November 26, 2017 at 7:12 pm #68979
My 15 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disorders back when he was in 2nd grade. We started him on meds in the 4th grade and it changed our worlds. I feel he is still doing good on the meds regarding focus and hyperactivity. However, I feel that he has no passion or drive for anything at this time. I don’t know if it is his age, being a boy, his ADHD, something more or I am thinking about it too much! His grades are not that great, he doesn’t do anything extra besides what he has to do. I feel he won’t make his baseball team come January. He should be getting his license in the Spring but has no desire to take drivers ed. Not that helpful around the house. I feel like I nag nag nag constantly. I am getting to the point of where I just want him to fail to where I can get my point across to him. But then I feel guilt for even thinking that! Anyone else out there with these issues?
November 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm #69157
My son is the same age. I think he is afraid to pursue things he really wants to. I don’t have ADHD and was the same way. I am much, much better now. It changed when I got some self confidence. I would suggest you stop nagging and start supporting. If he wants the baseball, he will pursue it. By the way, if he has been playing baseball then he IS doing SOMETHING. Just remind him he should practice and tell him you are proud and you want him to be happy and he can do it because he is amazing and amazing runs in your family. 😉
- This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by MsKaVR.
November 30, 2017 at 8:22 pm #69418
My daughter is the same way she always loved school
But now hates high school and will not sign up for
Any after school activities and I tried to get to her to many times. Adhd kids, act as if they don’t care
About anything but they do, they just need extra help finding things they enjoy doing. Boredom
For them is much more intense than with someone
Who doesn’t have it.
November 28, 2017 at 6:48 pm #69178
@2sprightlyboys I have add and often feel that way too. I don’t think it’s really that we feel uninterested, we’re just afraid of failing. In my case, my motivation (ironically) is failing, having people tell me that I’m not good enough, and etc. Yet, something that holds me back from trying/doing something I’m interested in the ridicule of others. Naturally, I’m a very self conscious person and I’m very insecure. But when my drive for something is so great, its like I’m unstoppable. Maybe your son, like in my case, is afraid of failing and being ridiculed for it.
November 28, 2017 at 10:08 pm #69184
“I am getting to the point of where I just want him to fail to where I can get my point across to him.” I’m afraid that the ADHD brain does not work that way, thanks to the issue with dopamine receptors & the reward centers of the brain not working they way they should. I think failure could just make things worse or not have the impact you hope it would. He’s already lacking passion, drive & motivation. Failure, in my opinion, will just add to that. Could he have ADHD-induced depression? You say he has no drive for “anything.” The meds seem to allow him to focus & do the bare minimum, but they also make have taken away his passion. It’s ironic because with ADHD we DO have drive, passion & the ability to hyperfocus on things that interest us. Of course, that focus & drive is often directed towards the wrong things & the wrong times! I’ve heard artists with ADHD often complain that when they take meds, their creativity is sucked dry. ADHD depression is a real thing. Non-ADHD people with depression also struggle with lack of motivation, passion, etc… which also appears to be an issue with dopamine. Maybe you can work on trying to figure out how to get more dopamine flowing through him (i.e.: a few minutes of exercising in the morning is a good & natural way) & see if that improves his motivation.
- This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by MadBadADD.
November 28, 2017 at 10:13 pm #69186
“I feel he won’t make his baseball team come January. ” Does he want to be on the baseball team or is that your desire?
November 29, 2017 at 9:08 am #69199
My son is also 15 with ADHD (and LDs and autism), and is also highly unmotivated for the most part. He has zero motivation in school and doesn’t even do the bare minimum a great deal of the time, but I know there are reasons behind it that have nothing to do with laziness or simply not caring to do well.
First, the ADHD brain is only motivated by interest and urgency, not importance like neurotypical brains. So, most of K-12 education will not be motivating unless your child has a specific interest in the subject matter. And, even then, he may not be motivated to do written work and study for tests.
Next, school is overwhelmingly difficult for kids with ADHD. They are working 150% for 6+ hours of the day, 5 days a week, to just attempt to meet expectations. And all that effort produces very little reward for them, because the classroom expectations are set for neurotypical students, and kids with ADHD are 20-30% behind developmentally. If you’re adding any learning disabilities to the mix, it compounds the struggle.
By the teen years, many kids with ADHD succumb to learned helplessness. Especially when they don’t get the recognition, understanding, and support they’ve needed in school. The “Nothing I ever do is good enough, so why try?” attitude sinks in and takes hold. As I’m experiencing, that is enormously difficult to reverse. This webinar replay has some good tips to help in this area:
If your child is also very smart, it often makes them even more misunderstood in school. The guiding principal among most educators is that intelligence predicts capability, but nothing could be further from the truth for kids with ADHD and other invisible disabilities.
I don’t worry about my son finding his passion yet. We offer lots of opportunities to try things out, and we are open to stopping things that aren’t a good fit or are found to not really be of interest. Without interest, there won’t be any motivation. And, I agree with others, if he really wants to play baseball, he’ll do what it takes. If he doesn’t, that’s ok. Ask him what other physical activity or sport he’d like to try instead.
My daughter is now a freshman in college. She doesn’t have an ADHD diagnosis, but she does have some wicked anxiety. She had no interest in driving at 15-16. In fact, she still had no interest in driving at 17-18, but we pushed because she was going away to college and has to work while in school. Many of her friends had no interest in driving either. And she has met other college students who don’t drive and have never even had a permit yet. With ADHD symptoms, I think it’s really a blessing that he’s not interested in driving. For someone with ADHD to drive at 15, it’s really allowing an 11-12 year old behind the wheel, and we all can imagine how dangerous that is. My son is interested in driving, because he’s interested in cars, but he accepts the fact that he’s not ready for that responsibility, and that level of executive functioning demands yet. Yes, I begged and pleaded with my daughter to drive, because it would have been easier for me. But, in hindsight, I’m glad she didn’t buckle under the pressure, because she clearly wasn’t ready for it.
Hang in there! You’ve got this.
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
November 30, 2017 at 3:33 pm #69350
My ADHSD son is 17 and every semester he gets great grades on tests, but does not do the majority of the work because he is unmotivated and doesn’t care leaving his grades in shambles. He hates being nagged, but without nagging he won’t do anything. He doesn’t do chores, clean his room or even feel the need to leave the house on time without constant “nagging”. He says he will do it and then does not. When told he has to comply he then sends nasty texts during the day or is nasty to me in person. If I give a punishment the second I am not home he does the opposite. After procrastinating on driving for a year, he now wants his licence and I will not let him get it unless he gets his grades up, so now again, I am the problem. It is never his fault, always mine, the teachers or his siblings fault. I fear that he is not going to be able to hold a job, go to college or even graduate high school if he doesn’t make some drastic changes immediately.
November 30, 2017 at 3:51 pm #69357
I understand that ADHD is a problem but it sounds like a lot of this can be attributed to typical (yet irritating) teenage angst & rebellion.
November 30, 2017 at 8:17 pm #69414
I just listened to the webinar with Adam Price Phd called “Your teen is not lazy! How to best motivate your teen with ADHD”. It was super helpful on this topic specifically and should be available on this site to stream. My husband and step-daughter both have ADHD and I don’t and there is a very steep learning curve to how the ADHD brain works. I don’t claim to understand but I try and when I forget I am always reminded that their brains don’t work the same way as mine does. I read a quote recently that was something like, “Parenting makes us become better people than we ever wanted to be” or something to that effect – and I can definitely relate to that, maybe you can, too!
December 13, 2017 at 7:09 pm #70431
I have ADHD and I think trying to understand ADHD if you don’t have it is like trying to understand what it’s like to be a woman if you are a man.
I understand what women are like, but I will never understand what it is like to be one.
Same with ADHD, you can say you know what we do, but you will never know why. I don’t think we know why come to think of it.
Even this interaction is terrifying on some level. I never seem to say what I’m trying to say, so mostly I stay silent.
I forgot what I was replying about. Isn’t this fun.
I do have the No passion, No energy, no care, thing worked out to perfection. Now if I could use that to produce a happy fulfilled life, I would be all set.
November 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm #69375
I have an almost 16 year old boy and I think it’s a little bit of what everyone said and would add that our son appears to be in some kind of incubation period. He’s growing fast, changing by the week. Remember when they were babies and we were told that they’d get crabby during developmental spurts? I think that is happening now.
Behaviorally, our son is just like y’all’s. My new mantra in choosing what battles I fight, and they’re only a few now, is do I want to have a long term relationship with my son? If so, I personally don’t think constant arguing will get me there. We’ve already tried that. Also, if he seems happy, and sometimes I do wonder, isn’t that enough? There are so many intense kids out there, I’m wondering if something won’t give with them at some point because so much is expected of them. Being a kid is still important. I do confess however, probably because I’m an older parent, that I worry about too much screen time, especially now that they’re using ipads at school. Don’t get me started there…
November 30, 2017 at 4:25 pm #69378
You all are describing my 15 year old son too! Adam has been diagnosed with ADD since Kindergarten. We had him on Focalin XR until Middle School and then he said he doesn’t like how he feels on it. So we tried with our Peds blessing to go without anything. He seemed much better, until he started High school. He wasn’t in any of the same classes as his friends and my boy is extremely introverted. Like all of your teens, I too struggle, but it’s even more difficult because I am the one with ADD (yup, diagnosed when Adam was) and I am an extrovert. My husband and I are both IT geeks, so both of us spend a lot of time on the computer and we both work (well me off and on) so when he started middle school in a different building he got my old cell phone. Well, fast forward to 9th grade and the kid will not put the phone down. Addicted to youtube..etc. *sigh* I can put restrictions on his phone but then he starts freaking out and saying he can’t live, he wants to kill himself…I took these extremely serious, had him in a peds behavioral ward for a week (no phone, he survived!) but we also got him back on ADD/Anxiety meds. He’s on Concerta and Lexapro (I take Lexapro too) and he was doing good back at school at first but then they piled on what he missed on top of what they were learning. And he looked at it like he would never get it all done, it will take 40 million years so why bother, I m just going to fail. He did not fail, I had gotten a tutor and he barely passed the 9th grade with 1 A (in world history) C’s and 2 d’s – Math and lit. I told Adam that the D’s were good with me and your dad because I know you did better on the last few tests. Adam loves to read what he wants and not what the school wants…but he does read the books or tries and does pretty well on the tests covering details of the book he just doesn’t want to write. He is his worst critic, always saying “I’m so stupid’ and I am like crying cause this is that baby I held and fell in love with and promised the world too. I usually get “screamed at” worse when I nag him, but he and I have a good relationship. I’ve taken him and his sister to breakfast and I’ll give him ground rules, No phone, we are going to actually talk and have conversations. Plus he loves the outdoors, when the weather is warm we go hiking in our metro parks, sometimes I can not get him back in the car!
Anyhow, this year Adams is doing fantastic in World History, Biology, and Health…oye but Lit, math, and Gym he’s failing(I too failed my first quarter in gym, so I ended up taking summer gym in the summer my jr and sr year, I do not blame the kid). I am half tempted to let him fail, but feel guilty too. He had his appendix out the end of October so again he missed school and is still not caught up. Then yesterday, I get a text message while I’m at work (husband is out of town for the week) that he can’t take it anymore, it’s too much, he wants to kill himself…needless to say we are headed to his therapist in a few minutes. Adam has a therapist and a psychiatrists …I can not stress it enough that if you have no therapist or a psychiatrists to get one that specializes in Peds ADD, ASAP or usually the school guidance counselors can help.
Anyhow, I hate to say it but I am glad I am not alone!
November 30, 2017 at 11:57 pm #69439
In response to Kbrindle2002
You mentioned that you son has mentioned wanting to kill himself a few times in your post. You also mentioned that he was on Lexapro which is anti-depressant. Suicidal thoughts is a known side effect of this medication, especially in young people. Just wanted to put that out there.
December 1, 2017 at 2:53 am #69457
Yeah, I was wondering about that…but funny thing happened at his therapists office. We got the boy talking!! Usually his sessions are a series of soft yes no head bobs, staring at his phone, not making eye contact, fidgety and mostly me talking. But when we started talking about his experience getting his appendix out he became this great story teller about his journey like the conversations he and I have one on one. Adam has expressed interest in cooking, teaching, or traveling so I’ve tried as best I can encouraging him each summer to try something related to one of those. We’ve been lucky, we were able to take trips to Disneyland and Disney World, then this past August the kids and I took a last hoorah before school started to see his cousins in virginia beach. The kid wants to take a trip out west, I keep encouraging him to plan it out, showed him several websites to aid in planning. So hopefully we’ll be able to do something in the summer!
November 30, 2017 at 4:36 pm #69381
My son is 14 with ADHD and mild depressive disorder and he was losing interest in everything. He was playing basketball and wanted to give it up because he felt he wasn’t good enough and plus the other kids made fun of him. I didn’t force him but told him he HAD to pick another physical activity. It doesn’t have to be basketball, I told him, but he had to do something active and went down a list with him. He tried other sports but ultimately came back to basketball since he knew it and at least had a little confidence he could do it. He asked me to put him in camps over the summer to improve his game. So I did. Then he started to gain more confidence when the coaches approached him to make sure he was going to try out. It helped that others besides his mother were building him up. He grew more confident and is now disciplined again for basketball. He is in the midst of basketball tryouts but so far he says he is a top 5 favorite of the coaches to make the varsity team. He’s happy and motivated again.
So my advice is to go the opposite route. Don’t let them fail but instead show them how to be successful and be their cheerleader along the way. Recruit others to cheer them on as well, especially those that can coach them through mistakes. Most importantly, when they do make a mistake or fail, remind them of the win. My son use to lose all his basketball games when he first started to play. He was sad at first. We talked about what did he like about what the opposing team did or how does he think they won. We used that as a teaching moment rather than stay on the loss. Eventually, a loss didn’t bother him anymore. Now that he’s older, he sees his peers who can’t handle a loss and his coaches have commended him for keeping his emotions under control when everyone else was crying over the loss.
If you haven’t already, start with a real heart to heart about his goals, dreams and desires and let that shape how you will guide him. They need us to set them up for success and sometimes that means we push them beyond their comfort zone, but we need to be sure it’s something they really want first. Of course it can all change, but at least we will teach them to have drive and cope with failures on their own. Good luck!
December 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm #69540
That’s great! Even if he did open up during therapy, I don’t think I would dismiss the wanting to kill himself statements just yet. If it’s a possible side effect of the med, I would think that it still needs to be addressed but that’s just my opinion. Better safe than sorry.
November 30, 2017 at 10:00 pm #69424
My son is now 19 years old and it doesn’t seem to improve just because he is older. It was always a struggle in school from pre-k to H.S. He went to college last fall for one semester but he was just there, never went to class, ending up having to just withdraw him so not to have the financial burden/responsibility of paying for classes he never attended. He never obtained his drivers license although I encouraged him to get it before he went to college. Since January, he has worked at least 5 jobs, he is either let go during the probation period due to tardiness or absenteeism or lack of production/inability to meet expected requirement. He has always had trouble sleeping at night so of course it rolls into the day which is why he ended up not making it to class or work on time or at all in addition to the fact he doesn’t drive, therefore he is dependent upon others to get him to where he needs to go even if he’s up and ready on time. The other concern is the lack of effort dealing with self appearance-hygiene, personal care, etc.- which also hurts him in the work arena. It is more challenging to get him to take medication or go to counseling because he is now an “adult” although mentally he is still very much an adolescent in most areas. I just don’t know what to do, he’s aged out of everything that I have control of, now it’s up to him to seek assistance. Some of the reason I think he won’t get help, I believe to be pride, shame, embarrassment and the other may be that he doesn’t know how to go about getting help and he just doesn’t listen to me, always a reason or debate when I try to advise or tell him what to do. Praying!
November 30, 2017 at 10:12 pm #69426
My youngest son is 19 years old. He has ADHD. He has been taking Vyvanse which is giving him side effects so we’re kind of off and on it. But even on the medication he makes small sounds almost like it’s got Tourette’s. He has no drive to do anything other tthan go to work. Only because he knows he’ll get a ppaycheck.. He was originally ok with listening to me give him helpful advice from Attitide
Now he’s frustrated with me.
November 30, 2017 at 10:34 pm #69427
Of course, like others suggest, do what you can to get him interested in things that don’t involve a screen. I am really torn about this age group, though. On the one hand, college is so insanely expensive now. Grades, test scores, sports, volunteer stuff, passions, interests, etc. can yield serious money. Student loan debt is a real problem in many ways. It seems like there’s all these amazing young people achieving amazing things and getting those ever-fewer scholarship dollars — and then there’s our kids, who seem to exist only to make the others look so amazing by comparison.
On the other hand, my husband — the ADHD-I carrier — was a lazy slob into his early 20s. He didn’t drive until 18. He had times when he did well in college and on tests, but also plenty of others where he was mediocre or worse. After getting a job (where he sometimes had to be told to stop playing computer video games!) and applying a second time, he got into one medical school and graduated middle of the pack (undiagnosed sleep apnea too). As a middle-aged adult now, though? He’s an exceptional, award-winning primary care doctor who patients rate highly. He could have gone into a higher-paying specialty, but primary care is just who he is. Here’s a guy who was once a teenager and young man who did the minimum in school much of the time, watched WWF, played video games, and couldn’t fry an egg when we met — who now really makes a positive difference in the world and loves his profession. I’d honestly say I witnessed his brain developing through age 30, whereas I felt pretty fixed as a person since age 15-16 (though of course, I got more experiences as time went on).
The only thing my husband expressed interest in when he applied to college was a major the university he matriculated at didn’t even offer. Yes, folks, he hadn’t bothered to look and see if was offered there! He’d just assumed it would be. Talk about executive function deficit.
My husband definitely had some advantages, though. College wasn’t as expensive back then, so his parents could pay for it after he got some work-study grants. His mom cleaned up after him a lot. Then, when I met him, I did a lot of care-taking. His family was one with educated hard-workers, so he had that as a role model. He did work sometimes, and sometimes he showed real potential — and the instances of hard work and showing potential grew more and more each year through his teens and 20s. I’m not trying to imply any so-called lazy, unmotivated teen or young man with ADHD can surprise the world by pulling himself up by his bootstraps when he’s matured enough to do so, and without any help. My husband had help. And I imagine it’s even harder nowadays that post-college jobs are harder to find, college debt can be crippling, and there’s more college grads competing for fewer grad school/professional school slots and jobs. But I am saying that no one would have expected my husband to do as well as he has. He’s as surprised as anyone that, compared with all the kids he remembers as being so much smarter and more talented and motivated, he’s the most “successful,” whether by conventional or altruistic measures. I think the fact he felt like an underdog compared with the amazing kids is one reason why he’s so compassionate and caring with patients, even those who other docs don’t want to deal with. He’s also a really good father and husband.
So, nag away. Tell your son what’s right and how he should be. But don’t stop helping him out, understanding when he lets you down that he has a real disability he’s dealing with, and believing he is just taking a longer time to mature than other kids and will peak — perhaps higher than the others now getting great grades and playing amazing baseball — in his own time. As for worrying about college costs and scholarships, though? Well, I myself haven’t learned to cope with that reality, so I can’t help there, unfortunately.
November 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm #69431
Yes, yes, yes to all, my 17 year old son & I deal/have dealt with all the same issues. I too thought of letting my son fail; taking his phone brought out a side of him that was shocking to see since he’s addicted to it; he has shown no interest in driving; he’s smart but has no motivation to get passing grades and with the snowball effect graduating on time was a fantasy. He found an answer by taking the CHSPE and testing out of high school. And I have to say it’s been a relief for me too. At the same time though I feel I lost a year with him in a way if that makes sense. I have made peace with the idea that he may never go to college. But believe he can find a successful path in life. He has however spent the last 4 months playing video games and sleeping. I honestly believe he was just so beaten down by school he needed the time to recover. He just got a job yesterday so I’ve got my fingers crossed it will lead him in a positive direction although reading catinna72’s post worries me. Its a lonely journey since I have no one I can share the truth with and I’m comforted to find others going through this. I wish I had the answer for us or at least some good advice.
November 30, 2017 at 11:57 pm #69438
I so feel for you and your son.
I had a terrible experience with poor motivation myself related to my ADD. I couldn’t be bothered to do anything yet I wasn’t depressed. Because of this a psychiatrist suggested switching my medication to Vyvance and it has changed my life. I take 70mg a day.
I just wondered if this is a treatment option that has been considered for your son?
December 1, 2017 at 1:13 am #69445
So much great insight here. I hesitate to suggest this, but any chance he experiments with recreational drugs? Your description reminds me of former friends who used marijuana frequently. It slowly yet definitely drained their drive for virtually anything.
December 1, 2017 at 1:18 am #69447
Just wanted to chime in before I go to bed, I am so thankful I saw this and read through the comments. I feel like I am taking crazy pills with my 14 year old. Everything mentioned…. I deal with the same. For the first time this year, he almost made honor roll, 1st time ever! He even had a nice financial incentive my parents offered. The last week, everything tanked. He actually chose not to hand in a ton of homework assignments. All of the zeros brought everything down. It was like a self sabotage. I cant understand it. I do think he has depression. I have depression, I take medication but its still never 100%. I don’t want him to have to go through life like me. There are so many things that having depression makes you miss out on. He has been diagnosed with dysgraphia in 2nd grade and executive functioning issues, but not add/adhd. He has always been a little reserved, aloof or a loner. But I also see him totally joking around with the neighbor (2 days apart in age and both friends since 1 year). But they are two very different kids. In my head, I constantly compare the two – NOT because I want my son to be #1 at everything…but as a baseline. The neighbor goes to baseball, knows what he wants to be. Likes quads, scooters, outside and active. He can check tire pressure, fix things because he is handy. My son has no interest. We are working with the school guidance counselor and he/we have a family one. We/I want to keep on top of this. He has broken down crying with the guidance counselor but he wont go into specifics. I told him he is like that Lego man police guy with two faces. I texted him and he sends me a nice text. I say hey want me to see if the tutor is available next week for anything? He texts back leave me alone. So I said you are like this guy… and sent a pic of the Lego man spinning his head around. I also have issues with my other son who is 9, but that’s an entire different chapter. There are several stress factors going on right now that do not help the circumstances, but I just keep moving forward, it will be OK. People have much worse health and finance situations, but it feels like it just us. Goodnight all.. thanks from CT!
December 1, 2017 at 1:56 am #69448
It’s great to hear that my husband’s son is not the only person behaving this way. He is 19 and left high school without finishing. I’m very happy that he is going regularly to the gym and he now has a job carrying heavy things, which is an area where he feels confident. He has no driver’s license. He also has dyslexia and maybe LD (hasn’t been investigated). His ADD has not been diagnosed either because we didn’t understand until he was over 18 and he doesn’t want to see a doctor now.
What makes me tired is that he is so lacking in trust. He believes that he is being taken advantage of when I ask him to take out the garbage. He obviously doesn’t understand all the amount of work that I do at home, as well as my full time job, so he thinks that he is doing more than anyone else. He won’t answer questions about how work is, just one word answers like “heavy”. He turns his back to us when he is in the kitchen and then retreats back into his room, he eats most of his meals there (with everything lying on the floor). He never smiles and avoids eye contact and no talking. On his days off he sleeps and plays on his computer and then one hour in the gym. I don’t have ADHD but his father does, though not so bad. His father is working a lot and traveling a lot which leaves me on my own with his son. I try to understand but his way of behaving is so different from me and every other person I have ever known.
Since things can obviously change for the better, I read about the husband doctor above, can anyone please write and tell about boys with ADD and what might happen in the years 20 to 30? I hope that having a job will help build his self esteem, which is obviously low right now. I hope that he will become a responsible citizen but I guess it will take time. I just get so impacted by his gloomy mood and even try to get away from home from time to time. At the same time I really want to help, but he won’t accept that in any way.
December 1, 2017 at 2:17 am #69454
I am the mother of a 22 year old with ADD.
i took a different approach when he was diagnosed in kindergarten that I could work on behavior changes without medication. While we still had to see a doctor to keep his diagnosis active, I trashed all the RX he gave me. Instead, I educated myself on diet and sleep and exercise and made sure he had plenty of that. Nutrition was important to me and he did well with fruits and vegetables with one day per week having something of his choosing.
I joined CHADD and I quit my job and started my own business from home so I could be available all the time…during school, after school for meetings and when he got home to start his homework. I never missed an ESE evaluation and I said yes to every test offered.
I used various activities to motivate him and we started projects weeks in advance because things had to be done slowly and methodically. We timed everything so he could have frequent breaks in between assignments.
I had school personnel constantly monitoring him and we set up a communication log so I could be fully aware of how he did each day. We had reward programs to encourage him. I spent a lot of time talking and writing to teachers. I had his Principal and his ESE counselors checking in to see what could be done to lessen the distractions.
I am telling you this because I spent a lot of time setting him up with programs each summer with activities that interested him. I had a keen ear to listening to him telling me what he liked. We put him in Civil Air Patrol at 12 so he could learn to fly. He has an interest in aviation. ADD can fly because it based on a set check list that works. He flew solo eventually. We took him to camp each summer since he was 5 so he could learn independence. One camp was about helping animals because he likes animals. He did volunteer work in the library for over 3 years to earn volunteer hours for high school graduation. The library is a good environment for ADD. Very quiet and not distracting. One summer he flew to WI for aviation camp. Another summer he hiked through the Appalachia Mountains because he was interested in hiking. If he told me he wanted to build a computer, which he did, I found a way for him to do it. We kept the IEP open and we kept it open even in college now. I still fight for accommodations for him. Currently, I am
requesting that his school give him an Assistive Tool which is a Mac Book Pro 2017 because it has a tool bar that helps ADD remember much better.
He was not motivated to drive until he was 16 which is about a year later than everyone else. I didn’t push it. Eventually he decided to get the license so he could make some money to buy his own things.
It has been a full time job for me, although my husband was supportive and he the one who did more of the driving getting him to activities. But I believe it paid off because he learned to ask for help and that was the main lesson he had to learn to succeed. He is set up with tutors now and most of his classes he can use headphones which we found early on were crucial to his success. It blocked out distractions and made all the difference in the world. And we were able to do this without medication which was important to me because I didn’t want him to learn to medicate himself if things were difficult and he lost confidence or he was sad. I was very worried about that.
He’s due to graduate in 3 months with a bachelors and I never thought he would have gotten this far. He thanks me for being there for him.
So my suggestion is to really listen to what interests them and do whatever you can to make that experience happen for them. If they like to cook, find a cooking class. If they like computers, have them offer to teach children or older folks how to use the computer (libraries) so the knowledge is put to good use. It also builds confidence and gives them purpose. If they like to put things together, give them that opportunity. I found that charitable organizations were best for special interests and they were more adaptable to getting all the help they could. I used to pay him a weekly allowance if he worked at a charity so he had some money. Once he volunteered at a cat shelter because he likes cats and I’d do something nice for him so he was rewarded for his time since it was harder to find a job. He did work at fast food and for ADD multi-taking was not easy. So he got a job with UPS as a driver’s helper bring packages to people’s doors and that type of work for his mind worked well. So I really tried to adapt work to his abilities as best I could and overall it was a success.
I hope my story helps.
December 1, 2017 at 3:06 am #69458
Your story was great to read, thanks! Adam has expressed interest in getting a job (lots of places where we live), which I’ve been kind of hesitant because I fear he’ll get fired and it throws him into a deeper funk. But he loves animals as well and I will find out about getting him to volunteer at a shelter too.
December 1, 2017 at 4:16 am #69460
2sprightlyboys … You obviously love your boy and clearly want him to achieve goals that will benefit him. I can’t comment on how or why his condition affects his motivation beyond a typical teenager but he is just that, a teen. Low motivational state and grumpiness are very common due to neurological changes and consistent sleep patterns, exercise and diet are important too.
However, his motivation needs to be internal rather than external. Your frustration is obvious but expecting him to meet milestones that he has little no interest in will frustrate him too! Demotivational and negative behaviours are his way of saying you’re on the wrong track. Guilt with only compound your need to become right which is possibly why you want him to fail.
So, this is now not about him validating your needs, but validating your relationship with each other. Call it ‘a need to rebuild trust’.
So, consider this: picture your ideal interaction with him. I’ll guess smiles, kind words, graduate and so on? Make that happen and leave it your agenda! Also find out what he would like to do. It doesn’t matter what it is because you’re not going to focus on the task but his degree of movement towards being involved in his terms. It’s going to take time but you have plenty of that. Concentrate on building trust. Get in with your own interests too as that creates exemplars that he will observe and model his behaviour on.
Our your relationship first and agenda second…
I hope this helps.
December 1, 2017 at 5:54 am #69465
My son is 16 and as of now has no signs of ADHD and he has been the same way for probably a couple of years, including the no interest in driving. He’s been a “quiet” kid since I’d say mid elementary school and a big gamer. I’m his biggest cheerleader too. I can completely understand the frustration especially now that he’s a junior in high school as I just want him to enjoy life, experience teenage years and hoped he’d have some ideas of what he wants to get into after graduation 2019. He recently got his drivers license and a car and I don’t know if it’s the new found independence but he at least has taken to driving and gotten a job. I can only hope from here he’ll continue to branch out. Lots of luck to everyone in similar situations and though it’s not always easy to believe but try to have faith that everything will work out. Keep loving & supporting.
December 1, 2017 at 7:10 am #69469
I am an adult with ADD but of course I had it all my life. My teen years were nightmarish. I am 69 now. The word that comes to share with you is “Flooding”. I remember walking into the junior high and high school and being overwhelmed and flooded with energy. Teen energy is very high/strong/frantic. I still suffer when I enter these zones, even with understanding, counseling, medication, life experience. I have deep compassion for the girl I was back then in Olympia, Washington!
Looking back, what would have helped would be a cocoon environment. (Like, who is kidding whom?). Had I been able to go into a greenhouse full of crystals and a beautiful fountain and flowers…with a gentle one-on-one teacher…well you get the idea. Modern school is PRESSURE, from every side to perform, to be pretty, popular, to belong,
to be hip, to have all the best social skills. A true nightmare. I suspect in this modern world, I’d likely be closer to feeling suicidal than I felt back then as merely exhausted, unhappy, lonely, misunderstood and depressed.
If you possibly can provide a gentle environment, with compassion and heart, do so. I’ve recently found a lot of help with a phone app called Vital Tones. They have a unit for ADD (and other mental disorders). Its less than $10 and you listen to it with a certain protocol over time and it seems to be helping smooth out some of the bumps.
Also look into Sensory Processing Disorder. There are books on this. I created a safe space in my closet…where I can “hide out” in the dark, with blankets on the floor and just “let it all go”. You might also look into a Gravity Blanket (they sell them on line)…which is a weighted blanket. I’ve made my own and also a weighted vest. Many of our symptoms are similar to autistic children. (See the movie Temple Grandin for more info on this). We need to retreat. Your child is signaling, “I NEED TO RETREAT” and you’re trying to pressure me to go as a “Skinless wonder” into the fire of life! Please pull back the pressure and let them regroup from the harshness of the world. I suspect you think this is silly, but it may prevent them from sinking even further into other solutions you’d like even less including alcohol, drugs, or suicide. Just saying. If any of your kids want to email me I’ll hear them out. I work as an alternative counselor. email@example.com
December 1, 2017 at 7:31 am #69470
So sorry to hear and I might not be too helpful, but the only thing that stands out to me is… to give hime the drivers licence book and book him in. My daughter has ADD and I simply told her she would be learning to drive as it would give her some independence. I booked her in, she passed, I booked her driving lessons, she did them and it took longer for her to catch on but she has got there and will take her test for her red ‘p’s on the 20th Dec. If you wait for a teenager, who is in rebelious stage to do anything, you will be waiting a long time,
Good luck with it
December 1, 2017 at 7:41 am #69471
I wasn’t ready to start driving that young. you might be pressuring them into an overwhelming accident that could take their’s or another’s life.
Also, where do you live? Is it simple country two lane roads or the chaos of LA?
I am terrified even now to drive in DC, Miami, LA, Houston, NY, Chicago, and any other large city.
Just because you think its a good idea…you may regret it some day.
December 1, 2017 at 10:43 am #69484
My child also has ADHD and I share the same frustrations as most of you. One gentle thought, ADHD symptoms share many symptoms with other issues as well. I have spent so much time focusing on the ADHD issue that I missed my child’s depression. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, but a child who exhibits signs of no energy, motivation, hopelessness, inability to focus or concentrate on things they once were able to manage (even if managing by “just getting by”), might have depression and the treatment for that is significantly different. Sometimes you have to step away from the ADHD diagnosis and look at things from a different perspective in order to help.
December 1, 2017 at 12:01 pm #69504
MY SON IS 16 NOW. AT AGE 14 HE WAS NOT MOVTIVATED AT ALL. WE TRIED DIFFERENT MEDICATIONS FOR ADD. ALL OF THE WOULD DECREASE HIS APPETITE. 6TH GRADE HE WOULD REFUSE TO TAKE ANYTHING FOR THE ADD. THE LAST WEEK OF SCHOOL I WAS ABLE TO GET HIM UNDER THE SPECIAL ED PROGRAM. (HE WOULD BE IN A REGULAR CLASSROOM – JUST BREAK DOWN ON WORK AND ASSISTANCE FROM AN AID) IN 7TH GRADE HE WAS STILL STRUGGLING EVEN WITH ALL MODIFICATIONS PROVIDED. I CONVINCED HIM TO TRY ONE MORE TIME MEDICATION IT WAS AROUND STAAR TESTING. HE AGREED AND HE WAS GIVEN ADDERALL. WE WERE BOTH EXTREMELY SURPRISED. VERSES HIS 6TH GRADE STAAR TO 7TH GRADE STAAR HE JUST ABOUT GOT COMMENED FOR READING ! HE DID FINE THROUGH OUT THE SCHOOL YEAR. HE REFUSED TO TAKE IT AFTER THE STAAR TESTING CLAIMING NO APPETITE. AND STILL WOULD NOT SHOW ANY MOTIVATION OR SELF CARE. 8TH GRADE YEAR THE SAME. IT WAS MORE CHALLENGING. HE HAS A COUSIN IN THE SAME GRADE LEVEL- WHO HE IS VERY CLOSE TO AND WHO HAPPENS TO BE SMART AND TALL. ATHLETIC SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT HAVING TO PUT IN WORK TOWARDS THE SPORT. HIS COUSIN ALWAYS TOOK CARE AND LOOK OUT FOR HIM. STANDING UP TO ANYONE WHO TRIED TO MESS WITH MY SON. SPEAKING UP FOR HIM. DID I MENTION MY SON WAS ALSO THE SMALLEST CHILD IN HIS CLASSLEVEL AND VERY PRIVATE AND SHY. (NO ONE WOULD GUESS HE IS ADD) I FELT BAD FOR MY BABY AND ALWAYS WANTED TO PROTECT HIM EVEN MORE SO. OVER THE SUMMER OF 8TH GRADE. MY SON FINALLY GREW AND WAS NOW THE HEIGTH OF SOME OF HIS CLASSMATES. HE ALSO BEGAN TO BLOOM AND STARTED CARING ABOUT HIS GRADES. BASEBALL WAS HIS INTEREST. AS MUCH AS I TRIED TO PURSUIT IT. WE LIVE IN A RURAL AREA WHERE THE CLOSES CITY IS 1.5HR AWAY. OTHER THAN SUMMER LEAGUE THERE WAS NOT YEAR AROUND BASEBALL TEAMS LOCALLY. SO WE HAD TO WAIT UNTIL HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL. GARDES ARE GOOD, NO CARE – WAS GETTING LITTLE BETTER BUT STILL HAD NO PASSION. 10TH GRADE YEAR HE STARTED OUT SLOW. MID YEAR I ENROLLED HIM IN DRIVER ED CLASS. TYPICAL WAS ANXIOUS TO LEARN TO DRIVE. I WAS MORE WEARY (AS MENTIONED ABOVE 13-14 YEAR OLD BEHIND THE WHEEL). HIS BASEBALL SKILLS IMPROVED AND NOW WAS SHOWING MORE MOTIVATION. STILL NO MEDICATION CONTINUES WITH MODIFICATIONS IN SCHOOL. HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO PASS A STAAR TEST SINCE 7TH GRADE. I KNOW ITS HIS ADD. HOWEVER HE CHOOSES NOT TO TAKE AND I DO NOT WANT TO ENFORCE IT. I JUST CONSTANTLY REMIND HIM HE HAS TO UTLIIZE HIS RESOURCES (EX. NOTE, AID HELP OR EXTENDED TIME, FREQUENT BREAK) PART OF THE STRUGGLE IS HE DOES NOT LIKE TO ASK FOR HELP. HE RATHER NOT DO IT OR ANSWER WHAT EVER THAN TO HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP…THIS WORRIES ME. (THIS HABIT WILL NOT WORK IN THE REAL WORLD). DURING SUMMER A THERE WAS A SUMMER LEAGUE FOR BASEBALL WHICH HE GOT TO PLAY IN. WE ARE NOW IN OUR JUNIOR YEAR AND HIS HAS SEEM TO DO BETTER ATHELTIC WISE NO SO MUCH ACADEMIC WISE. HE WAS GOOD ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD PLAYING DEFENSE. HE IS STILL VERY CLOSE TO HIS COUSIN. COUSIN WAS MOVED TO VARSITY SOPHMORE YEAR ON ALL SPORTS FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, TRACK. I ALWAYS WORRIED HE FELT LESS COMPARE TO HIS COUSIN (AS IF HE WAS IN THE SHADOW BEHIND HIS COUSIN) EVEN THOUGH WE NEVER COMPARED THEM. (NOT I, DAD OR AUNT) EVEN HIS COUSIN WOULD ENCOURAGE HIM AND NEVER PORTRAYED HIMSELF BETTER. THE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL REALTIONSHIP. MY SON NOW HAS A GIRLFRIEND. I’M NOT TO CONCERN ON THAT RELATIONSHIP. HE SEEMS TO BE THREADING SLOWLY. THE STRUGGLE IS STILL THERE OF HIM USING HIS RESOURCES TO GET BETTER GRADES. TO BEING SATIFIED WITH A “D” VERSES GETTING BETTER GRADES. CONSTANTLY PUSHING TO DO BETTER AND ALWAYS REMINDING HIM. I STILL STURGGLE WITH THE WAKING UP IN THE MORNING. HE STILL SHOWS NO PASSION AND NO ENERGY ON THINGS…THAT I FEEL NEED MORE ATTENTION OR EFFORT.WE ARE NOW STARTING UP BASEBALL SEASON AND HE CURRENTLY HELPS OUT ON BASEBALL TEAM AS NEEDED. HE’S PUTTING IN THE WORK FOR THE SPORT. I’M TRYING TO PREPARE HIME FOR THE FUTURE…ASKING HIM WHERE DOES HE SEE HIM SELF IN 6YRS. I THINK I GOT HIM TO THINKING. I TOLD HIM IN 6YRS YOU WILL BE 22. SOME CLASSMATES WILL GO STRAIGHT TO COLLEGE AND EARN AN EDUCATION IN 4-6YEARS. OTHERE WILL GO TO A TRADE SCHOOL AND FINISH IN 2YRS AND START WORKING. WHERE WILL YOU BE ?? STILL GOING TO SCHOOL? WORKING AT SOME FAST FOOD RESTURANT? LIVING WITH MOMMY AND DADDY? I TOLD HIM. YOU HAVE 1 MORE YEAR TO MAKE MEMORIES THEN YOUR IN THE REAL WORLD. I DONT WANT TO PUSH ON A DECISION BUT I NEED HIM TO THINK FOR WHAT COMES NEXT AFTER HIGH SCHOOL. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HIS BIGGEST SUPPORTER AND CHEERLEADER. HE HAS TURN OUT TO BE A RESPONSIBLE DRIVER. CALLS ME WHERE AND WHEN HE LEAVES WITH OR WITH OUT THE GIRLFRIEND. VERY RESPECTFUL….IF I COULD JUST GET HIM MOTIVATED IN HIS FUTURE!
December 1, 2017 at 12:22 pm #69506
I want to call attention to a couple other things here as well:
1) I am currently working on an article on ADHD and puberty for ADDitude. I am learning just how much impact this stage of growth, development, and change has on functioning when the child has ADHD. Puberty is the physiological changes, which are awkward and take time to adjust to. Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood where our kids have to completely transition in the areas of social and emotional rules and skills. This is all while juggling an ever-increasing school demand and higher and higher expectations, that are often out of reach. It’s no wonder I kids often fall into learned helplessness at the age. So much has been facilitated and managed for them to account for their weaknesses, and suddenly that pile grows exponentially and the expectation becomes that they should be able to manage it all well and on their own.
2) Individuals with ADHD are notorious late bloomers. By definition, they’re as much as 20-30% behind their neurotypical peers developmentally. At 18, that’s a cavernous gap between expectation and capability. This TED talk is with a filmmaker who was making a documentary about an MLB player with ADHD, Andres Torres. He talks about what he learned in his time and conversations with Andres and that he saw his struggle and eventual success as being a late bloomer. Very insightful and powerful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRnZKxSFTic
I’m in much the same boat as all of you. The struggle can’t be eliminated, but it can certainly be softened and diminished. Hang in there!
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
December 1, 2017 at 12:35 pm #69510
I’ve recently been made aware of the term “high stim” ADHD . Essentially it means that unless the patient is immediately engaged in a highly enjoyable and satisfying activity, they become depressed and either lethargic or they complain constantly that they have nothing to do, have no friends, life sucks and is pointless etc. This matches my son perfectly. Getting him through school has been agonizing- every year was a constant battle to do homework, remember to hand it in, plan out his study time etc. because fundamentally their view of the world is “if doesn’t make me feel good right now – I’m not doing it.” They don’t learn from their mistakes because after they miss something or fail something, they change the narrative about what happened.. it was “someone else’s fault.. the teacher doesn’t like me.. I never got the email..”. And when you try to have a “lessons learned” conversation he responds by saying “this is all in the past, I can’t change he past, let’s just move on and drop this.” And then he goes back and makes the exact same mistake again.
December 1, 2017 at 12:46 pm #69512
I am the wife of a man diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, the mom of two boys with ADHD diagnoses, and an college academic coach for a program where 75% of my students have an ADHD diagnosis. I think there are two key points I would make (forgive me if this duplicates others’ comments- I skimmed but did not closely read all the above posts).
Point 1: It’s very clear from recent research that the brains of people with an ADHD diagnosis develop very VERY differently than neurotypical brains, and this is especially true of adolescents. One fact that was startling to me when I read it was that social and emotional development in teens with ADHD can lag as much as 30% behind their neurotypical peers. In my case, it means that my freshmen in college often display social/ emotional skills at a level more typical of freshmen in high school. (Let that sink in a moment) If a kid with an ADHD diagnosis is not showing interest in something like driving, trust their instincts. It may take them a little (or a lot) longer to hit those milestones.
Point 2: Your ADHD kid is not going to follow anything like a traditional path. My younger son (age 9) has had absolutely NO interest in learning to swim. Makes me crazy- we spend 2 weeks each summer on a beach vacation with my extended family all of whom love boating, waterskiing, canoeing, etc. I’ve tried bribing him, I’ve tried begging him, I’ve tried seemingly everything- I gave up, thinking it just wasn’t gonna be his jam. After years of him sitting on the beach, finally last summer he just waded in and started swimming. I learned a valuable lesson- his path is going to be dictated by him, not by anyone else. One of the biggest issues I work with is parents who really can’t understand that their young adult child is not ready for college- they threaten, cajole, bribe, all in an attempt to cram their child into a space they aren’t yet ready to occupy. Letting go of the perception that if your kid doesn’t go directly to college, A) the parents have failed; or B) the child will never go is so so so hard to do, but it’s necessary. Instead of focusing on what your kid is NOT doing that you think he should be, you can find more peace by focusing on what he IS doing that you appreciate.
Just my $.02
December 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm #69535
I feel like I’m responding too much to this thread, but I am enjoying all the feedback to the original poster. As an adult with ADD, I commend these parents for wanting the best for their kids. I also see these parents trying to force square pegs into round holes because they do not understand how the ADHD brain works. You may also be inadvertently making your child feel even more like a failure. They’re disappointing you for not living up to your expectations of them. They’re disappointing themselves (believe me we don’t like feeling the way we do). They’re disappointing their teachers. How do you bounce back from all that? Forcing your child to do things that they don’t want to do (even if it’s for their own good) will only create more resistence and resentment. I agree with the parents who sit down patiently and try to understand what their child wants, what they’re interested in, how they can help their child achieve that goal which makes them feel validated rather than damaged, rather than telling them what they need to do, how they should do it & comparing them with other people in their class & age-group which further emphasizes what’s wrong with them. Asking “What are you going to do next year?” requires planning, organizing & goal setting which all require executive function which is also a problem that most people with ADHD struggle with. Pressure & overwhelming are the words that comes to mind. Even now, I have to sit down & break things down into very small pieces otherwise I will give up before I even get started. The struggle is always there.
I agree with what Gary said earlier about motivation needing to be internal. There comes a point in the mind and life of a person with ADHD where WE have to determine how we want OUR lives to play out. Better late than never & it also comes with a lot of trial & error. No amount of outside nagging will do it. We all know that nagging doesn’t work on neurotypicals either, right? I still think dopamine is the key. Dopamine affects motivation, mood, focus & practically everything that people with ADHD deal with.
I also agree with Stachj about ADHDs being non-traditional. Motiviation techniques that works on non-ADHDers will likely NOT work people with ADHD. Even as an adult, I can’t seem to bribe myself into doing the things I know I should be doing. I do find your story about your son & swimming very interesting. Sometimes you have to let your child make his own decisions & sometimes if a child has an aversion to something, there may be a good reason for it even if it seems illogical to a neurotypical parent. Perhaps intuitively we know our limitations? I also had an aversion to driving. I wonder why so many of us have that issue.
December 1, 2017 at 2:23 pm #69539
“you can find more peace by focusing on what he IS doing that you appreciate. ” This!! You’ll find peace knowing that with your gentle support he WILL come around. It just won’t be in YOUR desired time frame & that should be ok. Sometimes it takes time & a some hands-on life experience to figure out what you like & what you don’t like.
December 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm #69570
I was, a few years ago, the person you have described. Have ADHD, PTSD, Depression and Anxiety. The reason i was so unmotivated was because my meds had started to numb my emotions. We didn’t know this until it was a little too late. Long story short i tried to commit suicide but that was my wake up call. Saw a doctor that rediagnossed me, changed my meds and got myself therapy. ADHD is EVER CHANGING. I learned that the hard way. Try restarting the whole process for your son – he’s going through puberty so EVERYTHING is worse. But try your best, you’re already doing in by asking these questions. If you need more info or help, I’m here, we’re all here 🙂
December 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm #69730
I don’t know whether this will be helpful, but I’m an adult with ADD, and one thing that’s been consistent in my life is that I’m happiest and most motivated when I’m involved in something that matters in the big picture. Hobbies are great but, for me, usually fleeting. My motivation comes from the satisfaction of doing something that makes a difference. If there’s something your son has an interest in, you might create an opportunity for involvement, even in a small way, based on his existing skills.
I have a friend who, although fully adult, is much like your your son. Nothing ever seemed to motivate him. He’s morbidly obese, because even the threat of death isn’t enough to motivate him to move off the sofa. When I lost my driver for my snake rescue work last year, I got him to go out one night and drive for me. He wasn’t interested, but did it as a favor for me. That night, I picked up a gopher snake who was lying in the middle of the oncoming lane, and I carried him to the car for my friend to see before releasing him. While I released the snake, a car ran through the lane where I’d picked him up, and my friend made the connection — that specific snake, who he’d held in his hands and whose eyes he’d looked into would have been crushed to death by that car if we hadn’t been there. Because of that moment, the man who couldn’t be bothered to move off the sofa is now driving for me seven nights a week during rescue season, and has been gradually modifying his car — adding interior shelves for equipment and specialized lights that make it easier to spot small snakes on the road. Sometimes it just takes the right opportunity at the right time to create motivation.
December 6, 2017 at 8:13 am #69752
“Sometimes you have to let your child make his own decisions & sometimes if a child has an aversion to something, there may be a good reason for it even if it seems illogical to a neurotypical parent” Totally agree !
BUT Does this include letting your high schooler avoid school ? How far do we go? Not trying to be snarky but I’m seriously exhausted and at a loss by my 16 yo school refusal. There are accommodations and supports for our kids AT school but what about when you can’t actually get them to go?
Even suggested to him to just get his GED and start our local community college next year. (He does want to go to college) But he says he doesn’t want to do that. Sorry don’t mean to take over this post but I had to ask. Penny, I know you have dealt with school
Refusal with your son – hope he is doing ok.
December 6, 2017 at 11:46 am #69809
When I said, “Sometimes you have to let your child make his own decisions & sometimes if a child has an aversion to something, there may be a good reason for it even if it seems illogical to a neurotypical parent,” I was talking in terms of smaller things like driving, swimming, playing a sport, etc… I wasn’t talking about avoiding school altogether.
What reasons does your son give for his refusal? Could he be depressed? Maybe there’s more going on with him than he’s letting on. I think some parents are overlooking the possible depression component. Telling someone (ADHD or not) who is depressed to snap out of it and come to his senses doesn’t work. It’s hard to think straight or think about the future when you’re depressed.
Has your son dropped out or does he still go to school but is failing? What would he rather be doing instead? Do you know what some of his interests or passions are? Would he be interested in going to a trade school instead? Who knows…He could be a late-bloomer like a lot of people with ADHD. He could come around in a year or 2, get his GED, start college & do well because that’s when HE feels mentally ready for it. Like Stachj said earlier about non-traditional paths, he may be wanting to operate on his own timeline rather than yours. The more you push him to confirm to YOUR timeline, the more he pushes back leading to frustration on both sides.
December 6, 2017 at 12:57 pm #69837
First…thank you so much for responding! I really appreciate you taking time to do this.
So here is what I had written at first and deleted – this may answer some of your questions
My almost 17 yo son has had school avoidance / refusal problems for years- this year is the worst (junior in HS). When I ask him why his responses are: because he would rather be home, I’m a homebody, School is boring. (I am kind of a homebody myself but I do love my work and enjoy when I’m there as well as enjoy vacations and being with friends- just not an on the go person or always want/need to be around people person)
At times this year he has mentioned couple classes in particular he hates. One will be over in January thankfully. But the bottom line I guess is how do I get him to go deeper To figure out if there is more to this.
Diagnoses FYI : adhd, pretty poor exec functioning skills, mood d/o -including anxiety and depression, expressive language disorder, sensory processing disorder, low muscle tone , probable connective tissue disorder (causes general fatigue, hypermobile joints, chronic intermittent joint pain), and very mild sleep impairment dxd several years ago (no apnea but did have some respiratory related arousals)
Meds: vyvanse for adhd, lamictal mood stabilizer, Zoloft depression/anxiety (just increased it yesterday at direction of psychiatrist bc of school refusal)
Psych: sees pediatric psychiatrist every 4-6 weeks since age of 7
School: 504 plan – can have one mental health day per month, not much else in it besides that. Grades are pretty good considering. Is actually pretty smart, is in couple advanced classes even. Wants to be astrophysicist. School has recently talked about PINS petition – I think more to scare him – I don’t know they would actually go through with it. I know we as parents can do it but my therapist and I were trying to avoid it. I see her next week to discuss more ideas.
Home/Social life: has few core friends thankfully, never into sports , computers and video games are his thing. Overweight, lots of acne, very poor personal and bedroom hygiene/cleanliness. (he still blames Abilify for causing him to gain weight 5 years ago – which it did 20 lbs in 6 wks so we stopped it) he was always tall and thin but since then he has always kept an extra 20 lbs or so on him.
Family Life: 2 younger sisters , his Dad and myself – all live together. Dad and I have adhd and dep/anxiety , both sisters have conn tissue dz also (12 yo has it the worst- always breaking bones or dislocating joints, lots of GI issues, headaches and probable adhd more inattentive type). I see a therapist (my husband and i go together when needed). He hates going on our annual family vacations – always has.
Now for the kicker – the part I am embarrassed and ashamed to say – all he does is play video games or watch tv. And several years ago I basically gave up on trying to figure out how to limit it bc his responses were so extreme – from death threats to his own suicidal ideations and worsening depression. I ended up couple years ago needing to leave work for awhile and receive intensive outpatient therapy for about a month. Since then I have had many medical issues as well as just fighting daily my own depression and adhd (yes I’m medicated). Yes this is me justifying why it has gotten this bad. When he takes his one mental health day a month he is allowed electronics. All the other days he stays home we treat as sick days and so deal is no electronics. But If he doesn’t argue about giving them up he can get them from 5-9pm that day.
After my own mental breakdown or whatever you want to call it – I have been even more emphatic about focusing on his happiness and mental health first, physical health next and then school grades and stuff. He knows his dad and I are most concerned with his overall well being rather than grades. Grades can be dealt with at a comm college when he is ready. His dad almost failed out of college the first couple of years but he grew up and ulitmately went on to get his MBA – with a 4.0 GPA and our son was an infant at the time. So that part he can do when he is ready. And I have mentioned different trade jobs to him but he is dead set on this astrophysicist thing at the moment. And as I mentioned before just Last week I told him if he hates school this much that we would be ok with him withdrawing and getting GED on his own and then starting college or trade school or just work for a little while if he wants to.
Anyway I want to know if there are other parents who have had similar experiences as well as tips on what else you think I can ask to help figure out why he doesnt want to go to school.
December 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm #69842
Your son is dealing with a lot of mental and physical conditions which I’m sure makes life a little less enjoyable than normal. Despite his conditions, the fact that he’s intelligent and does well in some courses is great.
He says school is boring & that he wants to be an astrophysicist. Sounds like he needs to be challenged mentally. Which classes does he excel in? What does he like about those classes? What if you (or your son) wrote a letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson, or some other well-known scientist in the field, to find out how he became an astrophysicist. I wonder if getting a letter from someone like that would create a spark for him. If he’s deadset on it, maybe you can help he devise a plan on how to get there but break it down in very small pieces. What does he like about astrophysics? What does he think it takes to become one? What kinds of classes does he think he would need to take? Maybe have him spend a little time reading info online about the field before he plays video games. There are probably websites that talk about “A day in the life of an astrophysicist” that could give him some insight.
The weight, acne, not wanting to clean his room, hating family vacations, etc…all sound like typical teen problems which of course doesn’t help with the other issues he’s dealing with.
The video game addiction is clearly a problem. I’m surprised by the reaction to your taking them away. KBrindle’s son has a similar reaction. I wasn’t aware that this was so common. It really takes away your control as a parent. You don’t know whether they mean what they say or if they’re just lashing out. I can see why/how you had your breakdown. Being that he is intelligent, I do wonder how much he uses his conditions to justify not doing what he needs to do. Other commenters have mentioned the idea of learned helplessness. I think that could be playing a role in some of this as well.
Lastly, could he take classes online? K-12 courses that are now being offered online. http://www.k12.com/virtual-school-offerings/free-online-public-schools/high-school-program-courses.html. It could be worth looking into as a happy medium. I just Googled “online high school” & this was one the the results I saw that looked promising. He can stay home AND go to school. He better not argue with that! LOL.
December 7, 2017 at 2:47 pm #69981
I posted above with my story of how I helped my ADD son through his grammar and high school years by
listening to each of his interests and enrolling him in whatever I could to find that matched those interests.
My goals was to build confidence and achievement. We did that without therapy and drugs.
I changed his school too. I took him from a public school to a public charter school that offered more options
to types of learning. So I tried to match the opportunities to his needs rather than the other way around.
I joined CHADD, spoke to every educational specialist I could through the years, read whatever I could and kept
logs and journals figuring out meticulously what worked and what did not.
I quit my job and started my own business from home so I could be available for him before and after school. I drove him
back and forth to grammar and middle school each day so I was sure he got there. I also noticed he was the most ‘open’
to how his day had gone during those commutes to and from school with no gadgets in front of him or other distractions. I got
more information out of him in the 15-minute drive than another other time of the day. It was just the two of us.
And that made a difference in understanding how his day had gone.
He’s 22 now and with 3 months left to go, he’s due to graduate a leading university with a B-average. I know I am
going to ‘lose it’ when he walks across that stage. It has been a difficult journey.
I’m not here to brag that the results have been better than I could have imagined. It wasn’t easy. There were times he
didn’t want to attend school or finish his work. Worse yet, he told me he only wanted to do the ‘bare minimum’ and then
that would get my mind churning to see what could be done. I’m not educated in
any ESE work. I am a business woman with a marketing specialty. So I went into this ‘cold’. I had no outside family support. Fortunately, my
husband saw my vision and worked with me. He’s a mechanic and knew nothing about ADD either. With him, life would have
been even more difficult.
everyone accountable to helping him and maintaining his IEP in school. I made friends and some times, enemies,
but I wouldn’t go down with out trying behavior modification over medication. But teachers saw me doing my part in helping him
do his work and show up in school that they often complimented my efforts and would be more likely to go that extra mile for him when needed.
One teacher would call me from inside the class when he wasn’t cooperating and I’d have to speak to him. Another teacher had the power to
keep him back a grade in 4th grade due to poor reading test scores but she knew he could do the work and she knew I was his greatest advocate.
So she offered to go go the school board and pleaded the argument to let him pass through to 5th grade so he wouldn’t fall behind. She told me she did
that because she knew I wouldn’t let him fall through the cracks.
I am writing because I saw your list of meds that your son takes. I am not judging because I know the meds
really do help so many and for many they are a saving grace.
However some of the side effects that you mentioned could possibly be attributed to the medication. For example, weight
gain and depression are some of those side effects.
I only mention this because if the meds don’t work and all that the therapist is doing is raising the dosage, then perhaps it could be
best to step back and question why to continue with something that is not working.
Perhaps, a re-evaluation of those drugs
with a doctor who takes a non-pharmaceutical approach could answer that question. If something is not working then try something else.
Perhaps contacting CHADD for recommendations. It’s a laborious process but it is your right to find the most
suitable medical help for your son.
I also checked on astrophysics camps for children. Yale offers a summer camp https://yspa.yale.edu/ as does
Columbia University http://sps.columbia.edu/highschool/summer-immersion/new-york-city-3-week/courses/astronomy-and-astrophysics
and NASA http://www.pathwaystoscience.org/Discipline.aspx?sort=ENG-Astrophysics_Astronomy%20*%20Astrophysics
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time finding programs that met my son’s interests. This was a full time job. I would
start in January and make a list for the summer of places to contact. And I put away money to afford these opportunities.
I applied for scholarships and grant monies whenever i could. I worked a babysitting job in the mornings in addition to running my business to raise money for flight
lessons he wanted. I would find sponsors who would support him. One year, about age 14, he painted mailboxes in our neighborhood to raise money to fly to WI to attend an aviation summer camp. He got a scholarship that year as well. I created a website for him, purchased the domain and took pictures of him
painting. Then I copied in an online calendar for people to book appointments and I made business cards for him on
my printer. He was eager to attend camp so he was motivated to do the work and go door-to-door to ask people if they wanted their mailbox painted to advertise his
painting ‘business’. It was a successful venture.
Even though a camp might be out of reach, I suggest calling them anyway and ask them to make a recommendation. I found one
camp through a recommendation from another camp and eventually he attended that camp for 5 years and then became a counselor and then he got a job there his
last summer in the kitchen. So one thing can lead to another and if they want it, they will work for it.
I am not a medical professional so my view point is only from a lay perspective. Since you describe some physical and mental
attributes, I’m suggesting to rethink every aspect of what goes into his body and his brain. I know when a Dr. prescribed
Adderall in 2000 when my son was only 6 years old, I spoke to many medical professionals to learn how this drug actually reshapes
the brain. And at that early stage of development; at a time when the brain is at a critical stage, it scared me to think
that something I would give him could affect his brain for the rest of his life. So I backed down from meds and devoted my
time to behavior modification. Again, that is my story and I recognize our path is not the same treatment for everyone.
Find a support system for yourself. CHADD was all I had for so long but it was instrumental in deciding that I
could help him myself. They have a hot line that is free. And they have networking events and conferences. It really
helps to be around people who understand your position. http://www.chadd.org/
Give yourself kudos for reaching out for help.
December 8, 2017 at 12:45 am #70017
Gregorje/Jill I saw your post about all you were/are able to do for your son and am impressed and envious. I suggest you also post your path to success in one of the forums for parents of younger kids since they have the advantage of time. As a single mom of 2 with a full time job and without the support of my son’s dad, I feel like I did my best at the time but I wish I had known more, tried more and was more successful since my son and I are dealing with the same issues as most on this thread. School avoidance became a big issue in my son’s junior year. He became very stressed out and I finally realized it was anxiety causing him to throw up an increasing number of mornings. As I mentioned passing the CHSPE was my son’s way out. Yes, Denise and Penny, I too realized that mental health is paramount and so am thankful the stress of school not an issue anymore.
December 7, 2017 at 9:59 am #69922
We sure have dealt with school refusal. And it’s beyond brutal! I don’t think parents and educators have the capacity to understand the level of stress and helplessness that school refusal inflicts if they haven’t lived it. I actually got PTSD from it (my son chased my car in moving car lines, tried to open the door and get out of the MOVING car on a 5-lane road when approaching school, etc…).
He’s in 9th grade now and it is actually quite a bit better right now than the last several years at this time. He’s struggling a great deal academically, but he’s not as stressed and anxious, which are triggers for avoidance. However, it always gets worse in the second semester.
Jerome Schultz’s book, “Nowhere to Hide” explains the reasons for school avoidance in great detail and is awesome. I highly recommend it. The only way to improve school avoidance is to address the specific reasons why the student is refusing/avoiding. For my son, there’s a high level of stress because he’s super intelligent and it’s always implied at school that he’s not living up to his potential. Then, you add other things, and he just can’t take it. Things like, being allowed to change privately for PE only to find that the private bathroom lock is broken and he’s getting in a lot of trouble for not dressing out; talking about death and losing people close to you in class (this happens once a year); being picked on or even annoyed by other students in his classes; frustration from trying but not being able to focus to get classwork done; pep rally/school assembly days; etc……. When we told the school the bathroom lock was broken and they gave him a new place to change, he stopped avoiding for that reason. When an accommodation was added that he never has to attend school assemblies, that avoidance stopped. You get what I’m saying.
I wonder about social anxiety for your son, since he prefers to be at home. I have had significant social anxiety all my life, and that’s exactly how I feel. I used to refuse to go to events or places where I didn’t know anyone because I was petrified. I got grounded a ton for that (when I was 15 or 16, I refused to go to a new church because I didn’t know anyone and every week another week of grounding was added until I was up to like 6 months or so. That just goes to show that if you don’t address the real issue (being socially phobic, not just refusing church/religion) no amount of punishment will help.
You said, “After my own mental breakdown or whatever you want to call it – I have been even more emphatic about focusing on his happiness and mental health first, physical health next and then school grades and stuff.” YES! Mental health and relationships FIRST. Grades and school aren’t everything. Some kids just aren’t good at school, and that’s ok. They can still be wildly successful later on.
I agree that online school might be a good option. It is an option I’ve kept in the back of my mind for high school, in case we get to the point where it feels like the only option.
You talked about his interest in physics, I believe. That’s awesome. How can you nurture that and give him lots of options in that area? Would he want to take a community college class next semester in that area? Or maybe next summer? The more time he spends succeeding and doing something he enjoys, the better his confidence. The better his confidence, the better he’ll cope with everything else.
And, as for video games, my son spends a LOT of time gaming, and I’ve decided to not feel ashamed about it. That is what he’s good at, what stimulates his mind, and what he really enjoys. That’s when he feels good about himself. As long as he gets his homework done, and spends time with friends in person sometimes, I made the choice to just not freak out about it. Now, if he was gaming instead of doing things he has to do, then it would be a different story. We too have an agreement that if you don’t go to school, you don’t have any screen time at all that day. We wrote it up in a contract and it helps.
ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
- This reply was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by ADHDmomma.
December 11, 2017 at 1:23 pm #70130
Hi, I’d like to say a little bit about letting kids “fail”. There is a big difference between stepping back in a “I give up/do what you want” kind of way versus allowing natural consequences take place so they learn that their choices and actions have consequences (good and bad) and that if they want different results, they have to take different actions. I’m not suggesting that we parents just step back, stop caring and just let the chips fall where they may. Instead, I am saying that this can be done in small relatively safe ways in a controlled environment– so that they can learn and grow while they are still in the “shallow end” and are better prepared for the deep end of adulthood. For example, stepping back and not micromanaging school work and allowing your teen to get a bad grade which then results in him having to pay for and go to summer school. Or, another example, not waking him up and letting him feel the embarrassment of walking into class late. What happens when they are allowed to experience those things instead of us doing whatever we can to shield them from the consequences is that then, when they do “fail”, they see it was due to their choices and then, the motivation and desire to change comes from within themselves. With teens with ADHD, they might not know what to do to make things better or need tools/techniques/support/meditation to bridge the gaps but if/when they experience negative natural consequences, then they will be much more motivated to come to you for help and be much more willing to be open to your suggestions and be much more willing to get the help they need (go to counseling/get a tutor/take their meds, etc (For all this to work, it is important that you have a strong, mutually respectful relationship–so that when they need help, they are willing to ask you for help and trust your guidance. So I agree that this is an important thing to focus on.)
The bottom line is that we as humans are not motivated to change things until they are a problem for us. In many cases, we parents try to solve/fix/change things because they are problems for us but they are not problems that our kids have so they are not motivated to change anything. So I think it’s an important question to ask–is it a problem for him that he doesn’t have Motivation/friends/make the team/have a clean room etc etc etc.? If it isn’t, then it’s worth thinking about what kinds of natural consequences could take place for it to become a “problem” that he does want to change in order to get more desired results and outcomes.
Failing at things does not hurt self esteem if you are there to guide them toward bouncing back from it, which means being there to help when they finally ask for it. Resilience (the ability to bounce back from adversity) is a muscle that has to be used to stay strong and one of the “Exercises” is failure.
Parenting coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD
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