Input about school vs. home behavior - long

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by rlsnights, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    So difficult child 2 has been back at public school since early Sept. Previous 2 years HSing due to physical health issues.

    He is holding it together at school. Some classes doing OK other's not so OK but no serious behavior issues at school.

    Home is another deal entirely. Last weekend saw close to full blown mania from him. Three major melt downs in 2 weeks.

    After school some days are fairly OK others not so OK.

    Today he has been really ODD and clearly wired up. Only wants to play his video games - his main self-soothing method.

    So I asked him at lunch if it seemed to him that he was a lot more irritable at home than at school and he said yes. I asked if he had any ideas about why that was so. He said he didn't have time to think or feel at school - too busy.

    At home he says he's bored and there's nothing to do and that's why he's irritable.

    So, I say, if we had regular schedule and lots of things to keep you busy you wouldn't be irritable on the weekends? No he says. You mean 1 hour of chores then a half hour of skateboarding and then 2 hours of chores and on and on. I only like it when I can spend time with L (his only friend).

    I point out that he has never been asked to do more than an hour of chores total in a given day. He of course sees it differently.

    I point out that it might not be very realistic to depend completely on L for company especially since L spends every other weekend at his Dad's and Dad keeps L to himself those weekends.

    At this point difficult child 2 abruptly gets up and announces he won't talk about this anymore.

    So I am trying to figure this out. difficult child 2 has resisted every attempt we have made to impose a schedule or order to his time on the weekends. Imposing a predictable schedule resulted in major melt downs which we saw as counterproductive after a few weeks of them. So we went back to a looser routine that difficult child 2 still resists but doesn't lead to nuclear explosions every weekend.

    I think a big part of his ability to hold it together at school is social in a weird sort of way. Having a bunch of other kids around all doing the same thing makes him feel like he's not alone even when none of them are becoming his friends. He has the illusion of company without most of the demands of real interaction.

    I think school is also stressful to him because of the pace and the expectations. His science teacher has asked for the 2nd conference in 3 weeks with me cause he's getting a D in her class. Even though he tested proficient last year in Language Arts he doesn't want to be moved from the Special Education language arts class to a regular one. His twin who almost tested proficient but missed it by a couple points, has flown that nest big time and struck out in regular ed.

    His transition IEP is coming up in less than 2 weeks and I am trying to figure all this out because having him be OK at school and be in major melt down at home is not OK. But I know that as long as he's appearing to do OK at school, school is not going to see it as their problem.

    I'm struggling with my own BiPolar (BP) right now and feel like I just can't get a handle on all of this. Is there something I should be asking to be done differently at school? Should I be trying to enroll him in every activity I can find on the weekends? When I suggest the later or have tried that it lead to major melt downs in the past.

    I have found myself wishing he would blow up at school too in the past few days. Not sure what I think that would get me except trouble but I can't shake the feeling that things would be different if he were in a therapeutic school placement where there was a lot more supervision and direct instruction in self-management and social interactions. And you know I'm not going to get that kind of placement for him when he's "fine" at school unless we end up hospitalizing him and we get him a temporary placement on discharge. Again I'm not sure why I think a therapeutic school placement would help reduce the melt downs at home.

    Any suggestions oh wise ones?
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Hi Patricia, I could write a book on this subject because I've been living it with my son, but I won't bore you with the details. I will tell you that from my experience there are three facets that all have to play a role in making things work for our complicated kids:

    1) medication stability: Are you convinced your difficult child is on the best medication combo possible?

    2) Intensive therapy: Is your difficult child learning coping skills so he can deal with his anger and irritability? Does he either have a positive peer group or mentor to share his experiences with so he doesn't feel so alone?

    3) School environment: Is the school meeting your difficult child's needs, academically, socially and emotionally?

    Not sure what other advice I can offer, but I do think all three facets need to be addressed to have a fully functional child.
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    We get the "I'm bored" line when things are rocky, too. I think SW's question about medications being either correct, or correctly dosed is important to consider.

    The poor functioning at home CAN impact school when it comes to homework completion -- at least that's been the case for us. I've had to email teachers when difficult child 2 is falling apart at home so they know why he cannot complete an assignment on time. I did that this past week, and his social studies teacher affirmed she was seeing similar problems with him in the classroom. If he doesn't already have some built-in leeway for assignment due dates, I think I'd be asking for that as part of a safety net. Do you know what the issue is with his science grade?

    I wouldn't necessarily be trying to fill his every idle hour with structured activities. Everyone needs some down time. His sense of boredom is probably coming from some kind of internal restlessness that's tied to the illness.

    I wouldn't give up on the chore issue, because everyone needs to have some personal responsibilities. If he's feeling that he's being given too many chores, maybe try having him choose one or two from a list to accomplish each weekend. Or maybe a job jar to pick from? Gives him a sense of control, which is often something I think our difficult child's struggle with. So much of their life feels so out of control. What I usually say to my kids is that I am only one person, and I cannot do everything that needs to get done around our house all by myself. I need their help, so WHAT can they help me by doing?

    Maybe a therapeutic school would help Badger, but I'm not sure how you could get that covered either, especially if the school isn't having any issues with him. I'm not surprised that he can hold it together just fine until he gets home. My husband held things together fine (for the most part) at work and then exploded at home (he's much better now, thanks!) I think that's very typical of our kids. Perhaps his therapist can work on family therapy with Badger to address the interpersonal issues that arise from his meltdowns at home.

    Did you say you've read The Explosive Child?
  4. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Read the Explosive Child several years ago and still have it on the shelf. Gave us a lot of good ideas that have helped us get this far.

    We are working on medication adjustments. It's been a see-saw the past several months.

    He became manic on SSRI 2 yrs ago which then led to starting Abilify. Early this year when he had seemed to be fairly stable we tried withdrawing the Abilify to see if the mania was AD induced or what. Got manic again so back on the Abilify which helped but wasn't perfect.

    We had also started seeing metabolic SE's from the Abilify - weight gain, higher fasting glucose. So we started him on Lamictal - the slow titration so that took several weeks. When he reached 100 mg we dropped his Abilify from 7.5 to 5 mg. Well his liver enzymes went way up about 4 weeks after reaching 100 mg Lamictal. So we had to hold steady and re-checked labs. Everything went back to normal so we increased Lamictal again to 150 mg about 1 week before school started. Once school started he began major melt downs at home on the weekend.

    After the last one where he was clearly going through a manic episode we doubled his Abilify to 10 mg and increased the Lamictal to 200 mg. That was roughly 10 days ago. So too soon to see much change except maybe from the Abilify.

    We re-check labs again in 2 weeks to see how his liver is doing. Not sure what will happen then.

    At psychiatrist appointment last week we discussed adding Geodon to help with his anxiety but decided to wait a while and see if the Lamictal and Abilify dose increases helped. Trying to avoid too much muddying of the waters by changing a lot of things all at once.

    So we are definitely still tweaking medications.

    Homework with Badger ... well he's not melting down over homework because he's racing through it with no regard for accuracy, spelling or following the directions, etc. Most days he brings nothing home - says he's completed it all in class and turned it in

    I guess I'm relieved that we are not battling over homework. But I feel nervous - like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wonder when his lousy efforts are going to catch up with him or the workload is going to go up and he'll start to fall apart under it.

    I think that's already happening in science - thus the teacher's request for the 2nd meeting in 3 weeks.

    Cannot get the history teacher to respond to any of my e-mails, which is really starting to bug me since he told me e-mail was the best way to confer with him. Perhaps he thinks no news is good news but to me no news is just that - no news.

    And the poor Special Education teacher is 15 kids over her limit and looks more harried every day. Badger has her for math and language arts. I can't bear to even ask her how he's doing because she is just so earnest she will bend herself into a pretzel to try to give me a comprehensive update.

    I wouldn't be so concerned about it but Badger's IEP is scheduled for 10/20 and I worry that they will want to take all the services away except Special Education math because he's doing "so well". I can always call for another IEP meeting if things change dramatically but it would be much better for everyone if we didn't have to do that.

    And I'm not convinced that the school is really meeting Badger's needs on any front. But it's hard to pin that down because Badger often looks like he's doing fine and like he gets what's going on. But when you test him or demand meaningful output, especially written, it becomes clear that he doesn't understand nearly as much as he ( or you) thinks he does.

    The school has one counselor for 620 students. The police officer assigned to the school is more accessible than the school counselor. There's no social skills program or any other real support for the students except what they get from the VP who handles discipline.

    Since he's not throwing things, being incredibly defiant, or getting into fights and trying to attack other students with any weapon at hand while screaming death threats (all things happening at home) there's no obvious connection between what's going on at school and what's going on outside of school. So, even if the school were willing to make changes, it's difficult to know what changes to make.

    He started with a new therapist the week before school started. The guy is good but Badger is very good at imitating a kid who is just going through a streak of adolescent rebellion. It took last weekend's mania and my blow-by-blow updates to the psychiatrist and him for therapist to get on the right bandwagon and stop telling me to just send Badger for a walk when he started getting upset.

    So I'm hoping that will be a productive change. Only time will tell.

    Got to go to bed. Thanks for the replies - guess I'm just going to have to give it time.
  5. ML

    ML Guest

    Manster does so much better when his time is structured, even if he does complain and resist it at first. Perhaps a middle ground with some structure and predictibility but some down time as well? When manster has too much time is when we have problems. Also, he uses food and computer more. We have always experienced the street angel house devil phenomenon. I guess it makes sense that they've held it all in all day long and come home and let it all hang out.

    Getting the medications right is huge.

    There just doesn't seem to be much help out there and with the decreased funding it's even harder. Our 5th grade has 2.5 teachers for 80 kids (and we're lucky to have gotten the .5). Is the police officer nice? Heck maybe talking to him wouldn't be all bad (j/d; sort of).

    Thinking of you and praying for some answers and guidance.