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Experiences with Therapeutic Schools for teens with ADD & ODD

My son is 15, and was diagnosed with ADHD, General Anxiety Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder last summer (several attempts at diagnosis when he was younger seemed like false starts). 

We had a false start with Concerta, which seemed to simply amplify his anxiety.  He has switched to Straterra, and is 4 weeks into that treatment.  It seems to help a bit, and is not causing any negative side effects, but it’s no silver bullet.  He’s also on Zoloft for his anxiety.

He attends social skills group therapy, and individual therapy (has been in therapy on and off for several years now, but is renewed given the recent diagnosis).

He’s had permissive parenting most of his life, unfortunately, and I was a bit late understanding the damage which that style of parenting can cause especially for a child with ADD.  I’ve been learning and applying a much more authoritative parenting style over the past six months or so (boundaries, consequences, rewards, delivered calmly and with love).  I’ve seen some good improvement in his behavior - he is far more respectful when with me, does homework (halfheartedly), and doesn’t interrupt.  He also seems to feel a little bit better about himself.

But the progress seems to be far too little, too late.  Despite a high IQ, he is failing all of his classes (low F’s) and can only briefly lift a grade to a D or C if I put in extraordinary effort encouraging and monitoring him, and then the grade falls back down.  At school he refuses to work (passive/aggressive), questions rules and authority, has been suspended twice (getting in a fight and being overly aggressive with a student).  He attempts to avoid any type of effort (physical, academic).  He continues to lose friends.  While at his mothers’ on weekends doesn’t do homework at all and the pervasive permissiveness seems to undo any positive changes from the week before.  He belittles other kids at school, takes a victimnhood stance to life, has a sense of entitlement, and lately has talked positively about marijuana and drinking (though I feel fairly certain he has done neither). 

It breaks my heart - at heart he is an intelligent, creative and caring child - but he is stuck in an ODD rut and just continues to dig in deeper.  I’m very concerned for his future and feel like there is too little time to continue with the current mix of medication, therapy, and improved (if still inconsistent) parenting. 

I’m seriously considering withdrawing him from his current (alternative) high school, and placing him in a residential therapeutic program for troubled teens.  I’ve got a recommendation from a neighbor whose son had very heartening results, and I’m trying to determine if it is best for my son as well. 

It seems to me that most parents treat these programs as a last resort - only going for them once their child has hit bottom.  However - I’d prefer to catch it early and improve my son’s chances.  I honestly don’t know what else I can do - I seem to be doing everything humanly possible to help him and have basically run out of runway and alternatives. I don’t see any alternatives to a residential program at this point - continuing the current mix and hoping for different results seems futile.  My son’s future hangs in the balance.

I’m considering a program which has a mixture of physical, academic and psychological/CBT treatments.  A goal is to help a child recover lost grades as well.  It is not cheap, and is likely to take at least six months, though the average is more like a year.

Have you placed your ADD/ODD child in a residential program?  When did you do so, and what were the results?  Would you do it again?  How do you prepare for it, or prepare your child for it?  If you explored these treatment options and decided against it, why and what were your results with alternatives to residential treatment?

Replies

Hi bestican!

You are very devoted to your son, and all your efforts will pay off in the future.

I don’t have any personal experience with residential treatment, but there is an article on residential treatment for kids with ADHD over on ADDItudeMag.com: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd-web/article/682.html. Maybe you’ll find some useful insights in the article.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on May 05, 2014 at 5:49pm

Hi B,
The Robert Land Academy routinely works miracles with ADHD boys. It is very expensive but all graduate and proceed to colleges or universites. And the boys are happy.

I’ ve toured the place several times and am always impressed.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on May 05, 2014 at 6:58pm

Are there any good residential schools in the US? The Robert Lamb Academy does sound good, but it’s in Canada. Thanks.

Posted by marbri0520 on May 05, 2014 at 7:32pm

Hello,
I don’t know about the residential treatment schools. One thing that caught my attention was when you mentioned that your son was talking about alcohol and marijuana, but felt quite certain he was not using either of them.

My son was an expert on many drugs and unfortunately I had no experience with any drug except alcohol.  There were many red flags there that I did not see.  Now our son is a recovering addict.

I hope you find the right school for your son and the help he needs. You are wise to do this now before your son gets much older. I also found out that the authoritative parenting style like you are using was the absolute best thing for our son.  He was a much better person with the boundaries! It was when we would loosen the reigns a bit that chaos returned. As far as the drugs, don’t be afraid to do drug testing on him to make sure he stays on the clean side. ( I should have done that instead of taking our son’s word that everything was OK) Drugs will further complicate any other issues he is experiencing.

All the best to you and your son!

Posted by pricemama on May 05, 2014 at 7:45pm

@adhdmoma - thanks for the link.  I found the article a bit frustrating - it compares a 5-day a week residential program with a fictitious, intensive and optimal family therapy program with teams on call 12 hours a day to help the family (“Unfortunately, such optimal treatment is not often the case in the real world.”).

The residential programs I’m aware of are 24x7, not just 5 days a week.  And nobody I know of has access to the kind of family therapy mentioned in the article.

Posted by bestican on May 05, 2014 at 7:59pm

Bestican,

I don’t know if this is technically a “residential treatment” school, but the Stone Mountain School is in the region I live in and I have heard many great things about it. You can find information on it on google.

As well, ADDitudeMag.com directory has a list of a few schools: http://directory.additudemag.com/listing/guide/adhd-and-ld-schools. SOAR is on this list and it’s fantastic. Our family attended their parents’ weekend a couple years ago at the NC location and I was beyond impressed with their staff and the focus on behavior modification and forming good habits—and that was just for their summer camps. I hear their school is outstanding, and I believe it based on the experience we had at the NC camp.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on May 06, 2014 at 5:03pm

I too found the article about residential programs a bit frustrating. It seems to me that they are comparing apples to oranges. Most likely the families that sent kids to a residential program were in a much bigger crisis than families that did not. They don’t really say much about the test group. We have struggled for 19 years with our ADHD kid, but never considered sending him off until he was 17 and drugs and extreme behavior was involved. I was hoping to see some personal experience on this subject from this forum, because we are looking into a residential treatment program for our 19 year old son.

I would also consider the very real possibility that your son is using drugs. I thought I was a savvy parent and would know if my son was using. I first became suspicious when he was about 14 (and he denied it vehemently), but have recently found out that he first experimented at age 11! I will tell you that it is much easier to do something before they turn 18!

I don’t know where you live, but you might try to see if you can find a consultant or therapist that can assist you in choosing the best program. We have found a great resource in Texas - http://www.academic-answers.com. They are experts in all the types of programs out there, but it isn’t cheap to get there expertise - $5,000.

Posted by artistmom on May 06, 2014 at 5:59pm

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The opinions expressed on ADDConnect are solely those of the user, who may or may not have medical training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of ADDConnect or ADDitude magazine. For more information, see our terms and conditions.