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HELP! Very rigid, inflexible kid-how to help him?


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I am just at wit's end here. My 17 yo ds is a junior in HS, he was homeschooled until HS and now goes to a math\science magnet school. He has struggled from the beginning, but this year has been the worst. Third quarter grades...ugg. Last fall, when things started to deteriorate, we realized he was clinically depressed, and had been for awhile. He is getting treatment now, and his improvement has been glacially slow.

 

What I see as the real problem is that he cannot go fast. His pace of doing things is extremely slow, compared to what he would need to do to keep pace with the demands. Yes, the demands are very high. He chose an extremely challenging courseload this year and cannot even begin to do the work. However, when I have tried to suggest changes in this, he gets angry. He is very rigid and inflexible. None of this is new-it really seems to be hard-wired, or at least, dates to when he was a toddler. But he is bright enough that he's been able to manage until now. His pace seems to have slowed with the increasing demands.

 

I am at wit's end. Does anyone else have a kid like this? How can I (if there is anything I could possibly do at this late stage of his childhood) help him to develop more flexible thinking and consider alternatives (like CC, transferring schools, changing course academically to make life easier).

 

I need to show some examples of his inflexibility: when I ask him what goes through his head when he sees a deadline coming, he tells me he thinks of a kid he knows who does "everything" at the last possible minute, and how stupid he looks rushing around, he insists that planning better will solve his problem (he has planned everything already-he just can't carry out any of his plans), he is very rigid about food choices, can't tolerate vegetables or fruits (tiny incremental improvements here), he cannot hurry if he's late, but rather just takes the consequences of being late.

 

Any thoughts here?

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I agree with having him tested if he has been this way for a long time. My bipolar son is like you are describing and my 10 year old so.  We are in the process of having him evaluated.  He doesn't have rage episodes like my older son did, but he is easily frustrated, complains, and is inflexible--hates change or feeling rushed. 

Are his behaviors affecting other things?  How does he relate to peers, teachers, and siblings? 

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My 15 year old is like that and to a certain extent I am like that myself.  When I nee to introduce a change to my son, I tend to do it outside of what he is required to do.  I am not trying to change the way he does his work directly, I start something new with him and show him how it needs to be done.  Generally speaking he doesn't question rules and once something is set up as a rule, he will do it that way forever and a day.  I.e. when he started a new math class, we worked through the first few problems together, I told him where each steps needs to go and that his teacher wants to see the steps because other wise he cannot follow his thought process.  Since pre-algebra his math workouts have looked the same but since I wrote them down the way we did them in college he should be fine.

 

His processing speed is very slow (in the 3rd percentile) and he has a 504 for that.  I am currently trying to get it renewed through the school district and they are not quite sure how to do it but after we talked about in what ways his issues influence his ability to work.  FOr good measure I threw out that we might put him back in PS and they for sure would not want to deal with him after having let the current 504 elapse :lol: .

 

His 504 is primarily for dysgraphia and his low processing speed (he would get more time on tests, projects and homeworks and/or receive reduced amounts of problems and tasks expected).  He would also receive printed notes as he has a hard time listening and taking notes at the same time.

 

We are taking 5 years for high school for a reduced course load per semester. 

 

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Ditto the suggestion to get a full psych eval for spectrum.  When they do that, they'll give you processing speeds.  We've had some people on the LC board who've gotten single digit processing speeds to bump to say 30th percentile with Interactive Metronome.  Still low, but at that point the dc is a lot more functional.  

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OK, did the AQ for him. Not even close, based on my guesses for his answers.

 

DS does not resist or hate changes. But he does, very strongly, respond negatively to being rushed. Some of the only times I've seen him really lash out angrily are when he's rushed-I've done that. I tried once to make him finish an unfinished school assignment (2 years ago) by telling him we'd leave for school when it was done. Whoa. He was *really* angry. Even though this was a small assignment, nearly done, and he had a class first thing that was not a big deal to miss or be late for.

 

His brother has very slow processing and both brothers are dysgraphic. What I see with them is that they cannot write well at all in timed situations. He definitely cannot do that either. I'm sure he would qualify as dysgraphic on testing. I have long wondered if slow processing is an issue. However, when he has done standardized testing, he does fine. He finished a complete SAT when he was 13 without difficulty so I'm having trouble believing he has significantly slow processing. He has also responded negatively when I've suggested testing, so I don't know that pursuing that right now is an option. But honestly, it's more his way of *thinking* that I'm talking about here. His refusal to consider alternatives, rigid insistence on things that really don't make perfect sense. He won't learn to drive, for example. Won't really talk about why, but none the less, refuses to try.

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It's interesting that he completed the SAT, because that would be one of my prime concerns - I'm not sure how he could qualify for a dysgraphia diagnosis if he was able to get through the SAT (with writing?) without a problem.  It sounds like you're already familiar with slow processing speed and dysgraphia.

 

What about something anxiety-related?  I have one (or more) kids with the combination of dysgraphic-ish, slow processing speed, and panicking under time pressure.  Huge panic, for one of them, this morning as we were getting out the door - ugh (long story) - I'm not sure what to do about it, if anything.

 

Anyway, I am imagining that anxiety could be a reason not to want to learn how to drive (e.g., big responsibility/fear of failure, danger)

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Answers to some of the above questions: How does he relate to teachers. His teachers love him, and he loves them too-he is very, very fortunate in the teacher department. In fact I'm sure this is why he is passing (with a 65) 3 classes instead of failing. They say he is a very bright, thoughtful person, deep thinker, very capable, etc. And it hasn't been all fails-he just made the state Chemistry Olympiad as the top scorer in his school (and this school sends lots of kids to Ivys, MIT, Stanford, etc., so it's a good school)-that with a low D in AP chemistry. He relates well to us-he has gotten along with his brothers fine, though I think in some ways they have a superficial relationship. They talk and argue, play X-Box together occasionally. He has a GF and a few close friends and I think they have pretty normal relationships-no red flags about friends that concern me for drugs or anything like that. Certainly also not with him. I'd know what to look for but that's another story.

 

Get through the SAT-he did very well (at 13) on CR, math, and the multiple choice writing section, but got a 3 on the essay : \ Later performance, last year, he got a 4. I've accepted that my kids are really never going to be able to do well on timed writing-none of them can, but I also am not convinced that it's a critically important skill if they can write reasonably well untimed, which he and his brothers can. So we've let that one go.

 

Anxiety-that was my first thought about him. But I'm the only one, including dh (who is a psychiatrist), his doc and his counselor who thinks that, I think because he doesn't "look" anxious. He also was never "sad" in the depths of depression-just very flat, sighing all the time, inactive, avoiding interaction, just not happy. In general, he has always been a really content, optimistic person. So if it is anxiety, it doesn't look like worrying or nervousness.

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This is the way he's been since he was a toddler.  It's his nature.  Therefore, you really need to understand his nature.  A full educational psychologist evaluation is called for.  Don't assume that you can fill out a few online questionaires for him and guess.

 

The more subtle the problem, the less you're going to be able to self-diagnose.  But, just because the problem is subtle and may not even qualify for a label, doesn't mean it isn't real or doesn't have an impact.

 

I have kids who are "not quite special needs" -- their issues don't quite qualify for a label, but when faced with new challenges that come with new ages and stages, they sometimes struggle to cope. For me, that's been a tough year followed by a couple easier ones as new coping skills come on line, followed by a tough year as new demands come along.

 

While homeschooling, you may have been your son's external support.  He may not have learned enough coping skills that other kids picked up in middle school.  An ed-psych evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses, and specific recs for remedying the latter is really the best course. 

 

It sounds like you also have a lot of "teen boy ego" going on here -- he's not willing to admit that what he's doing is not working.  I would meet potential providers on your own and get references and recommendations for a good fit.  If you get him to agree to test once, there's no way he's going to agree to test twice!  If you do want to try to "homeschool" this issue, I recommend the book "That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week."  It provides both a recommendation on organizing a boy's backpack, and it talks about the ego issue as well.

 

Good luck.

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I think that does sound like anxiety. How are his organizational skills? Does he keep tidy binders?  Does he use the syllabus and homework timelines? Will he sit with you and go over those together when calm, with the both of you adding dates/timelines to a large posted calendar?  Monday, start the outline for the essay, Tuesday, write one paragraph for you to help edit? Maybe if he saw there was time, he might relax some-- or is that wishful thinking?  Or does that sort of thing set him off? Is he open to help with time management?  Freaking out over deadlines is, imo, a sign of anxiety.

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Might be you're just too close to things to see them objectively. (Though I agree that you're seeing it and the others aren't because you're with him so much and most attuned.) You've got more than enough reason to want full evals.  I don't know why you'd possibly expect a child or teenager to know what's best for him.  What's best for him is to get the evals.  If he won't get the evals, then you've got a problem, which further reinforces why you need the evals.

 

There's nothing more glorious than running into problems in a few years with employability, marriage stability, etc. etc. and realizing what you're seeing at that point is the stuff you were able to gloss over when he was little that didn't magically go away.  It's not going away, so just get the evals.  I don't get what the head in the sand is about.  

 

Sorry, I'm just a little blunt today.  We'll say it's this fever I've been running on and off for three days now.   :eek: 

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I think that does sound like anxiety. How are his organizational skills? Does he keep tidy binders?  Does he use the syllabus and homework timelines? Will he sit with you and go over those together when calm, with the both of you adding dates/timelines to a large posted calendar?  Monday, start the outline for the essay, Tuesday, write one paragraph for you to help edit? Maybe if he saw there was time, he might relax some-- or is that wishful thinking?  Or does that sort of thing set him off? Is he open to help with time management?  Freaking out over deadlines is, imo, a sign of anxiety.

He will make schedules, we've BTDT, the problem is that the deadlines whiz by with the work unfinished and his head in the sand. There is NO anxiety about missing them. He either has it, and suppresses it very effectively, or just doesn't have it. He is "working" all the time. It's just that nothing is getting done. It is really maddening to watch-so I can only imagine how frustrating it is for him. His stuff is not totally chaotic. There is some mess, but not out of proportion-not ADD level, IMO. He can sometimes meet deadlines set by other people. He finished his summer homework this way-I got a tutor who set up a schedule, met with him regularly, got him through it paragraph by paragraph. Still he insists he has no need for this and refused to continue to see her once school started.

 

Elizabeth-re: an eval. He refuses. Angrily. There is *nothing* wrong with him, in his opinion. I just don't see it happening anytime soon, but I am going to continue to try to gently suggest it and hope I can wear him down.

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The more subtle the problem, the less you're going to be able to self-diagnose.  But, just because the problem is subtle and may not even qualify for a label, doesn't mean it isn't real or doesn't have an impact.

 

I have kids who are "not quite special needs" -- their issues don't quite qualify for a label, but when faced with new challenges that come with new ages and stages, they sometimes struggle to cope. For me, that's been a tough year followed by a couple easier ones as new coping skills come on line, followed by a tough year as new demands come along.

 

While homeschooling, you may have been your son's external support.  He may not have learned enough coping skills that other kids picked up in middle school.

 

This is what we are finding, and my kids are younger.  (I'm kind of afraid of what might or might not happen as they get into the teens.)  Long story, we just got back from a certain doctor appointment for my ds11 with a referral to some other person who deals with emotional/anxiety "coping" strategies.

 

  An ed-psych evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses, and specific recs for remedying the latter is really the best course. 

I agree.  Better to find out there's no issue than to not find out and later wish you had.

 

 I recommend the book "That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week."  It provides both a recommendation on organizing a boy's backpack, and it talks about the ego issue as well.

 

I am part-way into this book.  I have assigned it to myself as homework though I keep procrastinating (I wonder where my kids get it, lol)

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Elizabeth-re: an eval. He refuses. Angrily. There is *nothing* wrong with him, in his opinion. I just don't see it happening anytime soon, but I am going to continue to try to gently suggest it and hope I can wear him down.

Are there any male mentors in his life? Mom trying to wear him down sounds like a power struggle.

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Are there any male mentors in his life? Mom trying to wear him down sounds like a power struggle.

Oh yes-his father, and here are others. Dh might talk to him about it, though I don't know that he'll be more successful than I've been. Why do you think he would be? I'm not sure I understand.

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This sounds a lot like some of the people in my life.

Son, also a junior, was dxed dyslexic and then Nonverbal LD (which may eventually get tied into asperger's dx).  My son does not completely "fit" the descriptions of any of these conditions, but I see aspects of all of them in him.

 

DH still struggles with long term deadlines--he is definitely a "big picture" person and sorting out the logistics of many small details quickly becomes overwhelming.  I am the Executive Functioner in our family.  :laugh:

 

They are both very slow.  My FIL was the same way.  Excruciatingly so.  DH just cannot rush out the door.  DS sets his alarm extra early so he has plenty of time to get everything together in the morning (my other son gets up at the latest moment possible --but he still also has aspie qualities). BTW, DS has taken the SAT w/o any accommodations and did well (>97%), but not as well as he expected, honestly, especially in math, which he considers his strongest area.  Also, he was extremely reluctant to learn to drive.  He finally finished driver's ed and it was rough going at first.  He said the need to be constantly aware of his surroundings was draining ( an aspie quality I believe!).

 

For all of them, I wonder where the lines are between LD's, Asperger's, Giftedness, etc.  They blur together, overlap and intertwine.  One family member may have one trait associated with a condition, while another family member has virtually the opposite of that particular trait.  I have considered posting on this before, but I don't really know what my question would be!

 

 

Is your son upset about his grades?  Does he want to improve them?  Does he have future plans beyond high school (college, career, etc)?  If my kids were struggling in classes, I would ask them if they want help.   I would tell them I am here to help--help them to achieve their goals and aspirations..sometimes even help them define their goals and aspirations.  If he does have a goal, of some sort, then I'd work back to what he needs to achieve that goal.  If he has unrealistic expectations for how to achieve his goals, then I'd look into some outside guidance-- mentor, job shadows, college prep talks, guidance counselor at the school etc.  Sometimes a 'reality check' from an outside source can be useful.

 

 

 

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Oh yes-his father, and here are others. Dh might talk to him about it, though I don't know that he'll be more successful than I've been. Why do you think he would be? I'm not sure I understand.

I mean male because he's a teenage boy, and he needs male role models. And, I mean mentor, as in a non-family member, so I don't mean his dad, either. A caring, outsider who can provide male guidance and perspective on life. Someone who's "been there" but is not "in the middle of it"

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Some gifted students, especially boys, often do not fit in well at school grade-wise.  If he has friends and his teachers love him, I doubt there is anything "wrong" other than that we humans like to put labels on everything that doesn't fit "us."  If he finished an SAT within time, I doubt there is much wrong in processing either. Not doing well on a timed essay is not an issue either - and is why many colleges completely overlook the essay portion of the test.

 

His inflexibility comes from being a teenager and not having much experience coupled with his mental smarts that make him feel his thoughts are superior and are the only thoughts that matter.  Sometimes they outgrow this and sometimes not.

 

Gotta run now, but those are my two cents in brief.

 

I'd be asking him what he wants to do in life.  It might not be more school, but, once he visits colleges and sees how that sort of "school" can be different, he might decide it's worth working toward.  Unless he decides it, it's not happening.

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