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How the heck do you just keep pushing on?!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I am at my wits end.  My soon to be 8 yr old is just not there.  He has ADHD, is on Focalin 15 mg XR and it works really well.  He is able to focus really well at school and at home and his impulses seem to be controlled most of the time.  He is in 2nd grade and this year has just been a period of ups and downs.  He does great some weeks, other weeks/days he does horribly.  He is really rough on the playground with other kids yet after repeated warnings, he is not getting better.  A few weeks ago he punched a girl in the chest 3 times and had to do in school suspension the next day.  Today, he came home and I found out that he sat in the office the majority of the day because he threatened to beat another kid up.  (why I didn't get a phone call is a whole other set of concerns).  He is doing OK with class work, he's smart enough to do the work, he just has absolutely no desire to do it. 


About 3 months again we started seeing a play therapist to see if we could figure out where all these issues were coming from.  It doesn't seem to be helping bc we are at the same place we were 3 months ago with no progress.   He started seeing a psychiatrist about 6 weeks ago and we started him on Zoloft to see if perhaps it is depression(he's been on that about 7 days) and I know it takes a few weeks to work, but honestly, I don't feel that is the issue.  I think it all boils down to him not wanting to do something(school in his situation)  and I just don't know where to go from here.


He isn't on an IEP/504 yet, mainly because he's not really having issues in which those would help(please correct me if you see something u think would!).  If he keeps doing this, he's going to keep getting referrals and eventually he's going to get himself kicked out of school for behavioral issues.  We have no other options for him here.  There is public school, there is the private school which we can't afford and he wouldn't even be accepted into anyway(based on academics and giftedness and money).    I am just so lost and feel depleted of energy to deal with this anymore.  He is not a bad kid, he is good 90% of the time, but when he acts up, it's a doozy and he gets in major trouble(in school suspension, referrals)


I have no idea what to do, what steps to take next, if we need to look at changing his ADHD med which seems to be working great but maybe it is part of the cause, I don't know!  Or maybe we just have to ride it out and pray it gets better or get to his teens and then send him to the school run by the Army that does  boot camp for troubled kids that gets them their GED as well.  I am seriously contemplating homeschooling next year but I am scared to death of that bc I will be working as a full time nurse and I have NO idea how to teach and don't really want to :(  Any words of wisdom?

post #2 of 6

Any parent can request an IEP evaluation at any time. Request it in writing, and the school has 60 days, I think, to schedule a meeting.  The criteria for services seems to be if the behavior or disability is affecting academic progress. If your son tests (IQ and other tests) higher than his academic levels indicate, they can assume the behavior is getting in the way. Then the kind of accommodations that could be put in place might be smaller class size, more direct supervision on the playground, social skills classes... I don't know what all might be helpful in your situation. See www.wrightslaw.com for a breakdown of all facets of special education law. Have no fear - they cannot just kick him out of school for his behavior. Every child is entitled to an education: FAPE is the acronym for Free Appropriate Public Education. By federal mandate - see wrightslaw folks again.


In a less formal approach (if you are on really good terms with the school, and trust them), perhaps you could bypass the IEP process, and meet with the principal and teacher, lay out your concerns, and ask for their suggestions. But do educate yourself on your rights first. I am sure your son is not the first "problem child" they have seen, nor the worst. Maybe they have some experience with plans that have worked in the past. Since the problem behavior seems to be more at school than at home, I kind of think the ball is in their court to find a proactive solution.

As a homeschooling parent myself, I like to see families making this choice intentionally, rather than by default. There are "public school" online options available in most states, that provide much support and direction for the parent. See Connections Academy or K-12 for examples. You don't need to be a teacher to successfully use these programs, and they are free. We tried these style of programs, but it didn't suit our needs - but might be a starting place for you. I was a single, working mother, so I am here to tell you that it can be done, even while working full time. My suggestion would be to research homeschooling styles, from "school-at-home" through the various degrees of curriculum based approaches, to "unschooling" to see if any style matches your parenting philosophy and beliefs.


I think you would do well to actively advocate for your child in school, while researching and learning about homeschooling options. Then you can do your best to work with the school, while not feeling trapped by what they have to offer.

post #3 of 6

I would say definitely request an IEP evaluation!  If he is sitting in the office for half the day, his impulse control is affecting his learning process, and they need to address that.  Extra supervision, especially in unstructured times, can be extrememly helpful to a child with impulse control issues.  My oldest was suspended twice for one day when he was younger, but he is entering highschool next year, and the change in him has been incredible.  We have gotten tremendous support from the school, and the skills he has learned there have been vital to his growth.  So, there is a lot they can do in your situation. 

post #4 of 6

I happened upon your post because I keep Focalin as a search term on my Google page and couldn't help but notice some parallels between your son and mine. You've already received some great advice.


What I can add is my personal experience and what has helped our 8 year old son who is currently taking 10mg of Focalin plus 150mg of Welbutrin a day. I'm not making any assumptions on what you might be doing or not doing this is what works for us and we have to stay vigilant with our methods otherwise we see a change in his behavior. So here's what we've done for our son...


Some history,

I knew my son's behavior was difficult but didn't realize how outside of normal until he first started kindergarten. (He attended preschool for 2 years but his teachers were more willing to work around his behavior so it just wasn't as obvious to me) He was expelled from school at the end of his first month. That was the beginning of our wake-up call that something needed to be done.


Sleep - we discovered he had sleep apnea. So with surgery to remove his tonsils he sleeps much better. He also uses a 6lb. weighted blanket and that helps him sleep more soundly and gives him comfort. He takes 1mg of melatonin every night too since he hasn't been able to go to sleep on his own before midnight since he was 3. I was hoping that the welbutrin would help his sleep patterns because I have a low dopamine level and it's helped me with mine. He's been taking it for a month and I'm not seeing much of a difference.


Discipline - I took a non-violent communication class called, Nurtured Heart, it is for parents with difficult children and I learned some effective methods for my son. Really clear consequences, no warnings for misbehavior. If he does something wrong he gets a consequence (one that has already been established prior to the misbehavior or one that is reasonable) and total follow through. And when he does something right he gets a ton of praise. Not "Good Job!," but "Wow, I saw that you cleared your place without me asking! Thank you so much." and do it all the time, more than a child without ADHD would need. And even for the little things so he hears that praise as often as possible. Especially when he does something I've been asking of him over and over and he finally does it without a reminder. This made a huge difference for our son. We also asked his teacher to use it with him and it made a difference at school too. To us it felt completely over the top but he ate it up. It was like we were filling his ego in the healthiest way. We find now that we don't need to praise as often because he doesn't crave it as much. But he still gets a lot of praise.

A few months ago my son started to scream every time he got in trouble. It was completely ridiculous. I knew that no amount of nagging was going to quell that response so instead I had him make a poster where he had to write at the top, "Instead of screaming when I get angry I will..." and then I let him list all the things he wanted to do instead of scream. Then we taped it to his bedroom door. It was great. No longer was it me telling him to stop but him deciding, "Oh ya, I'm gonna run 3 laps on the drive way." I didn't get angry when he screamed. I would remind him to check his poster and then decide how he was going to handle it. It took a couple of weeks but it worked. And resets. Instead of timeouts when he starts acting up (which they're too old for now in my opinion) we do a reset. Send him to his room to reset. He can come out when he has calmed down or thought about his actions. Sometimes he stays in his room for a few minutes, sometimes he comes right back out but it usually works.


Routine - He has his own chart for getting ready in the morning. One he helped make and that he carries throughout the house while getting ready for school. It's been a great boost to his self esteem and now he gets a little dose of it every morning. I still make his breakfast and lunch but he does everything else. It's been a huge help to me too because I have three sons, his brothers are both younger than him and now I have adequate time to spend with them in the morning. Our evenings are regimented also.


We are open with him - Our son knows he has ADHD and that is why he sees a psychologist every few months and why he takes a pill every morning. We tell him that this is something that he'll have to work on for his whole life but right now we get to help him and as he gets older it will probably get easier.


Support - I found getting him involved in an organized activity outside of school was also helpful. Soccer and baseball were terrible. He is not a team player but loves socializing so we put him in tennis. That was great for about 6 months then he got tired of it. Now I'm trying to get him into cub scouts and I'm thinking about bowling. Having another role model outside of the home is really good.


Diet - We tried an elimination diet. Took everything but I think turkey, rice, pears and carrots out of his diet for 2 weeks. All we figured out was that dairy was causing his eczema so that was good and that red dye really does effect his behavior. He gets totally jumpy and impulsive with any red dye.


Organize - His room is more organized than the rest of my house. He has a place for everything so he's not frustrated with where he put things or can't focus on his homework because his desk is a mess.


My suggestion, if you haven't already tried some of the things I mentioned, give some a shot. My son was expelled because he cut a girl with scissors! Totally freaked me out but he did it out of absent mindedness, impulse and without regard for someone else. Instead of working on that immediate problem we worked on all the other stuff that might have lead him up to the situation.

I think home schooling is a tough situation for a child with ADHD. They do have the potential for more one on one support but it's from their parent most often. I feel that kids with ADHD need a lot of social interaction so they can learn appropriate behaviors with their peers and exercise. PE and recess are so critical to ADHD kids. An IEP might be a good step too (not one we've taken yet but are thinking about) because, from what I understand about an IEP/504 plan, is it helps protect your son from excessive punishment, you can say in his plan that it's unacceptable him to be taken out of class for half a day. And it provides you with additional services.


I know I wrote a lot but it was a long journey to get where we are now with our son. Remembering the desperation I felt for my boy to be at ease and in control. I feared that maybe he had oppositional defiance disorder too but I don't have that concern anymore. He still does stuff where I'm baffled but it's far less often and I have to remind myself that he is an 8 year old boy after all.

post #5 of 6

What would happen in the school I work in is that he would be given a behavior plan. A lot of work goes into these.

  • They look at what is the antecedent for the behavior and what consequences are currently being used (that aren't working).
  • They try to determine if the child is capable of the appropriate behavior -- if the problem is that the child needs to be TAUGHT the behavior, or needs motivation to PERFORM the behavior.
  • They try to figure out what motivates this specific child. One child I work with earns the right to help in a Kindergarten class for 30 minutes (he has a history of violence and aggression, like your son, but really likes to be a leader and a helper). Another child earns time at a special art desk that was set up just for her.  The goal is to figure out what motivates your son. 
  • They make a plan with measurable goals and very clear steps to take when the problem behavior reoccurs, (it would be completely reasonable for you to get a call any time he is removed from his classroom for more than 15 minutes). The actions to take really depend on what they decide in the early steps -- a child whose behavior is motivated by getting more attention would respond best to a very different plan than a child who has sensory issues and whose currently behavior is really beyond their control.
  • The current plans includes anything that the school/teacher will be doing different to see helps the behavior not occur or reduce in frequency.
  • The behavior plan has a set amount of time to be in place before it is reviewed to see if it is working.


The woman who is in charge of discipline issues at our school routinely calls home if a child shows up in her office who is on meds to ask if they had their medication that day.


Is he aggressive outside of school?

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much everyone!  He got a referral again today :( He is mainly refusing to work, I think our big thing here is motivation.  He just doesn't want to do it.  My husband talked to his teacher this evening(I was at work) and she is going to let him come to class tomorrow and IF he works, then she will allow him to not go to the office.  I think I will write her a note though so we can maybe see about a behavioral plan bc what they are doing now is obviously not working.  He isn't really aggressive per se but he does play rough.  He has 2 other brothers and they all 3 play rough together.  He also goes to the psychiatrist Wednesday and I think we are going to discuss taking away the Focalin and keep the Zoloft to keep allowing it to build up.  I don't know if the Focalin is an issue or not to be honest bc I don't have these issues at home with him, but he is also not around all the different kids like at school.  If he keeps this up, his teacher mentioned that she may have to move him to another classroom for the disruptive kids :(

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