difficult child with-ODD ~ Continued problems with-Homework

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by erbaledge, Oct 1, 2008.

  1. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    Hi! My name is Patty, and I am at my wit's end with-my difficult child. This will be long, but hopefully someone can offer some insight, helpful suggestions, ideas, etc.

    My difficult child has the following diagnosis's: Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Sensory Integration Defensiveness (primarily auditory & tactile).

    My difficult child's primary and most troublesome diagnosis is her ODD. She is the most defiant child I have ever met.

    I need new and innovative ideas on how to help her better, to complete her homework without so many CONSTANT struggles.

    Almost daily example: She has math homework Mon-Fri, it's usually about 15 problems. She will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to do it. These problems are not out of her realm. This is LITERALLY daily, every single day. Our family can't do anything Mon-Fri other than stay home so she'll do her work.

    Tonight she was a complete turd. The math work was problems that she should really know how to do, she's did the exact same stuff last year. (fwiw she's in 8th grade)

    She wants me to give her the answers, which I refuse to do. I asked her to get her math book and I will look to find the section where it explains how to do the problems she was doing. She refused to get her book. Then asked her brother for help, hoping he'd give answers. He chose not to help her. She threw the homework across the room. Thrashed around on the couch in the living room.

    I instructed her numerous times to go to her room. She refused. I literally had to physically remove her from the living room to the hallway, not going into how I did that yet, that'll be another post someday, lol. Then she had a 1/2 hour meltdown in the hallway.

    We've been dealing with this homework problem for a few years now. Either she is being completely lazy, defiant, or what not, I don't know. But she refuses to focus on her homework and get it done in a fairly timely manner.

    I've limited distractions to the best of my ability. Right now, it's a little difficult to eliminate all distractions. But I just don't get it, why would she want to sit at the dinner table for hours and hours working on homework that she could get done in a 1/2-1 hour? (she is slower than the average 13 yr old, so for 15 math problems this time range is decent in my opinion)

    Do you have any suggestions, ideas, tips, etc on how to get her to get it done more time efficiently?

    Thank you!
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Patty, welcome! I'm glad you found us.

    Sorry for all the questions, but your answers will help us help you.

    What kind of doctor diagnosed your difficult child?
    Is she taking medications? If so, what?
    Is she in therapy?
    Does she have an IEP at school? If so, does it include homework accommodations?
    How does she do in school, both academically and with peers?

    I recommend getting your hands on a copy of The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It has helped many of us here parent our extra-challenging children.

    Again, welcome.
  3. Pookybear66

    Pookybear66 New Member

    Patty, I see she has many diagnosis's and obviously she's made it this far, but has she ever been tested for a learning disability. Regardless, she may need someone to just "watch her" do the problems and bounce ideas off of (not really give her the answers). My ds while much younger (8 1/2) has learning problem in reading and does well in math. However, he still wants "help" which is basically me being right next to him, keeping him on task, and him asking "is this right?" I usually respond with-"Does it look right?" and "How can you check it to see?"
    I know this may sound ridiculously tedious or whatever but it may be that simple. Ask her when she is NOT doing her work in a casual setting. Ask something like-"What makes math harder than it was last year?" "What can I do to help make it easier" "Do you not understand the questions?" "Do you think you need a tutor?"
    Maybe she will be able to tell you what the problem is, maybe not but I should think it worth a try. Let us know how it goes.
  4. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    She had a complete educational and psychiatric evaluation at the University hospital this past year. Before that her diagnosis were just from her Psychiatrist, but all in all, we ended up with-the same diagnosis's, well with the evaluation they added the ADD.

    yes she takes medications. She's on: Straterra, Clomipramine, Risperdal, Lexapro

    She does not have an IEP. BUT she does have a 504 Plan, that in itself was VERY hard to fight for, it took about two years for me to get it for her, we signed it May of 2008.

    I'll try and get the copy of the 504 plan out tomorrow, but in a way it does mention homework troubles, but just asks for more time I believe. We also had to switch school districts this year, and only for this year, they'll be going back to their old schools next year. This was due to something completely out of my hands, and unrelated to the kids.

    Academically, her testing shows her at a Low Average Cognitive Ability. in my opinion, she's about 2 years behind her peers. Her maturity level is MUCH lower. I would say she behaves most of the time like a 7/8 year old. Peer relationships are not the greatest, but not terrible. She does not make friends easily, but does have a few at this new school district, which is nice. :)

    Also, I have read The Explosive Child several times, used to own it too. I agree, it is a GREAT book!!!
  5. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    Very good idea! Last year I was usually sitting near her at the table while she did her homework, or I'd be in the nearby kitchen cooking/cleaning/etc. I am still fairly close when she is working on homework, say 10 feet away. I may try sitting at the table with her, I can read a book and she can work. That may help with focusing. Thanks for this idea.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm increasingly anti-homework - the research is showing that it makes absolutely no difference to how well a kid does later on. It's currently a hot topic on Aussie TV with a number of our top media psychologists coming out and saying, "It doesn't work, it's archaic, kids should be outside running around and socialising instead of doing yet more schoolwork." There is a serious move afoot to ban homework but increase school hours by half an hour instead.

    HOWEVER - you have a big problem.

    First step is to find out WHY.

    We've had this problem in our house too. We had a range of causes -

    1) The teacher was lazy and set exactly the same homework every night for a year - "write out your spelling list. Write out your times tables."
    easy child was getting increasingly hysterical. By the end of the year (Grade 3) easy child had worked her way through all the Grade 3, grade 4, Grade 5 and Grade 6 spelling words. When she ran out of spelling words the teacher told her to find her own. The next year she had the same teacher. Same homework. And would you believe - he re-set the spelling words for her to the beginning of year 4. Talking to him made no difference. So we changed schools.

    2) A kid with ADHD on medications has enough trouble holding things together for the entire school day, to have to continue afterwards. With medications wearing off, to have to continue to stay focussed was just too much.

    3) Related to above - the continuation of the school day into the home environment means a loss of refuge for a child, especially a child who is having any sort of behavioural or academic difficulty.

    4) A child who (like easy child in example 1) was VERY resentful of being asked to do revision. I did a deal with the teacher to allow difficult child 3 to only do the hardest problems - beginning with the last one. If he found it too tricky then he had to do more. We counted on difficult child 3's Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) honesty. And we STILL do this, with his class work. What was really hurting was the feeling of futility, having to do work over and over when he already knew it. So we kept the spirit of the principle - use revision only if he needed to. But he needed to assess for himself if he needed to (or demonstrate it to us - maybe by working through a problem verbally, to show how he would answer it).

    What has worked for us -

    1) Asking for homework to be changed or dropped. There is no reason for homework to turn home into a battleground.

    2) Changing homework from after school on weekdays, to getting it done in an hour on the weekend during the day sometime. Again, in consultation with the school.

    3) Walk away. She doesn't have to do it. But she DOES have to take the consequences at school. Coupled with this one - DO NOT ENGAGE THE SCHOOL. If they try to punish her or you for this in any way that impacts on your home life, do not allow it. A school that tries to impose suspension for failure to do homework, for example, is someone punishing the family (because you have to stay home with a suspended child).

    So if you intend to walk away - tell the school.

    I would talk to the class teacher anyway, to at least let them know how hard this is. I am a strong believer in keeping the teacher fully informed. Sometimes they see part of the picture we don't, and when we tell them things like this it can give them the final piece of the puzzle to tell us what we need, to help the child.

    Other things that helped -

    4) Setting a time limit. "You only have to work at this for half an hour." Even give her choice in how long. Use standard bazaar bargaining techniques. You begin with, "Just half an hour, unless you think you can do it in less." If she insists she will only spend five minutes on it and you can't budge her, then accept. But she MUST actually WORK for five minutes, not sit and whine. The clock only moves when she's writing. When time is up, congratulate her on getting anything done at all. Then leave it.
    Sometimes with this one, the class teacher will give you an appropriate time limit.

    5) Food. difficult child 3 is skinny, he would often declare he needed to eat before doing homework. Instead, I would sit him with his books and his very favourite treats as healthy snacks. I might sit with him with my own treats and snacks. difficult child 3 loves cappuccino, for example (decaf, of course). So as a reward, I'd make him a cappuccino merely for attempting to do his work. He slowly began to associate doing the unpleasant work, with getting a treat. It turned the conditioned response on its head.

    This one also meant that when the work was done, so was his afternoon tea. He was finally free to go play.

    Our final change - we pulled him out of mainstream into Distance Ed (a correspondence home school option). No more homework. And y'know what? He's doing so much better in every way - socially (because he's free to go play with his friends instead of fighting over homework); academically (because he's learning in a quieter environment, and learning it better without the homework fights) and intellectually (he's now actively seeking out learning opportunities).

  7. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I recommend taking a good hard look at her medications. She's on THREE antidepressants -- Lexapro, Clomipramine and Strattera. ADs can rev kids up instead of calming them down. Strattera, in particular, has a reputation for causing anger and aggression as a side effect.

    If she's cognitively and emotionally behind her peers, there's a chance she can't handle HW the way a typical 8th grader can.

    We handle the HW issues with my son by not fighting about it anymore. His HW, his problem, his consequences.

    If that doesn't feel right to you, you could find a high school student in your neighborhood to sit with your difficult child in the afternoons and help with HW.
  8. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    I agree she is on a lot of medications. Right now she is in a slow decline of the Lexapro, it was lowered last psychiatric visit, and the next visit it will go down more. We've made several attempts to get her off of Clomipramine, however each time the dosage has gone down on that she has become more physically aggressive/assaultive.

    I would like to completely back away from homework. My difficult child will NOT do it if I don't already know about it. In 6th grade I took one semester off of being on her for homework, just told her when it was to be done, make sure it gets done. Did you know that she got mainly D's & F's that semester, and it was due to missing work? In 7th grade the first semester I tried a different approach, putting her in charge of her homework, but also staying in contact with-teachers somewhat, and half-heartedly staying after her to do it. That semester she had over 60 missing/late assignments! (she eventually got the majority turned in)

    So doing nothing won't work. Because D's and F's at school do not bother her one bit, nor does detention.

    She has an agenda and is supposed to fill it out, that is not working well. But right now my concern is how much time is being put into this homework.

    My difficult child also goes to a Day Program after school every day (however she's off this Weds, Thurs, Fri). Basically she does not get home until 5:30 PM after I pick her up. Day Program does not allow time for homework. She does have a study hall at school and I *think* she may be doing some work in there, but I am not totally sure.
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    why would she want to sit at the dinner table for hours and hours working on homework that she could get done in a 1/2-1 hour?

    That's the 6 million dollar question we've ALL asked in reg to our difficult children!!!
    They spend SO much time complaining when they go get it over with so much more quickly if they just focused.
    But they can't.
    That's why so many are on medications.
    I was about to point out there were medication duplicates too so I'm glad you clarified that she's being weaned off one of them.
    Often, my son just wants us to sit there and keep him company. Rarely does he ask any real questions. So I balance my checkbook, read a novel, write thank you notes, just so he can bounce things off of me if he needs to.
    That's all I can suggest for you.
    Best of luck.
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    If she got Ds and Fs during one semester, why wasn't she eligible for an IEP? An IEP would help you out more than a 504 with HW issues.
  11. jal

    jal Member

    You need to get in there and fight for an IEP for her in school. A 504 is nothing but a plan on a piece of paper to pacify a parent. The school does not have to adhere to it and it gives you no legal footing when they don't do what the 504 says they'll do. The only way you will be able to eliminate the homework (possibly) is by getting that built into an IEP. With an IEP the school has to do what they say they'll do in it and if they don't then you have an upper hand legally.

    Good Luck!
  12. jal

    jal Member

    by the way Patty,

    I read your article and it was very well written. My son is severe adhd with-a mood disorder not otherwise specified and they can't quite yet rule out bipolar and he is just like your daughter you describe in your article. He has exhibited severe ODD since the age of 2. I would put him in a safety hold and he would bash me with his head too. I had bruises all over during a very rough time with him.
  13. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    Came up with-another idea today with-difficult child's counselor. It was only after we asked why she doesn't want to get her homework done quicker. She said she can't, it's too loud.

    Right now and temporarily we are living in an apartment, the arrangment is not the greatest to eliminate noises. So, I am instituting a 1/2 hour of quiet time in the house. The time will start when she gets home from Day Program and sits at the table. For those 30 minutes there will be no tv/radio/ps2 being turned on by her siblings.
    Siblings are in agreement. Though I heard the argument 'there's nothing else to do', lol. Ya right, cleaning? reading? coloring? toys? etc?

    Also during this 30 minutes of quiet time, I will sit at the dinner table with-her. Though I will be doing tasks of my own, (easy child time, reading, bills, letters, etc).

    I am doing this now, sitting at the table with her. It is not going so well, as I continually have to tell her to focus on the homework, about every 2/3 minutes.
  14. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    I fought so hard to get just the 504 Plan put in place. The school says they do not see any of the problem areas at school. But my thinking behind that is, that actually they do by incomplete/missing assignments, day dreaming, etc. But goodness forbid them to actually admit to it.

    And we are living in a different place/different school district for now, temporarily. when we get back to her original school & school district I may then try and get an IEP, but right now I am not going to.
  15. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    by the way, thank you all for your help, suggestions, and support. It does help!!!
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    The quiet time is a really good option. She sounds so much like difficult child 3 and difficult child 1...

    What happens if you talk to the teachers about the MAJOR problems she has doing homework? I really think it's wrong to penalise a kid with poor grades, if she is showing capability in t hose subject areas in everything else other than homework, if she CAN'T do homework without this sort of battle.

    We went to extremes with difficult child 1 - we (husband & I) would take turns sitting with him in our spare room (isolated room, free-standing) FOR THE ENTIRE WEEKEND. difficult child 1 was allowed out of the room to go to the bathroom, for meals and to sleep. The task - summarise a piece of text. He couldn't do it. We went months doing this, week in, week out. He's a bright kid. But he couldn't do this task.

    Your daughter sounds very easily distracted. It's also possible that under the right conditions, she could actually be highly motivated, but when you keep getting fail grades for what you just can't manage to do, it is very disheartening and soon you give up trying. She needs to see that there is a way that works, without being too onerous.

    We found that both boys had far more difficulty trying to do homework at the end of the school day when medications were wearing off (stims). We have been lucky that stims work at all. ANd just this year, we got almost exactly the scenario you describe, with difficult child 3 - and with him it's a huge issue because ALL his work is done at home, and NOTHING was getting done. Because I know he is highly motivated, I could immediately work form the premise that this wasn't naughtiness or stubbornness. It turned out to be wrong medications - we had recently changed to a different stimulant, plus the dosage had been undercalculated. We're still trying to fine-tune it, but he's now much better, switching him back to his old medications at the higher dosage was like waving a magic wand.

    There shouldn't be battles like this. The school shouldn't be insisting on you fighting these battles - so either they don't know how bad it really is (or think you're exaggerating) or they don't care. Most teachers should be far more reasonable than this.

    So fight this on several fronts -
    talk to the school about how extreme the problems are at home;

    push for an IEP with homework listed (and probably she may need classroom tasks broken down into manageable portions);

    support her at home as you are doing, by working on her environment.

    Now, to this last - what has worked for us with difficult child 3, to make it more productive at home (and at school, when he was still in mainstream):

    1) A quite place. You're doing this now.

    2) Sitting with the child - not necessarily to help, just you doing YOUR 'homework' at the same time. I found that difficult child 3 works well if we're sharing a task. Sometimes 'sharing' for him can be I ask him to do two tasks, then he chooses the one he wants to do and I do the other. Since I privately only wanted him to do one task anyway, I'm happy with this. He then works very happily, because it feels more fair to him. And 'fair' is VERY important to him. Again, you're doing this too.

    3) A white noise generator, or ear plugs. For her, not necessarily for you, although that is another option!

    4) Headphones with music. We had this in difficult child 3's IEP at school (although I think we set it up unofficially with his teacher first). Because difficult child 3 has a tendency to sing along with lyrics and to be distracted by them, the rule was - instrumental only. I also tried to avoid anything too stimulating or toe-tapping - easy listening music. The experts say that the best music for kids to listen to if you want to stimulate their brains to be productive - Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach. We've taken this further and by observing the music that difficult child 3 chose and included the instrumental backing music from Japanese-style animated movies and video games. difficult child 3 has managed to download a lot of tis to iTunes and when I listened to it I found a lot of similarity in musical style to the faster-paced Mozart. The music difficult child 3 tends to choose to work to is the light, bouncy, complex. Close harmonies interwoven with subtle melodies underneath. Very similar to Mozart and Vivaldi. Since I've learned to pay attention to what difficult child 3 wants (because from experience, I've learned that his instincts for meeting his own NEEDs rather than wants, is extremely acute) I allow it; I think he's onto something. Interestingly, difficult child 1 chooses the same sort of music when he's concentrating on things.

    Music like this is more than simply white noise, it can focus attention. It can be better than silence for a lot of reasons:

    1) Silence means everyone has to tiptoe around, the slightest noise seems magnified and distraction is still a huge issue even after everyone else has made huge sacrifices. Failure of this option to work causes HUGE resentment (like organ rejection of a live donation kidney causes resentment in the donor).

    2) Music masks background noises. My mother used to put the radio on (when I was a toddler in the playpen) so I wouldn't hear her moving around and call out for her just because she was within earshot (I know - my memories go back a l-o-n-g way!) My mother used the classical music radio station.

    3) It's not unusual for a difficult child to have problems with tinnitus. If you surround the child with external silence, the tinnitus becomes a distraction. Again, music can mask tinnitus.

    It really sounds like you're on a good track.

    One more thing (and I can't believe we've not told you this yet) - get a copy of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. No matter how experienced a parent you feel you are (and I was one of the most smug, I was taught by the best with a long apprenticeship) this book can open your eyes on how to get what you want from your difficult children (your PCs as well, if you like) without them feeling manipulated or not in control.

    There is some discussion on this book in Early Childhood, if you want a sneak peek on how it works. I got my first read from the local library because I wasn't going to pay good money for just another book recommendation. Then I had the book for so long I risked an overdue fine!

    Let us know how you get on.

  17. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I like your latest plan. Don't give up on it. It may take several days for your difficult child to figure out that it will work. She needs time to adjust.

    I love Marg's ideas also. The healthy snacks on the table may help also.

    Something else that might help: The right "tools" to add some fun on a different level:
    1. Does your difficult child like dry erase boards? Get a small one and a variety of colored markers for it. difficult child can use that as her "scrap paper" to work out the problems and then copy them neatly to her paper.
    2. If the school allows, get the black lined paper with colored gel pens to write out answers. Tell her that will only work as long as the work is neat and legible.
    3. Maybe giving her poster boards for her to make her own math tables.
    4. Give her index cards to write words she is not sure of. You can then try to write their meanings in her understanding level then ask her to write a sentence using the word.

    Have some short term goals:
    1. When homework is done, you get to stay up an extra 15 minutes.
    2. When homework is done all week, you get to choose a movie to watch Friday night.
    3. Once homework is done, I will sing you a song (or do something very silly - crack an egg on my head or walk barefoot in the snow).
    4. Once homework is done, I will play a game with you.

    Sounds goofy I know, but sometimes that is the level we need to reach to get them to relax and get the work done without feeling defensive about it.
  18. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    I like the idea of playing some quiet, yet not super stimulating music, like Mozart. Thanks Marg for the idea!

    I do have her set up on a homework reward system, in a way. If she has no missing homework come Friday, then she gets to rent a movie along with-her siblings. So far she has not earned a movie rental. :(

    Tonight homework only took 1 1/2 hours for 15 problems. I sat with-her the majority of the time. But had to continually tell her to focus, using single words 'focus' 'homework' 'her name' etc.

    I like the idea of the white board for scratch paper. I may try it, though I can honestly see her doodling on it more than anything.
  19. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Give her encouragement and praise (appropriate praise).

    Tonight she only took an hour and a half? That is great - really good progress! I hope she feels pleased with herself for working so much better.

    Your homework reward system - you might need to keep it simpler. Maybe a voucher system for each night she gets her homework done with no meltdowns. And no losing vouchers already given for previous successful nights. Then after she earns five vouchers, she has earned a movie for the next Friday night. That way she can earn one after, say, two weeks where she held it together for half the time. Over time, she can improve maybe even to the point where she could cash in a voucher for Friday night AND Saturday night?

  20. erbaledge

    erbaledge New Member

    I just emailed the school counselor, the math teacher, the Connections (like study hall) teacher, and CC'd my difficult child's counselor.

    I asked them to please have her work on her math homework in Connections class, and to not allow her computer time or time to draw on the board. As those are the things I found out last night that my difficult child does in Connections.

    hopefully they will help out. I'll update as I can