How do you deal with a child who doesn't "Buy In" to the whole education process?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Lourdes, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    My son hasn't bought into the education process since he was in preschool. He's in 10th grade now. He spent 6 years in a private Learning Disability (LD) school that made sure he passed and now he's in public high school. He's failing 3 classes. He has never gotten the point of school or it's purpose. How do I get him to do homework, do projects, study for tests? Up until now he passed even though he never did these things, but now I guess he can't survive anymore on just his charm and good looks alone. Can you make a 16-year-old care about school?

    I took away the one and only thing he cares about - his video games and computer - but that only seemed to plunge him into depression and anger. It is not motivating him to perform. He's never been manipulated by exterior forces - good or bad. No one could get this child to perform for a sticker reward, for instance.

    Any ideas? He says he's perfectly happy to live his life in a homeless shelter.
    Lasted edited by : Dec 8, 2010
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Just by his description and the variety of diagnoses he has, have you ever considered he may have Asperger's Syndrome? Speech issues and video game addiction are big red flags. Can he socialize appropriately with his same age peers? Does he seem immature socially?

    I'm thinking that maybe his brain is just wired differently so that he doesn't see the point in school. Maybe he doesn't feel he can do well in school, even though you feel he can. I would actually take him for neuropsychologist testing, if he will cooperate and do it, to see if there is anything that you have missed...that way you can better prepare him realistically for his that he can succeed in. I think it's unrealistic to think he will snap out of it overnight and care about school. I think (in my opinion) he needs a lot of help in understanding that he does need to plan for a future, whatever that is. Guessing that you'll find out his biggest issue is that he doesn't believe he can succeed in conventional school...and he could be correct. But you need to find out what is really wrong with him. He seems to have a cluster of diagnoses that to me do not tell the whole big picture.
    Good luck, whatever you decide to do.
  3. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    Asperger's has been ruled out at each evaluation. He's very social and makes friends easily. His brain is wired different no question. His strengths are giving speeches and presentations, quick witty replies, and he has this way of thinking where he can understand a lot more than you are telling him - I don't know how to describe that. He'll make a good salesman as he can be persausive and his communication skills are excellent and I've spoken with him a lot about going with his strengths. We've talked a lot about his future and he just shrugs his shoulders.

    I don't know if I can go through yet another evaluation - he's been evaluated soooo many times and has even done some brain studies at a brain institute. I guess I am having trouble understanding what can and cannot be changed as far as behavior. What's a diagnosis and what's willful behavior? His last school based evaluation - his ONLY school based evaluation - said there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. I wouldn't go quite that far.

    A couple of folks on this board met him when he was younger - Fran met him, but he was a little guy back then.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I agree about the Asperger's possibility. It would explain a great deal. It would also be a blessing in a number of ways.

    Some things to consider - first, it is highly likely that he is using computer games as a coping strategy. By taking them away, you have complicated things and not necessarily improved them. I can understand why you did - you see the kids playing games and losing a lot of time in them when they should be working. But removing the games, in fact imposing your will, is going to backfire badly with these kids.

    One thing we learn here - when your kid is different (a difficult child, or Gift From God) you have to throw out all the usual parenting rules and all the Dr Spock discipline ideas that come so highly recommended. Kids like these are often only made worse by them.

    Now, he needs to be engaged in his learning. Chances are there are subjects he has to do, which he cannot see the point in. He needs to be engaged in his own learning and for this, he needs to see the importance of it for his own life.

    So what I suggest - help him set goals for his life. You could probably need the help of a vocational psychologist in this. We've been fortunate to find a good one who has seen both my younger kids, consecutively. It is not long-term ongoing treatment, just a few appointments to try to help the client set their own goals and know what they need to do to work towards them.

    Find out what your son is good at and what he is interested in. Then help him find some possible career paths that use these skills, or use related skills. If there is not a career path, maybe there is a related hobby. One possibility he could investigate, is a programmer of computer games. Or a computer game reviewer. There are opportunities for kids of his age, to write their own unprompted reviews and post them online for others to comment. There are cheat codes and tricks that players work out for themselves and he could start a blog that shares these. But in order to do this, he needs communication skills. He needs to have at least some understanding of the practicalities of how to make it work. But surely it is an idea he would love?

    School lessons are important for all sorts of reasons. First, they work towards giving him qualifications on paper that he will need, in order to open doors later on. he could still get there without an education, but there will be many more obstacles, and right now he is demonstrating that he is not good with facing obstacles and overcoming them. So that is point two - this is good practice for handling problems later on.

    Next point - despite what he thinks about the content of his current lessons, there is stuff he will be able to use and will alter on be grateful for. Somewhere in there, of course. There is always a lot of other stuff you think you will never use or need, but it's the same for all of us. If he really is Aspie, his brain will be able to easily take this in his stride and absorb all information he needs very readily.

    School, especially secondary school, is perhaps the worst for Aspie kids. If he can hang in there and get to college or uni, he will find a lot more support and also a lot less dross in his curriculum. He will be able to choose stuff he is interested in, with a much lower "I have to do this and I can't see the point" ratio of material.

    If he is Aspie, chances are he is highly intelligent. Yes, he will find companionship on a park bench. But it will be rare. Most of those on the park benches don't have much left between the ears, they've burned it out. It's a tougher world on a park bench than in school, and he won't have the social skills to survive.

  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Lourdes, I have to concur with-the others. You can have an Aspie and not know it. The spectrum is so broad, that people constantly fly under the radar.

    As for the school saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with-him, since when did they have PhDs in neurology and psychiatry? Just saying ...

    Pick up an Asperger's book and read it. You will see something there that will click. You don't have to waste your time on another diagnosis. Just treat him a bit differently, and know that he can only cope with-so much and no more, and that things have to be broken up into bitesize pieces.

    As for the "why" of school, my son has always been like that. We have told him he goes to school to get a good job (not just any job, like garbage collection or lawn maintenance, which he hates, but a "good" job like police forensics. And, he goes to school because we tell him to. He will argue until the end of the world if we let him. :difficult child:
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    On the subject of Asperger's ad being sociable - my difficult child 3, whose diagnosis is full-on autism, is very sociable and always has been. The social side of autism is not being socially withdrawn, but socially immature and often inappropriate. For example, difficult child 3 liked to hold hands with his friends when he was tiny, and continued to try to hold their hands when the other boys were getting to that "yuk! We don't hold hands, it's gay!" stage. In fact, it was the reason difficult child 3 got pushed out of a tree and was concussed because he landed headfirst on a rock from a 2 metre fall - he had tried to hold his friend's hand and his friend pushed him away instinctively. There was no intention to cause injury, but the other boy had got to the inhibition stage, and difficult child 3 did not. Interestingly, difficult child 3's sensory issues then kicked in - he was not, at that time, very aware of pain if he had something else to distract him from it - he had been eating an ice block up the tree and dropped it when he fell. Despite the head injury, he was only concerned for the ice block and when he found it he picked it up and began to eat it again, quite content and totally unaware of his head injury.

    Asperger's is similar to autism, it also has varying degrees of severity, and milder Aspies can easily slide past without being identified. The brighter the individual, the easier it is to miss.

    We have an adult friend at church who is 55, has only just been diagnosed with Asperger's in the last few months. He is very sociable with some people. husband commented last night that he saw our friend on the commuter train last night walking from carriage to carriage apparently looking for him so they could sit and chat. There was about a 10% chance that they would both be on the same train, but Aspie friend was just looking for a friend he recognised, to talk to. Not about anything of great personal importance, just looking for a friend. We had all chatted together after church on Sunday, we all get on very well. But commuter trains are a challenge to move through, it was unusual behaviour.

    If you use Asperger's as a working hypothesis, even in the absence of a diagnosis, you might find some things falling into place more easily for him and for you.

  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    The social side of autism is not being socially withdrawn, but socially immature and often inappropriate.

    Good point.
  8. Lourdes:

    I, too, have a 16 year old who is not into the whole educational process. In looking back, I can see symptoms of Asperger's, but so mild they could have flown under the radar until he hit a level (He's a junior) where he can no longer fly on his ability to "get by."

    First I thought ADD, perhaps depression. ADD has been pretty much ruled out, so now we are exploring other options. He just started therapy with a good counselor so maybe in the next few months we'll get to start unraveling his issues. He's unmedicated for the moment. I was grateful the therapist wanted to get to know him better before suggesting anything.

    So we are just starting this road. It is such a stuggle for me. I am a former high school teacher, and I have seen this now from both sides. I have worked with teens for a long time and I never thought I would be in this boat. At one point, I actually thought adolescence would be easier for me as a parent because I had all this experience with teens. (Now I just keep quiet!)

    I am so grateful to have found this board. I have been lurking for months, reading books and just "gathering intelligence." It can be such a challenge to keep your head on straight when dealing with your own child.

    I guess I should write up a signature, huh? :)

  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Jan, that is a very common finding. And because they coped for so long, it still often misses diagnosis. A kid I know (son of my stalker, actually) is a classic case - my kids have been friends with him, I used to be close to his parents (until dad went more weird than usual!) and he had language delay, was a bit odd, but as an only child, they had no point for comparison and indulged him. If you indulge these kids (ie let them have control) you have far fewer problems. As this kid grew up, he was accelerated at school (elementary) although dad had to really push hard and bully this through. The kid had extension lessons and a lot of coaching (parents had money to throw at it) but middle high school, he hit the learning wall.
    Whenever I've met the kid to talk to, he's classic Aspie. I think that's why he and my kids got on so well. He's turned out well anyway, I am not in much contact now (although I was taking to him superficially a few weeks ago). He's found his niche, again thanks to parental money and support. I'd like to know more, but you can understand, I do not seek these people out and certainly cannot share any personal information about our family - the dad really is weird and uses this information as currency, distorting it as he goes.

    It doesn't always take money to get a good result, but it helps. And sometimes money won't fix it, a lot of what is needed can be done by you at home. I don't think this kid has an Aspie diagnosis, I think he will be like our friend from church, getting a diagnosis much later in life for the things that can't be fixed (the sensory stuff especially). The sensory stuff can be managed and desensitised if you actively work at it with therapy. if you don't, the problems continue indefinitely with it. It all depends on how much it is a problem anyway.

    Jan, I say to you what I have said to others - if you have a child like this, remember they are socially immature. This is more complex than immature behaviour (too often, teachers use the word "immature" when they mean "chronologically young"). This is about how the child sees himself in relation to the world. Often when they have some level of social deficit, they revert (or take longer to leave) to a stage of egocentricity. It connects to theory of mind issues, although the older ones do have theory of mind, especially if they have to stop and reason it out. I quickly tested difficult child 3 the other day for conservation. Yes, sometimes the Piaget conservation tests are much delayed in progress in these kids too. Although sometimes they are precocious in this - it relates more to egocentricity than conservation. But a quick test of difficult child 3 - instantly understands conservation. He looked at me like I was nuts, it was funny. Bur theory of mind - test your son with this, see how well or not he can manage it.

    The thing with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) - it is DELAY in certain areas of brain development. It is not permanent dysfunction. You can't force the brain to mature faster than it can, but you can certainly help things along as much as possible and be there to grab every brain-related opportunity.

    I was talking about egocentricity - this is not just a feature, it is a coping strategy (like so much of what you will see). So use it as your tool - make it relevant to your son. Show him how it is to his advantage to do something. You have to be prepared to compromise, but as you do compromise with him, you are teaching hi how to compromise - surely he needs this?

    Remember all the time in your dealings with him - he learns from you by imitation. Never try to control him, or he will do it back to you (because isn't that what you want? It is how you showed him...). Instead, lead him, support him, discuss with him and listen to him. The more you listen to him, hopefully the more he will learn how to listen.

  10. agee

    agee Guest

    Is there any way he can do an alternative diploma? GED? On-line or correspondence classes? Maybe he'd work if he knew he could go at his pace (probably quicker than regular school) and get it over with? For a lot of kids school is simply time spent at a desk - perhaps if the goal (graduation) could be sped up he'd try harder.
  11. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    I don't know abou the Asperger's. Maybe it's a matter of degree? This child has been evaluated so many times at so many ages by so many people - for my own knowledge, at two private Learning Disability (LD) schools (neither of which accepts Asperger's kids), for two research studies where they had to establish the subjects diagnosis's in order to qualify for the studies - and Asperger's/autism would have been a disqualifier, by a Development Pediatrician, by a university for a summer clinic speech program, by an Occupational Therapist, by the public school (hahahahaha) -I mean NONE of these places thought he was anywhere on the autistic spectrum at all. We have two neighbors with an Asperger's diagnosis and he is nothing like them - course they are nothing like each other either. But I won't have a closed mind about it.

    This control issue though is interesting to me. I have to go right now, but I will return later.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Until you get a better answer, you can still use Asperger's as a working hypothesis. It may still improve how you connect with him and can motivate him.

    I have a nephew who, with hindsight, could have been seen as Aspie. He was very aloof especially in his teens and disengaged from his education. But would he get a diagnosis, even now? I'm not sure. Now, he's a great guy, very sociable when he chooses to be.

    It is a spectrum.