HELP: Middle School Aspie Struggling in School

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DenvrDave
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18 Sep 2009, 10:54 pm

Greetings,

I am new on this website, and am the parent of a 14 yr old 8th grade aspie struggling in school. He is very intelligent, but has challenges with organization, forgetfulness, and is easily distracted. For example, he does not complete in-class assignments beause he would rather draw and doodle, even when the teacher reminds him to get back to work. He is easily distracted by other students, tries to be a class clown to get attention, and does not always know the difference when the others are laughing at him versus laughing with him. I am not sure how to tell if he is choosing not to do his work, or is just incapable of staying on task. He is well-behaved at home, and he focuses on his homework here at home, but then he forgets to turn it in or loses it between home and school and gets a zero. He also seems to fatigue easily, and I believe this also impacts his ability to get minimally acceptable grades.

His goal is to earn a high school diploma, but I fear that he will not be able to because of these challenges. We have an IEP that includes many accomodations, but noone can do the work for him, and ultimately he has to do the work himself. We have tried many interventions including one-to-one aides, contracting, etc, and these worked very well in elementary school but not in middle school. I do not want to change schools yet because I don't think its the school's fault, and I'm not convinced that things would be different in another school.

The bottom line is, I don't know how to help him succeed in school.

I would very much appreciate thoughts and suggestions.



DW_a_mom
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18 Sep 2009, 11:19 pm

Everything you mention is highly typical. I believe a couple of things come into play (I have a seventh grader with AS). First, is the sensory problem. School is sensory overload in its very existance. Middle school is more disorganized and chaotic than ever; other students are regularly trying to undercut the authority of the teacher, and all that is distracting to our kids. My son complains constantly about it. They get very confused on how to fit in and also on how to function in that environment. The difference between home and school is that one is organized, predictable, and quiet; the other is not. No wonder he can focus better at home.

Another thing may be time pressure. Many AS have slow processing, or work speed, and the rush from class to class and the speed at which they are supposed to pack up, move, unpack, and get to work isn't natural to them. My son ends up shoving as much as he can as fast as he can into the backpack, instead of getting anything into its proper place, and he insists there isn't time. Well, given that everything is slower for him, I believe that.

The other thing is that middle schools are, in my opinion, requiring far too much organization and independence for such young kids. Its hard for most kids, and boys in particular, because it has been shown that developmentally at this age they don't have the organizational abilities of the girls. Add on the issues that come with AS, including executive function issues, and you have a disaster.

Unfortunately, I've found the schools at this level unable to help our kids pick up the slack. With six or seven classes a day of thiry to forty kids each the odds that each teacher is going to remember or agree to specifically asking your child for his homework are about zero. And I have a huge issue with that. The main job of school is to teach information, not to teach responsibility to kids who may not be ready, but that has all changed from the days I was a student.

Is your son enrolled in an acedemic support period? If yes, I would suggest that part of the IEP be for the acedemic support teacher to review his homework requirements with him, and to turn in for him anything he has forgotten, for full credit. Or, a parent could do this at the end of the school day at pick up time. He NEEDS to get full credit for the work done, and not be penalized for the forgetfulness, because the responsibility really is a skill that is beyond him at this point, and he is going to get completely demoralized with the zeros. Everyone has to remember what is most important, and that is his acedemics. He'll learn the responsibility another day, on his own time table, in his own way, and nothing they can do will change that, I truly believe that, or I wouldn't push so hard on accomodating it.

If none of the above work, I would seriously consider home school. Several of my son's friends have pulled out of middle school to homeschool, and are doing very, very well.

And, finally .... welcome to Wrong Planet! I hope you'll find your visits informative and engaging.


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sacrip
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18 Sep 2009, 11:33 pm

How is he doing socially? I know at that age, I pretty much hated school because I had more enemies than friends and not nearly enough verbal skills to stick up for myself. If that's the case with your son, then any long term solution has to consider how to make public school something more than a place where everyone makes fun of you when you drop your books.

Other than that, I'm not really sure what to tell you. I ended up dropping out of high school and getting a GED because I simply couldn't make myself give a damn about term papers and quadratic equations or even showing up regularly, since I simply couldn't see any future for myself doing anything beyond janitor at the local supermarket. He needs to care, and you can't make him care. All you can do is show him things to hope for and see if any stick.


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19 Sep 2009, 7:04 am

Thanks DW-a-mom-

My son is in middle school for the first time but all of these have been problems for him since the beginning. He now has sensory breaks written into the IEP. I've been giving him a hard time about shoving his loose papers into his backpack-I'll try to be a little more understanding. I've gotten a large folder he can just put everything loose into. The weird thing is I am so much like him I'm really not the best person to teach him how to be more organized, I just have the distance to know how important it is.



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19 Sep 2009, 9:44 am

My son just started going to the second largest middle school in our state on the 8th. Because of the sensory overload of crowded halls, I written into his IEP that it's ok if he is a little late for class. The school also issued day-planners to ALL students. I written into his IEP that a teacher or aid verifies that he writes down his homework assignments before leaving the classroom.

He has a binder with an according style file area built in, one for each subject and are clearly labeled. I try to provide tools for him to organize and remind himself of things. I think he is getting used to using a dry erase board for reminder notes (one in his locker, one in his room, and a family one in the kitchen). I tried post-its, but they become confusing (overloading) after a bit.

We had an IEP meeting last Wednesday, it went on for 3 hours as we addressed our concerned and had it put in writing... his annual evaluation is not until November. His teachers are supportive and trained in basic ASD.

This middle school thing is overwhelming to us right now, so we are attempting everything we can think of to help. I know he needs a few rough spots and challenges along the way, so he can grow as a person.



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19 Sep 2009, 7:48 pm

I just have to write to the original poster, and every successive poster, that I am EXTREMELY impressed with all of you. You must be the most intelligent, thoughtful, and caring parents around. All of your ideas make sense, and your comments are so common-sense that it's amazing. I am going through EXACTLY the same stuff with my son, and I've learned new ideas from each one of you. Make me feel like I'm not alone. Thank you.



DenvrDave
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20 Sep 2009, 12:55 am

Thanks to all who have replied, there is so much ground to cover.

DW-a-mom: Thanks for welcoming me to WrongPlanent, and for your thoughtful comments. My son is in an academic support period, but there is no way that one teacher/aide will know all of his assignments so having someone check his planner won't work. Fortunately most of his teachers are willing to email me, so I can stay on top of homework at home. I've often felt that homeschooling would be the best option for him, but the reality is that I have a full-time job I must keep in order to maintain a safe place to live.

sacrip: I believe my son is learning the proper "scripts" and he does socialize approrpriately, but his socializing is superficial and I think he is in "survival mode" most of the time in terms of socializing with peers. He's been in a Socialization Group for over a year that has really been a great help. I agree 100% that he must care about something in order for him to succeed at it, but how do you teach someone to care about something like algebra? Thanks for your thoughtful comments, much appreciated.

Aimless: same here, these issues have been present for a long time, but in middle school they are becoming more pronounced as greater expectations are put on the students. I can't even imagine what high school will be like.

Oregon: thanks for the thoughtful ideas. I've found that some teachers are very caring, and they will read and implement the IEP and even go above and beyond the call of duty...these are angels and we are thankful everytime one enters our lives. There are also some very uncaring teachers out there who do the bare minimum that is possible for them to collect their paychecks, and there is not a darn thing we can do to get them to budge. My impression is that the IEP is a tool to get services, but it won't get you good teachers/aides all of the time.

Schleppenheimer: (funny nickname by the way)...thanks for the accolades, but I'm just a regular guy trying to take care of my family. And with my son, feeling very helpless, alone, and like a huge failure. Wish there was more I could do to help him.



Tory_canuck
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21 Sep 2009, 1:20 am

DenvrDave wrote:
Thanks to all who have replied, there is so much ground to cover.

DW-a-mom: Thanks for welcoming me to WrongPlanent, and for your thoughtful comments. My son is in an academic support period, but there is no way that one teacher/aide will know all of his assignments so having someone check his planner won't work. Fortunately most of his teachers are willing to email me, so I can stay on top of homework at home. I've often felt that homeschooling would be the best option for him, but the reality is that I have a full-time job I must keep in order to maintain a safe place to live.

sacrip: I believe my son is learning the proper "scripts" and he does socialize approrpriately, but his socializing is superficial and I think he is in "survival mode" most of the time in terms of socializing with peers. He's been in a Socialization Group for over a year that has really been a great help. I agree 100% that he must care about something in order for him to succeed at it, but how do you teach someone to care about something like algebra? Thanks for your thoughtful comments, much appreciated.

Aimless: same here, these issues have been present for a long time, but in middle school they are becoming more pronounced as greater expectations are put on the students. I can't even imagine what high school will be like.

Oregon: thanks for the thoughtful ideas. I've found that some teachers are very caring, and they will read and implement the IEP and even go above and beyond the call of duty...these are angels and we are thankful everytime one enters our lives. There are also some very uncaring teachers out there who do the bare minimum that is possible for them to collect their paychecks, and there is not a darn thing we can do to get them to budge. My impression is that the IEP is a tool to get services, but it won't get you good teachers/aides all of the time.

Schleppenheimer: (funny nickname by the way)...thanks for the accolades, but I'm just a regular guy trying to take care of my family. And with my son, feeling very helpless, alone, and like a huge failure. Wish there was more I could do to help him.



I dont know how this will work in the US, but in Canada, we have a live in nanny program for immigrants where the immigrants live in a household and work as a nanny there.I wonder if you could get an immigrant nanny to live at your place and supervise your son while he does homeschooling.That way, you get a cheap caregiver, and you can still work your job.


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Aspie1
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21 Sep 2009, 11:30 am

Tory_canuck wrote:
I don't know how this will work in the US, but in Canada, we have a live in nanny program for immigrants where the immigrants live in a household and work as a nanny there.I wonder if you could get an immigrant nanny to live at your place and supervise your son while he does homeschooling.That way, you get a cheap caregiver, and you can still work your job.

It exists in the US too, and goes by the name "au pair". (Read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_pair). The semantics lie in the fact that an au pair functions as a temporary family member of sorts, rather than an employee (like it would be with a live-in nanny). It's similar to having a foreign exchange student live with you, except their responsibility is taking care of the children, rather than learning about the American culture. There are limitations on how many hours an au can work, they get a regular stipend, and the host family pays the daily expenses.

While this may seem like a great approach, here's the problem I see with it. Your son, at 14, probably already started finding girls/women attractive. Now, most au pairs are young women ages 18 to 26. Obviously, you're not allowed to pick one based on looks, but foreign women who choose that role are usually quite attractive. So, there is a possibility that your son might feel physically attracted to the au pair, who is, technically, a caretaker for him, rather than an "equal". That, combined with your son's Asperger's, will certainly create a volatile combination that might have ramifications you haven't even thought of. And I haven't even touched on the au pair's point of view, that is, how (un)comfortable she might feel about taking care of a 14-year-old guy.

Male au pairs exist, but there aren't many of them. (Agencies made some effort to recruit young men in the recent years.) Due to the extensive background checks required to work that role, they typically become good role models for boys. You are allowed to choose based on gender, so if you go the au pair route, perhaps this is what you should do. It will certainly avoid the ramifications I described in the previous paragraph, and maybe your son might have things in common with someone from a foreign country. And since they'll have a shared experience of being a "foreigner", the au pair can teach your son about getting around socially.



Detren
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01 Oct 2009, 12:10 pm

You said that an aide couldn't possibly keep track of his homework, why can't it be required of him to hand his planner to each teacher before he leaves the class that day so they can over-see and initial his homework assignments for him? Or write them down for him in his planner?



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01 Oct 2009, 12:29 pm

As Detren mentioned in the previous post, you can DEFINITELY ask in the IEP to have the teachers or aides check the homework planner to make sure that your child has written everything in correctly.

Do you have access to an online page through the school district, where the teacher lists all of the requirements including what assignments are missing, and what test scores are? And does the school have a web site that lists the homework from each teacher?

Kris



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01 Oct 2009, 8:03 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Detren: He lost his planner first week of school. He lost five planners last year, no joke.

schleppenheimer: yes, the school has a website with information for each class. The issue is that the teachers update their websites sporadically, and only after assignments have been turned. There is no requirement for them to maintain websites in a timely manner.



Detren
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01 Oct 2009, 8:42 pm

Understood, I lost my planner the first week of school as well :) haha

1. spare book for each class that isn't a workbook to be kept in each class for his use.

2. Separate, but identical, set of books to stay home for homework purposes so he doesn't have to remembered as many things or spend time in his locker.

3. Planner to be in a separate pocket in his book-bag and only to be removed by the teachers and immediately replaced in respective pocket by teacher after class.

Something that would have been a huge help to me would have been a box of pencils kept in each class for my use so I wouldn't have had to bring them. I NEVER had a pencil.



DenvrDave
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02 Oct 2009, 12:20 am

Excellent suggestions Detren. Already doing #1 and #2, but I hadn't thought of #3 and will give it a try with the next planner : )



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19 Oct 2009, 8:02 pm

DenvrDave wrote:
Greetings,

I am new on this website, and am the parent of a 14 yr old 8th grade aspie struggling in school. He is very intelligent, but has challenges with organization, forgetfulness, and is easily distracted. For example, he does not complete in-class assignments beause he would rather draw and doodle, even when the teacher reminds him to get back to work. He is easily distracted by other students, tries to be a class clown to get attention, and does not always know the difference when the others are laughing at him versus laughing with him. I am not sure how to tell if he is choosing not to do his work, or is just incapable of staying on task. He is well-behaved at home, and he focuses on his homework here at home, but then he forgets to turn it in or loses it between home and school and gets a zero. He also seems to fatigue easily, and I believe this also impacts his ability to get minimally acceptable grades.

His goal is to earn a high school diploma, but I fear that he will not be able to because of these challenges. We have an IEP that includes many accomodations, but noone can do the work for him, and ultimately he has to do the work himself. We have tried many interventions including one-to-one aides, contracting, etc, and these worked very well in elementary school but not in middle school. I do not want to change schools yet because I don't think its the school's fault, and I'm not convinced that things would be different in another school.

The bottom line is, I don't know how to help him succeed in school.

I would very much appreciate thoughts and suggestions.


This sounds exactly like me. He has ADHD. I would take him to a psych to sort out meds ASAP. Things won't be different anywhere else. Not another school, not a job or in the work force. You need to address the ADHD.

It's possible to do well in school with the problems you described. But it's not possible to excel to your full potential. This was the case with me from when I was 5 to now at the age of 24. I am undiagnosed and unmedicated. It's a lot harder to get adults sorted though. Address it while he's still young.

Why am I so sure? I't not because I have a PhD in mental health, it's not because I work with kids, it's not because I read up on it. It's because i've Been there.

If you need any support on this feel free to email me at [email protected] because you really don't know how much I can relate to this. Probably more than anything anyone has ever written in the 5 years i've been on this forum.