him and start fast tracking him in an area he enjoys and excels in thru online or charter options? Our issues are slightly different I think – my concern is that my son will waste the next 6 years skating by and not really learning much and then be left at 18 with no real direction when he could be spending that time learning about something he’s interested in like tech or performing arts, etc while he fulfills his requirements so that he’s building useful skills instead of going thru the motions. I am a big fan of education, don’t get me wrong. I have a masters degree and think education is key for success in life. But not everyone learns the same and I’m not a fan of the traditional public school model for kids who could be engaging and learning in a different way when there are so many options out there today. For us it’s looking like a hybrid partial day/partial homeschool is our next step (my other son goes to a private school that challenges him in a way that suits him best) so maybe there are alternatives that would work better for your situation. Hang in there. It’s not easy but you’ll find your solution.

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