Waving the white flag RE: school

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by greenrene, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    Hello everyone! I've been lurking here for a looooooooooooooong time. It has brought me great comfort to know I'm not alone in my struggles in difficult child-dom, and many of your posts have helped me tremendously in how I deal with my difficult child, who is my 14-year-old stepdaughter. She lives with us full-time and has since she was almost 3 years old. I finally feel compelled to throw my hat in the ring and seek support here now that things seem to be spiraling downhill regarding schoolwork.

    The backstory is very long and complicated, and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone may have, but I'll try to get to the gist without getting too longwinded...

    I mentioned above that difficult child is my stepdaughter. This is the source of all kinds of resentment issues in her, and although her biomom is completely incapable of caring even for herself, much less her children, and although I have raised difficult child since toddlerhood, difficult child still sees me as the reason that her life is so "awful," and the result of all THAT is a very troubled relationship between her and me. She can be horribly disrespectful, rude, mean, manipulative, vindictive... Long story short, life with her is very stressful. She treats me and my older son like dirt quite often. Her behavior issues really spiraled downward this past summer (stealing, hatefulness, rotten attitude), which added a tremendous amount of stress to our already stressful lives with her... This is all really having a negative effect on my own mental health. I am really making an effort to reduce my stress for health reasons - I am obese and gravitate toward depression (no medications, yet...), and I want better for myself and my family. I am making conscious efforts to reduce the negative drama in our housefold for all of our sakes, but especially for my 2 sons.

    My problem is this: after a HUGE meltdown one day last year over schoolwork (which was by far NOT the only time she has had a meltdown over schoolwork, just the worst one), I decided that enough was enough - schoolwork was a battle I was no longer willing or able to fight. That day, I had found out that she was missing several assignments, and I had told her that she had to do them and turn them in even though they were late. She threw a total fit - screaming, yelling, refusing, ripping paper, abusing books, throwing things across the room, breaking pencils... holy moly. All in the presence/earshot of her younger brothers. I ended up having to call my mother in law over (I live next door to my inlaws) to intervene.

    School has been a huge struggle for difficult child's entire life. She is diagnosis'd ADHD and also some NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD), and she takes Vyvanse and Strattera. She has had an IEP since 1st grade (which she went through twice). She is now in 8th grade but is more on a 6th grade level for most subjects. She goes to tutoring for 4 hours a week to try to catch her up to speed on her reading and math skills. She appears to not care one whit about school whatsoever. She is failing 2 classes and is borderline in another.

    My mother in law (who is very supportive and kind, we are very close and have a great relationship) keeps saying that "someone" needs to start monitoring her schoolwork more. I do try to keep somewhat abreast of when her tests and major assignments are and remind her of them, and I do help her with projects when she needs it, but that's about it. I simply don't have it in me to micromanage her schoolwork the way my mother in law thinks I should. Talk about a recipe for drama! Especially since her behavior has recently taken yet another nosedive. I just can't do it. The potential for a battle isn't worth it to me.

    So I guess I'm seeking support for my decision to let school take care of school. Surely I can't be the only one. I've been thinking about scheduling a conference with her teacher to just explain more of what is going on, although that would probably involve me breaking down in tears. I also don't want to disappoint my mother in law, but I just can't micromanage difficult child's schoolwork like that...

    If you've made it through this, thanks for bearing with me! I could really use the support these days.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Heck, you've got MY support. I'm all for natural consequences. I think your mother in law is wrong.

    Can you tell us more about her early background before she lived with you? Any mental health issues on birthmother's side that she may have inherited? Her theatrics sound like way more than ADHD to me. Has she been evaluated recently? Where is your husband in all this?
  3. exhausted

    exhausted Active Member

    I so get it. been there done that. It needs to be difficult child's battle. I suggest (use what makes sese, dump the rest) you can support her in this way: Ask Special Education. teacher to step in. A Sp. Ed. teacher of this age should get that parents are often unable to enforce homework at this age, esp. with a child who is so frustrated and oppositional. Ask if a studies skill or homework help class is available. This is a usual thing at most secondary schools. Is there after school tutoring available? ( She isn't going to love these ideas-tough she made her bed) Ask that the Sp. Ed. people track her school work-add this to the IEP in an adendum id needed. Let this teacher know exactly the situation and her influence on the younger kids. Also mention that your energy needs to be focused on as much positive stuff and relationship building as possible with this girl. Ask for help. I hope you will get it. ((Hugs)) By the way-what in the heck is husband doing to help this situation? Maybe mother in law needs a part time job (sounds like she has answers)??? New difficult child tutorperhaps!!
  4. zaftigmama

    zaftigmama New Member

    I agree. Let school take care of school. It doesn't seem like the struggling/fighting is having a positive effect, so why continue? Forget your mother in law; IME, relatives, however well meaning, usually don't get it. I would call a team meeting to discuss how to work the homework stuff into her IEP and cite her poor performance as justification.
  5. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    Wow such fast responses! It's late here, but I will expound some -

    Early background/biomom: Biomom has both biological issues and background issues - she was abandoned as a young child, spent a few years in a childrens' home/orphanage, eventually ended up living with her father (which is where difficult child spent her first couple of years of life). She is an extreme difficult child herself, never able to keep a job or live on her own, no education, etc. She definitely has mental issues, although they are undiagnosed - she is almost certainly bipolar, has a horrible temper, and is just generally an unpleasant person - she and husband were together when he was in the height of his own difficult child days.... I can only imagine difficult child's home life when she lived with biomom - I know there was some neglect, but not outright abuse I don't think. They were/are very poor, biomom went from minimum wage job to minimum wage job... no real motivation or direction there. Biomom really is a sad case. She never had much of a chance herself, you know?

    My husband is very supportive, but he's about as frustrated as I am with everything and at a loss sometimes as well. He has done well in taking on more responsibilities with her in the past few years, especially since we moved here to FL back in 2009 (it hasn't always been that way, but that's another loooong story - he's always been kind and loving though). He gets her up in the morning, he makes sure she gets ready on time, he gives her her medications (which she has recently started trying to hide, so he has to really watch her), and he drives her to school every day (a 20-minute drive which is "their" time).

    difficult child goes to "Homework Club" every day after school (an invitation-only activity for kids with IEPs), which has been an absolute lifesaver. Most of the time she gets her homework done there. The problem comes when, for whatever reason, she doesn't turn the homework in. I'll add that she's not in public school anymore - she went to public school when we lived in KY, but when we moved here (summer before 6th grade) we thought it would be better for her to go to a private school. She goes to a very small Catholic school - there are less than 20 kids in her entire grade. She gets lots of one-on-one help that way.

    Testing/medications/evaluations, etc: She was originally diagnosis'd by her pediatrician around age 5, and pediatrician managed medications until age 11 when we moved to FL. She has, since we moved, seen several professionals and been tested quite a bit, including at the local university's autism treatment center - she definitely is ADHD, but she's not "enough" of other things to have an official diagnosis. She shows many Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) traits. Right now her medications are managed by a neurologist, and we have an appointment with him next week to discuss medications. The medication issue in relation to schoolwork is difficult to ascertain, and it's hard to know if changes need to be made. It's a "better the devil you know than the one you don't" thing - the medications make a HUGE difference in her, but she's still really struggling with schoolwork, and that TEMPER... However, she is absolutely off the chain when she's off her medications.

    I don't want to give the wrong impression of my mother in law. She is truly a wonderful person, and we'd all be up a creek if it weren't for her support with difficult child, both emotionally and financially. Her son (my husband) was quite a difficult child too back in the day (only without the temper his daughter has!), so she's been there done that. She is just really worried about her granddaughter, and I understand that. She sees a problem, she wants to fix it. She just doesn't seem to understand that I just can't. do. it. She advises me to reduce the drama as much as possible by avoiding areas of conflict when possible but then says that "someone" needs to micromanage her schoolwork. I don't do that much micromanagement for my 3rd grader, much less difficult child who is supposed to be getting ready to start high school next year! I guess I just need to talk to her about it, but I'm a bigtime conflict avoider...
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    One last question: Did birthmother abuse drugs and/or drink during her pregnancy? If so, that brings up the possibility of problems due to substance exposure in utero. Moving on, since I don't know about that yet...

    StepDaughter could also have attachment issues from her early chaos. here is a link explaining attachment issues. A pediatrician and even many psychiatrists would probably miss it...you sort of need a special therapist who understands what early chaos can do to impact a child's life for the long term. Many people who adopt older children have kids with attachment issues, but the child does not have to be adopted. However, specialist familiar with adopted kids are most able to spot it and give you help. This may be part of her problem. Read it and see what you think:

    Attachment Disorder Is When Normal Early Childhood Attachments Are Never Formed
  7. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Sounds like she really inherited the difficult child genes, more from biomom it seems. It could be she takes it out on you because she has some sort of "fantasy" about what it would be like to live with biomom instead of you. She may believe that she wouldn't have to do ANYTHING you make her do if she were with biomom which, from what you've said, could be very true. It could also be that the medications need adjusting or changing. She is going through puberty so body chemistry is different so medication adjustments might need to be made.

    As for the school stuff, I agree with Exhausted. Call an IEP meeting, after talking to SpEd teacher, and ammend the IEP so the school takes care of the school stuff. That is THEIR job, not yours. As well meaning as you mother in law is, I agree that you might just need to confide in her how you are feeling, depressed, and that it would really help you if SHE would help with the schoolwork since difficult child "has it in for you" anyway. Call it an experiment to see if WHO does it makes a difference. Whatever you have to say to "sell" it to her. If you're honest with her and your relationship is as good as you say it is, she just might chip in and give you a hand.

  8. soapbox

    soapbox Member

    Before you throw in the towel... I'd be asking more questions.

    Others have mentioned attachment issues... and I'll second/third/nth that.

    On top of that...
    Has she ever had a comprehensive evaluaton? neuropsychologist, or child developmental team, Occupational Therapist (OT), Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), etc.?
    Who gave the ADHD diagnosis?

    You see... these kids of ours with challenges often have to deal with MULTIPLE challenges.
    And some of these challenges just aren't recognized. They get other labels - or hide behind other labels. Or get written off as something they will grow out of (they don't).
    The whole homework struggle? Its the "children do well if they CAN" motto from The Explosive Child. Too often, teachers (and many parents) fall into the "children do well if they WANT to" trap.
    So, bear with me... just in case this is PART of your difficult child's challenges...

    1) how are her motor skills? sports, control of personal space, riding a bike, tieing shoes, handwriting, dressing... Gross motor skills issues are a major target for bullying at school, AND make things like PE class a major drain. Fine motor skills are so absolutely essential for academic success... because even when confronted with severe motor skills issues, schools on general do not really know how to adapt school work to a non-pencil-and-paper format. By grade 5, the quantity and quality expected for written work goes through the roof. If you aren't producing the output, most teachers assume its because you don't want to - not because you can't. If motor skills are of any question at all, please get an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation done - for gross and fine motor skills, and throw in sensory testing too, because prioperceptive issues really mess up motor skills as well. And then... check out info on Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and see if it fits (one good place to start is www.canchild.ca). And on top of all that, even when these kids do master motor skills, it still takes significantly more effort than neurotypical kids put in... fatigue is common.

    2) Serious ADHD issues may not be ADHD at all - or may be ADHD plus additional dxes. One in particular that overlaps very strongly in symptoms, is APDs. Auditory processing disorders make it so the child doesn't do well with verbal instruction in a classroom... and guess how 90% of classes are taught? It starts with verbal instruction... if you don't get the instructions right, you can't DO the hands-on stuff right, and soon you're a really messed up student. Hearing problems alone can cause these issues. But the APDs are less obvious. Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) affects verbal language processing, and therefore is frequently "obvious". However, problems with things like auditory figure ground do not affect language... this issue is a challenge trying to comprehend/follow the "important sounds" in a noisy environment.... like, teacher's voice in classroom. These kids do well one-on-one, but terrible in class. Normally, Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) screening would flag this, perhaps for advanced audiological testing. But you have to raise the point - and push for specialized testing - if you want auditory figure ground to be tested. One major side effect with this challenge is mental fatigue, from putting so much effort into trying to listen. Trying to do homework on top of extreme fatigue? guaranteed recipe for meltdowns, anger, and all their co-horts. been there done that.

    3) sleep issues. Good old generic problem.... too often overlooked. Quantity of sleep is important, but so is quality. Unless she is getting enough of both, the sleep deprivation will either cause significant behavior issues where none otherwise exist, or significantly add to the severity of existing problems.

    If she's dealing with any of these - or with un-diagnosed learning disabilities - or with other stuff that I'm not so aware of... she needs accommodations, interventions and possibly medications - but NOT just being tossed to the clutches of a school system that is NOT, ever, going to put the effort in to get to the bottom of the real problem(s). Because, for the most part, school systems and teachers still believe that kids "do well if they want to". So... its going to be up to you...


    It really stinks that some of these problems - that should be caught between grades 1 and 3 - are left hanging out there until the kid is going crazy and driving the parents and teachers insane... like, often, into the teen years where hormones complicate the whole thing!
  9. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    I feel your pain. My difficult child (8th grade too) is in a similar boat. She was tried on Stratera earlier this year, and after 2 to 3 months they stopped it. Her rages were over the top - she has always been a little drama queen - but it was a whole new level of yelling, screaming, slamming doors, running out of the house. After Stratera, they prescribed Prozac. Within a couple of weeks, she was complaining of being "all hyper" and "can't stop talking" and irritating everyone. At that point they kind of decided she might be bipolar (I think it is probably true) and tried a different medication - Seroquel XR. We took that for about two months - and then there were a couple incidents where she was speaking in "word salad" so that was stopped, too.

    At this point we are not on medications... but things aren't great. We are trying to get more help/testing but insurance is dragging their feet. Our difficult child is our step granddaughter whom we adopted 6 plus years ago. Her bio mom was a difficult child and finally diagnosis as bipolar. But she also had major addiction problems. I am sure we have some attachment disorder going on with difficult child too. She just can't take no for an answer.

    I wish I was on here giving you great advice - but I am practically in the same boat. New to this site - and they have been helpful. Even if there are no easy answers, it helps to vent and know someone is listening and responding. I too think you have to step back from the homework struggles. It just isn't worth it. I even started seeing my own therapist and at our last appointment he said that my relationship with her is much more important in the long run than homework. So I am working on it - but it seems like every little thing ends up in a tantrum. KSM
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011
  10. ready2run

    ready2run New Member

    i don't have time to read this whole thread right now. i just wanted to say that it's okay to not be on top of homework, especially if she is in homework club. maybe they can collect her homework from her before she leaves and make sure it gets to the appropriate teacher. i have told my sons teachers that i don't do homework. i don't check homework, i don't push homework and i won't punish over homework. i was clear about that right off the bat so i haven't really had any issues over it. i got some funny looks when i said it but hey, in my home i have 3 difficult child's and a toddler. i don't have time to read things that aren't of help to me and i don't have time to go over tedious amounts of math problems. it's not my job. i also want to recognize that mother in law does have some validity to her complaint that someone should take better care with difficult child's homework if it is that important to that person. *points at mother in law and father. if it is a priority to them to make sure your difficult child is on top of that and to keep track of it then by all means invite them to take over that responsibility, you have enough on your plate to deal with already.
    i am also a step mother to a difficult child and it is not easy. i also get blamed for all things big and small, i am hated and no matter what i do it is wrong and difficult child wants to go back to 'belly lady' as he calls her. he doesn't remember her really, he was not even 2 yet last time she saw him and he is almost 7 now but he is sure that she is a much better mother than i and that if i would just call her she would come rushing to get him. now, i know that is so far from the truth it isn't funny but try explaining that to someone who refuses to hear it. i don't even want to imagine how it will be when he reaches that age. good luck to you and i hope you find your answers.
  11. confuzzled

    confuzzled Member

    i'm going to go in a slightly different direction....is she generally compliant *IN* school? you mention she goes to homework club and does a good portion of work there--it makes me think she does a pretty decent job during the school day.

    so that makes me think that some of what you see is rebound from stims wearing off/down....(along of course with 14dom).

    since you are headed to the neuro, it might be very worth discussing a small booster dose of a stimulant for when she gets home--giving it a bit to kick in--and see if she's able to be less oppositional with it. it may just head off the inevitable, or it may work wonders.

    its a thought since you are going to the doctor anyway.

    and for the record, i am all for letting the school handle school too.
  12. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses, I really appreciate the support and the reassurance that I'm not doing a bad thing here.

    It is really difficult to give others a good picture of what difficult child is like, but I feel like people here understand... she's not awful all the time, or even necessarily every day. But there is a pervasive "something" about her that is just really off. From early childhood, she has found it difficult to socialize appropriately - she was always mean to other kids... it was like she just didn't understand the concept of what "playing nicely" means at all. In recent years, that has translated to a complete lack of friends. This is the only area where the small school has been a problem - less of a "friend pool" to begin with, and her classmates don't seem to like her much (except some of the boys). However, after extensive testing at a local autism treatment center, she didn't test on the spectrum. I'll be reading more on attachment issues as that COULD be a factor, but I'm not sure.

    There is an IEP meeting coming up soon, and we will definitely be bringing up these concerns.

    The stepmom thing is very, very difficult. I am the main scapegoat for her wrath, followed closely by my older son. However, her idealization of biomom has lessened recently since difficult child knows that biomom has lost custody of her OTHER child. I think difficult child knows she's much better off with us, but she still resents me. I try hard to shrug off her insults and hatefulness, but sometimes it's hard. As soon as she even STARTS going after my older son, she is sent to her room.

    Okay, I'm rambling, sorry! Thank you all for responding!
  13. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What about having your mother in law be the person in charge of keeping up with your difficult child's assignments. You said she lives next door and thinks that it needs to be done so . . .

    The other suggestion that I like is for the HW to be turned in at the end of the HW club session. The Special Education teachers can make sure that it gets turned into the regular ed teachers. Even if it is incomplete it would be better than a zero. I think that would be a good topic for the IEP meeting. I have Special Education students in my high school math classes and the Special Education teachers keep on top of whether the homework is getting done and turned in.

    I never had school issues with my difficult child but we had plenty of battles about other things. I understand how draining it is and how you need to find a solution for your sake and the sake of your other children. We have had many threads here on the effect of a difficult child on the other children in the family.

  14. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi, just chiming in... so does the private school support the IEP? For us, I do not do any homework with my son at home except in rare times. we need our time together to be as calm and relationship building as possible. We do a few minutes or reading each night, and if he refuses, oh well. He doesn't connect work to grades nor grades to future plans so that route is useless. I probably have the "luxury" of having a quite delayed child so he will have support in future anyway, but in terms of the homework battle.... yeah, I gave that up long ago.
  15. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    Yes, the private school supports the IEP. The reason we continue to have IEP meetings every year is so that, in the event that she ends up needing to enter public school at some point, she will already be in the system with IEP in place.
  16. buddy

    buddy New Member

    That's wonderful! sounds like best of both worlds then.