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ADHD at School

I don't know what to do anymore

I have an 11 year old son in 6th grade.  He is twice exceptional—gifted and ADHD in all categories.  He’s a sweet kid, funny, creative, but becoming defiant about his homework.  He’s struggling in middle school, and he doesn’t seem to care now.  I had to pull him from his gifted classes because he was struggling with homework and processing speed, and he failed math. Failed a subject that he is intuitively gifted in.  The teacher even gave him points so that it would be academically possible for him to (hopefully) pass this year and not have to repeat 6th grade.  It is getting harder to tell the points that he is overwhelmed by vs. the areas he just doesn’t even want to try.  At school, I’ve found my outgoing, energetic boy is quiet, and tries to “fly under the radar” in class.  He started this in 4th grade.  It’s easy to overlook him if you don’t know he’s there. His school defense.  At home,  he has started to be defiant about completing his work and is disrespectful—talking down to me, trying to get an arguement going, almost anything it seems to provoke a response and avoid the dreaded work. I’m trying, I’m really trying, but I’ve gotten into bad routines that make the situation go to halifax as well.  I nag at him, I keep reminding him, I lose my patience and yell.  Gee, wonder why it doesn’t improve?  His dad has ADHD as well, and I’ve given up on asking him to help out most of the time.  I want to include him because I hope he’d understand how my son feels and could guide him, but he gets so impatient and often either yells or turns the situation into a power struggle to the point hat everyone just wants to get away.  It’s like being a single mom with two young boys and one grown boy.  (I hadn’t mentioned my youngest son because he has not been a problem. Guess who gets the least attention in the household?  Could it be the kid who can work independently?  You know the answer.).
I guess this vent leads me to a few concrete questions buried amongst the fear & self-pity: first,  he has a 504 but not an IEP.  He has been turned down twice in elementary school for an IEP.  Would the accomodations under an IEP help him or lower the bar so he becomes even less motivated? 

Second, any suggestions on how to break us both out of the awful habits we’ve fallen into when it comes time for schoolwork?  I swear I’d have pulled him from school by now &  homeschooled him if I could figure out how to pay our bills.  It is so hard to care so deeply and want so badly for someone to succeed and yet see them struggle and push away any offered help.  Help?


Wow!  I am not there yet.  My son just turned 7 and his struggles pale in comparison, but someone once told me that as the kids grow so do their troubles.  I am bracing myself for the worst, but trying to nip things in the bud as best as I can right now.  I wish I had something magic to tell you to ease your burdens.  The thing that I would recommend is to spend a few dollars and get the book by Ross Greene called The Explosive Child which outlines a road map using a collaborative problem solving approach for how to get to the bottom of your child’s problems and help them develop the skills they need to be more flexible, solve problems and handle frustration to diminish conflict between you and your child.  Many other people on this site recommend it.  It is a really quick and easy read and you can start implementing the techniques right away.  I used the process recently and it really helped me understand where my son was coming from so I could better help him.  We have all these expectations of our kids and just want them to do what is right and best for them and have all these ideas about how that should happen for them.  But along the way sometimes we forget to ask them what is going on and really listen and try to understand their perspective of the problem.  I had tried parts of the process at various times but had never put the whole thing together until I read the book.  My son loved the opportunity to speak about his side of the equation and felt that he was finally being heard and understood.  Ironically, After some probing and digging, I finally felt that I truly understood how he was thinking and feeling and it helped me see that my former solution was not necessarily appropriate for the situation.  It is not a fool proof method and often the solutions you come up with don’t work the first time, but you keep revisiting the problem and refining the process until you collaboratively find something that will work.  If you aren’t a reader you can watch the videos on this link which summarize the main points.
Overall, don’t give up.  Your son needs you more than ever right now even though he isn’t able to tell you that with his words.  You are obviously a wonderful parent with great intentions and high hopes for your son.  Hang in there and take care of you so you can be of help to him.  Best wishes to you.

Posted by Mom247 on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:12am


I’m going through a very similar situation but my son is 8 he has a IEP which can accommodate his needs but he uses that and his meds as an excuse. My son yells at me because his teacher assigns too much homework, were at the point “no homework after school” only in the morning after his meds have kicked in :(
Good luck , don’t give up!!!
Posted by love3boys on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:33am

Posted by adhdmomma on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:09pm

It wouldn’t hurt to request an evaluation for an IEP again, now that he is really struggling. You should be able to get the same accommodations whether in a 504 Plan or an IEP, but the IEP also offers services and is more enforceable.

I second the recommendation for reading The Explosive Child. Most important, is to start with empathy and acknowledge his feelings. School is very hard for our kids and homework just adds insult to injury. One accommodation I’d ask for is modified assignments—he only has to do as much work as it takes to show he has mastered the material (like every other math problem on a worksheet of many).

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:17pm

Ugh.  Just here for moral support. I have some of the same issues - gifted, very bright child who doesn’t try and is getting more frustrated as the years go by and the work gets harder.  He has life goals for himself, but he can’t even push himself to get his school work done, and the grades have gone from As to Bs, Cs, Ds.  It’s so frustrating and you want to help them, but the defiance pushes buttons in us and makes us do things we know we shouldn’t!

The Explosive Child is a great book, so I would read that and try some of the techniques.  I have to return to implementing that approach myself.  I also try to find ways to make the homework make more sense for my son, and he usually calms down and “gets it” after I’ve tried an approach that works and after I’ve done the first few problems with him.

Like you, my son has been denied an IEP.  I incorporate practices at home that they do not use and are not willing to use at school.  I have to say the heck with them sometimes, because they are of little to no help at times.  My son has written expression disorder and CANNOT form cohesive sentences and paragraphs in his head AND type them, too, so I have him deliver reports to me orally, and I type the first draft as he is speaking it.  When it comes to revising and editing, I make him do the typing, but taking that pressure off lets the ideas flow and he can tell me very well what the content should be.  That’s just an example of what I do to make things “work” for him when the school isn’t willing to help.

Keep talking to the teachers, as maybe you can all come up with more ideas together, and read the book, for starters.  Do you deal with a therapist or coach at all?  That might help, too, if you can afford it (which I can’t).  Somehow we have to find the strength to keep going so we can help our kids through this!  Good luck and hang in there!

Posted by JAMurphy on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:28pm

I certainly feel your pain. Someone told me that the adhd symptoms may increase with the onset of puberty. It helped me to know this, at least mentally.

Posted by green queen on Jan 22, 2014 at 10:40pm


I think hw is one of the most devastating issues that can hurt relationships with our kids who struggle.

First, I would put in writing a request to the child study team for a complete educational eval…state concrete reasons why you believe it is necessary based on academic issues, hw issues, time it takes for him to complete, any teacher comments…Learning differences is a very significant co-existing condition of ADHD.  He can still be gifted, but learns differently.
Even if he does not test out specifically learning disabled, ADHD is a disability and makes him eligible for an IEP if it is affecting academics…despite the fact that many schools will push that idea away.
ADHD has with it many executive functioning deficits that come into play:  organization, working memory, initiation, procrastination, emotional reg. to name a few.
If he is taking longer than the district hw policy, which is usually 10 minutes per grade level, than modification isnecessary….He should not have to spend hours on hw and you should not have to nag.
other issues:  start a plan…time for hw, breaks,timers…he owns it..once done, hes let the teacher know what he got done in that time frame.

We have to advocate for our kids!  Btw, join…great support/classes….

let me know if I can help.

Karen K Lowry,R.N.,M.S.N.
Parent2Parent ADHD Family Trainer for CHADD

Posted by karenklowry on Jan 23, 2014 at 2:43am

Thank you, everyone.  Good reminders and suggestions, and I really appreciate the moral support.  That can absolutely make a difference in attitude and help you stop, breathe and try again from another angle.  I am going to order the book, and will send a letter in to his school team.  Tonight was better.  I could see him go into defensive anger drive when I said “homework” and then work to keep his frustration from spilling out at me.  I’m sure he could feel the difference in attitude from me, too.  We broke the work into bite-sized pieces and stuck strictly to the timer.  We were even able to joke during test review.  One day at a time, and keep building on the positive.

Posted by beanne on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:18am

These are all great ideas and suggestions . I have a question I think ties into all of this—

I was told by my local parent support center that schools are supposed to consider the amount of time the parents have to spend with the child helping them with homework. Does anyone know if that includes time it takes to organize them each night, going over there agenda with them, making sure they clean out there binder, having supplies they need for the next day, sending emails to the teachers when a question or concern comes up while doing all this- that kind of stuff- I feel like an administrative assistant to my son- yikes!

We are in process of having him evaluated by CSE (he has ADHD dx already and a 504) for IEP - failing 2 subjects in middle school.

As Im typing this i feel like its a really petty question but it truly takes 30 min a night-on top of also helping w the actual hw. (And helping 2 other kids w hw - another one who is showing signs of adhd as well) - i just dont know what these schools expect from us?
Sorry if i sidetracked things at all- i can repost this as a separate question if anyone thinks i should. Thanks

Posted by Udderlycrazy on Jan 23, 2014 at 5:54pm

The SEN Gifted website (Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted) also has some good resources.

Posted by Dr. Eric on Jan 25, 2014 at 5:14am

I feel your pain. My daughter is 13 and struggling academically with school. She is bright but you would not know that based on her academic performance. She struggles with paying attention, forgetfulness and time-management. She is in the 8th grade and I worry about what will become of her future if we cannot get this under control. It was so bad at the regular public school the past 2 years that we enrolled her into an online school this year but it has only helped a little and I have to be with her full-time in-order for her to get any work done. It is destroying my relationship with her because there is no real support from her online school and I feel alone in dealing with my child’s education and dealing with her ADD. We just started family therapy but I am not sure how that will help my ADD child since it is behavioral modification techniques that would be beneficial to her and I am not sure how talk therapy will help. I have been hesitant to start her on her ADD med again because she attempted suicide in December with her ADD med.

Posted by ihailey on Feb 07, 2014 at 9:27pm

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