difficult child 3 dropping out of school?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Marguerite, May 27, 2011.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It's been a difficult year so far for difficult child 3, we got his half-yearly report just in (our school years run Jan to Dec) and it is abysmal, which is out of character. He is taking a week to do one week's worth of work for one subject, when he should be doing four times this amount. He will stare at his worksheets and not understand the most basic stuff. I got worried very early in the school year but we have been to and from the doctor trying to sort it out. We finally pushed for an increase in medications two months ago, then we had three weeks' holiday over Easter, and assessment tasks (which he can't do more than one of in a week). Since then we've organised face-to-face lessons (intensive sessions with just difficult child 3 and a teacher) and again, he can't handle more than one subject a day, when last year he could handle two easily and sometimes push through for three. And last year the subjects were much more difficult for him; this year he chose his favourite subjects, it was expected to be an easy year for him. And it's been purgatory.

    I finally spat the dummy on Tuesday and emailed the SpEd, warning her I think we need to pull him right out of school, at least for the rest of the year. Wednesday was the school's annual expo fair; it's a treat to go, we had booked in to go, but given that difficult child 3 was struggling to complete an assessment task, losing an entire day just to go in and play was not what I wanted. But I had a friend contact me wanting to come with us, her son probably needs this school when he finishes elementary next year.

    So we went. As soon as we arrived, the SpEd was talking to difficult child 3 about dropping his study load back. Meanwhile I spoke to the principal, the year advisor and whichever subject teachers I could find in the crowd. So it turned out to be a good thing we went.

    Thursday - difficult child 3 got a small amount of writing done on his task, stuff he should have been able to do in half an hour. Not four days.

    Today - he got more done, but still only a third of the task is done. So I feel vindicated in my recommendation to cut his study load right back.

    Plans at this stage - cut back his study load to a quarter, and try to find him a job. A cadetship, a traineeship, anything. But as I was talking to his SpEd this morning, I suddenly remembered - there seemed to be a bigger drop-off in his ability towards the end of last year, and that was about the time he was started on citalopram. I checked the leaflet in his pills this morning and bingo, some of the side effects fit. But even if it is this medication, it will still take us time to medication-wash, and he's so far behind in his work that I don't think he can catch up, even on quarter load.

    So today, I got emails from school, I got email back from an agency that finds traineeships and mentorships in industry for school leavers with disabilities, especially autism (thank you, school, for telling me about this mob) and I also rang the local disability employment agency (difficult child 1 is registered with them) to let them know that difficult child 3 is now on their books (referred by Centrelink, the Aussie government welfare agency). We changed his appointment to Monday afternoon. Then I rang the pediatrician about the citalopram and we are seeing him right after the disability agency. I have to get a medical certificate from the doctor for school (for an assessment task extension I requested today), plus feed back the outcome of it all, to the school's support staff and his year advisor.

    difficult child 3 is starting to come round to dropping his course load back and following through on the employment idea. I think he's finally realising that it's not me pulling him out of school to punish him, it's not even me - the system is spitting him out, basically, to save him from himself. But they are not letting go completely, they want to keep their tenuous grip on him as much as possible. Partly they want him to eventually succeed, and also it is the law - our students can only leave school before completing their HSC (Higher School Certificate - our high school graduation, generally at about age 18) under exceptional circumstances. At his current study rate, difficult child 3 won't graduate until he's 30.

    I'm still concerned at the amount of time and energy he is spending on one particular website - it's a site for fans of some aspect of anime, and he seems really obsessed with it, although he is testing the waters creatively with writing and drawing - very new for him. But he is so caught up in it, he has trouble dragging himself away from it during the day. A workplace environment will give him another focus where he can't access the website, and it could help snap him out of obsession. Especially if the medications have been part of the problem.

    In one of today's phone calls - his Physics teacher who has been his Science teacher and Roll Call teacher in past years - the teacher commented on how stressed I sounded. I'm normally fairly laid back and calm, I need to be around difficult child 3 to avoid stirring him up. But I haven't been able to sleep properly for worrying over what to do, and why this is happening. After today's phone calls, I feel a lot better and should sleep alright tonight. But next week will be busy.

    Meanwhile I've been missing specialist appointments, simply too busy to keep my diary straight. Nothing drastic, I rescheduled one today, I'll see my neurologist on Tuesday when mother in law sees him, so we can drive in together. I also need to see my optometrist, but it's not urgent.

    I do feel like I'm fraying around the edges right now, but I feel more confident about things tonight than I did last night.

    Any ideas from people - I'm all ears.

  2. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    No ideas here, Marg. Sounds like you have most of the bases I would consider covered.

    Hope you sleep well, tonight, lady. You need it.
  3. keista

    keista New Member

    Congratulations for figuring stuff out.

    Regarding the obsession with Anime, if you haven't already, try using it as part of a "reward" system. I know there is more to his inability to complete work than just motivation, but it's still worth a try to tap into that motivation.

    Ex: he gets an hour to complete an assignment (or part of one) if he gets it done in less time, the rest he can spend on Anime until the next "assignment time" I know, it's a total been there done that kind of thing with autism, but I find that sometimes I have to reword/present it in a different way to have it click into son's head. Maybe revisit the "old way" that I had stopped using because it stopped working, but now it seems to work again.

    Best of luck to you both.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    At 17, I'd be pursuing employment options too.

    Sometimes, they need to be moving ahead in a different area before they can come "back" and finish their schooling - part of it is maturity, part of it is wanting to "be normal". Sometimes, exposure to employment helps reinforce the need for education...

    I think you're on the right track.
  5. Marg,

    I think that your plan sounds excellent. A change of pace could possibly make a real difference for both difficult child and you.

    Our difficult child's last two years in high school were just horrible for us all. I can identify strongly with what you are going through. Now that he is at the University, we have insisted on a scaled back courseload - and it has made all the difference in the world. It may take him five to six years to finish, but none of us are in a rush. He also spends part of his time working, which pulls him away from his computer obsession , which is WoW. He keeps the WoW limited to a few hours a week; but it is very important to him. Our easy child pointed out to us that it is a form of socialization for difficult child -even though it is online. Is the anime website that way for difficult child 3? Our difficult child has so few things that he enjoys, we are reluctant to take them away.

    Recently our difficult child has opened up a little about those high school years. He has been receiving a full state scholarship, which is going to be cut back to 90% next year due to state budget problems. Only those students who maintained a 3.5 grade average in high school will get the full scholarship. (Interestingly the college grade point average is not as important as the high school grade average - go figure). He told us he wished that he had put forth more effort in high school - but that he was bored out of his mind. It almost sounds like a typical teen doesn't it?

    I think having a strategy in mind, will help you to feel more confident about the situation. I always try to remind myself that life is not a race, it is a process that can be slowed down and enjoyed. It's taken me a long time to get to this point...

  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I have long been of the opinion that even a high school diploma is NOT for everyone and is NOT a reflection of intelligence. Sadly, most of the people who do really well in high school are NOT the gifted students. They are the people pleasers. They are far more likely to be identified as gifted because they test well, yet often they do not meet the criteria unless testing is skewed by the person giving the test. That is easy to do and often many don't realize that they are doing it. I have seen many many people look over students' test papers and point to wrong answers or tell them to go and "rethink" problems. And other things. NONE of them thought they were doing anything wrong.

    There are also many different types of intelligence and not all of them respond to the way schools, even online ones, are set up.

    I think the citalopram may be part of the problem. I hadn't realized he was taking it. However slowly the doctor wants to wean him off, take it twice as slow. This is a medication that is known to have a lot of withdrawal problems. If withdrawal is an issue, ask the doctor to let you have some of the lowest dose capsules of prozac. It stays in the body much longer and just one per week, maybe one every 4 days if he is on a very high dose of citalopram, will be a HUGE help in the withdrawal problems. Prozac lasts in the body the longest of any of the ssri medications and most people who have taken an a/d do not have adverse reactions to a dose that low. I have had MANY docs tell me withdrawal doesn't happen, but quite a few have called me at home, even at night, when someone they know or another patient is having a hard time with it. One even called me because HE was having a hard time with it. He couldn't remember what I said, but remembered I found something to help. All have let me know later that it was a great help and they will keep it in mind for other patients.

    I realize that isn't "common" prescribing of prozac, but it IS a huge boon if you have ssri withdrawal. Google the term to find out exactly what to expect. I suggest googling citalopram withdrawal to get more specific into.

    I think a job with supports will give him an area that he can excel in. This is very important, esp after having such a hard time at school but knowing many people say you are very intelligent. I don't know if it willhelp with the anime obsession though. We found little to help with that until Wiz was ready to move to another obsession.
  7. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Sorry you all are having such difficulties. Not to add to concerns but when difficult child lived with us he got obsessed with Anime. Since at that time he liked art I thought it would be positive recreation until I discovered that he was spending lots and lots of time there. It's been five or six years ago so my info may be outdated but...the Anime site then allowed communication with others and alot of it had to do with Asian porn. He is now 20 and not living with us but just last week he visited very an hour or so and sure enough...asian porn showed as a search. DDD
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    He does sound like he's struggling, Marg. First off, I'd try to get some sleep. I know what you mean by worrying ... still, it's only going to get worse if you don't sleep. I'm sending calming thoughts and vibes ...
    In regard to the computer, my son is like that, and we have limits on his time. You've read enough of my notes to know how hard it is to enforce, to the degree where we've installed deadbolts, had numerous locks replaced, and disassemble the computer at times. So it is no easy task, but I am convinced that it is worth it. The repetition and sometimes visual speed in the games is stimming but/and too much creates so much agitation that the kids can't focus on anything else.

    Best of luck! I hear you!
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Marg, really although Sonic will be graduating on time, I am hoping he gets into the work/school program next year. That means he will get credit to working at a school-sponsored job. Sounds like what you have going on there. Certain kids need that a lot more than strict academics.

    I hope your son enjoys this new experience.
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I spoke to him this morning (Saturday) about putting in a few hours FIRST on his assessment task. We have been asked to get the medical certificate on Monday, so until we see the doctor, we don't know IF he will qualify for the extension on the task. Which means if we don't get the certificate, the assessment task is automatically overdue. So far this year he's had four of these tasks, only one was completed in the required time limit.

    About high school graduation - it is the law here now, that every kid has to stay in school until they complete the HSC. As a result, for some kids it gets watered down to the point where they CAN handle it - a kid with severe learning problems is usually educated through a special unit attached to another high school, and they have certain tasks to complete (usually various levels of self-care and life skills) in order to qualify. Those who age out of the system, or who find school clashes badly for them, can transfer to TAFE and complete their HSC there. SIL2's sister dropped out of school (before the new law came in) and now wants to study nursing. She has to complete her HSC first and is studying it at TAFE (Technical and Further Education).

    Two years ago I enquired about TAFE as a possible education pathway for difficult child 3, to study computing skills at the same time as he works on his HSC with the correspondence school. But I was less than happy with the type of disability support available to him at TAFE - the class teacher spoke to us and made it clear, I am not permitted to act as his unpaid aide, for example. If there is a problem, they will not call me. They did not seem to me to be geared towards giving him the help he needs. Also, the computer course he could have done was artistically focussed (producing short films; photography etc) which he could do, but would need support with personal organisation. So when the school said they could give him TAFE equivalency and also have it count towards his HSC, plus it would be a more technically oriented course, we grabbed the chance. Now he's completed his first TAFE certificate through school (last year) he can, if necessary, slide into a wider variety of courses. But for now, school can continue to help there too - he is currently enrolled in the second certificate course, although his progress, as in everything else, has been woeful.

    About using the anime as a reward - I would need to be able to control his access, and right now I can't. He is just too capable of finding his own ways to access it. All I can do is monitor it, and keep reminding him to stay off it during school hours. The best way to control, is for him to control it himself because it just is not possible to override his determination to break the rules if he chooses to. Instead, I need to rely on his (thankfully well-developed) conscience.

    The Asian porn angle - it depends on how you define it, I think. Again, cultural differences - there is stuff we get here that I do not classify as porn which I suspect others might do. What I classify as porn - graphic depictions of sex, full-scale nudity, profanity - difficult child 3 tends to avoid already when we encounter it in other situations. I have read what he wrote (a story about a superhero's girlfriend falling into quicksand and being rescued at the last minute - the super-hero was difficult child 3's alter ego character that he uses constantly across a number of game platforms) had nothing remotely pornographic in it apart from a mention that when the girl sank deep enough in the quicksand so her breasts went under, a bubble of air got trapped and blooped up a minute or two later. He said he was asked to draw out the tension in his story by not having it all happen too fast. He was enthusiastic about letting me read his story, so he wasn't hiding anything. He's also tried to refine some artwork of his alter-ego. These characters are also part animal, which again reduces the possible porn aspects. I do suspect there are fetishes associated with this site, but from what I have been able to determine, they are (so far) innocuous. The site is called FurAffinity and is primarily populated with cartoon characters. It seems to me to be aimed at early teens.

    About all I can do with this is monitor and supervise, encouraging him to show me everything. As soon as he gets secretive, we will know we're in dangerous waters. He is not good at deception and we have encouraged him to be open. Often he's too open!

    Actually that is an interesting thing about his writing - usually, kids get self-conscious about their creative writing when they hit high school. At that point perhaps it's a level of self-awareness that tells them that in their writing, they reveal themselves. But younger kids often write more creatively and fluently, because they lack this degree of self-consciousness. Well, difficult child 3's writing still shows this lack of self-consciousness, but with a uni level vocabulary and use of grammar. So superficially at least, his writing looks very skilled. It fooled his English teacher last year, she said there was no way a kid with his level of autism could produce the brilliant writing she saw from him. We finally were able to prove it to her, but my name was mud for a while there. So if this site encourages the creative side to develop further (he's also posting photographs - I am generally with him when he takes the photos, they are 3-D shots of scenery which he then processes through so they can be viewed on anyone's computer screen using red/blue specs) then I am happy for this to be a more productive recreation. But NOT during school hours! And right now, he is incredibly obsessed by checking his status on this site and following his increasing popularity. In the past I could rely on him to leave his other activity (often reluctantly and late, but he would leave it and stay off it until school hours finished) but now we are really having trouble. Usually I get him working (I have my methods!) and once he's working, he stays working. But lately, he can't stay on task with his work (even his favourite subjects), and that is a very new and very big problem.

    I did consider cutting off internet access, but too much of his schoolwork requires the internet. Even his current assessment task is internet-based. I do know the school has managed to set their IT up so on site, they have various websites blocked (such as FaceBook). So I have warned him that if I have to, I will find a way to cut off his access to FA entirely, or at least during school hours. I may even have to engage him in setting up the block himself - part of him taking personal responsibility. But I am hoping that getting a job, even one day a week, will put him in an environment where he has to step away from FA for a set number of hours, and teach him the mental self-discipline he needs to apply at other times too.

    I've got to go out today, husband is not home either. I would like him to get some work done before I go, but he says he HAS to check his status first, and 'talk' to others on the site. A track of the conversation thread is saved, I do get to see it. It seems harmless, other than the time-wasting side of it. I also regularly shoulder-surf. As I'm about to go and do now! I can hear him in the next room - if he chuckles, or begins to vocally stimulant, I know he's not concentrating on schoolwork and so I check up. His stims sound different when he's working!

    It's the weekend, it is his choice if he does any work. But if he doesn't, he will have a lot more stress next week. I remind him of this and help him make the right choice. I have one hour left before I have to go. Wish me luck!

  11. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I truly believe your children are blessed to have such a bright and caring Mom. If there is an answer...you'll find it! DDD
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I can't wait for Monday. I am really hoping for results. meanwhile - he did no work on his assessment task today, but I will be home with him tomorrow, I will offer a major bribe (an hour's game time with me) if he does at least an hour of schoolwork.

  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Well, the weekend is over and he has not done any work. He has been hooked on his games and FA website, although he did leave it (eventually) to get himself some lunch. I did offer an incentive, it did not work. So tomorrow he knows it's head down, tail up until mid afternoon when we leave for appointments.

    I'll let you know how it goes.

    Our Aspie friend at church today was asking about the problem. I explained about my concerns over medications, he asked what difficult child 3 is taking. I told him. Interesting response: "So he's on both uppers and downers?"

    OK, it's a little more complex than that, but it could explain things. The doctor will know. And if he doesn't, then maybe it's time to get a referral to an adult shrink (they are the ones our kids have to see for medications, when they turn 25; easy child 2/difficult child 2 needs a referral to one ASAP, she will be 25 in a few months). We could transition between one or another.

  14. ML

    ML Guest

    Marg from the sounds of it you're making a smart decision. I do believe the citalopram is a big factor in this. One of the reasons I came off of it was for cognitive dulling and brain fog. Granted at my age some of that is normal but since coming off I'm quite a bit better.

    I know these kids easily slip into their obsessions. Right now manster's is cake decorating and he fanices himself the new cake boss. He aspires to own his own bakery some day. Also, he started mowing grammy's yard for $25 a week and he spends it on cake decorating supplies on amazon as quickly as he earns it. Some days I just want him out of the house so he will be away from the computer looking up the newest techniques on Youtube.

    It is always a daily struggle pulling these kids back in. As they experience anxiety I guess it helps them to cope. I know we've talking about some of this here recently. I don't know of ANYONE who has done more to advocate for their child then you have. Ggf3 has HUGE strengths which I feel very strongly will overcome these challenges.

    Hopefully difficult child 3 will get some perspective and the change of scenery will do him so good. Also getting off the Citalopram will help I believe. As far as any suggestions I can't think of any. I think you're on the right track. Many of our kids take a circular route to achieving these milestones and from what I've seen is they seem to be about 3 years behind. So if they're a couple years older when they graduate or learn to drive, etc., so what. They will eventually get there and pushing them before they're ready is too much pressure.

    Please try to take care of yourself. Trust your decisions and instincts that are almost always spot on. He is going to overcome these recent obstacles. The only thing I would say, if he isn't doing it already, is encourage him to engage in something physical. Manster's experience with (enforced) tennis lessons seems to really take the edge off his anxiety.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Well, we're back from the appointments. The disability employment agency are now on difficult child 3's case, he sees them again next Monday.

    The pediatrician has okayed a reduction of citalopram but also ordered an MRI in case there is something physical happening. He suggested we arrange to show difficult child 3 what is involved with MRI ahead of time so he can prepare himself. If there are problems, we may have to go the route of sedation, but I think he will be okay.

    Now we have to choose which subjects to drop for now. The school doesn't want us to drop everything. The one subject I felt he could continue, he just got his assessment task back and he failed. So that one maybe has to go...

    It will take a month or more to taper off the citalopram, so I think this reduces difficult child 3's chances of catching up with his work. I have to notify the school of our decision ASAP, but I think we need to go in and meet with them in order to make the wisest decision. difficult child 3 has to own the decision also.

  16. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    The medication citropalom? is generic for Lexapro, right? Can't it cause lack of motivation? Probably good for anxiety and obsession, but might well be part of the problem.

    Marg, just a thought. My oldest has been to some therapuetic programs this past year. There are a number of Aspies. Programs have heavily focused on outdoors, physical challenge kind of stuff. (not boot camp, think therapeutic outdoor reacreation). It has helped with social skills, self confidence, and weaning off of computer stuff. One thought--maybe he needs a total break from school for a few months to do something like that?
  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I need to contact the school and the doctor this morning. I forgot to remind the doctor about needing a medical certificate, I'm just waiting for about fifteen minutes more to make sure the doctor's staff are in (lousy weather today). Then I have to leave fifteen minutes after that!

    Therapeutic outdoor stuff - tricky to organise, although it shouldn't be considering where we live. But I will look into it. I can get difficult child 3 to go out bushwalking on his own, he then comes back with the photographic evidence of the risks he has taken! One of his recent photos he took while hanging upside doe off the side of a crumbling sandstone cliff, "looking down into a boiling sea," he described. "It wasn't anywhere near as risky as it looks though."
    Yeah, right. I KNOW that cliff path... I also lost a friend to it a few years ago when she rolled off the edge.

    I've been thinking about this overnight, this is going to take some time to sort out. We have to wean off slowly, so we will lose more time. The school year is now half over and he's barely done enough for a quarter of the year. An eighth, even. Plus there's the MRI to organise. I'm worried now, I had been trying to not think that there could be something organic in his brain. I will be glad to have it ruled out.

    Meanwhile I've asked difficult child 3 to think about which subjects to drop. He needs help with this, I feel. He got his computing studies test results in the mail - 47%. Unthinkable, and a clear indication there is something really wrong here.

    Time to get busy again...