AS son refuses to do anything at school

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Aspiemama
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02 Mar 2014, 5:47 pm

Hello all. I have been a member for years but haven't communicated on the board thus far. This is a long post I know so thank you for anyone who can stand to read it all. I have AS too and no one seems to be able to give me good advice, especially my husband.

I have a 14 year old boy diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder. He was diagnosed when he was 9. He had been homeschooled up until last year. This year, against my wishes , we threw him into junior high, completely unprepared. My husband thinks that its the best thing for him. Just the fact that he has to get up at 6a and get to the bus by 6:40a is the best skill for him. He wants him out of the house so he learns how to get out and go to a job one day.

I understand my husband's wishes but my son is in a mainstream 8th grade class when he is academically at the 6th/7th grade level. He is very bright but he is refusing to do work at school. He goes to one special ed class which is more like a study hall. That is all this school offers. We had an IEP meeting but it seemed like the special ed teacher just copied everything from his IEP from last year (which was homeschooling through the Utah Virtual Academy).

My son has gotten into trouble one time for saying something rude to the teachers assistant, and other than that he hasn't gotten much done. After he got in trouble my husband and I sat down with the sped teacher, the principle and school psychologist. That was 2 months ago and they have yet to put in place the "behavior plan" (rewards, etc.) that we agreed upon.

He often tells his teachers that school is a waste of his time and he doesn't want to be there. He begs me to homeschool him, which means we could do an online school that would allow him to finish up where he left off. My husband won't hear of it though. I pulled him out of math because it was so far over his head that he just sat there for 90 minutes each day. I hired a tutor who comes to do math with him twice per week. He does great with her.

So he just sits in his classes and doesn't do much of anything. It seems that the area he has trouble in most is writing. Any assignment which is group assignments like talking out loud he is good at. If he has to write an essay or answer questions in sentences he won't do it. He often has excuses like in Science he forgot his pencil. Well ask for a pencil then. "I couldn't" he said. Well yes he could have.

The special ed teacher seems so negative about him. My husband didn't like her demeanor or attitude at the meeting. She just keeps saying "he's not school ready", he can't do this on his own. He can't do that on his own. This school district does not hold kids back. Next year in high school he'll need to retake (and pay money for) any class he gets an F in. Well, he has all F's now. When he retakes the classes they need to be at night or over the summer. There is no holding back and he's 6'1 and 250lbs. Holding him back would be ridiculous.

He swears that he would do better homeschooling if I gave him one more chance. The last few years he homeschooled he got behind. Probably because I have some of the same issues (I am diagnosed AS too). I feel like if the school can't give him 1 on 1 or even small groups, then I could give him 1 on 1.

I've tried things like taking away the xbox, awarding him with $ for allowance if he goes to school everyday and participates (that ended quick!). I can't get him to do ANY homework and I can't get him to take his attention med (which really helped him). I feel like he needs a day treatment program which he was in once before, but its an hour drive round trip every day.

Thank you if you have read this far. I'm really in need of help from people who understand because no one seems to understand, especially my husband. He thinks its better to just have him show up and sit there than anything else.



ASDMommyASDKid
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02 Mar 2014, 6:06 pm

I am very sorry. This sounds horrible. Your son feels like he is in the proverbial weeds and is acting accordingly. I think you should try to find an advocate for your son. Maybe there is a local autism society that can refer you to free/sliding scale help or if you have the scratch, it might make sense to pay for someone with experience in your area with this. At the very least I would write a letter and send it certified mail telling them they are violation of whatever it is in the plan that was not put into place, assuming it was formally written into your IEP. Was there a Functional Behavioral Analysis and a Behavioral Intervention Plan done?

I would be very curious if it is legal for a public school to charge your son to retake classes that they have failed to prepare him for. This sounds wrong and like it should be illegal even for regular students, never mind SPED kids. I would also want to contact your state educational agency to see exactly what your rights are.

This is under the assumption that you choose to leave him where he is. This does not seem like an arrangement that is good for your son's self-esteem. If your husband is so convinced he needs to be somewhere, with a schedule, maybe a summer program or weekend club would be an easier starting point. What he did sounds like baptism by fire. Too much for a kid not equipped.

(Note we were not very good at navigating the school system, and we pulled our kid out, so I do not want to sound like I am talking so "big" and like I was successful). We started home schooling this year, and despite all the cons, I hope to never put him back into our school district, ever.



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02 Mar 2014, 6:54 pm

I don't really have any answers for you. We did the opposite route and pushed public school until both my son and us, his parents could take no more. JH was hell for my son. Now in 7th grade we do online homeschool and are not even considering returning until possibly 9th grade. As an ex middle school teacher, I have say this JH is a difficult time for even the most NT well adjusted child.


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Aspiemama
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02 Mar 2014, 6:58 pm

To be honest ASDMOMMY I wish I could homeschool him. The IEP is a joke! I need an advocate. My husband fights me on the homeschooling the entire way.

I wish things could change.



Aspiemama
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02 Mar 2014, 6:59 pm

Eurkea-

I hope I can follow in your path eventually! Maybe next year.



cathylynn
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02 Mar 2014, 7:11 pm

is there some privilege you can take away if he doesn't maintain a "C" average? or "no homework, no video games?"



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02 Mar 2014, 7:13 pm

Since your husband doesn't like some things like the special ed teachers attitude maybe you can let him think about how to deal with this problem? Maybe he would come back to home schooling?

I ran into a similar problem where my husband insisted on the public school. I found a counselor who has helped a lot, even though my husband won't participate. You need your child to buy in and try to make things work, so he needs to believe that's possible, necessary, and worthwhile.

I would not be able to make this work alone.

Have had good luck with private speech therapists as well in reaching and helping. If you can find someone good, sometimes insurance may even pay.



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02 Mar 2014, 7:25 pm

That sounds rough.

I really doubt that this will help him to learn "how to get out and go to a job one day." When you have somewhere to go that makes sense to you, you just go. There's nothing to learn. A meaningful activity is its own reward.

You don't say where you live. Do you have any decent charter schools? In New Jersey a charter school is, by definition, "a public schools of choice." It's supervised by the state rather than the local school. Your taxes pay for it, like any other public school, and it's open to anyone by lottery. Our charter school was great. It was tiny and ran from kindergarten through eighth grade, with some mixed age groups. Academically they got all the middle school subjects, but without the toxic middle school culture that I'm sure would have killed my son.

Then, for high school, he qualified for the county vo-tech, which had a good computer program, and was a magnet for geeks. So again we bypassed the toxic culture of the local high school. But you need decent grades for that.

Failing that, have you considered a religious school? My brother's kid (mild, undiagnosed Aspie) went to one for part of elementary school and was happy. Even though they are not religious at all, it was better than the local school. I don't know what it cost.



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03 Mar 2014, 12:09 pm

Your husband is wrong. You may share my post with him if you want.

If your son isn't invested in this decision, it won't work, and clearly he is not invested. Getting ASD kids to do ANYTHING they aren't invested in is a struggle, and mistake one was telling him this was the decision, instead of selling it to him. I can understand that "doing things we don't want to do" is a life skill, but to put everything about your child's education at risk for that one life skill - not a trade I would ever make.

In this moment, I think your son (a) does not believe he can succeed in the school system at this moment and, thus, is checking out and (b) is feeling like he is not being heard and has no power over his life.

For the record, my son has been in public school his entire life and is now a Junior in High School doing really well. But middle school / Junior High were THE WORST YEARS of his life at school due to the social jockeying that boys do, and that is common. This was absolutely the WORST TIME to choose to change things. Middle School is awful, period, for all kids, and the emphasis is on learning the system and doing what you are told, and not on the content.

High School would have been an easier transition, when many kids are changing schools and the grading rubrics are less about discipline and more about learning. And, well, kids have grown up a bit more.

Aside from all that, I am going to ask you to investigate the issues with writing more. My son has hypermobility/hypotonia/dysgraphia and writing is literally painful for him. At home, you may have unconsciously adapted to your son's preferences and needs, and not really noticed if an actual handicap existed. But public school is not doing that and it is possible that he is really struggling in this area and not wanting to admit it. Writing by hand is LITERALLY painful for my son, and we long ago received accommodations for this. Now that my son is proficient with a keyboard, he carries a netbook to school and types EVERYTHING. Definitely worth looking into; kids don't check out and refuse to do a task for no reason.

If it isn't physical, it could also be that it is evident to him how far behind he is on writing grammar, structure, and composition. Or he has trouble with the types of assignments (too open ended, for example, or having to explore concepts that aren't natural to kids with ASD, like metaphor). Again, these are things you may have instinctively adapted to, but now is the time to understand what the issues are.

I would engage him in this process, letting him know that you want to help him and are on his side even though he may believe you no longer are (no doubt he lost a lot of trust with this change, so getting him to trust may be difficult).

Finally, I know your husband is worried as that big "18" looms closer and closer. But the problem is, you can't force someone to develop faster than they are going to develop, and all these things are developmental issues. The only thing that happens when you throw a child in over their heads is that they check out and give up, possibly permanently. Your son may not be able to acquire all the life skills until he is 20 - 25, and you have to be ready for that. Give him a safe place to develop at his pace, and push him when you get the sense he is ready, not when some invisible calendar in your head tells you he should be ready.

The difficult part is, of course, that you don't want to "reward" his behavior by essentially giving him what he wants, so going back is tricky.

I think I would pull him out but let him know that he WILL be going to high school, and that you need to develop a plan together to make sure he is ready for that. Spend some time getting to know the grading rubrics and expectations at the high school he will attend (if there are choices, let him tour the schools and make the choice himself so that he will feel more committed to the process), and start to make your curriculum look as much like the schools as possible so that he can get used to it. Make sure he knows that a condition for returning to home school is a commitment to catching up fully AND learning more life skills and simple "conformity" skills so that he will be able to succeed in High School and, eventually, some type of college.


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trollcatman
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03 Mar 2014, 1:04 pm

^^^^ I agree with what DW_a_mom said. It is nearly impossible to get AS people do something they don't believe in. Much easier if they themselves believe in it.

But why did you enroll him in 8th grade instead of 6/7? If that is his academic level then putting him in a higher class will only make thing more difficult for him.



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03 Mar 2014, 1:32 pm

Aspiemama wrote:
...This school district does not hold kids back...
There is no holding back and he's 6'1 and 250lbs. Holding him back would be ridiculous...



audball
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03 Mar 2014, 2:43 pm

We have just returned to public school (6th grade) at my DD's behest. She was participating in ORVA (Oregon Virtual Academy) for 4th and 5th grade after completely checking out in 3rd grade. A placement in a self-contained classroom (supposedly with pull-outs, but that hardly ever happened) the second half of 3rd grade cemented our decision to teach her at home. While that was fine, DD made the decision to try to move back to public school. She just said, "I feel like it's time." What DW_a_mom says is right on the money; unless the child is motivated to go that direction, you will constantly be "putting out fires" at school, and the learning will be falling to the wayside. Sending him to school without some tools is kind of like throwing him overboard into the sea without a life vest.

When my daughter first thought about public school, we investigated some programs to ease her transition. I think this has been another key to her success this year. In addition to wanting to go back, a student needs tools to learn *how* to be a student. We found a program here in Oregon that worked with students in and out of academic classrooms (for anyone in the Pacific NW area, it's called Pathways for Potential, and it's a great program). The program utilized The LINK Program, created by Maureen Ziegler and David Schoemer in Michigan. The idea was to integrate students on the spectrum in mainstream classrooms and use a "peer-to-peer" approach. Information on the program can be found through this link: The LINK Program The LINK Program

In the winter, before she started enrollment in public school, we started with group play therapy in the program (to get used to distractions). We then moved on to small group academic work. In the meantime, I also enrolled DD in a Homeschool/Unschooling program in the community. This school covered subjects from mathematics to LEGO to life sciences, and were held once or twice a week. Since biology is a special interest for DD, we signed up for one course per term and worked that class in with her ORVA curriculum. It was a great opportunity to practice classroom skills and strategies, without having to worry about "grades" (this community school's philosophy was that homework was optional and surprisingly, most kids did the homework because they loved the subjects so much). Every few months, her therapists would come in and track how often she raised her hand, her note-taking skills, her tracking, and class participation. They would offer suggestions for DD and then would put those suggestions into practice during group therapy class. She would then have those skills reinforced back at the community school.

What the therapists said to me was that being in a classroom is a skill that needs to be learned; particularly with kids who have been out of a traditional classroom for awhile. Not being able to follow what the class is doing is overwhelming, and more often than not, students simply "check out" because they cannot keep up. Couple that with the perfectionist tendencies with most Aspie kids and it's a recipe for disaster! While my DD knew all the science facts in the community class already, she *didn't* know how to look at the teacher every few minutes to stay engaged. She didn't know how to listen for keywords during lectures to start note-taking (e.g. "this important fact...", "write these things down....", "the take-home lesson is...."). She didn't know that taking too long drawing doodles of a bird would mean that she would miss out on half the test notes. So many things many "typical" students take for granted had to be taught to her.

We had a good half-year to prep for re-entry into public school. We also had a great SPED teacher and program to welcome her and help with the transition. We currently have teachers for her that will give her copies of *their* notes, so she can catch up on what she may have missed (this is kind of a last resort, because we are wanting her to build up skills independently).

My suggestion would be to take this time now and catch up on your DS's academics through the homeschool program (UTVA?), BUT also look into him taking a class once or twice a week, to reintegrate into a regular classroom environment. If you could find a homeschool program in your neighborhood that mimics a real classroom, that would be best. Try to see if you can't help break down what he needs to learn to be a successful student. You may want to check and see if there are any academic-based therapists that could help too.

Good luck! It will come with time...please tell your DH that pressure from him won't necessarily help your son. In many ways, it could negatively impact his desire to go back to a school/university environment :(

ETA: I didn't see whether or not your son had a special interest. One tact you could try with your DH, is continue to homeschool your son and see to it that he takes a special course (community college, after school program) in his special interest. If your son is anything like my daughter, he will excel in this special class. The other thing homeschooling afforded us was the ability to finish *all* schoolwork for the day in 3.5-4 hours (I wish that were true now - Ha!). This left a lot of extra time for the special interest. If your son brought back a well-received project or good grade from this one other special interest class, would that prove to your DH that your son has the talent/smarts but just not in a "conventional school" way?



Aspiemama
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04 Mar 2014, 9:39 pm

I just wanted to thank ALL OF YOU for your thoughtful responses. I'm digesting it all, its a lot to take in. The Utah Virtual Academy is a wonderful program because they have a schedule for online classes that he must take the same time each week.

I just wish my husband would back off of the public school bandwagon.



FreeSpirit2000
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05 Mar 2014, 4:22 am

I really wished that my parents let me go to homeschooling! Wow. When I was a younger kid, especially in 9th-10th grade years, I endured extreme bullying to the point that I would fake being sick many days and lie to my parents about having a cold frequently, due to the severity of bullying I received (my social skills were very low-level as a young kid). I begged and pleaded to my parents endlessly, to let me go do homeschooling and they didn't listen. As the time passed by, my interests in school slipped, I started suffering depression and I even had days where I literally wanted to end my life. I think what you should do is when you feel your child is ready to go back to school in a mainstream environment, then the time will come. I say it is better for your kid to be around a small amount of people and learn good social skills then toss him into a classroom of 30 people where he embarrasses himself.

My parents unfortunately did not take my advice and were being too stubborn, too self-righteous and did not listen to one word I say. I am a little disappointed that they did not listen to me as I paid the price. As I got out of school, I learned how to improve my social skills and don't publicly embarrass myself as I did when I was in Middle and part of High School. Unfortunately, my academic skills have struggled and I tried school, but cannot transfer out because of the hard Math requirements, and plus, tutoring is too expensive for me, so, I cannot afford getting good help on homework.

I am still struggling what to figure out what to do with my life (due to the fact I took Gen Ed's with no realistic direction in my life) and even putting of working just to focus on school, but I learned a lot of emotional lessons in life, nonetheless.

Your kids will eventually grow up and even though things may take a little time, you have to have faith in your kids. I know from my own experience, I dealt with lots of struggles through High School and even after High School, especially, with being too confident, dealing with social drama with my friends, as well as a tough life in High School, I still manage to nonetheless have a good attitude about life and I know I will set a clear realistic set of goals for my life and hopefully, stick to a career I will enjoy for the great majority for my own life (right now, I am trying to determine what direction I want to go with my life, because I felt that in the past, I was being very unrealistic about things and now I am trying to be more realistic, actually speaking).



Aspiemama
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05 Mar 2014, 8:30 pm

FreeSpirit-

I went through much of the same things as you did in middle school/high school. I would have done anything to be homeschooled. I actually did refuse to go to school for 3 months but that was because I publicly embarrassed myself at school and had to go on meds for anxiety/depression. Still no one figured out that there was anything wrong. Just a few years ago at the age of 34 I was diagnosed with Asperger's and Bipolar. I'm not 100% about AS as many of its symptoms mimic bipolar, but I do feel that I'm an Aspie.

Good luck in your life goals!