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Homeschooling a multi-syndrome child

  1. Atheist Classical profile image61
    Atheist Classicalposted 7 years ago

    I know a lot of kids like this are homeschooled, and I have seen resources, but I am struggling with my step-son.  He has severe ADHD and ODD, is bi-polar, and also has Aspergers.  He's been in a private school placement for several years, and his attitude and performance have just gotten worse and worse.  Recently, he was refusing to go to classes and getting in to fights. I've been homeschooling my own 2 kids for some time, and now my stepson has been at home with us for a week.  I'm trying to figure out:

    - What can he do when I'm working one-on-one with my kids?  He does not read or work independently at all. 

    - What should he be spending his time on during this deschooling period? 

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Specialk3749 profile image60
      Specialk3749posted 7 years ago in reply to this

      I homeschool, but I haven't had to homeschool one with special needs.  I believe that I have seen that Homeschool Legal Defense has a good resource for special needs children. Try looking through their site to see, it is www.hsld.org  Hope this helps!

  2. Lisa HW profile image83
    Lisa HWposted 7 years ago

    This is something that a good (emphasis on "good") professional should really advise you on; and if you haven't found a professional who seems to have some real guidance then maybe looking for another one would be the way to go.  (This post turned out to be extremely long, but I'm posting it anyway; because it's such a serious subject.)

    Having said that, and being aware that I'm only stabbing in the dark and don't know your/his situation, the following thoughts occurred to me when I read this thread:

    Children with ADHD usually need more structure/guidance in their activities; and I can't help but think a class setting aimed at children with ADHD specifically is better than a "mixed situation", where all the children have different needs.  In other words, I would worry that it's too much to expect him to (for lack of more appropriate words) keep himself busy while you're teaching the other children.  Also, I wonder if your trying to teach him might be too much for you.  There's only so much one person can deal with; and dealing with a child with so many issues could really be expecting too much of you, especially since you're trying to teach other children too.

    Since you say you're his step-parent, I'm wondering if you're his step-mother and where is mother is.  Even when mothers aren't "the greatest" children are often so attached to their mothers they don't function or behave well if they're separated from them.  Whether it's their mother or father, kids who love their parents can start out longing to be with them and then get angry when they can't be.  I knew someone who took in foster children, and she was very good to them.  Still, there were several who were diagnosed with mental health conditions when, upon closer look and better understanding of the child, one might wonder if the diagnoses were made to hastily.

    A child who is brought to a professional by one parent or another (or by someone like a social worker) can't/won't always put into words what it is that's making him act one way or another.  They often don't understand it themselves.  The well intended adults in the situation often have no idea, so they can't offer the professional anything to go on.  As a result, a diagnosis can be made based on the behavior (symptoms), rather than on truly understanding the root of the problem.  Children may not know why they behave in a certain way, but they often know that adults don't seem understand their unhappiness.  As time goes on, they feel more and more neglected and misunderstood and see no reason to behave well and/or just keep getting angrier and angrier (which can mean acting up/acting out).

    I knew one little boy who absolutely showed no signs of any ADD/ADHD until he was separated from his young mother and her mother and had to go live with his young father and his father's parents.  He was a calm little boy who was just like most other preschoolers I've ever known.  Shortly after the father brought him to live with him the little boy, who had barely known his father and who, naturally, loved his mother and grandmother, was diagnosed with ADHD, put on medication, and put in a program.  This all took place within what would have pretty much amount to a "grieving period" after being separated from the only two people he'd been bonded with.  None of us can concentrate when we're grieving; but this father thought so little of the mother I don't think he realized that, to her child, losing her was losing someone he treasured and losing, essentially, the only family he knew. 

    A social worker once told me how common it is for boys to be angry when divorce occurs, and that isn't even considering any other negative factors in a child's life.  Divorce aside, if a kid is far more intelligent than he thinks other people think he is that's enough to make him angry and not want to bother pleasing them too. 

    I guess what I'm saying is I'd hope that someone makes good and sure he has, in fact, been properly and accurately diagnosed; because if he hasn't, and if he's in special ed classes, that could actually contribute to problems.  On the other hand, if he's not in special ed classes but needs to be, that could contribute to making the problem worse.

    Other than that, and if the diagnosis is really accurate, I think he's too much for you to try to teach; and I think he does need to be in some school where the focus is on such problems.  If you were able to devote all your attention to him and learn the methods of teaching a child like this that would be one thing.  If you don't have a teacher's aid around to direct him while you're busy with the other children (the way they usually do in schools) I don't think that arrangement is great for either you or your step-son.  ADHD and Asperger's aside, a child who truly has ODD needs really capable, expert, help.  Sincerest best wishes that you can work something out.  It seems like you've "inherited" quite the challenge.   hmm

    1. Atheist Classical profile image61
      Atheist Classicalposted 7 years ago in reply to this

      Thank you for such an extensive response. To clarify, I am the stepmother, and this child has been part of my life for about 7 1/2 years.  His mother lives a few hours away; he's been living almost exclusively with us for  four years because the relationship with mom is toxic and explosive.  Mom is a decision-maker but not very useful on implementation.  The homeschool situation is very probably temporary, but that may mean weeks or - eek! - months. 

      I understand the "professional" advice, but that's essentially what we've been doing for a number of years and it's not working.   I'm a little sour on professionals.  The reason he's at home is that his current placement was not working - his behavior at home was becoming intolerable and he wasn't learning anything at all.  Because he's 16, he's sensitive to peer pressure, but of course he has no judgment and makes poor friend choices.  So he needs a positive peer group. 

      The classroom is a difficult setting for kids like this. They can't sit still and listen, and even the specialized schools don't adapt their approach for kinesthetic learners.  Having said that, we're actually working with the school district to find a better placement for him, one that will work with his need to be physically active rather than fighting him on something he really has little control over.  So the educational professionals have failed him. 

      The psychiatrist at his school and his "meds" doctor (also a psychiatrist) seem to be willing to treat him like a guinea pig in their chemical experiments.  He takes several kinds of medication, and I'm pretty comfortable with his current regimen.  But we've had some really difficult episodes; most recently, he was prescribed an anti-convulsive to help him lose weight (appetite suppression was one of the side effects) by a doctor who knew he had a history of erratic behavior and that extreme outbursts and even violence are also side effects of this medication.  Just one shining example of our experience with professionals. 

      He has a therapist (psychologist) who's pretty good, but she's kind of a one-trick pony; create structure and routine, reward compliance with the structure.  It sounds good, but I've decided it's a crutch he needs to be weaned from; we can't keep rewarding him for good behavior for the rest of his life.  On the flip side of that, I've been applying some basic parenting philosophy (non-violent communication; try to identify the need that's driving the behavior), and it seems to be working better than the structure creation and reward approach.  I've concluded that system is only effective if the child voluntarily adopts it to help him achieve his goals; otherwise it's a way of controlling the child, which amounts to veiled coercion.  The problem is, this kid does not have basic ethics or goals.  He is less ethical and motivated now than he was at 9, and I really think the school environment discourages kids from being good people. 

      As far as "too much for me to teach," I couldn't agree more.  I know I need help - I'm just not convinced a classroom will be the best place for him.  I actually know a large number of kids with similar diagnoses who have been successfully home schooled - they need a lot of one-on-one attention, and they need to learn by doing, not by listening.  They need permission to play with Legos or clay during class, which the schools don't allow.  So these are my criteria for a new placement - a welcoming environment for the kinesthetic learner; a lot of structure around behavior, but a very loose approach to curriculum so he can explore his interests, and a lot of individual attention.  Does a school like that exist near LA?

      Sorry this is such a long response; I fear I may be guilty of thinking out loud on the forum, which is bad form.  I think you've helped me a great deal, though - I am getting ideas as I type, and this is the first time I've been able to articulate what he needs from the school. 


  3. Lisa HW profile image83
    Lisa HWposted 7 years ago

    16 is a difficult age even if a kid doesn't have all those psychiatric diagnoses.   It just does seem a lot for any one individual to try to take on.

    With a child who had "mysterious learning problems" (probably from something in his prenatal/early infancy environment because he was adopted from infancy), I know the feeling of not thinking the professionals seem to have the right answers.  With my son it was pretty much a matter of muddling from one professional to another until he was finally out of high school.  His learning problem was only said to be a visual-perceptual one in the early grades (which caused him to lose ground), but in the later grades he wasn't really concentrating either.

    Still, even though what some professionals said didn't seem correct to me (based on the fact that I saw him do things they said he couldn't, for example); I still knew, with all the years of trying to figure out how I could help him, it wasn't something I could deal with alone.  I had tried (not alone, because he went to school; but at home).   There was one bright side to my not being able to help him with his school issues, though; and that was that I was able to remain someone who could be "support" separate from school.  He'd go to school and feel frazzled and otherwise bad each day, but he always got to come home to someone who wasn't introducing those academic challenges into the relationship.  It made for a "rest from it all", I think.

    Looking back on all those years when I was wishing I could do more for him as far as his school performance went, I now think it was good that home, for him, was restful and "away from the struggles".  I think that helped keep him from straying away too far from family once he got to be a teen.  I wonder if he were being taught at home whether he would have seen home as "yet one more uncomfortable place" and turned outside for "a mental rest" or "support".  Just some thoughts.   Hope you can work out something that works for you and your step-son.   smile

  4. Sexy jonty profile image60
    Sexy jontyposted 6 years ago

    I think there are some special schools for these type of children.... They charge a lot ....

  5. mcbean profile image83
    mcbeanposted 6 years ago

    My only contribution would be to say that "multi-syndrome" to me is nothing more than the medical professions labeling of an individual.

    Kid such as your step-son are individuals. He obviously has issues that need specialist attention but it is likely that it is just the one condition causing all his symptoms. Doctors like labels and if your step son doesnt fit one perfectly he ends up with 5.
    This does not mean that any one tactic will not help with the majority of behavioural issues.
    In complicated situations such as this, no one method works for everyone.
    My advice would be to "do the rounds" and visit as many health professionals as you can. Doctors and psychologists are like every other profession. There are good ones and bad. Ask for recommendations and search the net. There are brilliant doctors out there who don't get fixated on labels and treat the individual.
    You will know when you find one.

    You obviously care for your step son and it must be difficult and relentless. There are other out there who are battling the same every day, you are not alone in this.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    1. Atheist Classical profile image61
      Atheist Classicalposted 6 years ago in reply to this

      This is so true - one of our strategies is to ask him, when he's being very oppositional, what he really wants, and to find a way to meet the need.  Assuming that his god-awful behavior is the best he can do in the moment to meet a need he percieves as genuine - this has been very positive and liberating, and it's advice that came from moms, not "professionals."  We still see the therapist, but the in-home structure is radically altered.  So we're actually doing much better with him at home (3 weeks now) than they were at his special school. 

      Thanks for your good wishes.  I am cautiously optimistic.

  6. xilfee profile image59
    xilfeeposted 6 years ago

    Just joined this site - for totally different reasons!

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    and I should add that she is always pleased to talk, no matter where you are from as she is so passionate about these children - just don't forget she is GMT - there should be an email on the site.

    1. Atheist Classical profile image61
      Atheist Classicalposted 6 years ago in reply to this

      Thank you; the links look very helpful.  I will check them out. 

      Welcome to HubPages!