6Yr Old Son Troubles in School - HELP

Updated on October 16, 2014
I.S. asks from Sacramento, CA
21 answers

EDIT 10/15/14 - My son was going through assessment outside of school through mental health services who specializes in assessments for ADHD. Due to the transfer of our medical insurance to a different county (medi-cal) it held up everything in moving forward. We continued the services in the other county. I did have my son see a neurologist and this neurologist just looked at my son and said, yep he has ADHD. Never looked at him, never did further examination, etc. and he was there for a possible auditory sensory disorder due to him chewing on his fingers and knuckles. Went a second time and again, didn't look him over. Just handed me a pamphlet for ADHD medication. His school principal, school counselor, speech therapist, and behaviorist is all involved in this, doing their own evaluations. School will do the assessment for his APD (auditory processing disorder). For his communication about harming himself, i did not take this lightly and sought immediate help with his pediatrician. Part of why he is in school with counselor and going to therapy with me once a week. My sons care is priority and don't want others thinking its not. Medication i am sorry is not the answer to everything. If my son was ill with cancer, damn right i put him on meds to save his life. Medication for ADHD for serious cases is definitely needed. My son is not to a point, in my observation, where medication is the solution. I am trying other options. As my son at home is a different child, period. I have been told by other medical people that if my son was true ADHD his behavior would be all across the board. Home and in school. Which it isn't.

Hope that helps a bit....

As sum may know I have had behavioral issues with my son for several years. Thankfully as he has grown older, those behaviors at home have gotten a lot better. However at school I am constantly receiving calls or email from his school.

Just this morning I received a second phone call from his principal stating my son punched a boy in the tummy because this boy hit my son with his lunch box. Then i get emails from his teacher that my son is a constant distraction to the other kids in his class. He gets up from his "job" and disrupts the others by talking or taking items from them. He is even removing items from the class room and when confronted he says someone put it in his bag or forgot he had it in his pocket. I even get reports from his after school program that he is not being very nice to his friends, or not sitting still.

Every time I speak with my son he is emotionally distraught due to always getting in trouble. I am trying to give my son the benefit of the doubt and trying to teach him to be honest with what is taking place at school. Want my son to be able to trust me to speak with me, but if i can't trust my son with his words, i feel i will loose that trust that he can be honest with me. Yet i am at a loss who to believe.

Also at a loss how to help my son make better decisions in school. To stop being disruptive, do his job and have better relationships with his classmates. We are in Parent Child Interaction Therapy, i have him being assessed for an auditory processing disorder and reassessed for ADD/ADHD through his school. He even is in a special reading class, speech therapy and sees a school counselor.

Doing everything I can without medication. Mainly due to the fact that I do not have ANYTHING in writing that he has been officially diagnosed with ADHD.

It tears at my heart to see my son so distraught, telling me he hates himself and that he isn't a good person cause he can't listen. He even has told me he wants to hurt himself and that no one wants to play with him. My son is my world and hurts me to see him this way, as i want everything for him and for his education to be very important (he learns great at home and very sharp).

Without medicating what else is there? What other options are out there? Is homeschooling possible? Another school with smaller classes??

What can I do next?

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answers from Cleveland on

Sounds like you should go homeschool or private. Public funds are limited. You're not happy with the doctors or teacher or school or evaluations you've had via public services. I can imagine it's not all great. But you're his mother and if you're not satisfied medication is the answer, then you need to care for him more directly, not allow him to continue to disrupt his class virtually every day. It is so unfair to his teacher and the rest of the class. If that was my child and he behaved for me at home, I would find a private school that fit better or homeschool if I refused to try medication. He's already getting 50x the amount of personalized attention and spending that my children get yet it's not enough for you. So take it back in home if you won't medicate. Please don't continue to allow him to ruin his class for everyone else.

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answers from Dallas on

Why would homeschooling not be possible?

If he is truly symptom-free at home and you are able, I would pull him out of school now.

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answers from Chicago on

I would not wait for the school to evaluate him at this point.

If you are comfortable with your pediatrician I would ask TODAY for a referral to behavior specialists and have them evaluate him ASAP.

Then take the eval to the school who will then have to comply with the recommendations.

It is time to go outside for help for your son. You both need someone on your side.

ETA: I am also wondering how involved is his father? And does his father have medical insurance for him?

ETA2: just read some of your prior posts...is your husband paying child support yet? It sounds like there is a lot more going on then just your son's behavior at school. He is acting out because he is stressed and it may be something YOU cannot fix alone. Please get the both of you help. You both really need some support.

ETA3: What? Self-harming behavior? How did I miss that? You need to call your pediatrician and the school psychologist immediately!

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answers from Washington DC on

ADDED after you made your addition at the top of your post:
You say you would get meds if your son had cancer.
You then say that he has an ADHD diagnosis but you felt the info about ADHD meds was shoved at you.
Then you added that he is in counseling and therapy.

Have you ever told the therapist that your son wants to harm himself? Is this therapist a specialist who works mostly or just with kids? Is this person a psychiatrist or a counselor who is not a psychiatrist?

If you read my post below you will see that I am not talking about ADHD meds. I am talking about psychiatric meds for whatever is making your son want to self-harm and whatever is making him lash out and be so frustrated. That isn't necessarily ADHD. But if you focus too much on keeping him off ADHD meds you may miss the point. He may have more than ADHD going on. He may be depressed (which can manifest itself in anger and self-harm) or have other psychiatric issues. But you will never know, and he will never get treatment, if a professional doesn't evaluate him for depression, anger issues, and other things beyond ADHD. I really hope you've told a professional that he talks about self-harm and may need further psychiatric evaluation and not just be labeled ADHD by doctors who only look for that.

My friend that I mention below -- She says her son likely would be a candidate for suicide if they hadn't gotten him a lot of help, very early, and been open to both meds and talk therapy.

Huge red flag:

He says he wants to hurt himself.

Mama, please, a thousand times please, get him to a pediatric psychiatrist for a detailed evaluation. Do it now, now, now.

I talked the other day with a friend whose child's life is being saved every single day by psychiatric medications. Truly. This child has tried self-harming and has expressed "I hate myself and don't really care about living" etc. but only when his meds need adjusting (like when puberty hit him like a ton of bricks). When his medications are working, which almost all the time now, he is vastly better. She truly credits both extensive psychiatric "talk therapy" and meds -- but especially meds -- with helping him control himself, learn to channel anger and frustration, and stop having harmful thoughts about himself. He also learns coping strategies and ways to redirect his negative thoughts from his psychologist, who counsels him, but it's the meds from the psychiatrist that make him well enough to take in what the counseling is teaching him.

The fact you say your son has said he wants to hurt himself is very serious -- do you see that? It's MUCH more serious than any day to day trouble he's in at school, serious though that trouble may be. Call his pediatrician tomorrow and find a psychiatrist who can evaluate your son and start some real treatment. I say psychiatrist and not psychologist or counselor because only a psychiatrist can prescribe meds. You need to make this first call immediately because it can take many weeks even to get that first visit with a psychiatrist. Get going now.

Meds are not the end-all and be-all of mental health treatment but you do need to start with SOME kind of serious psychiatric evaluation even if your son does not end up on meds. I'm kind of amazed that you buried the information that he wants to harm himself -- please see that for the huge, waving red flag that it really is!

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answers from Washington DC on

of course homeschooling is 'possible'. why wouldn't it be?
i really appreciate your desire to handle your son's issues without medication. i agree with you that it's gone to at an alarming rate, and far too many of our kids are medicated to keep them docile and in line.
that being said, some kids really need it, and sometimes it's only situations like this that make it clear. if he were bouncy and sometimes disruptive in school, i'd be looking at diet and behavior modification.
but your kid is beyond that. he's hurting other children, and in emotional pain, and talking about hurting himself. it's time to get this kid more help. and yes, that might involve medication. and it might involve homeschooling- but be aware that homeschooling means spending a fair bit of time and energy getting involved with local co-ops and groups, and if your son is violent and difficult he won't find any more friends there than in school.
i think it's time to consider the possibility of medication if the counselor recommends it.

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answers from Austin on

Ok mama, this is going to be harsh.
You need to be a parent and you need to do WHATEVER it takes to help your son.

And if that means medication, then suck it up and get the medication.

All of that disruption, his lying, his inability to concentrate, to leave others alone , he needs some major help.

You do realize his brain is not like mine or yours. It needs assistance. It is wired differently.

He is obviously very bright, he is a loving child and I am sure he wants to behave and make good choices, but at this point he cannot control himself. He cannot focus. He is in pain. It is not natural for a child to say he hates himself.. This is a huge red flag. HUGE!

I also promise the parents of the other children in his classes are not going to stand for this much longer. Why should the teacher have her attention distracted every day by one child?

Here is what you do. You call all of his therapists and doctors and tell them your son is drowning. He is no longer to function for a full day in school and you need a solution.

And then mama, you suck up your fear and do what ever it takes to get your son the emergency care he needs this week.

If your son had cancer, would you tell doctors they are not allowed to prescribe drugs? Instead you will just watch his diet and send him to school and make him try to function as he gets worse and worse?

You are the Mama. You are the person he is depending on making the hard decisions. Put your fears aside, you can do this!

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answers from New York on

A friend really hesitated to put her daughter on medication and after she did, they are all so much happier. It's like people have said, if it was another illness, you of course would use medication. You could always try it and see what happens. Age and the reset button medication can provide may allow the medication to be temporary.

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answers from Boston on

What do the counselors and therapists that you/he are working with recommend? Are they making recommendations (for medication or other therapies) that you haven't implemented? Have you seen a developmental pediatrician or have had assessments done outside of school? What did those results say?

This doesn't sound like (just) ADHD to me. That doesn't mean that a stimulant won't help - it certainly seems worth a try at this point if it's been recommended- but my guess is that there is more going on...sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, a mood disorder or something like that. It's great that the school is testing him and giving him support, but if I were you, I'd continue to search for a medical/psychiatric diagnosis outside of school and broaden your search to more than ADHD/APD. The aggression, taking things from the classroom and wanting to hurt himself are not consistent with *just* ADHD, at least not at this age. Untreated ADHD can lead to loss of self-esteem and broader behavioral issues in adolescents who have had years and years of not fitting in at school but at his age, most kids are pretty clueless about that kind of dynamic and happily bumble along. His level if behavioral issues seem like signs that it's something else.

If you haven't looked into ODD, google that and see if it fits your son's pattern of behavior. Knowing what's going on isn't a magic solution, but it can at least help to frame the issues correctly and use the most effective strategies to try to help him.

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answers from San Francisco on

Someone helped me to really accept the use of medication. They explained that medication is a TOOL to help with behavioral issues. You can compare it to any other tool or intervention. It's a different approach to dealing with behavior and it can be a very effective approach. I encourage you to talk to a child psychiatrist. A lot of the symptoms overlap when it comes to ADHD, spectrum disorders, etc. I encourage you to get a diagnosis for him, so that you can get the support that he needs in the school system. The diagnosis reallllly helps with getting the support. I would get an IEP going... Talk to the principal and start with an informal meeting to start the ball rolling.

In the meantime, a psychiatrist can treat the symptoms (the areas that your son is struggling with). The impulsivity and distractibility is not feeling good to him, I imagine. It's impacting his feelings of success at school, which can have a negative impact on self-esteem and self-worth. Nip this in the bud quickly by getting him evaluated for medication so he can gain some control over the choices he's making. If it gets too out of control, you might wish you had intervened sooner.

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answers from Sacramento on

Your son is exhibiting extreme behavior, so you need to take this to the medical specialists for advice ASAP. You want to see a child psychiatrist or neuropsychologist for an assessment. They specialize in evaluating behavioral disorders. Ask your pediatrician for a referral.

Medication may come up as a treatment option IF he's officially diagnosed with a form of ADHD. You can't get a prescription for ADHD medication without a doctor's approval and that won't happen until he has a diagnosis, so you're steps ahead in the process even thinking about it. (I will tell you, if it is ADHD, keep a very open mind about medication. It's the best thing we did for our son's treatment.) The school can't diagnose. A specialist is in the best position to assess and develop a treatment plan.

It's time to get the medical specialists involved. Pick up the phone and get the ball rolling now.

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answers from Detroit on

I do not understand why you are so opposed to medicine.. Why don't you tTRY the medicine.. what if you give him the meds.. and he settles down.. listens follows directions and can behave in school.. He sounds like he is having lots of problems in school. daily phone calls..from the prinicipal teacher... this is major problems.. what you are doing is not working TRY the medicine.. if you do it for a few days and he has side effects.. stop.. if you do it for 30 days and it doesn't help.. stop.. but it may be just what he needs..

There is no physical exam for ADHD .. neurologists are not going to do much of an exam.. they listen to the problem prescribe meds.. usually there is a form for the kids teacher and parent to fill out..

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answers from Des Moines on

You need to take him to a therapist. One that deals with behavior and/or depression. Self harm is a big red flag, even if he is using it as manipulation. Depression can cause behavioral issues and it does sound more like he is wanting attention but doesn't know how to go about it. Also controlling his anger.

I think you may be going about it the wrong way coming up with a diagnosis of a learning disability for all of this. Do not go through the school for another evaluation. Go through your insurance or through a state funded program if cost is an issue. Get to an outside psychologist and therapist. Do not decide on meds right now if that is how you feel.

My son sounds a LOT like yours, except he never acted out, it was more internal. Therapy does a world of difference!!!

I would also consider horse therapy if he may be into horses. Really gave my son an outlet and we saw amazing changes..

*** I just read some of the other responses, and IF he is placed on meds for depression/anxiety....PLEASE monitor him closely. They are not a fix all. The first one my son was on the first dose we knew it was not for him. He could NOT control himself at all. The second med worked for a while, then self harm tenancies/thoughts got much worse. Those warnings on the packages about increasing thoughts of suicide are REAL. He is now med free and doing well.

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answers from Los Angeles on

The school can't assess him for ADD/ADHD, only a medical doctor can do that. Talk to your pediatrician or a specialist about this. He would need a formal diagnosis to be treated for this, and yes, treatment often involves medication, as monitored by a physician.

I am not a doctor and I can't diagnose ADD/ADHD but as someone who works with these kids, he has a lot of the hallmarks for ADD/ADHD that kids at that age have. What stands out to me in particular is that he is emotionally distraught every time he gets in trouble. This is a boy who WANTS to be good, he really does. He cannot control his impulses. He may need some help to control his impulses, and that help may be able to come in the form of medication. But you have to get the diagnosis first (or get it ruled out and move on from there).

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answers from Miami on

When you took him to this neurologist twice, why didn't you tell him you are unhappy about the way he's going about making the diagnosis? Don't just sit there and stew. Tell the doc how you are feeling.

Just because someone tells you that a child has the same problem at home as he does at school with ADHD doesn't mean it's true. Home is a safe place. At home he doesn't have to deal with people on a large scale. At home he knows what's expected of him in that "small world". At school, expectations change all the time.

You talk about being willing to try medication if he were physically sick. How do you know that medication won't work if you won't try? I do understand what you're feeling here. But unless you try it, you will not know.

Your son is crying out to you and you can say all you want that you care. But if you won't try the medication, it's all just talk. You can't have your cake and eat it too here. You have to try something that will work. If you simply won't do that, then you need to homeschool him. It might help with his behavior, but it might not help him feel better about himself as a person.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Okay. You think you know better than the docs and the school and everyone else.


He has rules and structure and a thousand little stimulating things going on every second at school. He doesn't sit for hours at home with you standing in front of him telling him to read his book and do problems or answer questions.

He isn't functioning at school because you need to put him on ADHD meds. Period.

Ritalin is a 3.5-4 hour medication. It goes in the system quickly, works, then goes out completely. It does not add up, linger, stay, or build up. It goes in the is gone. You give a little dose at first and see the changes. If it is enough you don't increase it. If he's in school they need to give it to him first thing when he gets there then another dose, more than likely a half dose, at lunch or right after. By the time he gets home all the medication is out of his system.

If you put kiddo on a time released med it builds up to a therapeutic level then hopefully stays there continuously.

I prefer Ritalin because kiddo can be free of meds for more than half the day. If we aren't going anywhere on the weekend he doesn't even take it all the time.

I think you are hurting your child by ignoring the facts, he's ADHD and he does need meds.

A neurologist doesn't normally diagnose ADHD. A child psychologist that has credentials to legally do testing for ADHD is the one who is certified to legally give that diagnosis. Then they refer you to a psychiatrist for a med appointment to get meds.

Going to the wrong docs isn't what you need to do. What you need to do is go to the docs that are licensed to do testing for this and then get the mental health meds from a psychiatrist.

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answers from Chicago on

From the sounds of it, your son does have ADHD. You need to find a doctor who will properly diagnose it. And yes, medication is a major part of the treatment. Without it, he will get further behind and hate himself even more. You say you hate seeing your son this way, so get him the help he needs.

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answers from Washington DC on

Have you been given any diagnosis? There are IEPs and 504s and whatever your school calls them to get children help, and aides for classes, etc. I would start looking into what you can get the school to do to help you with his behavior. No, it's not good that he's punching a kid, but is your son just labelled now or did the other kid antagonize him? And if so, what did the teacher do about the boys' interactions? I would also look at other issues like depression or ODD. Hang in there.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would seriously consider homeschooling until he has a better handle on self control. It sounds like her could benefit from the one on one attention and it would give the other kids at school a break too.

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answers from New York on

Does this school offer alternative classes? My son had severe sensory processing disorder and his behavior can get very disruptive. The school put him in a smaller class specifically for kids who have a hard time in huge classroom settings. He was also assigned an aide to help him with his responsibilities at school. Ever since he was changed to the smaller class size and aide he is doing 100% better and thriving. He is 5, BTW.

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answers from Chicago on

Do you know the book easy to love but difficult to discipline? I love it because it's about breaking the bad kid cycle and showing them with love. It's about teaching control. A friend of mine had been using it with her difficult 6 year old.

I'd homeschool him. My oldest would be in so much trouble at school. She is thriving at home -reads a few hours a day, does swim,judo, we play with friends a few times a week, do a co/op. She hears positives all day. Your poor son is the bad kid because he has no choice. To break him out of that cycle, give him a chance: pull him and shower him with love.

I strongly believe that with some kids, schools don't match with them. It's too much sensory stimulation, too much sitting, too much, etc. When they aren't there, they are different. So ditch the school and let your kid find leave, rather than silly labels for behaviors that only happen at school!

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answers from Seattle on

I'm sorry you are going through that. I'm currently reading a lot about food additives and the symptoms they cause. Food coloring and preservatives can cause the same symptoms as ADHD in kids, along with irritability, impulsiveness, and depression. If he hasn't been diagnosed medically, it might not hurt to look into diet changes. We're going to be cutting out colorings and dyes, as well as many preservatives, and salicylate high foods. Salicylates can also cause similar symptoms. Just a thought. Good luck!

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