High School Freshman Refusing to do Schoolwork

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    • #100146

      I’m not sure what to do next and am at a total loss. My 14 year old daughter basically stopped doing her schoolwork last year, while in 8th grade. We fought with the school district for testing, hoping we’d get some support for her executive functioning difficulties, but their testing revealed that she’s highly gifted (139 IQ) and has no executive functioning issues. I wanted to ask for further testing in the executive functioning area as they didn’t address task initiation but didnt push it as my daughter was placed in a support class until the end of the school year anyway.

      Fast forward to high school and we’re back to the same behavior. The only improvement is that she joined marching band and started Taekwondo lessons and loves both. I guess I was hoping that the need to keep her grades up in order to stay in band would be enough to motivate her but I was sorely mistaken. Today, when I asked her her plan, she stated that she gave up. When I told her that wasn’t an option, she screamed that she couldn’t do the work. She literally has 3 academic classes and only one is honors. She doesn’t even crack a book open after school unless I tell her to.

      For the record, along with ADD, she does have anxiety and depression, with some asperger traits as well. She currently takes Lexapro, Intuniv, and Vyvanse, and is also on vitamin D and iron supplements due to deficiencies. We’ve been in counseling for years, mostly for me as she refuses to try most suggestions offered and shares very little. We’ve also tried neurofeedback, occupational therapy, and media breaks-which are never fun.

      Our 504 meeting is this Friday and I have no idea what to even say or ask for. Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated

    • #100244
      Penny Williams

      It sounds like it’s too much for her. She’s working so incredibly hard all day at school to try to meet the expectations of a neurotypical world. The thought of doing a lot more of that after school is likely causing her to shut down. And, if she had been trying and not getting results/ meeting expectations, that’s a sure-fire way to cause anyone to stop trying.

      This is a great article on how much stress kids like ours are really under in school (his book is awesome):

      Why School Stress Is Devastating for Our Children

      Add anxiety, and the stress becomes unbearable.

      My son (10th grade) has just about the same IQ, and he cannot take any honors classes due to the volume of work, the faster pace, and the inflexibility on how “smart kids” learn. He is in inclusion classes for math and English (they don’t offer it for other subjects), and he still doesn’t get the work done. Still has poor grades. Still has many missing assignments. It’s not that he doesn’t want to succeed, it’s that the system of learning he’s forced into does not work for his brain. We’ve dealt with a lot of school refusal in the past and it’s so hard.

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

    • #100272

      My middle son, who is ADD with anxiety issues, goes through times where we have found he had hidden and not handed in homework for months at a time. When talking to him, we find out it is because he didn’t understand it. When we tutored him a bit, he finally “got” whatever concept it was and was able to finish his homework. On the flip side, my oldest, who has ADD and ASD, didn’t hand in homework and I finally realized that for some classes it was his fall-back at the end of each quarter. If his grade was failing, he would hand in enough homework to bring his grade up to a tolerable level. During his junior year I finally persuaded his teachers to use the “0 for any late homework”, but wasn’t able to do that his senior year. But he also didn’t do much homework for the classes that he found “hard”. He is also very smart but didn’t get an advanced diploma because he just couldn’t pass Spanish 3 even though he loved his IB Physics, Math and History classes. He had to write long papers for each class, and it was an extremely painful time in our lives because he kept saying he could do it himself and refused any help from me or my husband, then finally told us he didn’t know HOW to write the paper but still refused help, then finally found enough online information and finished them 4 months after they were due. We offered to get him a tutor and any other kind of help but he refused. It basically came down to his fear of failing and thinking WE didn’t think he could do it. He is now starting college but seems to be getting things together. It’s a hard road, and I don’t have clear answers, but just know that you can help but you can’t run their lives for them. Try a tutor, especially now that there are on-line ones that are more affordable. Ask the teachers to be very literal with her, since we found out our oldest thought when a teacher said something had to be in by Friday to take a test, that that meant he had until the beginning of Friday’s class to hand it in not Thursday or before so the teacher could look at it. Ask that her counselor meet with her once a week to go over what she needs to do and to be the point person on checking in with the other teachers. This, I think, was the most helpful thing we did since it gave him some accountability to someone other than his parents and it was someone that was mostly impartial (he was also my sons’ English teacher). I wish you the best in your meeting and that the administration and teachers are responsive.

    • #101512

      My daughter (11th grade) had the same attitude & is also in advanced classes. If she didn’t turn something in & her grade dropped, she seemed to give up on the class entirely and the missing assignments just snowballed from there. This happened in just about all of her classes in 9th & 10th grade. This year, several times over the summer, I told both my kids that once school started, we were going to have 1hr a day of phone-free time at the dining room table for homework, studying or reading. Nothing else can be done in this 1hr, even if they don’t have homework. Thankfully, I have a job that allows me to be home after school. So when they get home, they get an hour to have a snack & do whatever they want. Then from 4-5pm is study time. My 11th grader pushed the boundaries (of course) by refusing to sit at the table, wanting her phone to listen to music, asking for 15 more minutes to finish a show, etc. I am trying to not be so rigid so I’ve allowed her these things and she usually gets down to business. She is doing SO much better this year (mostly A’s! In previous years, she was mostly C’s & D’s by the end of the 1st quarter). I asked her what the difference was between this year & last, and she said “I don’t know, I guess I’m trying.” When I asked her why she was trying, she said it was because she didn’t like how it felt to have bad grades. So I think the improvement has actually come from a combination of providing a specific time each day where all she can do is study, and me backing off on pressing her/asking her to get homework done. This put the worrying about grades more on her shoulders. When I remember to show empathy about how it must feel to have a missing assignment, that also puts the responsibility on her shoulders. Backing off & remembering to show empathy rather than anger about missing assignments was a REALLY hard step for me to take (it only took me 2yrs of pulling my hair out to get there). I basically grew to accept the fact that she may very well have to repeat a grade. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t the end of the world if she had to repeat a grade, or if she missed out on a scholarship & had to pay more for college. By the time she’s 30, none of what we’re going through right now will matter. What will have a lasting effect is how I interact with her – I need to show her that I believe she’s capable of doing well (without getting angry with her), and trust her to take care of what she needs to take care of, and that even when she fails, I show her I have empathy for how she must feel about that, and no matter what, I still love her. She will eventually grow up and be ok.

    • #101517
      ellen diamond

      I’m a 78 year-old woman. Why am I writing about your daughter? I remember. In college, I was put into honors classes after flying through freshman courses and immediately my grades went down so fast and so far, I felt I was not college material and dropped out, also partly because I couldn’t deal with the paperwork involved in asking the school for a leave of absence. To give you an idea of how bad it seemed to me at at the time, I was the first person from my private HS (scholarship) known to ever have dropped out of college.

      What I needed, desperately, was to understand the challenge that confronted me, that faced with something hard or unfamiliar or that had a failure component, I’d balk or give up because of the disease I had (A.D.D.). I needed for people to see this is as something that could get better with help, to see it as something that, if I could conquer, would mean that all through my life, faced with things that were hard or unfamiliar, etc., I still could succeed. I’ve had to learn that over and over as an adult. One thing I know … that asking for help is now part of my life.

      I needed a tutor, someone who knew about A.D.D. (no one did back then), someone who broke the task down into small enough bites for me to succeed. Someone who
      engaged me in the process: What do you think we can do that would help you learn this? Shall I read it out loud to you? Would you like to make up some questions? Shall I bring brownies and we can split them into tiny “reward” pieces? Shall we toss the book across the room hard, totally give up and then come back to it in 10 minutes?

      The mistake your daughter is making is thinking that because something is hard, she can never do it. There may indeed be some skills she’ll never master (despite musical talent, I could never learn the basics of harmony – there was a logic and complexity I never overcame), but what she can learn is that achieving something, however small, will help her in the world all her life. She needs to learn that
      even things she loves will have parts to them that she may hate or find very challenging, and learning how to go forward when that happens will be very helpful for her.

      Find her a tutor who is warm, kind and has a good sense of humor — someone she wants to please. And then stay far far out of it, except to tell her you’re proud of her for giving this a go and you love her very much, ADD and all.

      And tell her you know this is the hardest thing in the world for her, but that doing the hardest thing in the world is really something we all have to do at times. Be prepared for her asking you what the hardest things you’ve had to do were, and make sure they really were very, very hard for you.

    • #101559

      Gifted and talented students are also Special Needs. In many cases they are ahead of their peers academically. But behind socially. This gets especially bad if they skip a grade.

      It is good that she has the interest in marching band and TKD. Those are good pursuits. Tutoring is a worthwhile option. Many college students hire themselves out as tutors. Working with a college-age student can have significant motivation.

    • #101563

      Dear Parents,

      Please stop putting your very intelligent gifted children with ADD in advanced classes. They are smart enough to realize they are just getting more paperwork and homework than their peers. Why should I have to do more work just because I’m smart?
      On the other side of things, I didn’t hate it and just did the work because the constant stream of information allowed me to block out everything else inside my head — including feelings, emotions, and learning the skills needed to problem solve with life challenges. Eventually the feelings and emotions build up and erupt, causing a shame spiral reminding me that I’m just really really different and will always struggle to fit in — then the overwhelming anxiety that causes me to freeze comes.
      Life challenges don’t have a clear answer in a textbook. Being smart won’t necessarily help you with that.
      I’m 32 and still struggle with how to make decisions when a clear answer isn’t already spelled out for me. And I still know I just don’t fit in, but have made some kind of peace with that as I’ve gotten older.
      I just wanted to offer a different perspective in case it helps anyone here.

      A Now Grown Up Gifted ADD Child with Anxiety

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Lady4242.
      • #101792
        Penny Williams

        Thank you for this reply! My son has a gifted IQ, but CANNOT take gifted/honors classes for this reason — too much paperwork and extra work and faster pace are a nightmare for kids with executive functioning impairments. He was in “gifted cluster” classes twice, and both years were the worst years of his life. His anxiety exploded, even to the point of self-harm one year. His self-esteem also completely vanished.

        I wish more people recognized that high intelligence does NOT equal high functioning.

        BTW, my son is in inclusion math and english (has a SPED teacher in those classes with regular ed teacher) and average level in all other classes and still can’t complete and turn in all the work. It’s nothing but worksheets and essays, which are a nightmare for a kid with extreme executive functioning deficits and dysgraphia.

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

    • #101592

      We went through the same agonizing tug of war with our daughter starting in about 8th grade — how can you be so bright and have such lousy grades??? Why don’t you do your homework? Why are you so angry?
      Then, at age 53, I was diagnosed with ADD. My daughter’s psychiatrist/therapist later referred her for some really top notch testing by a private company. Turns out that my brilliant little girl is about as ADD as it gets. Now the frustration and hurt have a name. In the process, I was flooded with understanding about my own life experiences and self image. I’m still sorting that out.
      My experience so far is that how well we live with ADD depends largely on how we view it. If I view it as a “learning disability” then all sorts of negative feelings wash over me (rightly or wrongly). When I view it as the weeds I have to mow through to get to the good stuff (accomplishment and understanding), it’s a lot easier. And everyone, absolutely everyone, has weeds of one kind or another that they have to mow through.
      I also have to break things down into tiny bites. I am learning to listen to my inner voice and when I feel overwhelmed, that’s my signal to break it into pieces. (I used to just cut and run!) And I’m learning to get creative with how I break it down.
      Maybe your daughter could focus on one class that she is really interested in and start experimenting with different techniques to see what works with her unique kind of brilliance. Maybe you could look for a reputable private company that tests for learning differences and take that to your 504 coordinator. Are any of the counselors or teachers in her school ADD? My daughter’s counselor (we later found out) was diagnosed as an adult. He gets it.
      I am so grateful that my daughter knows now at age 16 that she has this challenge. I went for years being told I was lazy, selfish, self-centered, inept and just a general screw-up. Those labels came from my own voice, in addition to that of others. Now I know that’s not true. I also understand that some things are never going to be strong points for me and that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’m a very good trial lawyer with people around me who support me and some killer hyperfocus when my case is called to trial. 🙂

    • #101606

      Thank you all for your input. I first want to clarify that my daughter is only in one honors class (English)and it was by her choosing. Aside from that, her other classes are biology, integrated math, art, PE, and band. This means she only has to keep track of work in three classes, and at least 75% of the work could be completed in class. Because teachers don’t update the online grades consistently, I discovered today that my daughter has been continuing to let things slide, and only doing the bare minimum to catch up when warned that she will miss a band performance or competition. She also lied about completing her biology work.

      My main concern isn’t that she can’t do her work, it’s that she won’t do her work. As I stated in my original post, we continually offer supports, as does the school counselor. She is very adept at explaining why they won’t work for her and flat out refuses to try them. I have learned over time that this is a defense mechanism that allows her to continue along on her familiar path, rather than try. What I’ve noticed through band and TKD is that she is willing to work through challenges or find a different way to succeed, if she cares about it enough.

      I know many will disagree with my current approach, but it comes after years of manipulation and lying and with full support of our counselor. Because of the lying, phone privileges will be lost. And because of continued poor grades and minimal work completion, she will have until Thursday to complete missing assignments and get signatures from her teachers to show that they have been turned in or she will be benched from this weekend’s band competition.

      • #101793
        Penny Williams

        I challenge you to stop looking at it as “refusal.” She’s old enough to know what will and won’t help her. Make a contract with her. State that the is to offer accommodation suggestions and let everyone know what she thinks will help. Those accommodations will be implemented and tested as long as she is using them and showing effort. If not, she must use accommodations recommended by parents and school staff. No matter low logical and accommodation is, it simply may not work for her brain.

        Also consider the impact overwhelm can have on someone with ADHD. It sparks anxiety, which can be paralyzing. And slow processing speed could very well be at play.

        Kids want to do well. Truly. There’s still some hurdle that hasn’t been addressed, or she’d be doing well.

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

    • #101608
      Big L

      As a 57yr old male that fits your daughters discription to the letter I wish to add my perspective if you will?

      Pushing me was the last thing that my parents should have done. I could learn the subjects in no time at all, but I refused to turn in the homework because in my eyes it was wasted time. I figured that if I could pass the final test with a 90% or above, homework was “stupid.” Telling my patents that I was smarter than they were wasn’t a good idea, so I acted ignorant about the homework and waited for the tests. Eventually I decided to drop out of school and join the Army. At 17, I was in the Army, married and expecting my first child. (Some may think I had to get married, that was not the case). I needed the structure and urgency that the Army gave me. Getting married was what I thought I should be doing at that stage of my life. Or, was it?

      I have a severe case of RSD. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, but if you were to tell me that I couldn’t do something, I was going to show you that you were wrong, and I was not. Which brings me to my point. It took my Commanding Officer telling me that I was not worth a thing. That the Army made a terrible mistake when they let me join. Then he barred me from reenlistment, kicked me out og his Battery, and sent me to see the CSM at Battalion. The can asked me what I was looking for and I told him I didn’t want to be wasting time doing a job I was not trained to do. He put me in A Battery doing my trained job. Within a few months they lifted the bar, promoted me, and talked me into reenlisting. From there on, I took control of my life’s direction. My education became important, not only did I get my GED, I went on to get my diploma, and a degree in computer science.

      Sometimes it can take someone else to get us going. My mother never gave up on me. Food for thought is all. Sorry for the long story. I tend to ramble.

    • #101631

      mum2quinn – My daughter consistently lied about not having homework, or having it done as well. Last year, we implemented a signature sheet – any class where she missed an assignment, for the rest of the semester she had to have that teacher sign a sheet on Friday saying whether she had any missing work that week. If she did, there were no activities that weekend. That seemed to work well.

      You made a very good point about when she cares enough about something, she will work through problems. In my situation, I cared waaaayy more than my daughter did about her schoolwork. Once I trained myself to remember that it’s HER schoolwork & HER consequences, and I started showing her that I felt bad for her when she did poorly (rather than feeling bad MYSELF that she did poorly), I really do think she started to take on more of the caring about how she was doing in school. That doesn’t mean she didn’t experience consequences for missing work, we just framed it as “it looks like you didn’t have enough time to complete your homework this week. We’ll be sure you have enough time next week by __” (giving you an hour each day over the weekend to work on it, or having your phone put away for an extra hour during the week so you have more time to focus on schoolwork, etc.). Laying the worry, responsibility and natural consequences on her shoulders has made my load lighter, and seems to have made her care more. (It’s rough in the beginning though, because it feels like NO one is carrying that load. But stick with it, it’s worth it!) Hang in there, mama!

    • #101636

      Oh my! This sounds all too familiar! My daughter is now 25. She was diagnosed with ADHD in 4th grade. Despite a high IQ and high test scores (on standardized tests), she struggled with grades. The homework battles were endless. She flunked Freshman honors English and had to make it as a night class at the local community college. She took their placement test, and tested into college-level English. How frustrating that she couldn’t pass Freshman english, but tested at college level! It took me a long time to realize it was the difficulty in writing papers and turning in work, but her reading and comprehension were extraordinary. In junior year, we found out that students could take the AP tests without taking the classes, which was a huge win. While her friends struggled through AP English classes, she took regular English, took the AP test at the end of the year, passed it and got college credit. Somehow she managed to make it through high school, but not without a lot of struggles, fights and tears from both of us. She made it into college, had some struggles there also, but after 5 years she walked with her graduating class. A few months later, when her diploma didn’t come in the mail, she finally admitted that she still has one class to finish. Fast forward to today, 2 1/2 years later . . . . still no diploma 🙂 Although she won’t tell us the details, I know she’s in contact with her teacher and I am keeping good thoughts that she will pass this darn class! Despite it all, she is working full-time, she’s committed to her job and doing well.

      Do I have any advice?!! Not really, except don’t give up, keep trying different tactics until something seems to stick. With understanding, patience (and lots of that!), compassion (along with therapy and medication!), they will make a life for themselves.

    • #101637
      ellen diamond

      I was observing yesterday how when I saw an un-rinsed soda bottle, it felt like an impossible task and I dreaded it. No matter how often I’ve washed dishes over the years, I will still have that reaction first. To someone with A.D.D., I can’t and I won’t are very close to the same thing. Some things can seem too hard for me, and I can’t or won’t do them (same thing!). Understanding your daughter’s disability better may help you not to blame her for not being able to do what you want her to do. It’s far more important for her to believe in herself and like herself than to get good grades. If you can trust her more and get her the help she needs, anything is possible.

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