Teen admittedly quit trying at school

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  glitterratzi 1 day, 16 hours ago.

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  • #76360

    ADHDmomma
    Keymaster

    My son is 15 and a freshman in high school. His diagnoses are ADHD, autism, dysgraphia, and severe executive functioning deficits. He also has a gifted IQ (but has decided he is “stupid” because he “can’t remember anything”).

    Yesterday I logged into the grading portal to find that he has an F in every single class, and we’re only 2 weeks into the new grading period. He’s not only missing assignments in every class, but has Fs on tests and quizzes. He has been out two days (because it’s torture for him to go to school at all, much less a giant school with 1300-1500 students). Still, his grades just aren’t ok.

    The school says it’s too early to make assumptions about his IEP and accommodations not serving him well. I call BS on that. They’ve been fighting me relentlessly all year to do as little as possible for him.

    As my son and I sat down last night and went through the assignments and grades for each class to make a plan to complete and turn in everything that has zeros, I asked him why his math test grade was so low. He has always loved math until 8th grade, when his executive functioning deficits got in the way). He has a good aptitude in math. His answer: “I didn’t try.” He explained that he feels like he can’t do well in math anymore and that statistics is boring, so he just isn’t trying.

    That was heartbreaking. He has fallen through the cracks and been brushed under the rug so much by the school system all these years that he has learned helplessness, to the point that he now doesn’t even want to try.

    Of course, we talked about the importance of doing his best in school, especially in high school. We also talked about a new rule, that there are no video games if you have Fs in your classes. He must put in some effort at school to be allowed to spend his efforts on video games. He didn’t like it, but he also knows it had to be.

    I find myself bitterly angry at our school system. If they had supported him to the full extent that he needs, and worked to understand him all these years, he would be doing well, and he’d want to do well. He’d have some confidence that he can succeed, instead of what they’ve taught him, which is that he can’t, no matter how hard he tries to meet school expectations. He used to try and he used to care about it.

    I adjusted my expectations of “success at school” for him a long time ago, as I should. Just because a student is intelligent, it doesn’t mean that they will be able to achieve A’s and B’s in mainstream mass education. Unfortunately, we don’t have any options for a better environment, and homeschool is not an option either (although I have talked some with the school about the possibility of doing 50+% of the school day in person and the rest in online virtual public school – which may be an option). And I know he will be ok later, when he can choose what he studies or what field of work he is interested in, but we have 3.5 years of high school to get through and, at this rate, we aren’t going to survive it.

    Have any of you had a teen who lost all confidence in school and lost the will to even try? How do you turn around such deep-seated learned helplessness that was caused by someone else?

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

  • #76391

    bnunesclsi
    Participant

    I could have written this story myself, as I feel I have lived this life too. My son, 7th grade now, has learned helplessness and learned that if he just refuses work, gets himself in trouble by yelling, saying a bad word, or whatever, he will get to leave the situation…and he is correct! This has happened so many times in the past two years, we are homeschooling now. My son, ASD, ADHD, dysgraphia, anxiety, has been lost in the cracks in the fact that he has always been the same kid that needs a lot of help and supports, but has NEVER received them. He didn’t get an IEP until 5th grade, being denied by my request (not the school) starting in 2nd grade! He too has been very strong in math and it was his only thing he enjoyed in school. Well, when algebra was introduced, he could not do it! He just didn’t understand algebra at all (especially the “x” in equations, etc). That was it for him. He felt that he was just so stupid and had nothing left for him in school, so he just gave up. Stopped doing work, putting his head down on his desk, every class, crying, feeling sick, going to the nurse, not wanting to be in school anymore. He felt no teachers liked him, not principals liked him, no kids liked him. And oh ya, he was, and has been, bullied basically every single year, ending up in trouble for defending himself and getting suspended every year! The school district has failed my son!!! And I am very angry about it! Supreme Court case came too late for us, as my son had already turned into a different kid now, and I feel he would be different if he had gotten the help and supports he deserved in school!!! So I look for answers also and am so sorry you have gone through such a hard difficult time. It’s a hard life to live!!! It’s truly not fair! I’m so angry and not sure if I will ever get over this!

  • #76417

    deb91
    Participant

    My son is 14, getting ready to move to high school next year. Dx with ADHD Inattentive and OCD. May hay have mild ASD, but he’s not officially dx. This year he does seem to be opting out. It’s only through a great deal of positive reinforcement (or shameless bribery)that he has made any effort at all. Used to be an A/B student until this year. He hates school. I don’t have any answers really. I listened to a webinar here at Attitude that I thought was very interesting, so I purchased the presenter’s book – He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Sonto Believe in Himself by Adam Price. I’ve found it very helpful in understanding his male teen mindset.

    At any rate, it’s possible your son has some mild depression. My son takes Lexapro for OCD, but has helped with depression as well. Something to look into I guess if he’s not taking meds that would alleviate depression.

  • #76436

    ADHDmomma
    Keymaster

    Well, he just texted me (from the bathroom during English class) begging me to pick him up from school. Says he can’t take any more teasing and it’s making him want to hurt himself. šŸ™

    I’ve engaged school staff about it. We are going to begin seriously discussing part school days in person and part days Virtual Public School online. It will be a financial strain on already strained finances, but his mental health has to be most important.

    Yes, he could have some depression at this point — can’t take SSRI’s because of mood and hallucination side effects to all of them. Need to go back to therapist.

    Feeling super heartbroken today, but I know we will get to better days again.

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

  • #76455

    deb91
    Participant

    So sorry to hear that. It sounds like a toxic environment for him. Virtual Public School Online might be the best answer. If he’s talking about feelings of wanting to hurt himself, he def needs to be talking to a therapist. My son was bullied by one student in his 6th period class last year, and seemed to find speaking with a counselor very helpful (easier to talk to her than mom and dad about the mean things this kid said to him). I wonder if a SNRI would be better tolerated than a SSRI? I take Cymbalta and find it to be a very calming anti-depressant. It really helps with both anxiety and depression. Hope your son is feeling much better soon.

  • #76516

    SLorenz
    Participant

    I just stumbled on this website. Why all the chatter about medicating your kid on every page? WOW! Truly, no judgement because his parenting stuff is so hard and I’m always learning! Maybe I’m missing out and should medicate. I’ve just never even thought about that route. I had assumed there are too many side effects. We went the natural route 5 years ago when my son was diagnosed with dyslexia and severely depressed and anxious. I’ll share in case it helps someone. We saw a NATUROPATH. She ran a quick neurotransmitter (urine) test and got him on all natural KAVINASE to boost his GABA. She’s taken a lot of kids off meds with Kavinase! He takes it morning and night. He also tested positive for an MTHFR mutation. It’s super common. Your body doesn’t absorb B vitamins unless you take methyl Bs. He also takes melatonin before bed and uses a calming sound-machine type app and essential oil diffuser. Magnesium epsom salt baths help him too. “TEEN LINK” supplement is a good one a lot of kids love that contains 5 HTP and amino acids (brain balancers). . Oh and probiotics. The gutt is literally the 2nd brain!!!!. The Kavinase is our most effective must-have for him. You can Google any of these and order them online. But, worth seeing a naturopath to run a neurotransmitter test as quick “detective” work on whats going on with the brain. Or from afar, look up Kristen Blake Wellness here in Portland. She can order labs and review them. My 14 yr old son has dyslexia , dysgraphia, Irlen’s Syndrome (a light sensitivity that 1/2 of kids with LD have), and I suspect inattentive ADHD. I also have the same issues. I take Amino Energy (amazon), fish oil, probiotics, methyl B, liquid D, epsom baths, low gluten, hot yoga (sweat detox), HIIT training (because it boosts serotonin). I know L-Glutamine is another doctor fav. Good luck Penny. Your story is relatable.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  SLorenz.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  SLorenz.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  SLorenz.
    • #76567

      ADHDmomma
      Keymaster

      My son could not function at all without ADHD medication ā€” while it certainly isn’t a cure, and it doesn’t “fix” anything, it does offer improvement.

      I suspected a recent dosage increase (very small) was causing increased anxiety and agitation. I followed my gut and went back to the lower dosage yesterday, and he had such a better day and was happier and more settled. Sometimes, you have to balance the benefits on focus of higher doses with not having their brain on “high alert” all the time. It just has to be a lower dose than is fully effective for him, and we have to manage in other ways.

      He does also have MTHFR and COM-T genetic polymorphisms and he takes some methylated B-vitamins and methylfolate and vitamin C to try to help with that some.

      We also had a serious talk Wednesday night about trying to do your best, not trying to “get it over with” when it comes to school work. He had a math test yesterday and he said he really tried to do well, and his SPED teacher texted me that he thought he did do well on the test. (Math is where he really avoids work.) We made a rule that when you have a current grade that is an F, you don’t play any video games until all the missing work is complete and submitted to teachers. His poor grades are mostly due to missing and incomplete work, and teachers give him extra time and let him make it up. It hasn’t even been 48 hours since our heart-to-heart, but so far so good. šŸ™‚

      All we can do is keep working at it and give him all the tools and coping strategies we can to make as much improvement as possible for him. Some days are heartbreaking, but a great day is never too far behind.

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

  • #76576

    SLorenz
    Participant

    Gosh. So much of this sounds familiar. I will keep the RX route in mind should he struggle further. Thank you

  • #76683

    caringmom
    Participant

    Hi Penny,nice to read your son is better now.Even my son is 6 years old but increase or decrease in methylphenidate just by 5 mg makes a lot of difference in his behaviour pattern.When the dose is changed whether your son tells you the changes he feel inside or in his thinking?Thank you.

  • #76648

    Ellings4
    Participant

    In addition to other good things you’re doing… another concept that sounds like it would really help your son (and most of the students I’ve taught) is something that isn’t unique to ADHD… it’s the concept of “growth” and “fixed” mindsets. Ned Hallowell said something to the effect that this concept is the most important contribution from psychology in a really long time (wish I could remember and quote it better). People can easily slip into feeling that “smart” or “stupid” are fixed traits of a person… something that you’re born with that there is no ability to change. So why work hard if this is just a fact about you… the harder you work the more it hurts to fail. If you know you didn’t try, it protects you a bit from the pain of failing. Anyway, I think teaching kids (and ourselves) to shift to a “growth mindset” (explained in the podcast below) is key to happiness in life and effectiveness in school. What you’re describing with your son sounds like bullies and other brain chemistry stuff are for sure playing a role in making it harder to try and more painful to fail…but the hopelessness and giving up that you describe sound like classic symptoms of a “fixed mindset”.
    Here’s a great podcast from Ned Hallowell on this topic. They are discussing 3rd graders, but I have seen great change in the college students I teach with these same techniques – I’m sure it applies at any age.
    Good luck!
    https://www.acast.com/distractionwithdrnedhallowell/s2-ep30-achieve-more-with-a-growth-mindset

  • #77087

    glitterratzi
    Participant

    As Im reading this I actually have tears in my eyes because everything that has been talked about here is EXACTLY what Im going through with my daughter and Ive felt so alone until now. Tears of frustration(I wish I founf this site sooner) and relief that I found a forum to talk to other parents in the same situation.
    My daughter is 12,in 7th grade and has ADD and so do I. She pretty much has given up on trying in school. Im fortunate enough to be living with family so Im able to be home when she gets home from school.I give positive reinforcement, and absolutely enforce the methods of making it about growth and process.Looking at the positve steps that shes accomplishing. Nothing has worked. I feel guilty like im not doing enough, and I cry in hiding and pray for her everyday
    But now She is depressed, and anytime she tries hard, some grades go up slightly then other grades are F’s. Ive asked for IEP testing numerous times and nothing is done. When teachers get frusterated with her, or make tiny comments about ‘listening’ or following the instructions prpoerly her whole world turns upside down. She physically tries to make herself sick so she dosent have to go to school. She also calls me from the nurses office. Ive had teacher,academeic advisor,and school couselor meetings and they all know about her ADD –yet its ignored when Im requesting extra help!! We also go to family therapy and a psy. She has also had bullies and thoughts of suicide.Im Also considering online school, with attending regular school half time.
    She only has friendships on role playing fanpage apps. Which I do monitor, and they roleplay situations as their fav video game character or others.I understand she does that because she feels ‘safer’ in that kind of friendship instead of getting bullied or hurt in real person.

    Does anybody else have kids ‘roleplaying’ as different people on these apps? I honestly think that half of these people are predators, and I cant get her off of it because they pretend to be her friend. She constantly lies about it and goes on other peoples phones to play.
    any advice Please?

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