Struggling today -- vent

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Blue Nude, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    Things with difficult child are spiraling downward quickly. I'm really feeling it emotionally today. I can't concentrate on my work because I'm so worried about her and my family. I don't know how we're going to survive this.

    Things took a turn for the worse on Friday when a classmate called the house asking her whether she'd done her part of their group project yet. Of course she had not. She didn't even know when it was due. We got in a big argument with her about responsibility and school work and taking initiative and being personally responsible (the same lecture / argument we've had 100s of times with her). At that point we took away all computer privileges (prior to that she could use the computer on weekends if chores were complete). She now has no TV, no computer. Next we'll have to take away iPod.

    Since that event Friday night, she has essentially checked out. She won't do her schoolwork. She won't participate in family activities. She sleeps when she's not in school. She won't eat with the family. She won't bathe willingly. If she does bathe, she doesn't seem to use any shampoo or soap. She sits and sneers at me and says "you suck." "I hate you."

    We were forcing her to do math homework last night and she said she didn't know how to do it. I asked her what she was doing in class when the teacher was explaining it. She said she was sleeping!

    The apathy and lack of motivation is driving me crazy! I don't know if it's depression, the medications, spite, or just her personality.

    I actually started looking up RTCs. I never in a million years thought I'd be at this point. I've often wanted to send her off to live with relatives or something -- but I never imagined I'd be putting her in a hospital or treatment center. But she is destroying my family.

    Thanks for listening.
  2. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    I remember when difficult child did the "I'm not taking a bath or doing homework" routine. No fun he smelled. No one ever imagines that they are going to take the path our difficult children force us down, we think about more normal life. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Your family is more then difficult child, and she needs the best treatment possible for her. Miserable place to be though.
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    When they behave this way...I always wonder What's the big payoff? I'm failing school and I smell bad - yay!

    Rather than standing over her forcing her to do homework - what would happen if she didn't do the assignments? Would she fail the class? Maybe that's a good lesson for her to learn?
  4. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    Letting her fail? Yes, it's definitely something we've considered. What I'm struggling with is that she is intellectually gifted -- gifted program, accelerated classes, etc. She claims that she wants to go to the International Program Magnet high school in our county. She has to apply by the first week of December. If she gets Cs or below she won't get in -- no matter how well she's done up to now.

    The classes that she's doing poorly in are not her accelerated classes. She's failing health class for goodness sake. All she has to do is turn in the assignments, she just refuses to. She has a C in math, primarily due to missing assignments, not because she can't do the work.

    Her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) makes her a perfectionist. If I can't be the best, I won't bother trying at all. My thought at the moment is that she's afraid she won't get into the Magnet school or that it will be too hard once she gets there, so she's self-sabotaging. I don't know. Makes me want to bang my head on the ground.
  5. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    O that's maddening!!!

    Sadly, our difficult child was a "gifted" math student. She scored the top score on the standardized math tests in the entire region some years back. The teachers couldn't stop talking about it!

    Last year, difficult child dragged herself through a "basic" level introductory Algebra class....passing by only one point.

    It was recommended that she sign up for "remedial" math courses this year.

    It's heartbreaking to know she has such potential...
  6. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Your comment above sound very possible. I can relate a little - with my house cleaning. I want it perfect and sparkling - and because there is so much to do and I know I won't be able to do it all now and have it the way I want it, I mentally shut down and do nothing. I am unable to break things down into small tasks and just do that one task perfectly. I am overwhelmed with all the other things that need to be done. What is that anyway?

    Maybe she needs a medication change? Sounds like maybe it is not managing her anxiety well enough. How long has she been on this combination of medications and at the present doses? Hang in there.
  7. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    As for the medications -- she's been on a stable dose of Cymbalta (90 mg) for over a year; we just increased her Abilify to 5 mg about a month ago. Vyvanse has been stable at 20 mg since last school year.

    Last time she was in a bout of depression and sleeping all the time, psychiatrist put her on Lamictal. It brought her out of the depression, but it really effected her cognitive ability. She could barely put two sentences together. She was much easier to deal with, but she was vacant.

    We see the psychiatrist on Thursday. medication changes will be discussed, but I don't have a clue where to go from here.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Definitely see the psychiatrist.

    In some ways we are having similar problems with difficult child 3, but we have had prior experience of this with his sister. In her case, we had a genius child who suddenly couldn't do easy stuff, couldn't even remember learning it even though I had been the one to sit with her and give her an intensive lesson, which she was then able to do. A week later she didn't remember how to do it although she remembered that she had known. A week after that and she couldn't remember ever having the lesson. She also was studying for a special exam for smart kids. We dropped the project when we realised something was seriously wrong. Up until she was 11, she had seemed to be achieving easily. Then the flak hit the fan.

    What we have finally worked out the problem to be - it's a combination of attention issues (the information is no longer being laid down as it used to be - ADD-inattentive type, in easy child 2/difficult child 2, work had finally reached a complexity where she could no longer slide by with no work), anxiety issues (it's easier to procrastinate and even 'forget' rather than face what makes you feel suddenly very anxious; the closer you get to the deadline, the worse the anxiety and the more you put your head in the sand to try to not think about it) and typical teen superhuman stuff ("I can do this later; I can do anything.")

    I have a young friend (another child genius) whose mother is currently tearing her hair out over her daughter's failure to meet her responsibilities. This girl will talk about the project, will plan the project, will get books out of the library and read them. But as the project deadline draws near, she still has done absolutely nothing toward putting it on paper. Then the mother swings into action, fights with the daughter, chivvies her into working, daughter is resentful but the work gets done. Mother and daughter both burn the midnight oil to get it done. Mother wants her daughter to do well; daughter wants to do well; but the problem is, this is the pattern of behaviour and it seems to be that this girl needs the adrenalin to get anything done. A very bad precedent has been set and she is learning to procrastinate. She's also learned that her mother will always catch her when she falls, so she never learns a sense of balance.

    Of course your daughter is resentful - you are changing the rules. PLus you have removed a lot of her coping tools. Now, some of her coping tools are, under the current circumstances, unhealthy. But until you involve her in the choices and decisions, she won't own them. And for her to learn and get the message, she needs ownership.

    I would be asking her what went wrong. Don't hit the roof - she needs to be open and honest with you and to not have her honesty associated with more anxiety. If she is scared you will yell, her anxiety will stop her from being frank with you. And this is coming down to medical issues, you need her to be frank.

    Yes, it is frustrating. But she needs to fail. Sorry. It's a pity for the other girl, and it is not fair because your daughter could get some credit purely for someone else's hard work.

    Incidentally, the area where we first noticed serious problems with easy child 2/difficult child 2's memory was Maths. That part of your thread sends big warning alarms to me. When she says she slept in class, she may be telling you what she remembers, or she may have not been able to absorb the information.

    I am also a firm believer that kids have learning spurts, the same way they have growth spurts. We need to help them take advantage of these spurts and not hold them back just because they are wanting to learn something "too young". Or not be critical if a kid can't understand something being taught, because they're just not ready.
    I used to think that maybe easy child 2/difficult child 2 was not as bright as she seemed, but merely an early learner. Things averaged out a lot later on, but when we hit the memory brick wall when she was about 11, I was in panic mode. That was like negative learning - stuff she had known well, was evaporating from her brain. over days and weeks. It was scary.

    I'm suspecting some element of Asperger's. some element of ADD (inattentive) is greatly complicating things. Throw in a measure of anxiety and now depression, and you have a nasty situation. been there done that. Not pretty. Getting her to the psychiatrist is a good route. In fact, I have to go now, we're seeing difficult child 3's doctor this morning for much the same (ongoing management of similar issues).

    But you need to back off the pressure and change direction with it. Not let her out of it, but find a different way to support her to meet her responsibilities. Talk with her about how she feels when she sits down to work. Ask her how it feels and what she then does in response. Find out if you can help her break down the task, if that would help. Keep yourself in the loop for the next assignments (too late for these) and work with her (baby steps) from scratch in completing each step. Don't do the work for her, but sit beside her as she does, encourage her positively for each step finished. If one step take longer than you feel it should, don't criticise. Simply say to her, "I think next time we need to allow more time for this stage of the project."

    Learn from this.

    Gotta rush.

  9. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    As always, Marguerite, thank you for such a thoughtful response.

    I talked with her a little bit last night while she was doing homework. She really seems to be struggling with the "if I can't do it perfectly, I'm not going to do it at all" syndrome right now. She doesn't want to figure her way through the homework, she wants it to come naturally and easily. The concept that homework is your opportunity to practice, figure it out, and learn is not a concept she's willing to embrace.

    She also expressed that "it's too late now, my grades are too bad, I won't get in the magnet school no matter what I do..." I tried to dispel that myth. I told her she just has to get her grades up to B's and she can get in. She has a C in math and a C in health (which she got up from an F just by turning in a couple of assignments that were sitting in her folder). All she needs to do is turn in a few more homework assignments and she'll be golden!

    It's hard to give these pep talks when you're really angry and frustrated inside!

    Overall, her attitude was a bit better last night than it was Monday night. I think her Art teacher is our G*dsend. She asked permission to enter one of difficult children art pieces in a contest for the School District's annual report cover. That pleased difficult child and gave her a boost.

    Feeling a bit more hopeful today.
  10. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Blue Nude, those early teen years are horrible. Everything is magnified.
    Having high scores is just a number unless they perform or produce. Having a high IQ is no guarantee that they can function to that level. There are many other aspects to true intelligence that come into play. Intellectual curiosity, motivation, perserverence, self satisfaction, competitiveness, goal setting and long range vision. Not all brilliant test takers are successful. I'm pretty sure there are quite a few geniuses living a marginal life in a shelter.
    I'm not trying to scare you but I think worrying about her grades and accelerated programs are not looking at the underlying issues. I think the question is how can you help your child to develop some emotional stability and some sense of how to be the person she wants to be. If she wants to go to a magnet school, then talk to her what will she be willing to do to get there? Maybe help her set that goal and the steps to get there. Dangle the carrot to help her drag herself out of the fog she seems to be in.
    She may have some learning issues. Either short term memory issues or organizational that may be helped if she is made aware of tools to help those issues.

    On the other hand, if she continues to be so seriously scattered, depressed, or not functioning as she should you may have to look into other alternatives. It's a sad thought for a parent but you have to ask yourself "what does my child need?"
  11. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace New Member

    Glad last night was better. We have struggled with these school issues too. I have finally come to realize that although difficult child absoultely has the intellectual capacity to do well academically, he doesn't always have what it takes emotionally. Consequently, his grades are not the straight A's you would expect from looking at his test scores. I have had to make serious adjustments in my expectations. Not easy. I also have learned to let him experience natural consequences: If he doesn't do the work, he fails. If he doesn't do his share of the work on a group project, he has to deal with unhappy classmates and an unhappy teacher. Again, not easy.

    You have my empathy. I'm riding that roller coaster with you.
  12. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    I believe I am slowly adjusting my expectations and am willing to let her succeed to the level that she can, but I don't think husband is there yet. He and I agreed at the beginning of the school year to let her handle her school responsibilities on her own. We agreed to ask her if she needs any help prioritizing and organizing, help with that, but take it no further. That was the plan.

    We kept that up for 4 weeks, only to find that she had 10 zeros for work not done or not turned in. I'm still trying to stick with the more "hands off" approach (some days more successfully than others), but husband gets on her *ss every day about writing in her agenda, checking the teachers' blogs, etc.

    We keep learning every day how to cope with what we've been given.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    It sounds to me that letting her manage her school responsibilities on her own, is NOT working. She needs personal organisation skills and just doesn't have them. That skill is not necessarily there in someone with a high IQ. Speaking form my own experience, I didn't get my act together until I had kids. I failed out of uni the first time, because life became too complicated and I couldn't cope. I was a mess. After I had kids, I had a sense of purpose; I was also a few years older and, I think, had finally a mature enough brain.

    I saw similar things with my difficult child kids. easy child had her moments with needing to be made accountable with her work, but she rose to the challenge. If your child does not rise to the challenge, then you have a child who is sinking and not swimming. In which case - you need to be the water wings until her legs are strong enough to kick.

    Using the swimming analogy - difficult child 1 was afraid of water. In Australia, we have compulsory learn to swim classes through schools. Some of these can be picked up by parents during the school holidays, and we subscribed to those too, with both boys. difficult child 1 became very skilled at always moving to the back of the line with the kids who had just completed the swimming task. There were time when he came home from swimming class with dry swimsuit. I took the same classes when I was a kid and had tried the same tricks and admired difficult child 1's resourcefulness because he succeeded at this subterfuge where all my wits had failed. He was clearly a bright kid, but one who was still unable to swim. Frustrating. difficult child 1 was unable to swim, because he was afraid of the water.

    difficult child 3's swim classes were different. He loved the water, but was uncoordinated. He wold flail around and could not learn from watching. Dyspraxia and kinesthesia. easy child 2/difficult child 2 has the same problem, but has managed well. We finally managed to enrol difficult child 3 in special classes for kids with disabilities (long waiting list) and it took someone actually moving his arms and legs for him in sync, for him to gradually get the idea. Patterning. Labour-intensive. But it was enough for difficult child 3 to get going, and over time he's been able to learn to swim well enough to save him if he gets out of his depth at the beach. He is not a strong swimmer but he can manage.

    The difference here - difficult child 1 was capable of swimming but avoided it. When he was old enough, he would refuse to come to the beach. It's ironic that he married a water baby, although he's OK with water these days. difficult child 3, on the other hand, was physically incapable until he had special assistance. The usual lessons were not going to ever help him, he needed a different way of being taught, just to get started.

    With kids like this, the high IQ can really grab your attention when they are younger. Especially with girls, who don't always appear to have the same sort of social deficits as boys with Asperger's. But a girl with Asperger's can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time. They do not know they are fooling people; they would call it "trying to do what is expected of me" and would wonder why it seems so effortless for other people.

    What really works with assignments with kids like this - break up the task. Mind map. If necessary, get her to dictate to you while you type.

    Getting her into the special classes could be a good thing, but you will need to keep supporting her for a lot longer than you expected to. But as you break tasks up in front of her, as you work her through the tasks, she will learn the techniques from you.
    difficult child 3 hates mind maps. But he needs them to get the job done. He also has been doing very badly quite suddenly in recent months, the doctor thinks it is due to his anxiety having ramped up, so he's just been started on an AD. All his exam marks are coming in for that period, and the marks are woeful. But he did well earlier in the year, and we're hoping that the new medications will be enough for difficult child 3 to be able to "see the forest for the trees" when he finally sits down to do his state exams in a couple of months' time.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 never got into the high IQ classes, because it was an exam entry and she could not do it. The standard is very high, you have to score almost full marks and the exam was right when we had discovered her memory problem; we lost too much opportunity. Her Maths was just too poor for her to get those marks plus her class teacher told us she would veto the entry. She sat the exam a year later, at which time (thanks to ADHD medications) she was the top of her class in Maths. I think she deliberately threw the test then, for personal reasons (best friend pressured her into failing, so they wouldn't be separated).

    A bright kid will need some opportunity to use that intelligence or she will eel frustrated. Anything that prevents her from working to her ability will lead to frustration and a rise in anxiety - a Catch 22 loop builds up, often fuelled by the same high IQ that you want to develop. The gap between what she senses she should be able to do, and what she actually can manage, is frustrating her even more than it frustrates you.

    The same thing happened to me at about the same age. It was aggravated by my parents moving me to a different school in a different district, where all the kids had come from a different feeder school. Not only were they already in their own established social groups, but there was a difference in the work we had done in previous years, and there were gaps in our respective knowledge. I had knowledge these other kids did not, but in other subjects they could run rings around me, but the teachers assumed we all had the same knowledge so I had no access to curriculum material to help me fill in the gaps. It set me up for failure. I did not begin to succeed again until we moved again, and I was back in a school environment where my background and experience matched. The gaps were still there, of course, but by sheer luck were not in areas that mattered academically.

    What I needed as a kid, was support. But nobody in the family was equipped to help me, or had the time. My parents dragged me to psychologists when frankly, I should have had academic coaching, especially coaching in personal organisation as well as someone to sit with me and help me work. I needed a routine and an opportunity to get my work done instead of being required to focus on chores from the time I walked in the door. Yes, there were times when my mother said, "OK, use the next half hour to do your homework," but there was no follow-throuh and by the time she did this, I no longer knew how to get started. Again, an Aspie thing - how do you start?
    I possibly was a borderline Aspie. I don't know. Any attempt to diagnosis now would fail, I have adapted. But when I look back - I was a weird kid. I also struggled in areas I shouldn't have. I also would do IQ tests and see the tester's eyebrows crawl into their hairline. Every. Freakin'. Time. But I learned early, that a high IQ will not save you, if you don't get the work done. I fudged through a lot of the time and found it stressful, but there were other times when I joyfully read the textbook cover to cover and outclassed the class. My final school exams were a case in point - I was 17 and therefore a lot more mature and a lot more capable by this time. in one subject, the teacher had refused to acknowledge my existence in the classroom because I was a girl. Only boys took his subject. We were taught three topics over two years (intense). Two of the topics I could not understand well. One was compulsory, so I set myself the task to learn it from the textbook. The other one, not even the textbook could help. So I went through the textbook and learned the other stuff. In my final exams (state-based, so we had to choose among the questions other schools may have studied) I simply picked the questions I COULD handle, and answered those. I did not do brilliantly, but I did pass. The ratbag teacher actually took the credit for all his students passing (including me) and he never knew I did it by myself. Part of me wanted to go tell him to rub his nose in it; part of me never wanted to see him again.

    What I needed, was to know how to study and how to work. Without that, every assignment looked like a huge mountain and I had no climbing gear. The view form the top is spectacular, but it takes a lot to get there. After repeat successful experiences, you have a better idea of hoe to do it solo. But it's like the swimming lessons - there can be all sorts of subtle reasons why it doesn't always work as it should for a kid.

    Get your husband to read these posts too. I do understand the frustrations for both of you. We've had the same differences of opinion at times, but since husband has become a member here also, he lurks and reads every post of mine and we often then talk about it, about our own concerns and also about other people on this site and their problems. So increasingly, what I post or what he posts is a composite of our joint opinions. And when you are so thoroughly on the same page as we are now (and we thought we were before!) it really gets results.

  14. Blue Nude

    Blue Nude Guest

    I hear what you're saying about difficult child needing more guidance to get through her work. She will tell me sometimes that she's confused or overwhelmed or doesn't know what to do. Usually, however, she just lies to me and tells me that she has no homework or has finished it. She's embarrassed to ask for help and thinks she "should" be too smart to need help. I need to find a way to get through to her that I want to help her. I want to help her organize, prioritize, set a step-by-step process to get the work done. I happen to be very good at that (I'm a project manager in my professional world). She, however, just wants me to do the homework for her and doesn't want me to teach her how to organize.

    Two years ago, we took her to a tutoring center so a 3rd party could try to teach her organizational skills, etc. After 6 months of that, we got nowhere. We've given her color-coded notebooks, folders, binders, book covers, etc so she could organize her classes and work by color. We offered to sit down with her and go through all her papers and organize them into the new color-coded files, but she refused.

    Reading your posts Marg, has made me take a second look at my approach lately. I have been trying very hard to force her into taking responsibility. Things have gotten heated, and we're all very angry with one another at this point. I need to take a step back and reassess. Take a deep breath, and come at this problem from a different angle. She indeed needs to learn to take personal responsibility, but perhaps I need to go more slowly in teaching her how to do that.

    I must admit, however, that part of me loathes to do it because I can't erase from my mind the idea that she may just be manipulating me into doing her work for her.

    Let her fail on her own and see if it serves as a wake-up call, or take her hand and guide her through baby steps of how to be responsible?
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    difficult child 1 is also very bright, but at 17, 18, 19 and 20 still needed my help to organise himself with his work. He did the work himself, but I would support him. It can be done. There is a huge difference between the child doing the work, and you doing it.

    For example, the child has an essay on the greenhouse effect. Where do you start?
    First step - find information. Sit with her, look up "Greenhouse Effect" in Google and work out how to identify a good source from a bad source. Go to the library and get books off the shelf. And here is where organisation starts - for every book and every internet site, write it down as you go. No "we'll go back to that later and lift the url, if I choose to use it". Anything you read in preparing an assignment is a valid reference. Hey, you can always delete it if you didn't use that information!
    So the next thing I do, about the same time as that first search, is I start a text file. I get the student to do this and save it to their homework folder on the computer. Each site you visit that look interesting, you immediately copy the link and paste it into the text file, along with any text or images from that site that look interesting. That way, it's all linked. Don't worry if this grows too big, it can always be cut back. But you can't put in what isn't there. All this can take ten minutes, or an hour. If she is Aspie, she will be resistant to start (I use mini chocolate bars as bribes - difficult child 3 earns a chocolate bar if he stays on task solidly, no deflection, for half an hour). Let her keep going as long as she can handle it as long as you have got this far. When she does take a break you will be able to say, "Look at all the information you have gleaned! Well done! That is a long way towards getting this done!"

    The next step is the mind map. Read up on this technique (aka clustering). Show her how. You might have to do the first mind map, but with her input. Ask her for key words, for ideas and ask her what connects to what. Ask her if there is anything she feels unsure about. This is critical.

    The eventual aim is to totally turn around how she handles study-related anxiety. Too often the bad habit sets in, that when it is too hard we avoid it or we shut down. But in fact the most effective way to deal with this sort of anxiety, is to identify the area of concern and burrow in. Turn and face it, focus on it. If algebra has you in a quiver, then learn it so you can master it. She has the brains for this, but currently is too terrified of it and has developed bad study ha bits. While those habits remain, it will only get worse. While she has bad organisation skills (and she could nee to simply wait until her brain matures enough in that area - it happened in our family) then she won't be able to do it alone.

    What we have done with difficult child 3, is after the mind map stage, I say to him. "Go spend half an hour working on your report. I will stay while you write the first sentence. Use the mind map as a guide. Then after you have spent a solid half hour on it, I will be done in the kitchen making you some corn on the cob..." (or whatever she likes). Getting started is a huge hurdle, and sometimes they just don't know where to begin, or where to take it.
    But doing all this for them, is NOT doing the work for them.

    Over time, if this is working, she may take over more steps. She may take on too much and fall back to where she was, at which time you pick up, go back to what you began doing and get her started again. But over time, you teach her what she needs.

    What this method does, is similar to the way a therapist will physically move the limbs of a brain-damaged child, to simulate crawling. They need to do this patterning in order for the brain to learn the process, and to be able to make progress. True, most kids learn to crawl normally. But sometimes there is a blockage. And sometimes there is brain damage or some other problem, and patterning is needed to get over the hurdle. It doesn't mean the person is stupid, it just means that their brain power is expended in different areas.