Evaluating our approach: boarding school or other?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by kcddad, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. kcddad

    kcddad New Member

    I am new, so I'll try to explain where we are.

    My son is the difficult child. He's nearly 15 (September), and has recently been diagnosed with conduct disorder by a therapist. He was also recently diagnosed with ADHD, during a neuropsychologist evaluation in 12/07. I don't question the adhd.

    We adopted him at 19 months from a teenage relative. She has issues as well, possibly cd herself. Family has had substance abuse problems and mental illness (i'm related, and I know their history).

    He's never been very good at school. We've had issues for years - constant calls home from school, poor grades, no real education going on.

    A Few Memories
    Worst memory: at 6, he ran away on his bike. Took police 2-3 hours to find him, and he tried to get away even then! Found a few miles from home. No other run attempts.

    Worst from elementary school: stabbed another student in the leg with a pencil.

    Funniest: brought home (stole) his teacher's key ring the night before we went on vacation. We took it back to the school at 4 AM, in an envlope addressed to his teacher. Before we dropped it in the slot, I saw a jeep in the parking lot. I pressed the button on the ring, and sure enough, it was the jeep. I pressed the lock button to relock it and put the keys in the mail slot. I felt awful.

    There are too many stories like this to tell. I'm sure most of you have your share.

    Stealing and Lying
    Recently: In the past year, 9th grade, he has been caught stealing from store at least twice, maybe 3 times, from a teacher once (diet coke from his fridge), from other students possibly several times (no direct evidence). And from us, at home, several times - mostly money.

    One item he stole from the store was a lighter, which he sold or gave to two friends. They used it to burn a telephone box (the little ones about 2 feet high). They committed arson, and the school police officer told us that difficult child would normally be prosecuted on accessory to arson, but since he wasn't there during the arson (thank heaven), and no one saw him provide the lighter, the officer dropped the idea of charging him.

    (Theft and lies to cover have been going on for years. Probably since about 6. Some we catch, some we don't. Very problematic when my difficult child comes home with a valuable object and says "he gave it to me." I get upset, call the friend...and he DID give it to him. Other times, no back up, no receipt, so we assume it's stolen.)

    Nutty Pills
    For my wife, another problem was her last straw: The school said he was selling nutmeg pills as halucinogens at school. For a quarter each. He took some regular supplements, opened the capsules, threw away the contents, and filled them with nutmeg from the spice rack. Then he relabeled the bottle "nutty pills" and sold them. About 35 of them.

    The school police officer said he called the situation in to see what he could charge difficult child with. Since we wasn't alleging drugs, but legal substances, there was no charge. The officer said he could only charge him with selling without a business license...(not a great situation for humor, but he was half serious).

    The intention appears to be drug dealing. Serious, right? Can I expect that is where he is going?

    School Performance
    This semester of school, he ended with about 4 D's and a B (in his Special Education class/IEP in place as of Feb 08), and a C, I think. I spent the last 2 days of school helping him finish a few assignments to get UP TO a D. Halleluia, he got a D+ in Math.
    (I went to the school for an hour on Thusday, and half day on last Friday to get this done.)

    He was in ISS: In School Suspension. As a favor to us, the school let him come to ISS the last week to finish up his classes - his behavior would have kept him home all week otherwise. Other than the last week - not counting that week - he spent 2-3 weeks in ISS this semester, and 2-3 last semester. ISS is like an in-school holding cell, but it looks like a classroom. You get to read, surf, or do classwork if you are disciplined, and, of course, associate with other ISS kids. Negative reinforcement.

    Boarding School?
    Which brings us to or close to today. My wife is fed up and overstressed. She wants to send him to a therapeutic boarding school (TBS, emotional growth type school).

    We toured one where we could come in for weekly therapy with him, have had a few conversations with another. She wants to reset his direction before he actually gets arrested and sent to detention. And won't allow drugs/prescriptions, plus the idea that he might have sold them (the school officer said the same).

    I am in a quandary. I see his direction. I am worried about him and his choices. The lack of motivation at school worries me, too - he doesn't do hardly anything for school. He failed some classes last fall - math and science.

    But I am concerned that sending him to a TBS would wreck his attachment to us and his sisters. The cost is astronomical, but I can see that we could arrange a way to do it.

    I am thinking of hiring an educational consultant (Easy Child). I was leaning toward a summer program, but have reconsidered. One summer program said that 45% go on to a longer term program, and this is fairly typical from what I have read. (I read the Lon Woodbury 10 mistakes article - thanks for posting it.)

    I can only expect that eventually this behavior pattern will return, though he seems to be okay at the moment. We are in counseling once a week. I suspect I'll be disowned if we go with the boarding school.

    Any ideas? Am I wrong to consider the boarding school?
  2. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome to the site! I am glad you found us. I am sure you are, too. Breathe....

    Why the 'no medications' policy? To me this boards on medical neglect. If he had cancer, would you deny chemotherapy?

    I am not being flippant or mean. I am trying to put it in perspective.

    I resisted medications as well. I got calls daily from the school. Once we found the right medication for my difficult child - those calls stopped. Instantly. She was able to control her impulsive behavior. So, she stopped saying that inappropriate comment outloud that started the spiral of behavior that ended with a phone call to me. It helped her to stay on task and actually hear what the teacher had to say.

    I do not think a TBS is unreasonable here.

    Have you heard of Attachment Disorders? Have you read The Primal Scream?

    I recommend you look into adoption issues. You may recognize your son.
  3. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    A TBS sounds like a good idea. They usually have very good control over the medications and can ensure that he swallows them and he won't have the opportunity to "sell" them.
  4. kcddad

    kcddad New Member

    The no drugs comes from a couple of directions. She had depression for a while and wouldn't take drugs to treat it, just St. John's Wort.

    1. She is worried about aggressive behavior from him as a side effect.

    2. She is worried he'll sell them.

    3. She thinks it will make him more likely to use illegal drugs.

    4. Worried his sisters will think they can have some.

    We have used some DMAE, which makes a difference. We have tried herbal formulas, but they don't do much so far in my opinion.

    I understand the chemo example. Our therapist compared it to wearing glasses. This is a requirement she has.
  5. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Hello and welcome.

    The older our kids get, the less time we have to deal with-their issues. I think and emotional growth boarding school may be a good idea.

    I don't have any experience with-EGBS, but there are two members that I can think of that have off the top of my head. Both of their difficult child's are older now and visit this particular forum less frequently. However, you can PM them. One is Fran (the former site owner) and the other is Martie (Sp Ed Forum moderator).
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Hi and welcome!

    I am sure that it seems that getting a child used to taking medications would make it easier for the child to take drugs. I have read several reputable studies that show that chldren who are properly medicated for ADHD and other problems actually have a much LOWER risk of taking drugs. The medications let them be who they are, keep anxiety and other problems in control. Having no medications is a major reason why many people with psychiatric disorders end up as alcoholics and drug addicts - they are self medicating with what they can get.

    Medication IS a tough choice, and a personal one. but if it is needed, it is needed. And your child is NOT thriving. medications are NOT an easy road, it takes a LOT of time to find the right medications and right doses. (For my epileptic pcdau Jess it took almost an entire YEAR to get her epilepsy medications right. And we had to homeschool because she simply could NOT function she was having absence seizures and missing over 1/2 of each class!)

    A number of our parents have gone the TBS/emotional growth boarding school route, and have had very good results.

    I do wonder if they have explore reactive attachment disorder or other attachment disorders? Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and CD look very similar. (I am very sorry if either diagnosis is the right one - neither is an easy thing to face for anyone in the family.)

    have you read Parenting the Hurt Child by Keck, or any other books by Keck on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)??

    I suggest this because Conduct Disorder has being 18 as one of the diagnostic criteria. I wonder who diagnosed him and what they based it on? And if they have read the diagnostic criteria??

    However you go, I know you ahve the best interests of hte child and the family in mind.


  7. change

    change New Member

    I'm in almost the same boat. My daughter has to be watched constantly right now or she'll steal. She also failed math MISERABLY. (Read my previous posts if you can to see my story.) In my opinion, I'd try my best to convince your wife to at least try the medications. I haven't heard great things about the TBS's except that they will give y'all a break. You're right to worry about the attachment issue. I don't know what to do myself but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. Seek out a CD therapist. We see 2 different therapists weekly and have been referred to a behavioral specialist now.
  8. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I don't know that I would rule out any treatment - medications included - just as a matter of course because I don't like the idea of it. I think it's best to keep an open mind.

    Whether to invest the money for a TBS is something that only you will know if you want to do. I would beware of anyone who tells you that they have the right program for you and know exactly who can help you. It's something that you will need to research heavily, and make that decision between you and your wife.

    Finally, I would also like to point out that while there are "educational consultants" who will recommend particular programs along with particular lenders to take a loan out with, a TBS is a school, and you should be able to go to your bank or credit union to make arrangements for a loan if that is something that is needed. There is no need to go to someone who specializes in funding tuition to a TBS. They're not looking to give you the best loan for you, they're looking to give you the best loan for them.
  9. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Also, given that he's 15, you may want to start researching the impacts of ADHD on adults. Left unmedicated, it can be a significant impairment.

  10. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    My son attended an emotional growth boarding school for 2 yrs. It was 5 states away. We saw him about every 3 months. He isn't cured of his neuropsychiatric disorder but the downward spiral of his behavior stopped.

    I think your wife is dead on about redirecting him in a big way.

    What you are doing isn't working! Why would you continue?

    medications, I think medications are an important tool for those who need them. Once his behavior changes to more acceptable levels medications can be weaned. To do everything at once is probably asking for him fail.

    I'm sure attachment issues are a factor but he isn't acting too attached at present.
    When behavior is heading towards incarceration I would do whatever I could to stop it. For us egbs was the way. I don't believe 3 months is anywhere near enough time.

    Searching for a safe environment is very important.
  11. kcddad

    kcddad New Member

    Thanks for all the advice! At least I know others struggle with similar issues. A couple of answers that I remember:

    - We were leaning toward a 2-3 month program, bur realized it would be for the wrong reasons, and probably the wrong treatment. Probably too short.

    - CD diagnosis is from a therapist. Bio mom and bio g-pa and bio g-ma all have had similar issues, no diagnosis. None were medicated until adult or not at all, none were adopted, some substance abuse. No known other reason. difficult child fits the description of CD, but he is still not extreme in his manifestation - could be worse.

    - Attachment disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) - not diagnosed, just suspected in a mild form. Haven't read Keck's books, but I'll look him up.

    - medications studies - I have heard of these studies, that a good prescription will prevent substance abuse. That was a turning point for me.

    Thanks again. Suggestions welcome.