15 Yr Old Son: 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back


New Member
My son had this dichotomy too. Exactly as you describe. We had a rich and loving home life, and he was a compliant child at home. Until he began to act up at around 15 but it was not serious.

My son was diagnosed as ADHD in response to his behavior in preschool actually. (There were way more things going on with him due to his early history, than with your son.) In retrospect I think that a lot of what looked like ADHD was anxiety. He would get anxious in school. There was never ever any desire to act out or to non-conform, but he would be triggered, and lack the resources to calm himself. When he was placed in a more structured and safe environment, he was able to contain his behavior and the acting out stopped. The thing is that the school district fought us and eventually won, and we lost that placement. What these kids often need is quite expensive for the school district. But my son got the services he needed for a time. And when we lost them we left that district.

I guess what I am saying is that there is merit to your desire to work with the school as long as they are working with you. There are risks either way. I do understand. What I could not stand is my son being scapegoated, when I knew he could not do better without help. Help to which he was legitimately entitled.

You see some of these so-called diagnoses like ODD or even ADHD are labels that are given to classify and describe behaviors. They have nothing at all to do with what is going on internally with these kids. The same behaviors can be motivated by vastly different internal dynamics. I would bet that your son has little or no oppositional or defiance in him, beyond the normal degree of a child of that age. But he is propelled by his feelings to be triggered in certain ways and it is experienced and described by the adults as being oppositional or defiant. In this sense the diagnosis is in THEM, about them, not him.

He may be anxious. He may be sensitive. He may need more of a container, more support due to sensitivity, more structure, etc. He may for reasons yet known become overstimulated. None of these things should be treated by disciplining him. Of course bad behavior should not be tolerated. But at what point is the intervention? Before the behavior happens or after.

I am getting the most amazing support and advice here! And you hit the nail on the head - I've been sending the reports of school issues to his psychiatrist so he has a good idea of what's going on. I've actually felt the depakote has been helping, because since he stabilized at his current dose, he's had far fewer issues and his teachers see a big improvement. Unfortunately, as you alluded to, it won't be perfect and he did have the big blow up this week for which I sent the info to his psychiatrist. That was in a class for which he does not have a good rapport with the teacher. His dr. asked me to bring him in a week earlier than we had planned - I take him in tomorrow. He also has bloodwork scheduled.


New Member
These are such wonderful observations! Thank you very much for sharing this. I agree wholeheartedly! The school has helped me identify some of the triggers that I had not even necessarily articulated up to that point as being triggers - like touching (if a teacher touches him when he is having an issue, particularly male teacher and particularly a touch he feels is aggressive, he will blow up) and speaking loudly (especially if it is a teacher he may not get along with well already). It's interesting seeing their perspective on what triggers him. And he is a sensitive child, though I think he tries not to show it, as many of us who are sensitive do! He also internalizes things, so he has a lot of things that will trigger frustration and cause him to react differently in the school environment than he may at home.


Well-Known Member
You're getting lots of great advice from some real parent warrior heroes here! It sounds like pushing for an IEP would be a really good idea. I really wish I'd had this kind of guidance while mine were still in school. I was repeatedly denied an IEP and I never heard of an advocate at that time. But there are LOTS of kids of IEPs now - I don't think he'll feel "singled out." I'll bet there are a lot of his peers on IEPs that he doesn't even know about.

What I'm realizing now is that the IEP might have also been a useful paper trail to have as they transitioned to adult life, to help them get additional services and establish that their problems began in childhood. I don't have that paper trail and wish I did, especially for my daughter S. Something else to think about as you make your decision.


Well-Known Member
The IEP definitely helped my son get the services he needed ro transition into adulthood. The school people by then were very helpful in steering us to the right places. Our Special Education Diector was a rock star. Sometimes with good intentions we dont want our kids in any sort of Special Education (we think it keeps them from achieving ) but I was not that mom and that really helped my son, even after he was no longer using Special Education services. My son was always in their hearts. Everyone wants to help a success story.