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Advice for a Teen with ADD

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My 16-year-old son has totally given up on school. He was diagnosed with ADD when he was in the first grade. I've tried drugs, but they didn't seem to help very much. The only other alternative offered by the school system (and it seems like a punishment) is to stay after school or come early to get help. I demanded that he be re-tested before he went to high school and the results showed that he had a fourth-grade level in math. The school told me he could be put into a type of LD class, but he would not be able to graduate with the rest of his class, so I chose not to put him in it. I felt he had had enough to hurt his self-esteem. They told me he could have a LD teacher come in from time to time to help him with his math, but that the teacher wouldn't stay in the class with him. I feel so lost and would appreciate it if you could tell me what direction he could take.

A: Children who are ADD and/or LD know that they have challenges that some others may not have and schoolwork will take some work and responsibility on their part. When they are allowed to try the hard things -- when we parents and educators set high expectations and give encouragement and assistance -- the child develops confidence and skills. That's where self-esteem comes from, not from our making things easy for children or from our telling them how good they are.

It appears to me that the schools have been willing to provide all kinds of appropriate assistance for your son. All of those things -- coming in before and after school and a special LD class -- are directions that I believe would have been helpful to him.

At this point, I urge you to accept the teacher's coming into class to assist him in his math work, even if it is just for awhile. Then, talk with your son. What does he want? What is he interested in doing? Then go with him to the school counselor and talk about options: Are there alternative schools in your area that could help him? Would it be best that he study for his GED? Are there some summer work-study programs that would give him a chance to learn and earn.

Whatever program or plan is developed, trust that your son can do it. Don't reject it because you think it will hurt his self-esteem. He needs to take responsibility for his own behavior, his own learning. He needs that opportunity to try, to fail, to succeed.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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