Disorganized thinking in an otherwise bright difficult child

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    difficult child 2 is a bright kid. But despite a high IQ, I'm seeing some serious (in my mind anyway) deficits in his language skills, specifically writing. I don't know if this is a symptom of the bipolar disorder, the medications, the ADHD, or if it's just unique to him (although his dad has similar challenges when it comes to written and even oral expression).
    He has a writing assignment where he is arguing his point in favor of or against a particular proposition. He has numerous reference errors, grammatical errors, and sentence fragments. He uses cliches inappropriately and out of context. I feel like he's either regressed or missed a huge chunk of teaching, and I think he needs to go back to square one with English.
    He starts high school in the fall, and although he's in an honors language arts class now, I don't think that will be appropriate for him next year. He may grasp the concepts and thematic issues, but he just does not have a solid foundation for expressing himself on paper.
    Should I get a tutor now? Enroll him in summer school? Is there some specific type of testing I should request? He has an IEP, but it's mostly for social and critical/organziational skills. Perhaps we need to add some teeth to the IEP to specifically address some of these deficits.
    Comments? Suggestions?
  2. 4timmy

    4timmy New Member

    Hi. My difficult child has very similar issues and I've been contemplating sending him to a speech therapist that will help with pragmatic language skills. My difficult child is 12 and we just always thought this issue would work it's way out the older he got, but now believe it's the cause of a lot of his anxiety about school. His writing is also very poor. He refuses to insert spacing between his words most of the time and will hurry through assignments just to "get it over with". I plan on asking about it in our next IEP review.

    I would be interested in knowing what types of things are taught to improve critical disorganizaiton skills. I've tried so many things through the years, and my difficult child just has no interest in being organized!!!
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    We've only seen a noticeable improvement in his organization skills this year. He's writing his assignments in his planner with decent regularity. He's keeping his papers in order. He's getting 90-95% of his assignments completed on time, too (grades aren't stellar in all areas, but it can't all be perfect). This is his second year having a dedicated "critical skills" class that is essentially a study hall where the teacher works with the students on keeping backpack and notebook organized, managing their time well, etc. I also think part of it is having an effective medication combo finally, and part of it is maturity. When he was your difficult child's age, he was a complete mess!
  4. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Is it a dysgraphia type thing or a complete thing where he cant put the parts together correctly? I would want to find out which one it is. Either way...English is going to be a bear for him. Billy has dysgraphia and he cannot do reports or write to save his life. His handwriting is awful. He barely got through his AS degree because of the English requirement. He had to take the classes twice. It wasnt that he didnt know the material, he just couldnt do it. At the end, I actually offered to have him do the class online for him but he was too stressed he didnt even sign up for it and ended up taking it on campus.

    If you can get him tested and then get some sort of tutor that can find the missing link, that may be worth it.
  5. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    It's not the writing, it's the logical flow of his thoughts. His ideas jump around. He writes conversationally and then switches back to overly formal language. It's just a mess... and maybe I'm expecting too much of him. But he's in an 8th grade honors class and I feel like the mistakes I'm seeing in his writing are issues that should have been addressed or resolved a couple of years ago. Here's an example of a paragraph he wrote for this assignment (I left all the errors as he wrote them):

    This was in his final draft that supposedly was peer-reviewed by three other students!
  6. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    I would get him a tutor if you can afford it. Maybe even a tutor that specializes in special needs who can help him compensate if he does have learning or cognitive problems.

    I don't have experience with a school providing this kind of education, so maybe it is possible to find it. As a homeschooling mom, I see that you can't beat a teacher sitting one on one with a child.

    In the best case scenario, he just needs some extra teaching but if he needs more, a special needs tutor can address that, too.

    Some of the tutors or tutoring centers we have used do their own assessments. Some of them seem to believe in the traditional methods of lots of repetition with correction, while others are more geared to teaching strategies for learning difficulties.
  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Sounds a lot like Miss KT's writing style. She writes her papers, e-mails them to me, I proof them and correct the most obvious errors (like this one..."I was so happy that my heart soured..."), and send them back to her.

    Since she's majoring in Communications, I can only hope she'll be able to talk for a living instead of having to write.
  8. lmf64

    lmf64 New Member

    I'd get him a tutor to work on teaching him to proofread/edit his own work. He needs to be taught the writing process. I haven't done a search, but I am sure there would be multiple sites that will explain the writing process.
  9. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Yes, maybe a tutor would help. I've just emailed his lang arts teacher as well as his critical skills teach explaining my concerns and asking for feedback. If the school can provide the extra help, I'd prefer to go that route rather than pay out of my pocket again.
  10. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Please keep us updated on this... Duckie has a similar/related issue. I'm not sure if it's related to pragmatic speech or a throw back to her fine motor/writing problems (writing as little as possible) but her teacher is concerned about the simplicity of her sentences and lack of detail. Plus, her organization within paragraphs is often stilted and even disjointed. I'll be interested to read how you handle this with difficult child 2.
  11. lmf64

    lmf64 New Member

  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Do they even do sentence diagramming anymore? That would help with the knowing how to put a sentence together. In that first sentence he is missing the verb. "Finally, the main part of the museum the holocaust and the events leading up to it."

    It should read " Finally, the main part of the museum is the Holocaust and the events leading up to it." If that is what he is trying to say.

    There is a way to use conversational language and formal language in the same paper but it takes work. I pulled it off in a couple of term papers in HS. One I remember well was on a paper on the dangers of drinking alcohol for teens...lol. I started the paper off as if I, the author, was chatting with a group of friends as we left HS on a Friday afternoon for a weekend of fun and parties. Then I went into the heart of the paper with my thesis and body. I brought it to summation as the author merged back into that teen on Monday morning and all the students found out that one of their friends was killed in a drunk driving accident that weekend.

    I sure wish I had kept some of that stuff.
  13. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Thanks lmf64. I'll check that link.

    Janet, they focus on sentence diagramming in elementary school. Well, that's when he was starting to fall apart with his bipolar and his movement disorder (which also affected his brain). So that's probably when the holes in his education were formed.
  14. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I vaguely recall sentence diagramming. I hated it hated it hated. It looked like fish bones to me and made less sense. I was constantly corrected on my grammar by my mom (who had been an English teacher), so I can use proper grammar the majority of the time when I write (my spoken grammar skills have gone down after giving up correcting everyone around me), but the mechanics of grammar still elude me.
  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Y'all are NOT going to like what I am going to say. I am really really really sorry to have to say it, but if I hadn't seen it with incredible frequency with my own eyes I would NOT say it.

    I think it is the way English is being taught in our schools, NOT so much that it is your child/children.

    My mom was a college prof who did a LOT with her students, including very in depth feedback on assignments, and she required more out of projects than most of her peers (most profs didn't want to grade so they didn't require as much, esp for intro classes). What her students turned in by the late 90's was about on par with that sample of what you gave us of difficult child 2's writing. These were NOT freshman, they were juniors and seniors if they were in any class she taught. She had a policy that she would grade until the 10th error in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc... What was SHOCKING was the number of otherwise seemingly smart kids who had to redo the papers. She would give them a week to redo it or they could take whatever grade they had earned by the time she hit the 10th error. There were a couple of people in administration who tried to tell her she was too hard on the kids with this rule!!

    I read a lot of the papers, also ones my husband's students turned in. Awful does NOT begin to describe it. Sadly, some of the students from that time are now teachers. Jessie had a 6th grade Lang Arts teacher who couldn't write a letter home to parents. She got very upset when a parent marked a letter to parents with a red pen and gave it to the principal. She was mad the first two times the parent (a friend of mine who was NOT an English major or honors English student) corrected her letters to parents, but she made NO effort to not repeat the mistakes. Sadly, the principal of our middle school sided with her that it was highly inappropriate for a parent to do this (never mind that the parent mailed it to the teacher instead of having their child deliver it in order to save embarrassment of the teacher!) and was quite scathing in a reply to "chastise" the parent!! Sadly for the teacher and principal, they put their replies in writing and the parent went to the school district superintendent and said she would go to the school board AND the newspaper if things didn't change! The teacher was a second year teacher with a minor in English!! NOT in English Literature, in English - which means she took entire classes dedicated to sentence structure and punctuation but still couldn't do it! She actually waved her transcript around to prove she was "qualified", but she barely passed the English classes (NOT the A she had bragged about to the students when they questioned how she graded their use of punctuation!).
    Even scarier are some of the textbooks our kids use. Not only do they often NOT have proper grammar and punctuation, they sometimes have the rules for grammar and punctuation wrong, or their examples will illustrate the wrong way as the right way. Textbooks are a HUGE business, with schools being pushed to buy "newer and better" ones each year. The error rate in these texts keeps going up. The publishers have said that they don't have "time" to fully proof them for errors. I can remember finding maybe 5 errors in my 6th grade science book, mainly because our teacher would have us copy it instead of trying to teach it to us. We had to copy huge chunks word for word. By doing this I picked up on a lot of the errors because my parents were education junkies and I had read textbooks that were quite far ahead of 6th grade by the time I got there. The grammar and punctuation errors drove me up the wall quite literally by that age. I though 5 or 6 errors in a textbook should mean the school ask for their $$ back. These days I would REJOICE over a textbook with 5 or 6 errors as I have seen some with close to that many a page. My dad was on textbook selection committees for a long time for his large school district (one of the largest in the state). Several times he had me read a chapter or three to get my opinion as a student. MOST were just awful, with some of the most outrageous errors I have ever seen, including giving completely wrong definitions for glossary words. Sadly there are very few teachers who ever read a textbook. They operate off of the teacher's guide and the lesson guides and those usually don't catch the mistakes or make the same mistakes as the textbooks.

    So not all of this should be put to rest on difficult child's shoulders. A tutor and some testing to see if there is an Learning Disability (LD) or speech issue going on would be an excellent thing. Helping him NOW with this will be a huge help to his future. Does he write his assignments out longhand or does he type them? Can he have an alphasmart to do his classwork, notetaking and assignments on? When we switched to one with Wiz the detail and quality of his writing went up astronomically. For him it was so painful and difficult to write that he just wrote the shortest thing he could, regardless of his knowledge. It also has a spell check and may even have a grammar check. Teach difficult child to use both of these on everything he writes. Make it a game to try to have as few errors as possible - a personal goal or give him a small reward or something. It can make improving his grammar and spelling a goal, rather than keeping him dependent on the grammar and spell check.

    I am sorry he is having these problems, but at least he is young enough that you can help him with them. You might also search out games that work with the rules of grammar and punctuation, etc... they won't be as fun as Warcraft or whatever, but maybe for every 15 min he plays a grammar game he gets 20 on the Wii or whatever?
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know my grammar and English are nothing next to horrible on the computer. I actually do know how to write properly when I am supposed to...I promise!

    My parents were brought up in New England and I went to one of the top ten schools in the country in HS. Im assuming that was for academics and not partying...lol. I get really irritated with the wrong use of me or I but I do it all the time because I have become so accustomed to sounding like everyone around me. As in me and Tony went... when it should be Tony and I went. Dual subjects should always be able to stand alone. My kids would never know that rule. My kids have horrible grammar.

    Their teachers were awful. I was in the office at the HS one time waiting on the principal and overheard this woman come in to make copies. She said something and I will quote her as closely as I can remember "gimme some of that there paper honey. I gots to makes me a bunch of them there tests 'fore t'morra."

    When the lady left I asked the woman at the counter if she was an aide and she casually said, Oh no, thats the Jr. English teacher!
  17. vtheartmama

    vtheartmama New Member

    Hi there...I'm a newbie but thought I'd comment, I hope you don't mind. I think if one looks beyond the grammatical errors, the substance of the paragraph is quite good. To me is just seems rushed, the grammatical errors are fairly common - continuity in tenses and learning when to use commas with "and" or "but". The thought behind the last sentence was good, but perhaps he didn't take the time to figure out a better way to get his point across and reverted to slang..and/or he could have been really tired when writing it..I've written a "few" rushed tired papers myself and that's usually how they turn out. If that is how he writes all the time it's a different matter..but maybe he just needs to slow down?

    ok forgot part about out of context cliches and reference errors...he still could just need to slow down and pay more attention but a tutor might help him do that and work on the harder parts..
  18. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Janet, it has gotten even worse in the years since your kids left school!! I am horrified by what I hear being said at our schools - esp in the teacher's lounge. Jess had a 4th grade teacher who told the kids that punctuation didn't matter - she never understood it and refused to teach it no matter what the "Ni***** at the school board said she had to do". That year we had a black man in charge of English curriculum in the district in some way and she took this as a personal affront because he included punctuation in the goals for 4th graders. I was even MORE horrified when I learned that the "Special Education boy" she adopted was "a n***** boy". She NEVER used his name and NO ONE in the school had EVER heard his name, or heard her say "my son" - he was the "Special Education boy we adopted" or the "Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) idiot we adopted". I was even MORE horrified when I learned that she was "the best teacher with the Special Education students because she really understood and liked them", esp after the awful things she did to the 2 boys in her class who had IEPs. The sp ed teachers HATED her. Of course this teacher became PRINCIPAL the next year - and we changed schools (she hated me because I put this all together and told her it was inappropriate to use those words and she took it out on Jessie and anyone who was friendly to her).
  19. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Well, I am encouraged by the response I got from the lang arts teacher today:

    So part of it may be that he IS feeling rushed and does need more time to formulate his ideas thoroughly. Hopefully we can help him improve on this during second semester.