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"No desire to succeed" - need help with response!

Background:  My son is 11 and in middle school.  This year his grades have dropped, his behaviour worsened and he was very honestly very close to a mental breakdown at Christmas.  I managed to get him on medication and things are slowly improving.  We are still seeing areas of struggle, so we are pushing for an IEP and accommodations.

His teacher is very good and understands ADHD.  She is flexible and supportive.  It will be the special ed counsellor that will be writing the IEP however. 

I wrote an email to my son’s teacher (after my son got a 58% on his math test) requesting the IEP and also requesting some accommodations, the most crucial being that tests be broken up for him so he doesn’t become overwhelmed.  (This latest test was 3 pages long, and he got zero points on the last page, and the most correct on the first.)

So I wanted to paste in a bit of the counsellor’s email and see how you all would respond.

“I can write an IEP for [your son] and will do so after spring break. We are willing to put adaptations in place for [him], but adaptations require [his] participation in what he needs them to be. We can adapt his work but if he is not taking the initiative to express what he needs our adaptations may not be of assistance. He needs to be interested in improving his work for it to be effective. Currently, he does not consistently demonstrate a great deal of desire to be successful at school. Today when given time to study in class for his social studies test he chose to read his book. When offered help from the EA to study for his test, he refused her assistance. I understand we all want our children to be successful in school and achieve good grades but they have to be active participants in their learning for this to be an achievable goal.”

“After I have completed a rough draft of the IEP perhaps we can meet with [your son] and ensure that he feels the adaptations will be of benefit to him or we can add some different ones in for him. We can continue to work with [him] to try to further develop the strategies he has, but he needs to put the strategies into practice and actively particpate in the learning process for him to be successful. He has shown improvements in his participation in his learning, and he will continue to develop as he matures. It is a process and will not change over night, and his improvements demonstrate that he is on the correct path and with further support and encouragement he will continue to grow and learn. We look forward to helping him through this process of self understanding and self advocacy with you and [your son]”

Replies

I’m attending an ADHD parenting course through our local ADHD clinic and this week’s topic was on school.  The psychologist was talking about how kids generally have one of two reactions when presented with tasks they just can’t accomplish… they either become anxious and internalize feelings of “I’m stupid, lazy, etc.” or they rebel and quit caring. 

At the height of his anxiety about school, my son was walking out of class or refusing to open his text book.  Last night he didn’t sleep well (a common problem, but one we’re already doing everything possible for) so he struggled more than usual.  He also feels he can’t study in class, and so this is a common thing I hear he refuses to do.

I understand when his teacher tells me she’d like to help him before school or at lunch with tutoring, but that he won’t come.  She’s already helping in so many other ways, and I get that… well, what can she do if he won’t agree?  But for the counsellor to basically say he has no desire to do well in school, and that any adaptation we suggest, as his parents, won’t work… well it honestly makes me wonder if she understands ADHD at all!!

Posted by Rai0414 on Mar 08, 2014 at 6:58am

Hi Rai0414!

I think you are both right. First, it’s common for a child with ADHD to not “care” about school and not taking any initiative. That is definitely part of the, “I can’t succeed so why even try” mentality. The way to improve that is to set them up for success—once they see repeatedly, over time, that they can be successful, they will put more effort into it. The best way to do that is through services and accommodations at school to level the playing field for your son.

So, while you are right that his lack of interest in school is learned, the counselor is also right that they can’t help him if he doesn’t let them. My son is 11 and in 5th grade. He has refused any accommodations that were obvious to his peers since 3rd grade. He already feels so different, so he doesn’t want to do anything that will increase that and bring more attention to himself. Being pulled aside for extra study help when no one else gets that help makes him look inferior to the other students in his mind. We can’t blame him there.

My suggestion is to get the IEP in place with all the ideal accommodations and services. Then, implement slowly and start with the items that don’t call so much attention to him. Maybe staying after school for study help, reduced work load, and breaks during longer tests (although, the other students will see that, but I think there’s a way to implement that and be less obvious).

Pre-teens start to equate extra help in school with being stupid. It’s not accurate, but they can’t help making the association, and that’s what their peers will assume too. He definitely needs accommodations, and they will be helpful in the long run, but everyone has to be sensitive to how he *feels* and set him up to succeed.

As for her writing the IEP then calling you in, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. The IDEA law very clearly states that parents are to be part of the IEP Team and involved in the drafting of the IEP. It should be a special education teacher leading the process as well, not the guidance counselor. I would question a bit on the process.

I would respond to her by acknowledging that your son isn’t internally motivated where it comes to school right now, but that it’s part of ADHD and a learned behavior from struggling so much. Agree that he has to accept the help for it to work, but ask that they implement slow with attention paid to his sensitivity about being different and singled out. Tell the counselor you feel his engagement and motivation around school will increase once he achieve consistent and long-term success.

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

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:31pm

I LOVE Penny’s advice and agree wholeheartedly.  Confidence and not being perceived as “normal” by the other kids certainly makes any child feel “inadequate or different” and makes them appear that they don’t care and just give up but I really believe that it is a learned behavior and over time with accomodations it will get better.  I have enrolled my child in extra help after school and tutoring after school in our home in addition to a (non-school related) private program and it has been a bit over 3 months now and we are finally starting to see progress.  I always say its like going to the gym and working out for the first time.  In the beginning, the hardest part is just psyching yourself up to go, but after the results start showing, that is what motivates you to keep going!  Don’t give up, and ask your son not to too, but be honest with him and let him know that he will have to “want” to work at it, and even though it stinks that he has to work twice as hard as everyone else, he will feel so much better about himself and his work when he tries.

Posted by RHaro on Mar 11, 2014 at 8:08pm

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