A little background. I have a 15 year old daughter who has always been an average/above average student in school. She made A/B's with an occasional C in math/algebra (which she has always struggled in). She attends and has always attended private schools that have very small classes. When she was in the 3rd grade her teacher told me that she thought my daughter had trouble focusing and gave me some information on ADD to read. I read it and thought my daughter had some of the symptoms, but she seemed to do well in school and socially, so I did not do anything further. On to middle school, at a parent/teacher conference, her teachers informed me again that she seemed to have trouble focusing. I do nothing as she is doing well academically/socially.
Then comes the summer of 8th grade, she begins having severe anxiety attacks. I take her to her doctor who refers her to a psychologist who helps her tremendously. She has not had a panic attack in a year and a half. She is not presently on any medication for the panic attacks.
On to first year of high school (9th grade). She goes from a small unstructured school to a very structured Christian school. From the beginning, her grades dropped drastically. One of her teachers told me that this was not an uncommon occurrence for the first year of high school and plus, she had just started a new school. However, her grades never improved. The biggest reason for her poor grades was the fact that she did not do her homework. She had 12 zeros one semester for incomplete assignments! I did everything, beg, plead, punish, reward, restrict and nothing helped. Finally, I took her back to her pediatrician who sent her back to the psychiatrist who treated her panic attacks. After thorough testing my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type. She was put on Adderall and Focalin (not at the same time) and she could not tolerate either of them. She is now on Strattera and a very small dose (2.5 mg) of Adderall per day. She seems to be doing okay, but I do not know if she is focusing any better. She has just now been on the Strattera long enough to start seeing improvements.
Anyhoo, I know that she does in fact have ADHD, I do not doubt that. However, I do not think that the ADHD is an excuse for not doing homework or not even attempting to do it. I asked her every day if she had homework and she would look me in the eye and say no, or she had already done it at school, so this is not a case of doing it and losing, etc. - she did not even make an attempt to do it. After a conference with all her teachers after her diagnosis, all of them told me that her poor grades was due to lack of work. I got her an agenda to write down her assignments in and then have each teacher initial it at the end of the day so that I can see that she has indeed done her homework. She is now in summer school in order to make up 2 classes she failed. (By the grace of God, she somehow managed to pass the other classes by the skin of her teeth).
I know this is extremely long, but I do not know what else to do. Have any of you had this situation? If so, what did you do? I know that my daughter is fully capable of making decent grades (she could make great grades, but right now I would settle for decent). Her doctor did tell her that the medication is a tool to help her, that she will still have to do her part, that a pill is not going to magically give her good grades. Sometimes I really think she doesn't care and I just do not know what to do.
FYI, she has never been in any trouble, even at school (other than normal talks too much, etc. stuff). She has lots of friends and she loves to dance and has classes 2 times per week.
I cannot speak for your daughter of course, but I can give you a point of view of someone who was always labeled an underachiever in school (the teachers knew I was intelligent, but I never did anything with that intelligence).
I too avoided doing homework in high school. I remember one of my english classes, where I got an A (top mark for those not familiar with the American grading system) in class participation and an F (bottom failing mark) in homework. The teacher gave me a passing grade of C (middle mark) because she had posted her grading method at the beginning of the semester, and my class participation fulfilled the required number of points for a passing grade. She was ****** at having to give me a passing grade. In other classes I was not so lucky, and I had to take summer school classes to make up for failing grades.
The point here is that a person with ADD has difficulty focusing. This cannot be stressed enough. It is pointless to say to that person "just pay attention" or "just sit down and do it" or "why is it taking so long to get it done". If she has ADD she can't focus. If she is sitting in a class that she's interested in she can use the activities and structure provided by the teacher to allow her to pay attention to the lesson. But outside of the structure of the classroom she cannot focus on the task at hand. Please note that word cannot. She cannot do it.
A person with ADD has a great deal of difficulty providing their own internal structure to make a list of what needs to be done, prioritize that list, and work through the list until all the tasks have been achieved. If she could do this, then she wouldn't have ADD and you wouldn't be writing in asking for help.
I have a few suggestions. First, please learn yourself from ADD coaches and reading about ADD how you can set up structures for your daughter and how you can over time (a loooong time!) teach her how to learn to apply these structures for herself.
Second, please remember that she isn't doing this to be "bad". If you keep telling her that you're disappointed in her or ashamed of her or that she's not living up to her potential, then she's going to internalize these negative images of herself and grow up thinking that she's a failure. A great number of ADDers grow up to have depression, because they are intelligent enough to see that they are failures in everyone else's eyes but they haven't a clue how to go about changing their own behavior.
If you concentrate on setting up the structure for her, and over time reminding her to take over more and more of that structure herself, then she will learn some crutches to do what doesn't come naturally to her. But adding your own emotional frustration and anger and accusations to these important lifes lessons isn't going to help. Yes, I know that this is a normal and valid reaction on your part (!!!), but it doesn't change any behavior on her part.
It may be that outside coaching will help. I learned a long time ago that trying to learn to drive a car with my father in the passenger seat was a recipe for disaster -- I gave up and took lessons from a driving school. They weren't emotionally involved in me, and we could go through the lessons without the added stress of them telling me that they were disappointed in me and why wasn't I learning this because they had covered this last week etc. I could pay attention to the lessons better without the emotional distraction of my father's emotional reactions distracting me.
Why could I learn to drive when I couldn't do my homework? Because I was in a lesson -- that is, the structure was coming from the outside.
Your daughter's doctor is correct in saying that the drugs won't make anything happen. She has to make the changes herself. But even with the aid of the drugs (when she finally finds one that she can tolerate and that actually works for her), she still needs to learn how to pay attention and how to structure her time. These are separate lessons from whatever she's learning in her classes at school.
I can appreciate your frustration about your daughter's obvious intelligence not matching up with her work at school. I heard this often enough when I was in school, so I know that to an outsider, it doesn't make sense. I grew up thinking of myself as a failure. In every area of my life. I am now, in my 50's, trying to learn the structure skills that I never learned as a child -- because there was no adult around me who knew anything about ADD or who could understand that I couldn't do something that was so simple to them.
I wish you luck in finding a way to help your daughter. Please feel that you can post back and ask more questions or let us know what may be working for you or what may not be working. (And even post about your own frustration in dealing with this!)
Thank you so very much for your wonderful post. It is true that I do get frustrated with my daughter, but I try not to let her see it. I also try to encourage her as much as I can. I think that one problem with her this past year in school was that she became so overwhelmed that she just gave up and did not even try. She told the psychologist, "why try?" I felt so sorry for her. I had always been against medicating her, but after that comment, I decided I would do whatever it took to help her.
She is doing summer school classes at home. She has six weeks to complete the work in two subjects. I am hoping and praying that she will be able to do that, if she doesn't, she will fail the 9th grade and that would be absolutely devastating to her already low self-esteem.
If you have any books you could recommend, I would love to know what they are. I am open to trying anything at this point!
Just in case read over my post on ADD/ADHD link to sleep disorders. Is she tired all the time? How does she sleep? She may have a sleep disorder that is aggravating the situations. Speaking from experience here.. even with the right medicine regime if she has a sleep disorder things will only get worse as a result of extreme sleep deprivation.
If your child has sleep apnea it is a serious and easily treatable disease. Reading my post will let you know if it is a possiblity aggravating your situation.
My son is OCD with severe sleep apnea.. this causes him to appear ADD/ADHD, but for one fact he can sit and work for hours on end when he wants to and likes the work. This was the one thing that finally caused the Ped's and Psych to say he is just stubborn and smart and his other condition manifest certian mirroring behaviors to ADD/ADHD. Your post leads me to believe your MDs were spot on.. but they may have missed a sleep disorder if there is one there. Sleep disorders tend to be aggravated by ADD/ADHD meds.. which would amplify the ADD/ADHD symptoms. I believe in looking into all possibilities.
Things to help with study and homework.
1) Try and get some suprivised study group time with classmates and school mates.
2) Work with the teachers getting outlines and assignment dates ahead of time.
3) Maybe hire a tutor with some ADD/ADHD to teach speed summary and outline techniques that help in focusing the information and getting through the information quickly and concisely.
4) Rewards.. offer the chance to go somewhere special or to a concert or something she really wants for X grade and X quality of work. It is hard for high schooler and some entering college students to see that good grades make a difference in what you will do for the rest of your life.
I have cousins that are ADD/ADHD and both my mother and MIL are educators with special needs certification. There are things that work reliably.. most do not know the tricks. If you have an University with an education dept nearby they may have students that need to work with a child like your daughter for certification and studies practice freshily tutored in these techniques. It would be worth checking into..
As a Chem teacher in college i worked outside of class routinely with those with needs. Most teachers want to help, it is in their blood. they do not want to see a child fail. They do want to see the child put effort in and earn their grade. I can not stand the children and parents that expect a C no matter what... it is frustrating on both sides.
If we learn by our mistakes, I am working on one hell of an education.