Hello moms, I am looking for answers to help my 16 year old son who is having problems in school and at home. He is failing almost all of his classes but not due to him not doing his work. He is unorganized and can't remember one minute to the next. Let us just say that he moves very slow and gets stressed very easy. I think he is failing his tests because he forgets everything he's just learned prior to the test. He already has an IEP in two of his classes and gets extra help. He stays after school for one on one help also but he is still failing. I have done everything I can think of to try and help. I have gone to the school and have had countless meetings with the teachers. In the past .....doctor after doctor since he was little. ADD, ADHD, medications......you name it....I've done it. He feels so bad about himself because of his grades. There is something off about him the doctors would say. When he was 9 years old the doctor I paid $900 to help us said he has the vocabulary of a high school student and could read Lord of the Rings in 4th grade. He knows everything there is to know about history and much more but he can't remember things so simple. For example: He is a liver transplant patient and takes life saving medication everyday. I will ask him, Jordan did you take your meds today? He'll say, I don't remember. I will say Jordan you've only been up this morning for 10 min. You don't know if you took medicine or not? And he really doesn't remember. I had to buy an a.m. and p.m. box to help make sure he's taking it when he should. Don't get me wrong, my life is my son. I have been handing him his pills since transplant because life does depend on it but he is 16 now and I am trying to make him have medicine his first thought of the day but if I didn't follow him around and ask questions, he would forget even though he's been taking it for 12 years. He does homework and forgets to hand it in. I will have to tell him like he 5...... don't forget to hand in your work today, and he will forget. He was born 3 months premature but doctors say it has nothing to do with these things. Family members say I treat him like a baby. Really? If your child forgets to take life saving medication would you or would you not follow your child around. Until he is grown and out on his own my mission will always be to make sure he's ok. My son only had 24 hrs to live, they called the priest and told me he wouldn't be alive by morning. He got a matching donor that morning at 3 am. Life has been hard for him to say the least. I want him to get the best education but I don't know how to help and have reached out to every resource I know. So this child reads better than myself and knows more about history thanI do, is a wizard with a computer but can't remember one minute to the next. Any thoughts.......

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Cheryl - posted on 01/09/2013

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Really, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to send such knowledge and kind words our way.
I have a good feeling about tomorrow's meeting at the school.

Thanks again,
Cheryl

Rebekah - posted on 01/09/2013

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From all you've said, you've had your son's interests at the forefront... please don't heap unreasonable guilt upon yourself... we do the best we can with what we know at the time. You had a unique situation and got conflicting direction from the experts... anyone would be a bit overwhelmed with what approach to take. A mother instinctively helps her child, and I can only imagine the pull is greater when there is a serious, chronic medical issue at hand. Please liberate yourself from any unreasonable expectations you've put on yourself, or any "should have/would have/could have." In hindsight we always see things with more perspective, but we only get that perspective for having gone through it. We are human, and we can't possibly do everything right. Being self-critical because of that is not being fair to yourself and takes away from your strength. I think if you are doing it with the right intention and seeking guidance however you can (and you've been doing that), what more can you ask of yourself? If you see any errors that need changing, then acknowledge it and move on to make that change.

More important is what you can do now with the knowledge you have. Good luck in meeting with the school. You both might benefit from a behavior specialist who could help work with him in increasing his independence and change some of the dynamic that is happening between you. Empower him more, and allow you to be in a more supportive role. Blessings to you and your son....and good health!

Cheryl - posted on 01/09/2013

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Thank you so much for all the support, information, and great tips. I plan on putting some of these things into place tonight. Sometimes I think the problem is me. After his liver transplant the liver coordinator gave me some great advise by saying, Don't use his transplant as a crutch to make him think he is so different from the other kids, Don't baby him and not use discipline because he has a cronic illness. I tried so hard to follow her advice but on the other side I had doctors telling me he needs to practically live in a bubble and if a second transplant was needed ...... Well let's just say that liver are not easy to come by. Is this my fault? I still lay his clothes out for him in the morning because I know he would not remember the last outfit he had on or even what color it was. I have tried to give more responsibilities, it just never works out. I am overwhelmed with guilt. Tomorrow is back to the school to talk to another team about Jordan's IEP in school and on the hunt for help yet again. When I told the teachers his medical history, the entire table had tears in their eyes. I won't even begin to tell his story but I will tell you that it was on every news channel. My son is currently looking for his donors parents on u tube to thank them for life and express his sadness for the lose of their 19 year old daughter. Thanks for listening and for wonderful advice.

Rebekah - posted on 01/09/2013

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Was he diagnosed with any memory issues? You'd mentioned you've been to doctors. Have you gone to any specialists? Neurologists? Is he still taking meds for ADD? If that is part of the issue, perhaps that needs to be looked at (different medication, different dosage, etc). Do you think he might have depression, which may be causing him to be distracted or unmotivated to turn in work or take care of himself?

I hear your worry... I agree that he needs to be striving towards learning to be more independent with both his daily medication and his school work. The question is, how to get there, and what is impeding his success.

Nobody here can diagnose him, but just based on what you said, I would return to the teachers and school psychologist (yes, again) and have the IEP looked at to see if its really serving him, or if its been a few years since he's been evaluated, have him re-evaluated to see what they can determine about his memory and attention issues,....and to see if there are any emotional components that are at play. He is headed for adulthood, so you definitely need some clarity about what assistance he needs (do teachers need to prompt him specifically to turn his work in? Does the school counselor need to be more proactive to help him monitor his responsibilities at school?), and determine at at what point he can take more responsibility himself (has he learned to be dependent to some degree), versus things he can't control and needs to learn how to adapt.

Can he use his computer savvy to help organize himself? Electronic reminders, for both taking his pills, and for turning in work? If he does have a disability with his memory, he is going to have to learn some adaptive skills so that he can function more independently as an adult, which is just around the corner. There must be someone in the special ed department at his school who can give some insight into that.

Find out what motivates him...what does he want for himself? A career in computers? More independence? More self-confidence? Try to enlist his initiative to help solve what the problem is. I'm sure he is discouraged by his struggles...sounds like he's had a hard road to travel. But help is out there too...it just sounds like you may not have all the information you need. With his age, he will also need to learn to self-advocate. If he is an employment situation, he will need to be able to articulate what he needs in order to do his job successfully. He won't always have you leading the way. You are fighting for your son...and that's what moms need to do! Hopefully he can take up the battle for himself when he needs to. Give him the tools and reason to do that.

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Your description of your son could have been a description for me at his age! I have ADD (Non-hyperactive attention deficit disorder), which sounds exactly like what your son is dealing with, and medication didn't help me either. I also take a life saving medication everyday, and unless I physically mark it off on my list, I will have no idea whether I took it or not unless you are asking me literally as I am putting it in my mouth.

I don't have tips for being a mother dealing with a son going through this, but I can share with you some things that I do myself so that I can live independently. I hope this helps, I know how stressful this can be.

FIRST: TO DO LISTS
To Do Lists are my God send. I have them all over the house for specific parts of my day. What I did was I took a pretty picture frame (most are the 8x10 size--use cheap ones) and a pretty piece of paper the same size. On the piece of paper, I wrote everything I needed to do in that area every day. Then when I put it in the frame, I can cross things out or check them off as I do them with a dry erase marker, so I know where I am for the day.

For example, the one that hangs by my bathroom mirror says:
Shower
Brush Teeth
Take Pills
Deodorant
Face Cream
Make Up
Comb Hair
Pick up Laundry
Get Dressed
Now, I can remember to do a lot of those things, and I can look at myself and know whether I did them or not, but having the list helps me stay focused, and doing everything in the same order makes it a routine and cuts out a lot of the "what do I need to do" moments where my mind is at a very high risk of getting distracted and unorganized--which stresses me out. Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you came in there for? It's annoying right? Imagine living your entire life like that--THAT's annoying. I promise, he's doing the best he can. Try not to get frustrated.

I have lists like that throughout my home--there's one in the kitchen for our morning tasks (making lunches, checking homework, etc), and there's one in every room for cleaning.

SECOND: LABELS
I label EVERYTHING and I label where it goes. Is your son's room messy? Label where his things go. Here is a little thing about my brain (& probably his too), if I see a pile of stuff in the floor and a wall of empty shelves, i will freak out a little and be over whelmed because I won't know where to put stuff. I know that sounds stupid--you're thinking, just put it on the shelves!!!--but I can't. Well, I can, but it will take me all day figuring out the best places to put everything, rearranging, and worrying and fretting. I go through this every time I unpack my groceries. But I labeled my pantry and my fridge--I have a specific label for things I buy all the time, like soup, bread, apples, bananas, cold veggies, freezer entrees, freezer sides, etc., and a space in each place (Pantry, fridge, and freezer) to put stuff that I don't usually keep on hand, like stuff I bought for a specific dish.

Organize his room in the same fashion. Label the place on his bookshelves where his models go, label the space for books, label the space for music, etc. Label the insides of his drawers with the type of clothing that goes there (I have a drawer for short sleeved shirts, one for jeans, etc.,--otherwise it's the whole grocery nightmare again when i try to put away my laundry!)

THIRD: DROP SPACE
I have a little table by my door where I put my sunglasses, purse, keys, mail, etc, when I come into my house. I call it my drop space. There is a hook for my purse & keys, a little basket for my sunglasses, and file folder on the wall for mail, a few pens and post-it notes, and a space underneith where I kick my shoes off (I hate wearing shoes and take them off when I notice them, thus they end up all over the house and I can't find them when I need them and trip over them all the time, but having that space visually reminds me to kick them off, and I can find them later!). Hanging right beside my purse hook is my little picture frame with my checklist of things I need before leaving the house, including a reminder (AT THE BOTTOM!!) to think about where I'm going and whether I need anything special, like gym bag, a bag of stuff to give to a friend, a birthday gift, etc. (make sure the reminder is at the bottom for AFTER he's got the basics or he'll forget a basic thing)
I don't physically cross these off the list, but I do look at the list and make sure I have everything I need.
My son has his own Drop Space as well--he may not need one when he grows up, but right now he's little and I am responsible for making sure he has everything he needs, so he has one mostly for my own benefit. His has hooks for his Taekwodo bag, Book bag, Baseball bag, and coat. below that is a basket for hat & gloves, and a space for his shoes. Above the hooks is a little wall file where he puts his communication folder and homework agenda, and a little shelf with pens where I go through the folder, check his homework (once it's done) and sign any papers that need to be signed.There is also a checklist for him. (I also have checklists for his taekwondo bag, book bag, and baseball bags to make sure they are stocked with what he needs for each bag--these are printed on index cards and placed in transparent luggage tags attached to the bag.

These are the things that help me survive and be less stressed out. I know it sounds like a ton of work putting up a bunch of lists and labeling your house, but I promise if you spend one day doing all of this your life and his will be SO much easier and less stressful. Buy a few extra frames and paper for your lists, if you can, because as you start using this system, you will see more areas in your home where a list would be helpful or labels would be helpful. You will also find places where you put a list that you don't really need one, and you can take those down and reuse them somewhere else if you like.

I know it sounds tacky too--having lists all over the place--but you can make them really cute. Go to a craft store and pick paper that matches your decor and very simple, inexpensive frames (I like white ones) that don't draw attention to them, and they will blend right in. I attach my dry erase markers with a pretty string--tie one end around the marker & the other around the nail you hang the frame on.

I hope this helps. It's great that he knows he has this problem early. I wasn't diagnosed until I was his age, thus spent my childhood just thinking I was stupid, when in fact, I'm actually very smart. You mentioned that your son reads on a high level and loves higher learning, but the mundane day to day stuff just doesn't stick. I will come back later and write about how to help him study. I don't have time right now, but it is important and I want to help. I am pretty sure I can help there too.

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