Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this?

Posted by: eco21268

Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 06:31 AM

DS13 is finished with seventh grade May 19. He's done okay this year, academically, although his performance has been erratic as always.

So with nothing left but finals and end of year projects--he's suddenly melting down completely. We can now add school refusal and asking to be picked up early to his list of maladaptive behaviors.

I've told him all along he does not have to do this program if it is too stressful for him. He has insisted he wanted to stay in the program, but with a couple weeks left, has stated he is "intentionally flunking out," that he hates it, it's hellish, and he never wants to go back there.

I'm telling him that he is not allowed to stop with just a couple of weeks to go. He doesn't have to return next year, but he can't just forfeit (fail) all of the high school credits he's nearly completed.

Alas, when DS decides upon a course of action, wild horses can't drag him away from it. He is incredibly stubborn and totally overwhelmed with anxiety.

I think it's because he has so many projects due all at once. He has never had any significant test anxiety. Projects are the bane of his (our) existence.

Has anyone ever experienced this, and what did you do? I dropped him off this morning and he seemed better than yesterday--when I had to pick him up early, because he was sending me frantic/panicked texts. Picking up early is a new request.

Stern discipline is ineffective. Heart-to-heart communication is occasionally kind of effective. Taking away privileges is ineffective.

Ugh. SOS.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 07:31 AM

Does he have an IEP/504 for 2e remediation/accommodations at school? Is he transitioning to self-dependence with executive function (EF) skills? Is there a "go-to" person at school? Does school policy allow for early pickup, or are his requests for being picked up early from school outside the norm and being fulfilled as an exception to policy?

On one hand it sounds like he may need to gain skills in self-regulation, time management, and sub-dividing projects into smaller tasks then scheduling each task and holding himself accountable for accomplishing each of those tasks on schedule and/or identifying significant factors impeding his progress, articulating them, requesting help and/or advice... then correcting course and getting back on schedule.

On the other hand he may need or benefit from an alternative education, one in which he finds resources/opportunities which will help him prepare for college and/or career. What are his passionate interests? Is there a way for him to pursue those interests, starting from where he is now in terms of knowledge base, credentials, etc? If there is a gap in skills and/or credentialing, what must he do to enhance his skills and credentials to get where wants to go? Starting with a goal in mind and then reverse-engineering is often a good way to plan, and to tap into one's motivation.

You may wish to lay it out for him in those terms, and see if he has additional ideas. Then step back. Some may say that enabling a teen's over-reliance on a parent may be kicking the can down the road: He'll be a year older and still the lack the necessary life skills and study skills.
Posted by: HowlerKarma

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 09:40 AM

Short answer to your thread title? Yes, sort of.

Quote:

Alas, when DS decides upon a course of action, wild horses can't drag him away from it. He is incredibly stubborn and totally overwhelmed with anxiety.

I think it's because he has so many projects due all at once. He has never had any significant test anxiety. Projects are the bane of his (our) existence.

Has anyone ever experienced this, and what did you do? I dropped him off this morning and he seemed better than yesterday--when I had to pick him up early, because he was sending me frantic/panicked texts. Picking up early is a new request.

Stern discipline is ineffective. Heart-to-heart communication is occasionally kind of effective. Taking away privileges is ineffective.




I have a child who has a similar profile in terms of personality-- she's VERY stubborn, and you can always tell DD...




just very little, as it happens. {sigh}


OK.

How old is your child? How FUNCTIONALLY old in terms of executive function? How old FUNCTIONALLY in terms of emotional regulation?

Those things govern your response, IMO.

Don't tolerate what you know that your child CAN help but just doesn't want to-- that's enabling, and it won't help anything.

So if you know that your child is manipulating you into managing his anxiety... refuse to take ownership of what doesn't belong to YOU.

"No, I'm sorry... I need for you to stay at school until {time} today... Can you think of some ways to do that so that you can manage your anxiety until then? I know that you can figure this out. If you want to discuss ideas with me, I'm happy to do that with you."

Does that make sense?

OTOH, asynchrony does mean scaffolding in unique ways sometimes. If this program is basically demanding executive skills that are more like college-appropriate, then some behind the scenes scaffolding on time management, task initiation, and breaking projects into manageable steps, planning, etc. might be in order.

We found that when DD would get mentally stuck in panic mode like this, the next step was always avoidance-- with predictable results. eek

Soon she'd be where your DS is, flailing in full panic, and asking to be removed from the situation. We usually said "Nope-- you got yourself INTO this situation by ignoring some pretty reasonable demands early on, and now it's time to pay the piper and get to work. You own this-- and you're going to follow through, because that's what we do in this family."

We did help her with the executive tasks which were beyond her ability at that point... which usually meant that because she had ignored (for example) the annotated bibliography due date... the source list due date.... the notecards/outline due date.... that NOW she was faced with a task that would be daunting for many college freshmen. ("Produce a 10 page rough draft of your research paper this Friday.")

Does that make sense?

So what we DID do was have that heart to heart, express sympathy for her emotional state, but firmly tell her that SHE got herself into the situation, and she could certainly work her way OUT of the hole, too...

and then we got her cooperation in PLANNING just how to do that.

Without her cooperation, btw, this never-- ever-- works with her. It has to be HER plan. But emotionally, her asynchrony and anxiety also means that she needed mom or dad to GUIDE her, and reassure her that she's capable of doing it.


Good luck. I'd sit down for some project planning with him, but start with that heart-to-heart conversation. Let him know that QUITTING isn't an option-- so he can forget about that-- but that he is free to work within the allowed solution space, and that you're there to HELP him. smile
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 10:43 AM

Originally Posted By: HowlerKarma

How old is your child? How FUNCTIONALLY old in terms of executive function? How old FUNCTIONALLY in terms of emotional regulation?

Those things govern your response, IMO.

Don't tolerate what you know that your child CAN help but just doesn't want to-- that's enabling, and it won't help anything.

So if you know that your child is manipulating you into managing his anxiety... refuse to take ownership of what doesn't belong to YOU.


This is the part plaguing me, I think. Functionally, he is very delayed in EF. As far as emotional regulation, he has good behavioral control (i.e. he doesn't act out at school), but he shuts down and won't ask for help from anyone but me.

He asks me for help by telling me he is suicidal via text, that he can't take one more minute of this, that he's going to have a nervous breakdown, and begging for help.
Expressing suicidal ideation is his new "script." He is not suicidal. I told him he has to stop saying this, or we will have to go to the ER for evaluation, because that's the rule. Fact is, he would deny it to anyone else so he would not be admitted to psych unit (nor should he be, because it wouldn't help anything).

When this happened yesterday, his teacher had no idea he was upset. I told him he needed to go to the nurse, and he did, but he didn't tell her he was upset, either. smirk

Nobody at school ever believes me when I try to explain that he is anxious, because you can't tell by looking and he won't tell you. He does have a 504.

His doctor (psychiatrist) said he would fill out the document asking for homebound instruction to finish out the year, if I request it. I don't want DS' avoidance strategies to work--so am still deciding.

To make matters more confusing, I texted him awhile ago and asked if today is going better, and he responded "I prefer Tuesdays." Tuesdays are band, digital photography, writing days--IOW, easy days.

DS is autistic, so I'm not sure if I can expect these things to improve a lot any time soon. Right now, trying to figure out a good balance between challenge and pressure. I feel like his EF would be overtaxed in any school environment that provided any sort of challenge.
Posted by: AnnieQuill

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 11:30 AM

I think I know how he's feeling. One project can be overwhelming, more than one? Forget about it. Sounds like he's shutting down, which is a rather ineffective coping strategy, but one I still use when my anxiety decides to use me as a punching bag. He might feel like there is no way to get it all done, so might as well give up on getting anything done. Try listing, or giving him a reward for getting through the school day. 'If you get through the whole day, we can go get ice cream as your after school snack'. Talk to his teachers, maybe they can reduce the amount of work required on a project? Finals are probably worrying him the least, just make sure he goes to bed early and has a hearty breakfast.

It's not fun being the parent in this situation, but it's even worse for him. It can literally be hell on earth, and there is a reason this time of year is called 'Hell Week'. When he comes home, let him do whatever he needs to de-stress, if he falls asleep before dinner, make sure you get food into him when he wakes up
(If he doesn't wake up until morning, try to have an early breakfast that he can run out the door with. because the last time he ate might have been breakfast the day before), If he disappears into his room for hours on end, let him, but try to remember to ask him if he wants to do fun stuff, It really sucks to be left out of something because you didn't even know it was happening (ask more than once, he might not register it the first time). It's hard, but try to give him a break at home, even letting his chores go undone (If you are super stressed, being asked to do the dishes is the LAST thing that you want to do) It might make your life harder, but stress is really bad for you if it doesn't get released. Not just mentally, but physically.

It may be that he's too locked onto it to say stop by himself. Ask him if it would be easier if you took the decision away from him. I have some very memorable moments of my mom doing this, and it helped a great deal. Don't force him to drop anything if he doesn't want to, but if it's a mental pressure about making the wrong decision, having someone say that they'll take it out of your hands, and if it goes wrong you can blame them, is an immense relief.

Hope that juggernaut helped
Posted by: howdy

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 11:38 AM

I am not in this same situation, but I wanted to share this thought. Is it possible to take away your DS's cell phone so he cannot text you from school?

Maybe his doctor could weigh in on whether that might play a role in developing better communication skills with people other than you?

Just an idea.
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 01:14 PM

Second sapghetti. If you have to sit next to him to get the projects done, you just do it. Be his executive function for the next couple of weeks and to get over the next couple of weeks.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 04:28 PM

The plot thickens (naturally). There are suddenly several things I didn't know about that DS hasn't done and are important for his grades. 504 violations with pretty serious consequences, but the school is impossible to work with on these things, so no point going there.

I'm not going to allow him to give in to his despairing thoughts. He's now blaming me for insisting he finish out the year and is angry. It's hard to do the hand-holding piece but that's my forte. smile

I've really been his executive function all year. He really struggles with organization and needs a ton of help, but I have not been successful in getting an evaluation for an IEP. He said his 504 is "worthless" and it is, really, not very helpful. He asked, and I explained to him what an IEP is and how it could help and he thought that sounded great, but I don't think we will ever convince the district to evaluate him.

I think the most difficult part for DS is that he is feeling so down on himself, and like he isn't advanced enough to succeed in his program. Very sad.
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 05:59 PM

To some extent I've been though this with DS17 And to be honest it's always been a big fear that he will do it again. It's kind of what we went through at the end of freshman year in H.S. and what made me decide to go through formal testing that summer. But it happened a little bit less close to the end of the year and we were able to keep most grades at least C's. But it did mean he was out of all honors classes for sophomore year.

What did I do.. I did a LOT of scaffolding for him that spring, particularly with a huge project due right at the end of the year in social studies. We did a bit of picking and choosing what was most important to focus on.

My son has had extreme anxiety during 6th grade and again that end of year as a freshman in H.S. Long term we ramped back what he was involved in, had him testing, got him some accommodation through a 504. Sort term we made goals. Is there something he is looking forward to doing this summer? Help him focus on something fun that's going to happen in a few weeks. Make a chart and break things down. Make sure to give him study breaks, exercise & time outside are very important.

Take a good look at these projects and see if you can reduce them to be something smaller. I found my son would always want to make them "perfect" and bite off more than he could chew. Choosing topics that were more difficult than they needed to be. (Hard to find information about for example.) Several times he got permission to switch topics. And ramping back expectation.. Well lets look at this project in terms of getting a passing grade, what's the minimum that needs to get done.

I found I couldn't MAKE DS do anything. But what I could do was help break all this up into manageable chunks. Give him breaks, listen to him and support him. While still expecting that the work gets done. I never found discipline worked either, it just ramps up the stress.
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 06:02 PM

Originally Posted By: howdy
I am not in this same situation, but I wanted to share this thought. Is it possible to take away your DS's cell phone so he cannot text you from school?

Maybe his doctor could weigh in on whether that might play a role in developing better communication skills with people other than you?

Just an idea.
I've been in that situation and I would not do it. A kid going through extreme stress doesn't need his life line to his support person taken away. IMO Mom at this point shouldn't pick him up early every time he requests it but can give words of support.
Posted by: AnnieQuill

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/03/16 07:47 PM

It could be going to fast. Too many classes can cause undue stress, and cause grade performance to drop. He's only in middle school, and here's one thing to think about- what's the worst thing that will happen if he fails? It's not a good thing, but good can come out of it.

Maybe if he fails this year, you can convince the school to evaluate him, or get him evaluated yourself. if you come to the school with an official diagnosis, they can't tell you no.

Maybe tell him it's okay to fail? As long as he's trying hard, the end grade doesn't matter, its the effort.

oh and the ' if you don't go to school, by law, i go to jail' is really effective if he starts up. my mom uses that as her counter argument and it works.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 03:52 AM

Thank you for all the good advice!

bluemagic: we did what you recommended, yesterday. Put it all on paper and figured out priorities and worked on doing a good enough job for those. That helped a little.

I wouldn't take the phone away at this point--mostly he doesn't communicate with me (or anyone) at all. I think a more typical kid might seek help from a different source if he couldn't text me, but not mine. He just sits quietly and implodes. His inability to express himself usefully is a big part of his 2E-ness.

AnnieQuill: you make some really good points. I think the program moves too fast for him. I am not so much worried about his grades, but about him learning a bad coping skill, if I just give up, and allow him to at this point. For some reason, he's not computing that even if he fails a class, it's better not to fail ALL of them and forfeit all of his hard work.

spaghetti: you are right that he needs the attention and support. He is not needy at all generally, emotionally, so there is a positive angle that he is connecting with me (even though it is difficult).
Posted by: polarbear

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 04:51 AM

eco,

Our ds hasn't been through exactly this same situation, but he does go through what look like regressions from time to time, particularly with EF skills seeming to disappear and anxiety ramping up. One thing that helped me a lot when regression happened or anxiety ramped up was to step back and take a look at the overall picture over time, because gains had been made, just not on a perfectly linear curve. Kinda like 5 steps forward, and then one step back, stop, revamp support as needed, then start moving forward again.

There are certain times that also are clearly more stressful than others for some kids. End of the school year, when big projects are assigned, big tests are looming, teachers are talking about having work completed etc - that's a stressful time of year for many students, not just 2e students. So while it's frustrating and seems like a lot of progress may be lost, it's helpful to realize - what your ds is experiencing is, on the one hand, *very* typical (the stress), and he's reacting in the way that he's capable of reacting at this point in his life.

I'll second everything spaghetti said about providing support and scaffolding. That's what we had to do here, and while it's extremely challenging at times, and can feel like extreme helicoptering, what it *really* is, is you teaching/showing your ds how to function. If your child was struggling to learn to read, you wouldn't let them just go it on their own, sink or swim, you'd help them develop the skills they needed to be successful. Same goes for kids who have communication challenges, EF challenges, anxiety. (note to eco - I know you already know this, I'm more throwing this out there for people who are reading this and not parenting a 2e kid smile ). Scaffolding works. Support works. It may take several more years before it all sinks in, but gradually, as time goes by, when you have a moment to step back and look at where he's been and where's he at "now" (whatever now you're looking from smile )... you'll see progress.

FWIW, my 2e ds made a lot of progress with EF while in middle school (with a ton of scaffolding and support from me, gradually withdrawing it as he developed the skills). High school (change) challenged that progress - he needed extra support during his first year, but, again, he made progress and was doing much better by the time his second year started. He maintained that progress for most of the year, but he's had challenges with it again as the second semester comes near to a close. One thing that helps me is to realize that as frustrating or as worrying as it might be to *me*, it feels much more stressful to ds.

Another thing to throw out there - both of my 2e kids are anxious kids. There response to stressful situations almost always is anxiety and worry. In with all the scaffolding and support for specific skills, it's been important for us to throw into the mix work on coping skills, how to deal with anxiety, as well as how to recognize it. It's helped my ds quite a bit as time has gone by for us to look at the situation he's in when anxiety comes crashing in - and over time we've found patterns to the triggers.. which in turn has helped relieve ds a bit when the anxiety does hit - because he can recognize the trigger is present, rather than just feeling completely lost and helpless in the midst of it.

One other important thing is to talk to your ds and try to get to the bottom of when did his anxiety and worry start - it's easy to see the big picture of issues with grades, end of school year etc - because all of that seems obvious in terms of being a potential huge cause of stress - but it's also possible that some isolated event or some small something is going on at school that started the slide into anxiety - and it's possible that even your ds doesn't realize what it was, yet it could be very real, and figuring that out might help relieve a lot of your ds' worry, as well as give you something tangible to deal with to alleviate some of his stress. For instance, talk through with your ds to try to remember when this all started happening. Was something said at school by a teacher? Was there anything going on with another student?

Originally Posted By: eco21268


I wouldn't take the phone away at this point--mostly he doesn't communicate with me (or anyone) at all. I think a more typical kid might seek help from a different source if he couldn't text me, but not mine. He just sits quietly and implodes. His inability to express himself usefully is a big part of his 2E-ness.


Although the exact communication challenges may be different, this is essentially true for our 2e ds also. While I totally understand the suggestion upthread re taking the phone away - that's something that might work for a nt student, but for students that have communication challenges, cell phones can actually be an amazingly important AT device. When our ds was first able to text, it enabled him to communicate his needs more directly than he'd ever been able to previously. Because communication is difficult for him, there are also layers of where and how he's able to get his thoughts out - and he's much more able to communicate to me than he is to teachers - because he's had much more practice and scaffolding from me, and because I've invested a lot of years in attempting to open up his lines of communication, so I understand better than his typical teacher how to talk to him in a way that enables communication *from* him. There are times at school when my ds' anxiety really ramps up, and simply having that phone and being able to text to me that something is going on is a tool for him to cope with the anxiety, and to get help with strategies on how to cope. So no, don't take away the phone. Use it smile

Quote:
I think the program moves too fast for him.


It's possible that this might not be the best-fit program for him, but that's something to think through *after* the year is over - first you need to get him through the remaining few weeks of school. From what you've said in general, though, it sounds like it's not a situation where the program is just too much, but rather he's in a one-time situation where the workload is too much for what he can cope with due to his present level of anxiety. That's something that you can work through, deal with, and he can learn from. Even if he was to switch programs, he might find himself in this same situation again - not the same situation re same classwork/teacher/etc, but same situation in terms of having things going fairly well for awhile and then having stress come at him from several different directions at once.

Quote:
I am not so much worried about his grades, but about him learning a bad coping skill, if I just give up, and allow him to at this point. For some reason, he's not computing that even if he fails a class, it's better not to fail ALL of them and forfeit all of his hard work.


I wouldn't exactly worry about this either - it's an important lesson, but he's also still very young (in the grand scheme of things). If he did fail several classes, he's still only in middle school and I don't think (?) he's taking classes that would appear on a high school transcript. Explain to him that it's better to not throw everything to the wind just because there's a challenge with one particular class (if that's what's up), show him directly different ways to deal with the situation that make sense to you, but don't over-worry if he doesn't come out of it with a life-long lesson. It's 3-4 weeks of school. He's made a ton of progress from where he was at just last year, he'll make more progress in the future. This is a tough time. It might not work out great - but trust that whatever happens, it will be ok.

Quote:
you are right that he needs the attention and support. He is not needy at all generally, emotionally, so there is a positive angle that he is connecting with me (even though it is difficult).


Hang onto that - he *is* doing well - he's just facing a big bump in the road at the moment. You'll both get over that bump together smile

Best wishes,

polarbear
Posted by: AnnieQuill

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 05:02 AM

It sounds like he's overloaded, and overloaded REALLY REALLY bad. And yes, it is a terrible coping skill, but adults do this too. Maybe, even if he doesn't get the projects done by the end of the year, you can keep doing them until there done, and grade them. Also, He likely is so stressed that he actually doesn't care at all about his grades, he just want's it to end. if your school offers clinicians, i would get him in with them so they can work through it. possibly focus on coping skills? Breathing exercises and such?
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 05:17 AM

polarbear: I am printing out your post, it is so supportive and it's exactly how I'm trying to frame this situation. Thank you!

He is in a middle school program in which he also takes high school credits. And he will be exited from the program if he earns a D in any class. That is the part that is causing so much anxiety. His thought process: there is one class that I can't pass (even though that teacher is being extremely accommodating). --> So, I am going to be expelled. --> I am losing everything that matters to me (friends, status as advanced learner). --> There are a bunch of other projects that I don't enjoy and feel meaningless. --> So I might as well just not do anything at all, my life has no joy or purpose anymore.

(I'm really not exaggerating.)

I explained to him if he bails, he will have to take all of these classes again. He is suddenly (new development, maybe there is a positive in it) realizing that his GPA will matter for college applications. I am trying to put that in perspective, but he is seeing an end to a dream and a life of flipping burgers.

annie: Yes, really really overloaded. I understand what he's going through. His school is not supportive but he does have a decent family support system.

We'll get through it. It's just very hard to see his suffering. I know this is not unusual for a 13 year old kid, even a neuro-typical one. I'm just hoping he will rally a little because I think he CAN do this and he will regret it if he limits his options by allowing himself to shut down.

Posted by: Tigerle

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 05:39 AM

This may sound like a really odd suggestion, and may not be doable at all - but is it possible instead of picking him up, to spend a bit of time with him in school? Just be around - take some work for the office or whatever it is you do, sit in the library or cafeteria or school grounds on a fine day, have a drink and a chat and tell him to go to the last class of the day and you will be there for him. when I have very bad attacks of anxiety (and I have been fighting the avoidance response all my life, still am) I sometimes can only manage when there is a sympathetic soul around. They don't have to do much, just be close.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 06:06 AM

Originally Posted By: polarbear
he's still only in middle school and I don't think (?) he's taking classes that would appear on a high school transcript
Unfortunately, student data is being collected and stored P20W (from preschool through postsecondary to workforce).
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 06:21 AM

Tigerle: I don't think that's an odd suggestion, but it wouldn't be allowed--and DS would be mortified by my presence, anyhow. I wasn't allowed to go there when he had a huge meltdown about an impending fire drill (last year) so he missed that day of school. For him to be embarrassed by me is social progress--ha! I take my good feels wherever I can. smile

Indigo: I don't worry about data collection, but he is getting high school credits. For me, that's the least of my worries. I don't think a competitive university is a realistic goal for DS (which is a relief). I just want him to learn how to meet expectations so he can have a happy life. Some of his autistic co-morbids are so much more pronounced in adolescence.
Posted by: Platypus101

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 07:49 AM

eco - huge hugs! I haven't been in your shoes - yet - but given the extreme challenge of our first year of middle school this year, I can easily see my DS in the exact same space as yours. Reacting in all the same ways - overwhelmed by out-of-control anxiety, internalizing and shutting down, embracing the futility of it all. DS has recently discovered existential depression with a vengeance, and it would be but a small step with unsupportive teachers in a competitive environment to put us right where you are. Your DS sounds like he is terrified, overwhelmed, and feels out of control and utterly incapable. He needs you to help him change all of those things before he has any capacity to think, let alone take responsibility for these projects.

So I I totally agree with those who've said this is a serious crisis, and you need to engage all scaffolding and support on hyper-drive. But I also understand the fear of creating a precedent that feels like allowing escape and avoidance. We constantly struggle with our own DS, who brings avoidance of hard/ anxiety-inducing things to an extreme. So I am pondering one approach that might possibly help walk this tightrope. Could it be helpful to sit with him and really, really explicitly talk through the purpose of each assignment? Together identify specifically what is the key skill/ knowledge that he needs to demonstrate to his teacher via this particular project. And then scaffold the living daylights out of every other aspect of the project. Scribe, cut-and-paste, organize, draw - anything that is peripheral to the knowledge or skills he needs to demonstrate, get that time-consuming make-work out of his way. Let him focus on the concepts, the ideas, and pulling them together in the right words, and for the duration of the crisis, you, the mechanics fairy, will take care of all the rest of the tedious bits.

Also, as other have suggested, take at look at the format requirements and see where they might have room for flexibility. My DS, for example, can write in Power Point with much less pain than essay form; it's just less intimidating somehow. He also finds Inspiration helpful: he creates in a visual form, and the software transforms it into an essay or presentation form (http://www.inspiration.com/Inspiration). What formats induce the least anxiety in your DS? Poster? Oral? Pre-recorded oral? Timelines? Something else entirely? To what extent can you convert some parts or all of any of these projects into a better format for him? I know you've had a horrible time getting accommodations for him, but is there any chance that at least one of his teachers would work with him to agree on an abbreviated written format (like poster, for example, or a visual mapping of key concepts) combined with an oral Q&A session between DS and teacher, where DS can demonstrate the breadth of his understanding?

I guess what I am try to get at is looking for ways to find a balance where he realizes that (1) he is totally responsible for the content and the thinking, and it's his knowledge that must be demonstrated; BUT (2) you've totally got his back, and you are there for him. Any labor-intensive mechanisms, make-work, and miscellaneous stuff that isn't part of that core responsibility that belongs to him, well, you've got that covered.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 08:16 AM

Hugs right back, platypus! It's amazing how much better I feel just having this conversation.

Here is how I see his main challenges:

He has a really difficult time organizing absolutely anything (and this is ironic, considering that he is systematic with his own projects--meaning ones he conceptualizes and designs/implements). He does not understand how little time the busy-work type assignments really take if you don't fret about them.

Today, I explained to him my process for dealing with tedium, which is frame it as an assembly line process and try to make it interesting by experimenting to see how I can make it most efficient (apple/tree, lord have mercy!)

DS, if faced with making a powerpoint presentation (which he loved, when he was, you know, 4-5 years old), treats each slide like a creation unto itself, messing with formatting, fonts, distracting himself by googling images, etc. etc.). He only likes using tech media when it is novel and he's learning it. Really, he just hates doing anything that is not his idea. The only homework that is not a huge argument/struggle is math, but it's not because he LIKES math (he does not), but because it's easy to know what you are supposed to do and it's not writing intensive.

He also loves to write, creatively, but ONLY for fun and not for assignments.

I told him that one really easy way to do a PP is to just cut paste all of your text into it, slide by slide, then afterwards edit/format, make it pretty.

Would you believe he then produced a high quality PP in about 15 minutes? UGH!

He is an information sponge. If he could demonstrate his thinking/understanding/knowledge base just by having a conversation, he'd have As in all of his classes. That is a little ironic, too, because of his difficulties with social communication. He can talk up a storm about something factual and interesting, but can't explain when he doesn't understand an assignment or has lost the instructions.

He is also resistant to any suggestions I make. Ha!

Today was better. For one thing, I found out that his meltdown absences can be coded 504 (duh, I know) and also DS was able to mark off several silly assignments from his overwhelming list.

He has also now officially met the school nurse, and can go there if he needs a time out (instead of texting). He was also very resistant to meeting the nurse. He likes things to stay exactly the same all of the time.

I am cautiously optimistic that my "assembly line" strategy resonated with him. He's a really creative guy--an unusual animal, for real--not into other people's routines at all, but pretty attached to his own. So we need to add some routines for getting through rough and boring times that interfere with his "me" time, which is his lifeline.

I would really like to do homeschool next year and just let him read and talk to me, make music, draw, etc., but he is going to have to learn how to do things he doesn't want to do and I'm not sure how that would go for us.

PS, I'm previewing this post and noticing that the truth is, my DS is just a giant PITA. No wonder I'm so stressed! Thankfully, he is very cute and funny, too, or I might auction him off on eBay.
Posted by: Platypus101

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 08:39 AM

Originally Posted By: eco21268
the truth is, my DS is just a giant PITA. No wonder I'm so stressed! Thankfully, he is very cute and funny, too, or I might auction him off on eBay.

Oh yes, YES. But let's face the real truth - that complex mind and intensity add up an exasperating, exhausting, gruelling, fascinating, intriguing, utterly extraordinary being, and even when you're tearing your hair out, it's impossible imagine living in this world without being able to see those astounding glimpses of what it looks like through his eyes.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 08:46 AM

Originally Posted By: Platypus101

Oh yes, YES. But let's face the real truth - that complex mind and intensity add up an exasperating, exhausting, gruelling, fascinating, intriguing, utterly extraordinary being, and even when you're tearing your hair out, it's impossible imagine living in this world without being able to see those astounding glimpses of what it looks like through his eyes.


<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Important to remember!
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 08:47 AM

Good luck making it through the rest of the year. Hugs.. Sounds like you are getting a lot of good advice. I've been there and I think you just have to take it one day at a time.

I know what you mean about doing badly in one class affecting the others. This happened to DS freshman year. He was really only having problems with 2 of his classes, but his anxiety & depression of the whole thing bled into the rest of his classes. And then lowered the grades in subjects he finds easy like math because he suddenly wasn't doing the homework for them either.

As to IF these grades affect college probably not. My DS's high school, junior high grades are not on the transcript even if they hare H.S. classes. (Only affects foreign language & math classes) I only know of one university that look at grades in any class taken before 9th grade, and they only look at H.S. math taken in 7th & 8th. (And it's self reported) And most of my state universities only look at grades 10th grade and older.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 08:57 AM

Do you know if that is a usual kind of policy, only looking at late high school grades?

The thing about DS' high school is that it's an IB school, and there are so many kids with near perfect GPAs that it would be very hard to be a top of the class student. I just can't make myself care about that right now!

I keep assuring him that he WILL go to college, that it's catastrophic thinking to believe he won't, reminding him that there are tons and tons of smart kids who wouldn't make it into his program in the first place and will go on to succeed.

He really did seem much better today. He's acting mad at me that I'm "making" him do this, but I think maybe he is a little relieved.
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 09:21 AM

What grades colleges/universities look at really really varies as to the type of school. I can only write about what I know..

California public universities (both the Cal State & University system) only consider 10th grade grades and up for their GPA. (With one notable exception, and that's a school DS is interested in.) Although they do require proof that students have passed C or better a certain set of classes, some which are taken freshman year. For example freshman English, or Social Studies.

I do know that some other public universities do this as well but I can't tell you which ones. I don't even know if the out-of-state school DS is looking at cares about freshman grades and we forgot to ask when we were looking at these schools. Because this is standard for our state, a 10th-12th academic GPA it's built into our transcripts.

Private, small LA universities usually do look at all H.S. grades. But as they are often more holistic towards their grading they often will reward growth. Ie, will take into account students who struggle as freshman in H.S. but have a excellent GPA by junior year.

Edited to add: Googling it it looks like California State (and University) Schools make up the large number of schools that don't look at freshman grades. So while it's something commonly talked about in CA, it's not true through the rest of the county.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 10:08 AM

Originally Posted By: bluemagic
Googling it it looks like California State (and University) Schools make up the large number of schools that don't look at freshman grades. So while it's something commonly talked about in CA, it's not true through the rest of the county.


Since one of DS mega dramas is that he will NEVER get out of this "hellhole" (meaning the midwest) now that he already has a bad HS GPA--and he's always said he wants to head west--that's not bad news.

I think Stanford is probably not going to happen, though. :P
Posted by: stemfun

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 10:26 AM

Eco you already lots of great suggestions from others, I will echo the need to scaffold and support him through all this at the moment. This is essential so he doesn't shut down completely, after that you can talk to him about ongoing strategies he can use in future to avoid so much work piling up.

He is only in junior high, so I think Stanford should still be a possibility for him :-)
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 10:40 AM

Oddly Standford according to one source Stanford one of the few schools that doesn't require freshman grades. But it's probably true Standford's unlikely. Given how low Stanford's acceptance rate is these days.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 11:03 AM

I think any competitive school is unlikely, unless DS suddenly makes a few gigantic developmental leaps. He refuses to participate in any club, extracurricular, or sport and I don't have the energy to force the issue. Between his organizational problems and my own...I can't make the EFfort.<--!

(I think there's a chance he might be more risk-taking if he weren't so exhausted from school in the first place.)

I probably should take all of this college prep stuff more seriously, but I just can't get excited about it. Watching my DD11 who is completely involved in all aspects of school, signs herself up (ugh!) for every possible competition and activity

(I actually tried to REFUSE to allow her to do the spelling bee--but we ended up compromising with "I'm not helping you study" (mom of the year again)),

I've come away with a strong hunch that there's not a lot to be gained by trying to force DS to be anyone but himself. This stuff seems to be so related to temperament.

That went a little OT, huh? smile
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 11:12 AM

Originally Posted By: eco21268
I've come away with a strong hunch that there's not a lot to be gained by trying to force DS to be anyone but himself. This stuff seems to be so related to temperament.


Try to embrace the truth that he wouldn't be happy at any school that wanted him to be someone other than himself. He will find his tribe eventually.
Posted by: bluemagic

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 12:17 PM

Originally Posted By: eco21268
I think any competitive school is unlikely, unless DS suddenly makes a few gigantic developmental leaps. He refuses to participate in any club, extracurricular, or sport and I don't have the energy to force the issue. Between his organizational problems and my own...I can't make the EFfort.<--!
My son was that way in junior high as well. Well except for band which was a class. I think he always liked band because it was a very well defined group activity where you new your role.

Band has led him in directions I wouldn't expect and kept him busy and given him a tribe in H.S. I got a lot of grief from junior high counselors because DS wouldn't get involved in any extra-curricular activities. But I refused to push and I think it was the right thing for him at the time. And now that DS is 17 year old junior I am happy with the amount of activities he has. He's only in a few activities but the ones he is in keep him busy & he's been involved for many years. He has enough to have something to put on his college apps. And one of them was something I wouldn't have every expected in junior high, that will give him a story to tell on his college apps.

Good Luck. When the next few weeks are over you will need to evaluate what is the best place for him next year. Does he go to H.S.?
Posted by: Tigerle

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 12:30 PM

You know, he sounds like an amazing kid, and you sound about as exhausted as any special needs mom on the planet. Hugs.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 12:45 PM

bluemagic: he is in a hybrid gifted program and will have five high school credits at the end of this year if he passes everything. Potentially, he'd earn seven more next year, so he'd start ninth grade (in 2017) with twelve. They have to have 24 to graduate but those 24 are strictly categorized.

This works really well for kids who want to take all the advanced classes and still have time for electives.

I'm telling him--you have to finish the year because I want you to have options and not regrets. If he decides he doesn't want to go to eighth grade in this program, I am okay with that (I guess!) but I think we'll need to do virtual part-time homeschool, just to keep his math skills fresh and maybe to provide some structure. He will have covered the MS CA and history curriculum by the end of this year--it's compacted and accelerated.

Oh yeah, he is in Band! I didn't realize that counts. smile

Tigerle: yup, I'm tired! This board is like a lifeboat. He really is a great kid, just incredibly high-maintenance at certain interludes. The rest of the time he's easy and doesn't require much attention.
Posted by: AvoCado

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 02:39 PM

We've been through similar and come out the other end smile DD is very happy at university now - which is much more of a 'follow your passions' and 'find your tribe' situation than at high school. Looking back (20:20 hindsight etc) I wish I'd done more handholding, and fewer lectures about fitting in with the system, fwiw. So hard when they're annoying, sulky, closed off teens though. Trying to fix those mistakes with the next DD (but probably making different ones!)
Posted by: FruityDragons

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/04/16 05:04 PM

I have no idea if this will help or not, but I'll just throw it out there:

Is it going to school/class itself that's making him anxious and wanting to leave? And if so, could you possibly say (on a limited basis, of course) that, okay, you're just going to take a step back and leave school -- but work on a project for that or another class instead? Maybe that way he'd be able to avoid the extra anxiety over class before it gets to a meltdown, if he can only handle half a day AT school, and at the same time get things done.
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/05/16 06:34 AM

FruityDragons: yes, it seems like part of it is the actual "going to school" piece, but not because of social anxiety, per se. He likes the social part of school. What he doesn't seem to be able to handle is spending a whole day at school and then doing work at home. When he's in good shape, he can complete most of his assignments at school. When he isn't, I'm not sure what he does all day except goofing off and spacing out. Then he has more work to do at home...becomes more overwhelmed...not a good system.

Yesterday, I kept him home for his first class and he finished the work for that class in a very short time. He is pretty fast when he's not exhausted.

I think school sucks all of his energy and there's nothing left for home. He just wants to be alone. I can relate to this--he and I are both pretty low-energy and I could never go to work all day and then continue to do THAT sort of work at night.
Posted by: ConnectingDots

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/05/16 08:05 AM

Originally Posted By: eco21268


I think school sucks all of his energy and there's nothing left for home. He just wants to be alone. I can relate to this--he and I are both pretty low-energy and I could never go to work all day and then continue to do THAT sort of work at night.



First, I think that you are doing a fabulous job of figuring out how to support him and help him through this situation. Even without 2E struggles, I remember very well moments of panic where my mom stepped in and helped me understand how to get through school crunches. Much appreciated in hindsight. smile

I think you have stumbled upon a big problem with homework/projects for some students. The energy and learning required during the day leaves so little for the large workloads now expected at night (which seem so much larger than anything I remember as a student). By contrast, in college, the actual class hours are far fewer (given a reasonable course load) and leave time for studying and projects. That may be a vision that gives him hope!
Posted by: eco21268

Re: Kid flaming out. Anyone been through this? - 05/05/16 08:18 AM

ConnectingDots: we discussed that yesterday, in fact...the part about college being a different environment altogether.

I don't think looking down the road five years was very persuasive for DS, though, since he isn't sure he can make it through another week.