May 06, 2010,
D.L. asks from Miamisburg, OH on May 06, 2010
Help with My 14 Yr Old Son - Anger Issues, Behavior, Grades, & ADHD
I could really use some constructive advice ladies. My husband & I have 6 kids between us (I have 2, he has 4). There is no 'step' issues or even that concept in our house, however. We have full custody of his 14 yr old twins, shared custody with my 2 girls and have his youngest about 4 days a week. (the oldest is 18 & out of the house) Our problem is with our 14 yr old son. He's the only boy in the bunch, which I realize is difficult. However, my husband & I have very diligently tried to keep him feeling special, not feeling like he's the 'outcast' (b/c he's the only boy) but my son makes this job difficult. Without going into extreme detail, we just went through a custody battle with his real mom and he only sees her every other weekend (thats all she was awarded and all she asked for). I have a feeling part of his problem is his real mom, part of his problem is also his ADHD. As far as his real mom goes, he is back & forth how he feels about her, her behavior, ect. One minute he just goes with the flow, the next he's angry for her inactivity in his life. (I could write a book on her and the things she has put them through) Of course, I am their mom, in all aspects except for birth. I am the one raising them and have since they were 7. My husband & I are the ones who are dealing with all of the issues. He has problems at school and he always has. He is in 'intervention' for math & reading and gets AE help with other subjects. He's also on an IEP. Up until Jr High (the twins are in 8th grade now) he actually didn't do bad in school. I think this had a lot to do with leanency on the teachers part, and now that they are in Jr High, it's really not like that. They will be freshman next year and I worry so much that my son will not make it. For the past 2 years, he has had at least 1 F every interim or report card. This year is worse. We have had meeting after meeting with teachers, principals, guidance to see what else we can do at home to help him & to make sure he is getting the help that he needs from his teachers. We have done everything from praise to grounding him for grades. I am not a fan of anything below a C on a report card, my husband is a little easier on that, so if Zack can bring his grade up to D's, my husband normally will not ground him. I'm out of ideas as to what to do to motivate him. A lot of the problem is missing assingments, which I cannot force him to turn in at school. Or Zack doesn't want to ask for help. He also has anger issues at school. The anger issues are not near that bad at home, but at least 1- 2 times per week I get a call or email from the teacher or principal about Zack's behavior. Zack flies off the handle is someone just looks at him wrong. Today he got in trouble because a girl was messing around with him (how I'm not exactly sure yet) and I guess he half playful/half not hit her in the stomach. I got the impression when I spoke to Zack that the girl hit him first, but either way. On Tuesday this week, Zack was able to control his anger in the classroom when a boy that he's had problems with started with him, but as he was leaving the class to calm himself down, he hit the wall with his fist. I'm just out of ideas. He is not on meds and has not been on meds since he was about 9. Every ADHD med we put him on would zone him out so bad, he just wasn't the same kid. We are considering talking to the dr about other med options, but I don't think meds are a solution. I know my son can be a really good kid. When he is grounded and stuck in the house, he is respectful (which he is most of the time at the house), does things without arguing about them, he wants to go places with us, ect. When he gets ungrounded, we do it in stages of freedom. He was just ungrounded for an incident at school about a month ago and he has been slowly earning back his freedom and now we have another issue at school. I should also mention that his twin sister is not like this at all. She has her moments, but is really a very mature respectable kid. She plays year around softball, which takes up a lot of time, but during this, we try to make sure Zack is getting plenty of positive attention so that he doesn't feel like he has to 'live up' to his twin sister. He plays football in the fall, but thats the only sport he is interested in, where all the girls play softball at least 6 mths out of year. During this time, we do extra things for Zack so that he doesn't feel left out and we are still having problems. I asked him last night what he thought we should do to help him with his grades, attitude, anger, ect and the only thing he said was 'leave me alone and let me do what I want'. He also feels like he's entitled. I had to explain to him the other night that the only repsonsibility that dad & I have is to give him food, a bed, clothes and somewhere to live. Everything else was bonus things because we love him. He doesn't quite grasp this concept, and believe me, our children are not 'spoiled'. Yes the twins have cell phones, but they are defenitely not spoiled. With 5 to support, that just isn't an option.
I know this is long, but we are just out of ideas how to help him, what other punishment and/or praise we can do to help him.
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M.R. answers from Columbus on May 06, 2010
You are right about one thing, Medication alone is not the answer, and he needs a comprehensive plan that will include appropriate medical intervention that is right for him.
He sounds like so many ADHD kids I have worked with. First, I would get very detailed, comprehensive evaluation from a neuropschologist and begin working with a board certified child pschiatrist and a good cognitive behaviroral therapist. If you are depending on the school's version of his evaluation status, you could be in the dark about anything they chose not to expose, and you should absolutly never know less than they do and you should own the evaluation that includes his diagnosis. He will aways need more than the school will provide, they are only responsible for making him "functional" only obligated to provide "appropriate" educational services, and only required to show that he is making "some educational progress." I know that if you read IDEA, you get the impression that he is entitled to much more than this, and some schools provide more, but the legal standard is incredibly low, and you will want more than that for your son. Private serivices, therapy, toutoring, and medical intervention is essential if you want to see progress. Ask the school to provide all the recomendations from the neuropsychologist, and provide them yourself if they won't pony up. He needs as much help as you can get him as soon as you can get it.
The one thing that you should absolutly have at school is a behavior plan that stems from something called a Functional Behavioral Assessment. This will give you base lines for behavior and should not apply any subjective interpretations like "appropriate." This evaluation should simply say what the behaviors are, when they happen, how often they happen, what happened just prior to the behavior, and how long the behavior lasted. Then, the behavior should be dealt with in only possitive terms with only possitvie interventions and supports. This will be an uphill battle for you, I won't lie about that, and it may get worse in high school. Read about possitive behavioral interventions and Functional Behavorial Assessments at www.wrightslaw.com. This will be a huge resource for you.
Meds are an important part of the puzzel. If you did not find help for him with the prescriber you had before, look for a new one. He may be very difficult to prescribe for, and I have some advice for you if this is the case. If he needs to be seen every week for a while until you find what works, you may need to find a psychiatrist who is not on insurance at all. Find one who will spend the time you need to sort it out, it won't be cheap, but it will be worth it. You may be able to file for out of net work benefits or switch to an in network psychiatrist once you find the right meds. Meds work wonders when they are right, and they are important tools for kids to use so that they have full access to therapy, behaviroal intervention, and educational intervention.
If he is not reading at grade level, insist that he participate in an orton gillingham reading program, and do not take "no" for an answer. He does not have to qualify as LD or dyslexic to get this kind of intervention. Avoid things like fast forward or reading fluency programs that have kids reading the same book over and over again until they can read it well, this is not going to help him.
Good luck, remember, ADHD takes a multi factored approach, without one part of the treatment plan, you make all the others less effective.
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E.L. answers from Charleston on May 06, 2010
I am a huge proponent of ADHD meds! I have had custody of my niece for almost 4 years now. She is ADD, ADHD, ODD and BiPolar. She has been helped tremendously by Concerta and Lexapro. It does not make her zone out- infact it helps her concentrate and stay focused so well that her grades and behavior have improved dramatically! She and I would be lost without her medication. She too was very aggressive and had an "I don't care" attitude. There were times at was at my wits end with her and she couldn't stand the way she acted at times. It seemed she was always grounded and getting into trouble. Finally we had her tested and she was able to get on medication- it has been a God-send for both of us. She has made new friends, her school work gets completed (most of the time- hey she's still a teenager! LOL).
Personally I feel you should consider getting Zack into counseling to help him deal with the felings he has towards his birth mother and also consider trying medications again. I don't mean to be too harsh, but his behavior may only worsen if it is allowed to continue this way. He can not hit other people and you do want this to escalate to actual fighting! He has anger built up and needs a way to get it out- try therapy and maybe karate or some other form to help him release. GOOD LUCK!!
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M.J. answers from Sacramento on May 06, 2010
I'm also a big proponent of ADHD medication. It really is targeted to this condition and can give amazing, life-changing results. If he was too subdued and not himself either the dosage was too high or that medication wasn't right. In the past five years, you'll be amazed at all of the other medication options that have entered the market. Make sure you're dealing with an expert like a psychiatrist or neuropsychologist (not a pediatrician) who is extremely familiar with all of the options and can start off with a low dosage and work up to what is just right for your son.
He isn't doing what he's doing voluntarily and that's the hardest part to accept and deal with. The aggressive/angry behavior is due to lack of impulse control -- he thinks it, he does it. We went through this with our son. He's a sweet boy but just couldn't think through his actions first. It's not intentional. That doesn't mean there aren't consequences for the poor actions, but it forces you to think through those consequences and have some empathy, too.
Now that our son is on medication, he's thriving at school and at home (at least, when the meds are active ... when they're not is another story). His teachers see him for how smart he is, not for his bad behavior. He's focused, happy, friendly and pleasant to be around. You wouldn't know he has ADHD and it's pretty severe when he's not on medication. He isn't sedated or zombie-like in any way -- in fact, he's still full of energy and spunk. It's just in the normal range.
Please do rethink medications. Also consider a behavioral therapist, as well, to work through some of his issues and relearn appropriate actions. The combination of the two can work wonders.
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A.A. answers from Denver on May 06, 2010
I know you don't think ADHD meds are an answer. I will just say this: There are several new ones or new forms of old ones on the market which might make a big difference for him and haven't been tried. Also, the teen years are a pressure cooker for a kid with ADHD. They are expected to constantly transition between things/subjects/concentrations, their hormones are making everything a roller coaster, and they all are going to fail at self control.
An ADHD kid is worst of all because they have gotten such an overwhelming volume of negative feedback by this point in their lives that they're mad as hell, lonely, feel singled out and hopeless about real success. All your methods will break down in the face of these added stresses to an already overstressed system if nothing can bring the stress to the system down somewhat. He was already running a marathon to get through his day, and now he's being asked to do it with a carnival fat man on his shoulders. It is crushing his spirit and making him angry. With very good reason.
He either needs a school situation that is unlike the normal constant transition nightmare of hormones and chaos and inconsistency, or he needs every helping tool available, like meds to get him through this stage of his life. There are school programs for at risk kids and ADHD kids if you can afford them or find them in your community.
But statistically meds offer him the best chance of not being a teen suicide victim.
If they were making him spaced out, his dose was wrong. Stimulants like ADDerall have a biphasic response. Many doctors don't spend the time to really find it. You initially start ramping up and you go through stages of extremely frustrating spaciness and then being able to see everything you fail at, but not fix it, and then trying to fix it, but not being able to really judge that well, and creating even more chaos. And then it seems almost like success falls back off intro frustrated spaciness and goes through this process again until you find the amount that actually works to make this possible.
If all you're getting is spaciness from him, it's a sign that his dose is high enough to stop the fidgeting and motion needs, but not enough to actually return him to alertness. If you have ever been extremely tired, and fidgeted to stay awake, you know this stage yourself. It was shortly before the need to fidget, where you were stupid tired and making dumb choices and slow to react like you were slogging through molasses to think. That's where the dose he was on returned him to. But it wasn't enough. If his dose is right, he should still be a bright and interesting kid. Your doctor failed you when you tried meds before. You need to understand it better, and help this kid find a right dose for him where he isn't in a fog.
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V.W. answers from Jacksonville on May 06, 2010
Have you considered counseling for him? Maybe he needs a "disinterested non-judgmental" 3rd party just to talk to. If he has anger issues, he is burying something that he doesn't want or feel like he can discuss with you and your husband, or guidance at school. Since you said yourself that his birth mom put him through a lot, maybe he needs someone he feels like he can talk openly with about it. No matter how much you love him and have cared for him (you AND your husband), no child will feel like he can tell you what he is thinking/feeling about his other parent. What he has to say or feels about that other person will be couched in consideration for how it might make YOU feel. Has he had an opportunity to talk with someone "outside" ?
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R.M. answers from Portland on May 06, 2010
I was a Nanny for many years and I worked with a family who had children with ADD/ADHD. We started medication too, but found the same issues and stopped them. We knew we needed to manage symptoms, and that's when I started my quest to understand ADD/ADHD and the medication free treatments. Today I'm a parent coach working with families, in part, with medication free treatments for their child's ADD/ADHD.
First, what are you feeding your son? As I'm sure you know, diet for the ADD/ADHD child is important. I encourage a diet high in protein, brain food, and eliminate as many preservatives and artificial flavors/colorings as possible. Many kids see huge benefits is focus and control by this simple change.
You’re not the only family who have difficulties moving from grade school to middle/high schools. Most middle/high schools focus on making kids responsible for their actions, less hand holding, which means the support the ADD/ADHD child was use to is gone. It’s a good time to teach organizational skills, which we all need. I like the idea of electronic organizers, and enter reminders, to do’s and assignment due dates in one location. Outlook was very helpful when I was working full time and going to college half time. I was able to stay on top of assignments and keep my mind straight.
To help with the organizational skills, it may be time to review the IEP. You may want to talk about adding organizational assistance to the plan, or having the teachers send you the class syllabus/assignment due dates.
I have a few great books for you:
Taming the Dragon in Your Child by Meg Eastman
Healing ADD, the Break Through Program That Allow You To See an Heal the 6 Types of ADD by Daniel Amen
The Explosive Child by Ross Green
The Organized Student by Donna Goldberg & Jennifer Zwiebel
The ADHD Parenting Handbook by Colleen Alexander- Roberts
The Complete IEP Guide, How to Advocate for your Special Education Child by Lawrence Siegel
I’ve read all of these and they are great for various reasons.
I hope it helps.
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C.T. answers from Detroit on May 06, 2010
i can really feel what your son is going through. I grew up ADD/ADHD as a child and at 29 i still sometimes struggle with it. It's hard to see everyone else pretty much doing what they are supposed to do and not get into trouble. You want to do what's right but there is trully a little voice in your head that urges you to do the stupid things that you know are wrong. My mother tried meds for me when i was younger( ritalin-that was pretty much the only thing back in the 80's) and she quickly took me off because of the way I was when i was one them). She said i just wasn't myself. I had brushes with the law, Was almost deemed incorigable by the courts( my mom took me) ran away from home, the only thing i wasn't was sexually active so i didn't bring any babies home or caught anything. It was hard for me, my mom, and my stepfather( i really gave him the flux). But i know you may not want to hear this but he may have to bump his own head to really get the picture. I almost wore my mother out but she never gave up on me. everything she old me i thought she was being mean and just didn't understand. but i think that as long as you and your husband continue to love and try to find ways to support him he will be alright. now I 'm so glad my parents did everything they did for me. i may not have liked it then but i appreciate it now. ADHD is a true battle within self. And it's VERY discouraging when you know you have this disorder that you sometimes have no control over.and you have to have it to really understand what i'm talking about. I think that you are doing an EXCELLENT job of trying to cope witih him and making him feel good about himself. Keep up the good work and keep searching for answers. and just work with him.. he will be greatful when he's older. good luck!
M.H. answers from Atlanta on May 06, 2010
At age 14, a lot of what you can do depends on what he is willing to participate in. You sound like you have a handle on your home and that's wonderful. I also know boys are different. I know there are environmental things that affect the attitude and the ADHD. My daughter was diagnosed at seven and we were able to remove the diagnosis with some environmental and nutritional changes. The environmental changes you can do. The nutritional ones will depend on how agreeable he is. Even if he's with his birth mother semi-regularly the benefits he gets at home will help him while he's gone.
If you think this may be an option for you or you just want to talk, let me know. I can walk you through what we did and some experience I have with a friend's son as well.