Chronic school failure

The excert was taken from a study on ADHD/Learning Disability (LD), but there's a lot of good information that likely applies to various neurological disorders. It can be read in its entirety at .

"Chronic school failure demoralizes children, can cause loss of status and rejection by peers, destroys self-esteem, and undermines feelings of competence. As a result, it can undermine a child's attachment to teachers, parents, school, and the values they promote. It also generates hopelessness and helplessness. Children cease to believe that their efforts make a difference in outcomes.12,13,14 For delinquent youngsters, "school is not a place of attachment and learning, but of alienation and failure."15"

"...antisocial behavior evolves over the course of childhood, often beginning in the preschool and elementary years and peaking in late adolescence/early adulthood. Direct, early intervention can halt its progress; once firmly established, however, antisocial patterns become more difficult to change and can persist into adulthood."

"For disabled children, comprehensive assessment and individualized education programs (IEPs) can help identify and maximize children's strengths while detecting and accommodating weaknesses that add to risk. Although schools cannot change underlying neurological impairments that affect children's cognitive, social, and emotional performance, they can help prevent impairments from causing academic and social failure by providing appropriate accommodations and early intervention."

How true! Now if only we could convince SDs that they should believe this and act on it!!!

Thanks for this. I'm still plowing through it but here's another interesting bit on defiance vs depression- which sounds terribly true to me!

Low self-esteem. Brooks explains that "assaults to their self-worth as a consequence of the behaviors associated with ADD" cause children "to believe that their mistakes and failures are some kind of character flaw,' a flaw that cannot be modified. The result of such thinking is a child who may give up and resort to ways of coping that are ineffective and self-defeating."55 Goldstein and Goldstein state that the child with ADHD is more at risk for oppositional behavior because he "often cannot meet the demands of others, he fails frequently, and as a result becomes frustrated, unhappy, and more negative."56 Fouse and Brians suggest that well-meaning but "frustrated parents and teachers may push these children to the brink of despair."57 Some think that the defiant child may be fighting for self-preservation, while the depressed child has given up.


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I'm pretty sure I was one of those who pushed her child to the brink of despair.

20/20 hindsight shows me that asking a child who couldn't master the organization of self care to master school work was asking too much.Even if it was just basic work.

If his Learning Disability (LD) got in the way of understanding what was asked of him and didn't allow him to know how to do it,all he had in his little brain was chaos. He didn't know what to do with homework, he didn't know what the teacher had said,he didn't know how to place a value on what to remember or not to remember-so he tried to remember everything which again fed the chaos in his little head. He didn't know what to do with the tears of his mother or the anger and frustration in her voice. He knew he had disappointed but didn't know how he had done that and how to stop it. What to do?
Refuse to do anything that was asked. Do what he could do-Read. Learn what he wanted to learn about because there was a purpose.
Learning to spell was learning "hieroglyphics"(his word) but reading told a story. It gave him input. He shut me out.

If I could go back, and know what I know now,I would stop the classic educational process and work on mastering the "art of learning" specific to my difficult child. Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive,graduated program that teaches the different learner. A teacher would have to be my "Anne Sullivan to my Helen Keller". He was surely as blind and deaf of his mind as she was of her eyes and ears. We would not expect Helen Keller to function in the normal school environment. We would not expect Helen Keller to function in the home with out supports and training. Believe me I looked for that person. Haven't found her yet.

I only wanted him to "not fall behind" in school and to try. Ha! how ignorant I was to think that was important. What was important was for my difficult child to learn how to learn, how to think. What importance is graduating at a certain age if he didn't learn what he needed?
I almost lost my difficult child to the brink of despair.
He was sinking into an abyss of darkness and rejection and disordered thinking. I feared that he would require long term institutionalization.

I would have sold my house, tried any medication,moved to any city for a school environment that would have helped my difficult child to come out of that strange and scary place that he had retreated to.

All this because I wanted him to learn to tell time and make change. I will carry the burden of guilt of not knowing enough or understanding enough or not doing enough the rest of my life. There were no instructions, no guidance, no suggestions,no support. husband and I were on our own.

My difficult child is 2yrs behind academically and I don't give a hoot. I chuckle at the value of SAT's and college acceptance and the worry about popularity. I mourn a bit also.

I was humbled by the best early on. My difficult child will find his own path now that he has both feet on the ground. I can either support him and nurture him or I can try to force him to fit the average mold and push a wedge between us. I learned valuable lessons and gained a great deal of wisdom in regards to what parenting really means.

Wow Fran! That is one of the most profound messages I have ever seen. It's sad that these kids don't come with instructions, and when we make mistakes the guilt is just not measureable. No matter how many times we are told not to feel bad, that we have "done all we can" for our difficult child's, we know better. For some reason we see all the mistakes we have made very clearly.

Fran, I could have written exactly what you wrote. It broke my heart when I realized what was happening to my son. I listened when the school called him a "con artist" and told me he enjoyed playing head games with teachers. You are so right... keeping up with homework and grades and having a lot of friends don't mean a thing to me anymore. All I care is that Logan is happy, simple as that. Fingers crossed... it's been three weeks of school so far, and every day when I ask him how his day was he says either good or okay. Only a few negatives, and we've nipped those in the bud.

I think schools should come with an instruction manual titled "Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride!"


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Oh Fran! WHat a weight to carry. But I don't think there is one amongst us who has not started out trying to make their child conform, to be like others, to do what is expected of them. None of us knew early on what was going on in their little heads.

The big thing is ... now you know. Now you can help him - have helped him hugely for years. You took the initiative to find out what was going on, and then did something about it. Not all the people I know (excluding people on here) do that.

I feel David may happily pump gas all his life. But he was turning into an ugly person when I was trying to get him to conform in public school, and I lost my child for two years. Now I have him back, he is beautiful again, and I don't care what he does as long as he is happy.

Jess got so bad with society's pressure to conform as in ... go to school, do homework, etc (lol!) .... that she became increasingly ugly, to the point where she had an initial diagnosis of CD and Borderline (BPD) - at only 11 yo! Now changed to ODD and dysthymia.

So many of the comments, with or without the Learning Disability (LD) or ADD factor, ring true. I will take time to read the whole thing but gosh, how very very true it is.

All my kids carry baggage. That baggage interferes with their ability to learn. Then the downward slope described above begins.

It's a fine line. It must begin with school systems recognizing and accepting and working around/with LDs and attention disorders.



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by the way - my response went a bit off topic, though I tried to save it.

It's just that since I don't have any really major behaviour problems at the moment ... lucky me!!!! ... I am waiting for the dust to settle in all my kids' brains and then I want to find out if there are LDs. Or is their past causing symptoms that mimic ADD?

Because they have to develop unique skills to cope and survive, academic skills get given low priority - by them. Now they are safe and stable, I need to find if there are any true LDs or just baggage, and can I get rid of that baggage for them so they can now develop academic learning abilities?

That's my goal for this year. And I hope the school will cooperate. Having 6 in the same school will, I hope, help.


Fran, I liked what you said above. It's been very difficult for me to be empathetic when my kid is frustrating me so very badly, but I am trying. Thanks for the reminder of how hard things can be for them. Since S doesn't have any learning disabilities, I have a hard time keeping in mind that she's not JUST trying to make me nuts with her school behavior (that is just a side benefit for her, I'm sure :laugh: ) Being ADD myself I know what a constant struggle it is for her to stay focused.

School stuff is still sucking, she got a detention yesterday for acting up in class and then she punched a locker. She also didn't turn in the big integrated-studies report that I know she completed because I hounded her about it for the last two weeks... now it is too late to turn it in for credit. The school is now scheduling a case study and we'll be meeting to review her placement in a couple of weeks.

I'm trying to learn to let go a little on the school stuff. It's obvious that I can't MAKE her do anything and trying just makes her act uglier at home and school, so I'm leaving consequences up to the school for now and just concentrating on nurturing the relationship between me and her. Ultimately, that is more important to me than trying to force her to get an education she doesn't seem to want. I guess she can do like I did and get it later, the hard way. :rolleyes:

I've been "guilty" also. Everybody, including us, put too much pressure on difficult child to "perform and conform" because he has the "potential." I told them to "back off" as kindly as possible at first. I addressed this in meetings and my Parent Report -- the sd took the position that we weren't teaching our son responsibility. Academics became much less important when compared to the impact the stress was having on my son.

I let anger and guilt overwhelm me sometimes. I feel like I should have automatically "known" the best thing to do. How do you know to start the evaluation process when you don't even know it exists? We should have started the evaluation process through the school when he was in kindergarden -- shouldn't have listened to CPS telling us "he'll be okay --just needs more time to adjust." Then the doctors and school officials that early on could have at least alerted us to options to consider other than lack of parenting skills. Apparently it's a secrete! :mad:

All we can do, is all we can do.

my girl

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In my case I found out the problem four years ago early on, but difficult child refused to tell anyone and made up those very ineffective coping skills- including lying like a maniac- to conceal the truth to her school.

The school meanwhile just thinks that she is "unmotivated" to do the work. :rolleyes: Like a child would want to fail... :mad:

This from a kid who used to love going to school and learning. The same kid who now writes how she hates school, and only likes sports.

But this is the same school that refuses to acknowledge her psychiatric evaluations...

I keep hoping we can get her help in time, and you know Fran, I get roadblocked every step of the way...Good thing my Irish head like the bludgeoning :wink:

I feel so impressed by the way you wonderful people support each other including helping me. I don't think any of us can say we haven't felt like we've betrayed or not done our share to help our difficult child's but we are only human and need to keep growing with our difficult child's
I often wonder what's "normal" and is there really such a thing anymore. We all have proven that we care and try to understand what more can be done. I would cut of my right hand if I knew it would be a magic cure for my son. Hopefully some day we can all feel at peace with our decisions we've made good and bad. It's all just a learning experience that continues into adulthood...


Thanks for the insight on the true cost of inadequite educational resources. I do not know how our society expects to continue paying the cost for missed opportunity.
There has got to be a better way to screen early on and to implement change in our school systems or - other systems??? This is undo agony on a parent who literally believes they must by osmosis force their child to conform to a limited supply of resources. Except in many cases, we parents, don't even realize our children's true needs are not being emphasized until the damage is done.

What a foolish society we are.
We better wake up and make identification and flexible resources more available early on. What a waste of a child's mind.

Fran, Dear Fran,
How internally pained you have been I see by your writing. You have such wisdom. I am sure that your love for your son will far exceed societys failures. He has a great teacher in you.
You have both painstakingly discovered together what matters most...that is unique in my opinion.

Darn the current "Educational Setup" (setup for failure) that acts like it knows what it's doing for all unsuspecting parents and children. Time for our National Education System to take a deeper look at the need for a flexible education system. Meet EVERY child's learning needs. I don't like to see "institutionalized potential". How disturbing...

We better figure out a better answer. One size does not fit all and learning differences should never be demoralized but instead accentuate the positives and teach with effective tools and stop allowing "mainstream kids" to believe that they are the only ones "who've got it together", simply because they have the average mind. :rolleyes: How foolish.


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Fran what you wrote, brought tears to my eyes. My mom could have written this about me! And, if I am not very careful, I could be writing this sometime down the road about Nate. :frown: School did alot of damage to me....something I deeply resent. I cannot stand by and watch Nate go through it. If I can find another way to 'teach him to learn' and educate him, I will. I don't even want to go into a useless battle with the school. Nate is drowning NOW! I can't afford to do the 45 day wait for an IEP...I don't need the school to do the testing...not sure if I would even trust their testing due to there crundy assesement of his IQ which they already did and now needs to be redone. :frown:

I can have the testing done through the mental health place....if they can even get past his anxieties to do the testing! That is part of the problem...sigh.

I think Fran you did what every parent expect 'normal' thing like we all do from our kids...we expect them to go to school everyday and behave and do the work...why should we not expect that? That is how we were raised. I guess we are all learning to 'think outside the box'.

Big hug to you Fran...your reply really touched me...thank you for sharing that.


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This article brings up thoughts everyday of how little real support in my humble opinion our kids have in the schools. It is so hard. I read where one psychiatrist said these kids have to have courage to get thru their day.I really believe there is no one but the people on this board who truly understand what it takes to keep our kids moving forward.


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Just wanted to say thank you for your assurances and support.
I want to take this time to say that I don't think that the schools/educational systems are to blame in as much that they are doing the best they know how.
There is little crossover from medical/psychiatric research and educational. Both systems work as independent agents. Both have their own hierarchy. Both have their own agenda. The education of a different child is only peripheral to research.
I wish schools would say," based on what we know today, this is the best that we can do" Instead of acting like that they have everything under control. They fulfill the documentation for IEP's and Accreditation which touches on learning different children but is anyone really teaching,evaluating and challanging different learners. Not that I can tell. It isn't the individual teachers fault. It isn't the medical communities fault. It just is!

Wish there was a fundraiser for research.
I can see it now, a weekend telethon with Anne Heche as hostess, raising money for mental health. We can doll up our kids with bows in their hair and cute little bow ties and watch them meltdown on a regular basis on TV. How much do you think we could raise?

well after a day of (me) crying over school and difficult child - this article and fran's response really hit a tender spot for me. i forwarded this whole thread and the article on to our guidance counselor at school - we both sit on the site-based decision making council and are friendly so i hope she reads everything.

fran - what would you do differently with regard to your difficult child's education? your 20/20 hindsight is our reality right now and we're sinking! i feel like in another 10 years i could be writing your exact same post - and (please forgive me) i don't want to! i'm desperate for some advice and wisdom here and i don't know how to convey that desperation through cyber-space but i need some concrete ways to help my difficult child. we've set in motion the evaluation for an IEP (currently on a 504). our homework/school battles are the same ones you describe and i fear that i'm sacrificing my difficult child because i don't want him to get behind. how would you educate him differently? i'm really interested in knowing... :frown:


wow - what a bunch of posts to read - emotional roller coaster ride. Iwent from guilt over being the 'pushing too hard' parent to tears over others posts to LMAO at Frans idea of the weekend telethon - but I think we should get Robyn Williams to host it - now THAT is the poster boy for adult ADHD - LOL. He could whip the kids into a big whirling dirvish while we cry out from the middle 'sent money, send money'