I feel totally hopeless

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by footballersmum, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. I'm really normally positive and although my son drives me to tears at times, I have always managed. I have 3 kids, my teenage son has ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum. I feel so sad - I really want him to pass high school so that he can go on to do what HE wants (programming), earn some money and feel good about himself. I tutor him daily (I am an ex-teacher so can help him) although he doesn’t want it – even though he’s failing at school, he feels he’ s OK and is sulky, aggressive and rude when I try and help him. He's in year 3 now (he's nearly 15) and he's failing this year already. He doesn't want me to help him and is defiant, rude and hurtful, he says he knows his subjects (he has an over-rosy view of his abilities - although his marks say otherwise and he doesn't like to work!) and doesn't need me causing him grief. Now forget all his difficult behaviour at school and everything else - it is THIS which is killing me inside. The dilemma is if I let him fail - my fear is that he won't get basic education, that he'll give up on his dreams and become depressed. If I keep on forcing him - my fear is he'll fight me all the way and still fail to spite me and will cause a lot of distress along the way. Am I being controlling? I only want him to pass high school, then he can do whatever he wants - as long as he's happy. I think I'm frightened of him not being happy - I've seen him depressed and confused, threatening to throw himself out of his bedroom window and I never want him to be in that place mentally again. I don't want to 'give up' on him but I don't want to do the wrong thing either.
    Please help if you can. Thankyou:confused:
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there. Welcome to the board. I know how you feel. I have a seventeen year old on the spectrum and I worry about him a lot. I'm not sure what country you are from, but in the US we have to start making adult plans for him now so that he can get services/job assistance/possible housing/disability as an adult. That's what we are doing now. What kind of services are available for your child? Also, is your son in any special services? I'm again not sure where you live or how that is handled in your country. Here, the kids get services in school (after you fight for them...lol) and it has really helped my son. While he is not depressed, I can not live forever and I worry about him after hub and I are gone. So I have empathy for your situation; Why not fill us in a bit more so we can make better suggestions? We have a lovely lady here from Australia named Margeruite and she is always GREAT at advising people with kids on the spectrum :) Bet she will check in.

    I am so sorry you have to be here, but this is a good place.
  3. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    welcome to the board! You have found a place where we understand and you will find you are not alone.

    Since your son is 15, I would assume that he is pretty set in his study and behavior patterns? (oh, I can hear you shaking your head saying, "what study patterns?"!) How involved has the school/teachers been this year? Are there any after school activities/clubs that he participates in that can be pulled? I'm guessing that since he's interested in programing he spends time on the computer at home? Do you have rules regarding computer time vs completed homework?

    Is your boy currently in talk therapy? Is he on any medications? Does he have an IEP at school where perhaps some of the homework assignments could be modified?

    I totally understand where you are coming from. I am the same way. Left to his own devises, my son probably wouldn't do any homework unless it was a cool art or science project. I started when he was really young, 7, setting a quite homework space and a set homework time. At 15, it's' kinda ingrained.

    I really place a priority on his school work because I feel the same way you do. I just think that in order for him to have a fighting chance in the future he needs to finish high school and learn some regard for the learning the process. I also feel that education can help our kids find a passion and I think that is so important to their ultimate happiness.

  4. Hi Midwest mom, thanks for replying! It's so easy to feel alone in the real world, the Internet's a great place! I feel better already :D!
    We're in Spain, originally from the UK - my difficult child sees a psychiatrist and psychologist and takes medications to help with concentration and impulsiveness. There is no support at school, we have to fight to get his diagnosis recognised by his individual teachers. There is no 'welfare state' system as such unless you have a high percentage score on the disability assessment and difficult child is not in that category. Maybe that's why his basic education is so important - without it, even with 3 languages, he's unemployable. <sigh>.
    We have no help as a family - ADHD still isn't taken seriously where we live (small town) although things are improving slowly - we're 2 hrs from Barcelona and things are filtering down from there!
    I know what you mean about 'not living forever' - I want him to be set up..
    Thankyou again
  5. Hi Sharon,
    I've been virtually schooling difficult child since he was 8. He has always had this knack of spending 6 hrs at school but retaining nothing (lol), so one of my jobs has always been to go over stuff and 'teach' him the work, but in his way - so he 'gets' it. This, fuelled by absolutely no support from his primary school, led to us inquiring about home-schooling. We were flatly told 'no' - it is illegal here (Spain) and we'd be arrested. Medication before high school started improved things a lot, but kids can fail very easily here and if they fail any one year, they are kept back with no support and are labelled as 'drop-outs' - the teachers having low expectations of them. The system frightens me, but it's the one we have.
    We have to repeat basic instructions on a daily basis - over the years, we've never managed to ingrain anything! Every day, we have to set ground rules again - he doesn't absorb information!
    He has a psychiatric and psychologist. He can't do team sports (too stressful), but is learning piano.
    Thanks for replying Sharon,
    PS Our house is full of rules and condtions!! I think that's why I always worry whether I'm a control freak or just a good boundary provider - LOL!
    Lasted edited by : Nov 15, 2010
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Hi, Footballer's Mum. I've been AWOL for a day or so (lost my computer). I want to assure you - a lot of us have been where you are now. While there is no magic cure, there is perhaps more hope than you can see right now.

    I have a head full of information and advice for you but hands and arms not happy with my typing. So I will try to be brief.

    First - read around this site. On the discipline side of things, a book called "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene can help not only with discipline, but also with using logic with him to help him begin to take personal responsibility. He will need you for a lot longer than other kids his age, purely in personal organisation and to help him learn to live. The attitude of "he should be able to do X AT HIS AGE" has to be dropped. These kids do get there, but can take years longer. My difficult child 1, in his final grade (very similar story to your boy) was absorbing nothing and needing a vast amount of support in terms of reminders. If he was given a piece of paper with the set homework on it, he would not note it down but would absently discard it in the nearest bin. Trying to get through to teachers that they had to watch him as he wrote it into his homework book and then watch him put his homework book in his bag - a nightmare. We finally pulled him out of mainstream three months before his final graduation exams (he was going to fail everything) and enrolled him in a state-based correspondence school. "Distance Education" - check to see if the UK has a Distance Ed school you can access, unless you have Residency in Spain. Even then, you might be able to do this. We found a lot of the problem with mainstream schooling was the task-changing. With Distance Ed, the student chooses when to change task. We have also found a brilliant website for teaching Maths online. Cheap, too. Australian-based, but available internationally.

    With schoolwork - ADHD medications helped a lot with our kids, but haven't fixed the underlying problems. We've also needed to greatly reduce the distraction factors for the child while studying.

    Instructions - put them in writing. Have lists stuck to the wall. Make him carry a notebook and pencil. difficult child 1 could not mentally multi-task or follow verbal instructions of more than one step. difficult child 3 is different, interestingly. But lists have helped difficult child 1 a great deal.

    At your son's age, you perhaps need to look at a different education pathway. For example, we have the option of technical education being included in the high school program; difficult child 3's ability lies in Science and Computing, so he has begun to study a TAFE (college of Technical and Further Education - polytechnic?) through his correspondence high school. He now has his first year's TAFE certificate in computing and is about to begin his second year. By the time he completes high school (taking three years longer, because he can only cope with a halftime load) he will have a full TAFE diploma, which in Australia counts halfway to a university degree.

    Your son may need to be shunted into a work program; an apprenticeship program; a cadetship or similar. Find an employment agency that assists people with a disability if such exist; failing that you can do what I did and become your son's advocate and make the phone calls yourself. What did the trick for us with difficult child 1, was several things in sequence:

    1) Idleness was not tolerated. School, or work. And if he could not get a job, he could either study, or he could do volunteer work. Hard physical labour (it teaches good work ethic) perhaps helping out a local landscaper. I have lots of ideas if you need them.

    2) He eventually began to get ideas on what he wanted to do as a career. I got him into volunteer work in that area where I could. As his ideas changed, we changed direction.

    3) When we wanted to get him an apprenticeship, I began to ring various businesses (right when the economic downturn hit!). I said, "difficult child 1 wants to be a carpenter, but doesn't really have any experience. Can he come and work for you, FOR NOTHING, for a few hours so he can see if this is the right choice for him?"
    Offering his services for free opened doors which had previously slammed shut. The boss, who had just told me, "Even if we let him come in for free, we have no job for him. But hey, if you're crazy enough to give it away, we'll take it," ended up employing him. He worked there for ten months before they let him go (financial reasons) but he left with a good reference and experience, which got him the next job. He was there six months when they finally made an opening for him as an apprentice. He was 27. Ten years older than apprentices usually are. He is also married - imagine only starting an apprenticeship after you are married, your wife is out of work and unwell, and you literally live in a hole in the hill?

    The thing is, life is working out for him. And for difficult child 3. Discipline is not easy but we have worked out methods that work for us. A lot of stuff we have to let go, because these kids are NOT normal and never will be. But in some ways, they can be super-achievers and wonderful people.

    I've got a lot more for you, but my arms are giving out, I have to get to bed and tomorrow is a big day for me. I will check in maybe 16 hours' time, if I can.

    Hang in there, read as much as you can, have hope, it WILL be OK. If there had to be something wrong with your chid, I think this is the best thing it could be. There is a lot worse.

    For a bit more hope and encouragement, read up on Tony Attwood. He explains Asperger's in such positive terms, he is where I first found my hope.


  7. Thanks so much Marg - I am going to read your post a few times to do it justice! We are residents here. The alternative vocational training courses can only be accessed here once you get basic high school education. We have already eyed-up the local 'programming' course, I hoped that might motivate him but it didn't last - some kind of apprenticeship might help, I'll look into it. I do keep reading to try and learn so will follow your advice. Thankyou for sharing your positivity Marg.

  8. hexemaus2

    hexemaus2 Old hand

    I have to ditto what Marg said about hard work and no idle time. While my difficult children were different in approach, focus and retention were always an issue. difficult child 2 assumed he could easily absorb everything (because he excelled so much in academics) and therefore wouldn't pay attention. He stopped retaining information and was hard to redirect to tasks he found uninteresting. I couldn't tell you how many times I heard "But I already read/did/finished that," yet he couldn't tell me anything about it, or repeat the process again on his own, which meant he didn't retain it. It was working here on the farm that really provided an answer for difficult child 2 in that regard. I hate to say it, but he was a lot like training a stubborn horse.

    With a horse who is resistant to following directions/staying focused/retaining newly trained skills, often the trick is to keep them moving. For example, my last Quarter Horse, Smokey, would stop walking and listening to cues. He'd go off in his own direction, no matter how I pulled at his reins or signaled him to turn around. I couldn't tell you how many times I had that horse's nose to his hind quarters, turning circles in the dirt, simply to remind him that he either stayed on task or I would force him to do the most mundane walking in circles junk. If all else failed, I'd lunge him and sweat the lack of focus out of him. (Lunging a horse is having them run laps inside a training ring, stepping in front of their path at a controlled distance to force them to turn away and go the other direction, over and over and over again. It does wonders to gain their attention and focus, especially if you plan to try something new and need them to retain it.)

    On the trail, you learn to notice hints and cues that the horse is losing focus and might turn off on his own. You take steps to bring their focus back, before they actually need redirection. That might be something as simple as upping the pace, turning a few steps off the trail, whatever it takes to keep them focused and forced to keep moving. Our trainer always told me, keep him moving where YOU want to go, don't ever let him have a chance to think about where HE wants to go.

    Amazingly enough, the same concepted worked with difficult child 2. (Is is horrible that I used the same techniques on him as I did on our animals? lol) I learned that if I got him as soon as his feet hit the floor in the morning, before his brain woke up and said "I don't wanna" and kept him moving and doing, he stayed more focused - even on things he really wasn't interested in doing. That meant getting him up and on his chores first thing in the morning, then getting him out the door for outside work, often doing school work verbally while we shoveled gravel into the bed of the truck, or split wood, or whatever needed doing. (There were times I had him doing things that really didn't "need" doing, just to keep him moving and in a "working" mindset.) He stayed busy enough that he didn't have time to think about what he wanted to do. His time came later in the day, after he finished what he needed to do.

    I know that can be hard, given your educational options at the moment. However, even little changes to keep him always "moving" can help. Apprenticeships are great for that kind of thing, especially if its someone he respects. With both of my difficult children, I've found that the instant reward of completing a physically challenging task carried over to less physical things. I worked right beside them, and was just as "unhappy" about a demanding chore as they were, but we all kept working with the "lets just get this finished so we can move on" mentality. Let's just get this last truckload shoveled. Then it was, well, we can do one more, there's not much left. When we were done, they were surprisingly proud of themselves for pushing through. It took awhile, but eventually difficult child 2 started to have that same mentality about schoolwork. He didn't want to pay attention, but he had learned with physical labor pushing through got it over sooner, so he started pushing through school work, household chores, etc. But he still needs his own form of lunging first thing in the morning to get his focus on track and put him in a "working" mindset. The only difference now is it only takes a verbal reminder like "take out the trash when you're done with breakfast" to get him into work mode.

    I know our situation is different because we were able to homeschool and thus take matters into our own hands to find a solution, but perhaps finding a volunteer spot or other option could, over time, help him with self discipline and focusing on the task enough to retain something - even if only in tiny bits and pieces. It certainly couldn't hurt to try. I'm continually amazed by the seemingly unrelated things that somehow trip a lightswitch somewhere in difficult child 2's head. Try looking at his daily routine, from eye opening to snoring again, see if you can't find ways to apply the "keep him moving, keep him working" idea. It might help, it might not. It will take more than a few days, weeks, perhaps even more than a few months to see a real difference, but it's something to think about.

    I know with difficult child 2, when it came to schoolwork, our verbal conversations about it while working on a physical task often garnered better results than sitting a table with him. It gave his mind something to do while his body was working on something else. Kind of a "well, it's something to talk about so I'm not thinking about how tired this is making me" approach. "Casual" conversation about his schoolwork while working on other stuff seemed to "stick" in his mind moreso than traditional, sit down at the kitchen table and do homework approach. When we were done physically working, sometimes he'd stand at the bed of the truck and write out his math problems, or answer his science questions, before we moved on to something else - while the information was still fresh in his mind.
  9. Hexemaus 2, I really like that 'moving' approach - I'm going to try it with revision! Don't know 'how' as yet - I use a wheelchair full-time, but I'll work round that LOL!
    'He stopped retaining information and was hard to redirect to tasks he found uninteresting. I couldn't tell you how many times I heard "But I already read/did/finished that," yet he couldn't tell me anything about it, or repeat the process again on his own, which meant he didn't retain it.' - absolutely relate to that! You've given me a lot to think about.
    Thankyou for your reply
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Another point with certain school topics - when you have a child somewhere on the autism spectrum, their brain takes longer to mature in various surprising little ways. An option we have taken for difficult child 3 (also did it for difficult child 1) is partial attendance. A half-pace program. We postponed problem subject and hoped that a other year's brain maturing would help. it did, but he still needed a lot of intensive coaching to help. We also have used some educational TV programs (many coming out of the UK) which are broadcast on Aussie television. One of the best was "Arrows of Desire" which deals with senior high school poetry. difficult child 3 has watched it over and over (we have allowed him to watch these TV shows during school hours at home) and as a result, he sailed through that part of his English when classmates struggle with it. He declares he loves poetry and has even written poetry - almost unthinkable for someone with autism. Mind you, he tends to write in concrete terms but uses lovely imagery. He likes the more metred form of poetry, that use a repeating rhyme or some other pattern that he can use to hang words on. I started him on limericks and simple ballad rhyming forms then moved on to triolet (useful tool for maths-minded would-be poets!).

    If he says he's already read it/done it - ask him to read it aloud to you. He needs to learn that repetition is how he needs to learn. HE needs to learn this and he needs to discover how he learns best. Again, this comes with increasing brain maturity.

    Keep him working, keep him busy. One voluntary "job" I would recommend to build social skills, writing skills and develop a sense of self-worth, is to visit with people in old folks' homes and record their histories. Maybe tape-record, or take notes. Then transcribe it and put it into a text document, print it out as a gift to the families or to the local historical society. There is gold in them thar 'ills' and we are losing valuable history when we let old people die alone and unheard, without really knowing what wonderful lives they lived. While this needs to begin as a volunteer position, I know a bloke over here who has turned this into a lucrative career. People now pay to have him come and record their family history and I have attended a few talks he has given. But what he does could be done by anyone with sufficient ability to record detail. And if it is tape-recorded, the ability to document EVERYTHING is a classis Aspie/autistic trait!