My 15 year old son is bright, but failing at school. Could it be ADD?

Chris - posted on 03/23/2011 ( 24 moms have responded )

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Hi, i'm new to this group, but I've been reading a lot of posts and there is a lot of good information here. I'm hoping someone has some advice for me.

My 15 year old son has always tested high and is very bright, social and easy going. With all that said, he is doing terrible in school. He's a freshman in highschool, but this has been going on since middle school. His main problem seems to be lack of organization and focus. His teachers all say the same thing...He's not living up to his potential, he doesn't turn in homework, he doesn't pay attention in class, he doesn't do well on tests, etc. We've tried to stress organizational skills, we've removed distractions such as facebook, we've grounded him...all to no avail.

I finally spoke to his pediatrician about it, thinking it might be ADD. She gave us some surveys for his teachers to fill out and based on them she says he's seems to fit the description for ADD (not ADHD).

When I looked at posts at this site of Mom's with kids with ADD and ADHD, I'm not seeing similarities to my son. He doesn't have the behavior, anger and aggression issues that so many of those kids have. Is this just typical teen stuff or do we put him on medication? I've always resisted the idea but I'm feeling all this pressure to help him out. I've spoken to people that have put their kids on meds and for the most part the only thing they say is that they wish they had started sooner.

He really wants to do well in school and has dreams of college. You all know the pressure these kids are under to do well in high school. I just want to help his as much as I can. Is medication the right solution???

Thanks for your help!

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Tiffany - posted on 03/23/2011

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You said that your son had always "tested high". How high? The reason I ask is that schools often make the mistake of hanging an ADD label on gifted kids who are bored and distracted in mainstream classrooms. It may be that school simply isn't holding your son's attention.

Jennifer - posted on 03/23/2011

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Your son may have ADD, and he may be gifted, but he may also have a learning disability. I have all three. :)
I suggest you advocate for more extensive testing for your son before settling on an ADD diagnosis. Sometimes they will settle on one diagnosis too quickly and miss other underlying issues.

Paige - posted on 01/09/2013

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Oh my gosh! I could have written your question! I have a 14 yr. old boy, freshman as well. I am so confused, frustrated and concerned about him. He is incredibly bright, but same thing, doesn't turn in homework, doesn't even know what some of the homework is, doesn't pay attention, completely unorganized. He seems so lost! I ask him "why did you get a bad grade on whatever", and he says " I thought I knew what to do, and when I turned it in, I did it wrong". I feel so bad for him. He is just missing information and can't keep up. And getting further and further behind. He is also really low energy. Definitely not the hyper ADD lol!. And not aggressive at all! I am in the process of getting the teachers to fill out the surveys. My husband has ADD attentive, so there is a good chance he has it as well. My husband was just recently diagnosed and started taking meds and said life is so much easier to manage. He is very happy to finally be able to focus and wishes he had started earlier in his life. It's just hard to decide to medicate my child. I love him so much and just want to help him succeed and feel good about himself.

Sherry - posted on 04/26/2011

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He might be just an underachiever. Before you diagnose him with ADD, read this book: Empowering Underachievers, Peter A. Spevak and Maryann Karinch

Jane - posted on 03/25/2011

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The son of a friend had a similar problem. It turned out to be 1) girls, 2) he saw no use for school because he wants to be a professional dancer, and 3) he was bright and bored. She pulled him out of school and enrolled him in a home-school academy, a type of guided homeschooling. He graduated early with high scores and at 17 got a full-time job with a ballet company.



And as others say, ADD doesn't always come linked with anger and aggression. It can be by itself or linked with a variety of other conditions. At his age you could agree to let him try Ritalin (it wears off quickly) and see if it makes a difference. If he is ADD it should be night and day. If he doesn't show a huge difference then he does not have ADD. You should then have him tested for other possibilities, including boredom, allergies, and learning disabilities.

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Jessica - posted on 01/18/2013

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Maybe he had the same problem I had. I always tested as very intelligent and did extraordinarily well in grade school, but once I hit middle school everything went downhill. I know my high school was a terrible school, the curriculum was so far behind most high schools, they lacked electives and extra-curriculars (aside from sports), and they focused more on rehashing lessons from previous years than actually teaching us something new. It made me horribly depressed.

Whether or not your son has a disorder, something is triggering the problem. Look outside of him and examine the school itself, ask him about what's giving him a hard time at school. Try to figure out the root cause of the problem, because it's environments that trigger things like this.

It could be him trying to fit into new social circles too. A lot of kids will dumb themselves down to fit in with other social groups that might otherwise reject people who present themselves as smarter than average.

[deleted account]

I think we have your son's twin. Same age, same issues, exact same story. Both my husband and older son have ADHD but recent neuro tests suggest this one to be more ADD, also with high intelligence. From previous bad experiences with ADD meds, trying to stay away from that. Meeting with a team of school administrators this Friday to discuss options. So very frustrating and he is so discouraged and hopeless. It has been a fight to even get what we believed was a good school to address the situation, but after bypassing counselors and going up the ladder, he's hopefully finally getting the attention he deserves, if only in time for next year. Just trying to get algebra passed in the last month of school.

Jennifer - posted on 04/10/2011

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I have to agree with Annette, because he is 15, drug use should be ruled out. We never want to think our kids are doing that (and maybe yours isn't), but it can happen in any family.

Annette - posted on 04/09/2011

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this is going to sound bad.. but, have you drug tested him... kids dont usually go thru such a big change unless something huge is happening...ie.. divorce.. move away from friends (depression), drug or alcohal use.. etc.
you can reach me at binkxth@yahoo.com

Michelle - posted on 04/04/2011

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When I read this & I see my son to a T!! When my son was in middle school, he wouldnt bring home any work, put his head down in school and just didnt care about school at all. So when he got into high school the damage was already done. He failed his first year and and I took him to counseling to see what we could do to motivate him. They diagnosed him with ADD and of course wanted to put him on drugs - I just couldnt do that so I started looking for a natural alternative. I came across Low energy Neurofeedback system (LENS) it is a system that helps to train the brain to help balance central nervous system functions and work with the body to improve attention, awareness focus and concentration. (I took that part out of the brochure)

We started this program over the summer last year and the improvements in my son are just great. He is passing classes and is more attentive and seems to really want to graduate. The program is different for everyone. Some people might have to go longer than others, my son went for 23 sessions and it worked for him. I would recommend this to anyone for ADD/ADHD. The only problem is that insurance will not cover it! There was a program here in Michigan that was a free program that I happen to find. Just google Neurofeedback and see what you can find it in your area. Good Luck - it will get better, they just have to get thru this tough part and see that there is a light at the end! :o)

Michelle

Davida - posted on 04/01/2011

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My 16 year old had the same problem since she was in 1st grade. This year has been a lot better n I think it use because of a program called JROTC it is a military program that they have in a lot of high schools and she wants to get a job this summer but she has to pass with at least C's. I think those two incentives have helped her a lot. I do still have to get after sometimes but that is with every teenager.I have never tried the less on her n she has ADD and is dislexic I just had to find what she really really wanted. I hope this helps!

Davida - posted on 04/01/2011

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My 16 year old had the same problem since she was in 1st grade. This year has been a lot better n I think it use because of a program called JROTC it is a military program that they have in a lot of high schools and she wants to get a job this summer but she has to pass with at least C's. I think those two incentives have helped her a lot. I do still have to get after sometimes but that is with every teenager.I have never tried the meds on her n she has ADD and is dislexic I just had to find what she really really wanted. I hope this helps!

Juanita - posted on 03/30/2011

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Well I have 3 children with adhd and let me tell you this all three of them have these symptoms. I have tried counsling and no medication. then I also have tried medication. I must say if medicine helps it takes alot of stress off the child and helps their self esteem. Children with adha and add are very frustrated inside and want to be normal. They feel different then the other children. Please don't give up on them and try what you feel in your heart i right. You and your child are not failing if you need medicne. Hang in there

Beth - posted on 03/30/2011

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Cheri,
Your daughter does not sound like she has ADD. I think you should take her to another therapist and get another opinion. You say she is social, never angry, sweet, but just forgetful, etc. She could have several different things going on other than ADD, anything from social anxiety, general anxiety, which really would fit with the forgetfulness, or she may be not actually forgetting to turn in her homework, since she is completing the assignments, but she may be having anxiety when it comes to turning it in, fear of it 'not being good enough'. Your daughter is at a prime age for this, and I have seen many teens with anxiety disorders who with proper therapy (not drug treatment most of the time, just talk) come out of it just fine. Girls especially are under a lot of pressure just on their own to please, and they can work themselves up into thinking that they are being held to unrealistic standards, and can then create an opposite effect. This is why at this age the girl who used to be so pretty will all of a sudden quit caring about her looks and dye her hair black and wear horrible clothing and look like some homeless kid you don't recognize anymore, or the child who was always on the honor roll decides that they are not good enough, and so afraid of failure they make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, and end up with C's and D's...I swear to you this will pass, with some help from a good therapist and with you and her dad being understanding. Teenagers are strange creatures, they say and do things that make you want to either cry or strangle them...and nothing makes any sense or has any logic or reason to us adults, but to them it's all sane and we're the idiots. Just pray and keep a good amount of holy water on hand!!! Good luck! It will get better about her junior year of college! LOL

Cheri - posted on 03/27/2011

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My daughter is 15, she is a freshman in high school. She das ADD. She was diagnosed in 4th grade. We tried the medicine and it didn't work for her so we took her off of it. My daughter is very sweet, social, never angry, but very forgetful, freezes at tests, forgets her homework, etc. Everyday, I need to remind her about her homework or to turn in work. I have to say she failed her first semester of math for not turning in her homework, she has to take an after school class 5hours a week til the end of school to make up the credits. A lesson learned this semester in math she is getting a c.

Beth - posted on 03/26/2011

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Oh, and one more thing...not every kid that doesn't do their best in school has ADD or ADHD, some have just grown bored, are being influenced by a crowd that doesn't see good grades as 'cool', or he may be having girlfriend problems. Too many kids are being labeled ADD and ADHD, and it's a lot of hooey. A child who REALLY has these issues will present them at a young age, not in the mid teens.

And before you all try to burn me at the stake, I do know what I'm talking about, as I am taking boards for my PhD in Psychology, and have studied this extensively.

Beth - posted on 03/26/2011

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Your son sounds very much like the kids my daughter was friends with at that age. They were all extremely bright, and extremely BORED!!!!! School has been dumbed down to accommodate the least intelligent in the class, so he is left with nothing to do but either cause trouble or find something else to concentrate on or go nuts. Combine that with hormones, girls, the availablility of drugs and other not so legal activities, and you run the risk of having a son you're going to want to lock in a closet. I suggest since he is testing high, enroll him in a local community college in a night class or two, in some subject he has a interest in, even if it is welding, something has to keep him interested and his mind working. It wouldn't be a bad idea to see if he could get a head start on college by taking some transferable classes. like his English requirements or Calculus, Chemistry, or Microbiology. Being around older students will hopefully motivate him and increase his self-esteem as well, and he will want to show that he can excell in the high school courses to prove he is worthy of the college classes. I did this, as did my daughter, and it did keep me out of quite a bit of trouble. I certainly was no angel, and neither was my daughter, but I would have been a lot worse if my attention hadn't been redirected. Keep him off of the video games and onto constructive things. Kids who play excessively violent video games have been proven to be entirely more violent to their peers, as well as in their relationships with girlfriends and boyfriends. The thing most important is to get him involved in constructive activities that will pay off in the future. Dont' let him mess up his future before he even has a chance to begin it.

Nat - posted on 03/25/2011

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Your description sounds very similar to mine. My son is 16 and just diagnosed with Aspergers but it started in 6th grade. I'm in Cary - would love to chat.

Andrea - posted on 03/25/2011

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well ima tell you the behabior issurs anger and aggression do not always come with it ... my son has ADHD... he is 10 now and it is no just up to the teachers to look at him you have to see a dr who specializes in this particular problem... but after 2-3 yrs of seeing a special dr(counsling) i finaly had no chioce but to put my son on med... because he was just TO TO hyper... but with your son it sounds like what my daughter wnt thru... when other kids started finding out she was very smart, she started not doing her work, wouldnt turn it in, goof off in class, fail tests , on purpose. becuase kids were calling her a nerd... and she wanted to fit in. and since every one else was failing... she wanted to also... so i took away the one thing she held dear... going out of town... to see her dad...(mean?yes!) but it worked... she staightened up got back on track and then even became a tutor for the kids who were failing... so before you go to meds... do counsling... see whats going on first... i hate the fact that my son is on meds... he will do great just keep telling him that and he can go to college still and do good there to... he just might need a little more help with organiztion . doing the same over and over.. liike i do with my son he get s up, eats, meds, lay cloths out,brushes teeth, put deodorant on, gets dressed, does hair, ect... and when he comes home he can relaxe while have a quick snack and then it to the table to do homeowork and if he finishes he can relax and read a book until dinner. ect.detailed this is everyday... if it is changed even one thing his whole day is off... maybe you can start off with a pocket organizer for him to write in... the only time i let my son watch tv or on the computer is saturday. maybe that will help. well hope this helps :-)

Camail - posted on 03/25/2011

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I know what you are going through. I had a similar problem with my son, who is now 17 years old. It took me a couple of years to figure out what was wrong. What I found was that he was not comfortable in his school environment. I also had to for several months after transfering him to another school, get involve in the activities of the school, visit him sometimes at school and most importantly I had to sit with him everyting evening, go through his books to ensure that he was doing his work at school and help him with his homework. We just got through this a year ago. I wish you all the best for you and your son. Don't worry he won't let your efforts go in vain.

Chris - posted on 03/23/2011

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Sounds like you know a lot about it. None of his teachers up to this point have ever suggested he's gifted. He's always taken higher level classes but this year his grades have really tanked. we have an appointment with his pediatrician tomorrow, so I'll update you after that conversation!

Tiffany - posted on 03/23/2011

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Hm...so as a freshman he's scoring higher than 80-90% of college-bound high school juniors on a test that covers subjects typically covered during ninth and tenth grade? It sounds to me like you might be selling him a little short. It's not at all unusual for strong math students to score lower on the ACT math section than expected, because timing is so critical. The test isn't really about math so much as problem solving, and so a student who tries to go through the full calculations he would in math class on every problem probably won't finish. In addition, about half the test is geometry and trig, which most freshman haven't yet had, or at least haven't completed.

Chris - posted on 03/23/2011

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Like I said, he's bright but I wouldn't call him gifted. He took an ACT test at the beginning of the school year. He scored in the 90th % in Reading, 83rd % in Science and surprisingly in the 63rd % in Math. I was surprised by the math score because in years past he's always scored in the 90th % in math. Anyway, as I said, not gifted, but shouldn't be a C/D student either.

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