Should we get involved in this?

sue36April 7, 2006

Here is the situation. My nephew (DH's sister's kid) is a screw-up. He is basically lazy, addicted to computer and video games, very mouthy and is a horrible student. I've known him since he was 8 (he is now 17) and he was always lazy.

He is a high school junior (although he is still in some sophmore classes because he failed them last year) and last week his guidance counselor told him he should drop out and get a GED. The guidance counselor repeated this recommendation to my SIL, so he wasn't just trying to scare the kid. DH and I were both very upset by this. Outraged, in fact. My SIL is upset by it, but doesn't seem to know what to do. My SIL is a wonderful person, but is a big part of the problem. She doesn't know how to "parent". She is the "cool mom" and everyone likes going there (no rules, etc.). She isn't going to change, so it is a waste of time arguing about it. The kid's father is long gone. SIL lives with her fiance, who is a great guy, but when he tries to step in and discipline (just enforce rules, no hitting or anything), SIL says things like "you don't like my kid" (her last boyfriend of 11 years, who DH and I lived very much, left because of all the BS with my nephew) and "I didn't have to do chores when I was a kid" (which wasn't true. She was supposed to do them, she just didn't, leaving DH to do them all). They end up in a huge melt down because she thinks he will leave also. The truth is, he is counting the days until the kids graduates and leaves, he can't wait (he confides in me and DH). Even he (the fiance) says that if she would spend 25% of the time she spends worrying about him on dealing with the kid, the kid would be better off.

We have stayed out of the issues with my nephew except when SIL wanted advice. We would give advice (post the rules, have reasonable consequences discussed up front, enforce the rules), and she would then ignore it. Their mother (my MIL) is part of the problem. She reinforces the "soft" attitude with my nephew and says he has a hard life because his father is gone, he should enjoy being a kid, etc. "It is better that he be home playing computer games than be somewhere doing drugs". I'm not kidding, my MIL said that. The kid only leaves his room to get food (which he brings back into his room) and to use the bathroom.

My SIL is very intimidated my people in authority positions. She is smart (she is a paralegal), but has no self confidence at all. If someone she thinks is smarter than her tells her something she doesn't argue with it, she freezes (this includes people at the school, doctors, etc.). I asked her what she said to the guidance counselor after he said the kid should drop out, and she said, "I didn't know what to say". So, they never got to the reason she was there, to learn what he needs to finish school. He goes to a very good public school, so there are a lot of requirements for graduation that didn't exist when we were in school (community service, a senior project, etc.). She has no idea where he stands. She seems to think it is the school's job. I'm sure the school is frustrated dealing with him (lazy and manipulative) and her (naive and a pushover).

DH and I both have the academic abilities to help our nephew. I am a lawyer and DH is an engineer. We are thinking of proposing to SIL that he come to our house 1 night during the week and for a few hours during the weekend to tutor him. DH would do most of it (nephew has no respect for women, probably because his mother and grandmother are both total pushovers and treat him like a little prince), so it is doubtful he would sit and listen to me for a few hours (but I could help DH behind the scenes by dealing with the school and proof reading his work).

He has the rest of this year and then next year to get his act together. We don't know what he still needs to graduate (and neither does SIL), so we would need to get up to date on the exact situation at school. He probably needs summer school.

What do you think? I called her fiance and asked him what he thinks. He thinks she will leave it up to the kid, and he will take the course of not doing anything, assuring her that he will doit on his own (which he won't).

I have a good relationship with my SIL. As far as DH and her go, she looks up to him, but she thinks he is too "tough" (liek their father). He thinks she is a repeat of their mother, which is not a compliment. In other words, they get into little arguments, but they basically get along well.

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This has to be very frustrating from your point of view. My guess is that the counselor, as a representative of the school, can easily see this kid isn't going to suddenly straighten up and changes his ways. So, it's in the best interest of the school to get this kid off their rolls. IOW, from their point of view, why carry this kid another year when he's just bringing down the performance of the school?

The question now becomes, what's really in the best interest of the boy? Obviously it's to graduate. But that brings up the next question. What happens after graduation (or for that matter, the GED if he goes that direction)? Will Mom make him get a job? Go learn a trade? Will he be required to support himself or will he continue to live with her -- basically a free ride to continue his lazy non-productive behavior?

The truth is, he is counting the days until the kids graduates and leaves, he can't wait. Will he really leave after graduation? What's his incentive to do so? And how would he support himself?

I think these questions need to be dealt with first.

Unless it's clear to this boy that he's going to need to get it together, get a job and support himself, he's not going to have any reason to do the school work.

And until he decides to buckle down and do the school work, no amount of help, from you, your dh, or anyone else, is going to make any real difference. It will just be more frustration on your parts. I can see him not showing up for the tutoring, showing up but not trying, etc. And after all your efforts, your rearrangement of schedules to accomodate this, your time, etc, he'll be no better off and you'll feel like you've wasted all your time and effort.

I guess I don't really have a clear answer. At this point, it's really up to the mother. And until she realizes that her behavior is actually destructive she'll continue it, and the boy will be hurt by it. Some people have enough inner drive to overcome this kind of upbringing, but unless they do, the easiest thing to do is take advantage of it. Until that is stopped, it seems to me that there is very little anyone else can do.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 11:55AM
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I think you should absolutely stay out of it and let someone who has this boy's best interest at heart and, no offense, Sue36, but that does not appear to be you. In your first paragraph, you labeled him negatively in four or five ways and said nothing positive.

I would let your SIL and the professionals try to help this kid. Possibly a teacher or other adult that he respects and likes could be asked to help.

I am very sorry if I have offended you but you did ask for advice. Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 12:10PM
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adopted, I believe Sue's assessment of the boy was her realistic perspective and probably right on point without sugarcoating the situation. He isn't in the situation he's in because of his 'strong' points.

Sue, your proposal is kind and generous. You have nothing to lose, IMHO, by offering one night a week to this boy. You won't change his mother, nor your MIL, but reaching out and being AVAILABLE is what families who care are for. If it doesn't come together, at least you tried.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 12:30PM
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Have you read A Mind at a Time by Dr. Mel Levine? He believes that no kid is truly lazy but may have huge deficits in the way their mind functions (such as attention controls for most things, spatial ordering, long term memory, etc.). To work on these deficits, he finds something the kid is interested in. For example, if a kid is interested in cars but has a hard time reading, he starts with car magazines.

Would your nephew be interested in DESIGNING video games and making them better? Does he know what it takes to get into that field? FWIW, my friend has a son similar to your nephew, bright but not performing well in his public school. He dropped out, and is doing much, much better going to a community college. I guess I shouldn't tell you that he also recently told my friend that he wants to be a professional gamer and that they are revered and make a lot of money in Korea (he's not Korean)!

I don't know if you should get involved or not, but I know it must be hard to watch this kid go down the tubes.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 12:45PM
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Has anyone asked the boy what he wants to do? Your description fits a lot of teen boys, some of whom go on to college and then on to reasonably successful adult lives. Does this boy have any picture of what he wants his adult life to be like? Does he want to go to college? What type of job/career would he like to have?

Frankly, it does sound like the school is writing him off -- has he written off his own future? It could be the school sees his lack of motivation and figures a GED might let him stop wasting his time in school and move off into a direction that's more positive for him. Maybe vocational school, or classes at a community college. There ARE lots of paths he can take, but he needs to choose one.

Sadly, I agree with Lowspark about this kid leaving home. Why should he? And where would he go? How would he support himself?

Time for his mom to have what we call down here a "come to Jesus meetin'" where they talk about this young man's future and how to get there.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 12:58PM
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What does your professions have to do with your abilities to effectively tutor this apparently non-motivated young man?

You've known this boy for 9 years and didn't realize he was having problems in school and/or didn't like school? Perhaps the lack of respect for women, as you put it, is more his disappointment in the failure of the people around him to address his issues and advocate for him.

The last person I'd want tutoring my kid is someone that views him, as you do.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 1:36PM
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In NY state, where I live, there are BOCES programs. What it stands for, I have no idea, but it is a high school training program for kids that fall outside of the traditional hs formula. Yes, it is vocational, but more in the sense of helping kids jump start a career, (everything from auto mechanics to chef). Perhaps your SIL could look into one of these programs for her son. The number one reason kids drop out of HS, according to NPR, is that they are bored.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 2:07PM
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As harsh as this is going to sound, I would stay out of it. He isn't going to "turn around" after 1 night a week and a few weekend hours of tutoring, you will likely get frustrated and upset, and it may do damage to your own family situation. It's likely too late for you to step in on this limited basis and make a significant change in how this boy has learned to get along, especially when there is no mutual respect. He has no motivation to alter his ways - if he was worried about school he wouldn't have flunked his classes, and there appear to be no negative repercussions for his poor behavior. Why would a night of tutoring make a difference?

What is really needs to happen is for the mother to get counseling, and then for the boy to see the counselor as well. This is a broken family in more ways than one, but they are the ones who are going to have to start the process of fixing things.

It's very generous of you and your dh to want to help, but I honestly don't think it would work as far as helping your nephew get through school. It's possible that he might benefit in other ways, though, by having you two as positive role models, but you would have to be tough and not let him push your buttons. You would have to show him respect but demand the same. It's very, very, very difficult and the odds of it succeeding are slim, and the odds of creating pressures and problems for you and your dh are high. Since it doesn't sound as if you have had an active role in his life, your nephew is not likely to accept it now.

As far as the school counselor's advice goes, I would say that there is probably a whole lot that you don't know. Sounds like there is a whole lot your SIL does not know, mostly by choice. My guess is that this goes beyond an academic problem at the school. Does he attend classes? I'll bet he skips. Is he a discipline problem? My guess is yes. Does he disrupt classes? Pick on other kids? Has he been suspended? Any substance abuse problems? Does he feel like he doesn't belong? None of those things will be helped with a night a week of tutoring. The root of the problem needs to be addressed or nothing will change for the better. Most of all, though, your nephew must want to make the changes or they won't happen.

I feel for you and it's wonderful that you and your dh are willing to step in. I also want you to know that I completely understand your negative feelings toward your nephew, as he has been groomed to be unlikeable. While that is not really his fault, it doesn't make him any easier to be around. His mother AND absent father should be ashamed at what their atrocious parenting have helped do to this boy.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 2:38PM
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Wow, Pauline, I am surprised by your attitude since you know me.

"What does your professions have to do with your abilities to effectively tutor this apparently non-motivated young man?"
The point I was making is that DH and I have both mastered the work he needs to master to graduate. The people he lives with have not. I did not mention it, but we have both tutored people in the past with success. DH will be doing most of it. He is one of those people that should have become a teacher. He is just naturally gifted at teaching. The school has given up on him. He has used to refused every service there, so they won't be rescuing him. No teacher, mentor, etc., has taken an interest. It is either us or no one.

"You've known this boy for 9 years and didn't realize he was having problems in school and/or didn't like school?"
I thought I mentioned that DH tutored him before? Maybe I didn't. Anyway, yes, we knew. Once SIL moved out of state DH couldn't tutor him anymore. We moved 2 towns from them in December, so it is feasible again. We knew he wasn't getting stellar grades (he went to summer school last year), but we were not aware that the situation was this bad. My SIL thinks she is a failure and knows that DH does not approve of the way she has handled things (for example, he has a TV and computer in his bedroom, which he never leaves). We thought he was a C or C- student, not a D or F student. In our families report cards are not distrubuted around for everyone to see. Since he was a kid everyone said he wasn't "college material". DH and I always believed he was smart and gifted in many ways, but he lacks direction and always has. My SIL, for whatever reason, gave up on him academically years ago. Her mother agrees, so that just reinforces it. You know how people are when they here something they want to hear? That becomes ALL they hear.

As far as the disrespect for women, I don't know the cause. It may be because he adored and idolized his father, who disappeared about 2 years ago (they divorced 12 years ago). His father was a bum and a pig. He wants to be like his dad. His father would file fake insurance claims for worker's comp or unemployment. He would mooch off whatever women he was living with. A real bum. My nephew adored him nonetheless and when he was younger he would cry when his father dropped him off. He never cried when he had to leave his mother. The way my nephew speaks to his mother and grandmother is awful. I am not going to get into it here, let's just say no one would tolerate it. I thought DH was going to blow a gasket one day over what my nephew said to my MIL. He also speaks that way to people he thinks he is superior to. Waitresses, store clerks, etc. I have only seen him speak this way to women. He does not speak that way to me. I don't tolerate it and neither would DH. He hit his mother only once that we know of (we were there). He was set straight on that right away, and we don't think it has happened since (my MIL made excuses for that too, "he was frustrated"). Has his mother let him down? Probably, but that is water under the bridge.

As far as our attitude towards him, we are looking at this without rose colored glasses. I am not a family counselor and can't straighten out the issues he has because of his father and mother, but we CAN help him with school. Maybe doing better would make him feel better about himself. We don't dislike him or hate him. But there are things about him that are not likeable. DH and SIL come from a big, extended family. What I am saying here is not anything different than they say. Except they think he is a lost cause.

I think Seekingadvice hit the nail on the head. She said basically everything my father told me. We have been involved in his life, though. He was a groomsmen in our wedding 3 years ago. Only over the last 2 years have we seen so little of him. DH used to take him fishing. He seemed to lose interest in it. We see my SIL all the time. We go to their house. He just doesn't leave his room. We also make an effort to include him in things, but he isn't interested. Now that I think about it, it has really gotten worse over the last three years. I think he knew why his mother's previous fiance left, and it really hurt him (he had lived with them since the kid was 5).

School was very important to DH and me. It seems like not getting that degree will close off so many opportunities for him in the future. I just know that one day he is going to wake up and realize how foolish he was (we've seen it happen). He can't even join the military without that degree (they take almost no GEDs. Way more GEDs want in than there are slots). Not that we would want him to join the Army right now (my MIL would kill the 2 of us for even suggesting it, although DH was in for several years), but it is just an example of opportunities he will lose out on.

He was already rejected for admission to the voc school.

I just hate that no one (parents, school) has stepped forward to help him. Or maybe they have and have given up. It seems like if the guidance counselors are telling you you are a lost cause, what hope can that kid have?

If anyone else has an opinion I'll listen. Just try to realize we want to HELP HIM. Maybe we can't fix him, save him, etc. But I though we could do something. Dropping out just seems like a huge mistake.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 3:10PM
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Wow. I rarely post in Kitchens these days and I've probably never posted in Conversations, but this brings me out of lurkerdom....

I am appalled at the Guidance Counselor's suggestion of your nephew getting a GED. She's basically saying that he's a lost cause. How sad! I agree with Lowspark - she's looking out for the school and not the boy. It sounds like he brings down their stats for the year, so just get him out.

Whatever the nephew's work ethic and school situation, my heart breaks for him. He's doing what he can get away with, like most teens. The message he's getting from the school (and his Mother, for complying) is that he's just not worth the time, effort, attention, etc. that it would take for him to graduate. I would have a very hard time not giving the Mom a piece of my mind, and the GC if Mom wouldn't. (I know it wouldn't be my place, but the boy deserves SOMEONE looking out for him).

I think you may be surprised by nephew's reaction if and when you reach out to him with the tutoring offer. Or maybe not, but at least he would know someone cares enough to act. Bless you for caring. Sounds like he needs a little Tough Love, key word here being Love.

Sorry for the rant. Back to lurkerdom....


P.S. In no way am I excusing his lazy behavior, but the adults need to step up and be the adults. He's just following his mom's lead.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 3:19PM
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Sue, you posted while I was still writing. I'm glad we agree that others have written him off as a lost cause. Please don't give up on him.

His behavior sounds horrible, but I still think he's BEGGING his mother to set some boundaries and parent him.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 3:26PM
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There was a story on NPR not too long ago about High School drop outs and what some states are doing to keep kids in school. The main thing I remember them saying was that almost 100% of kids who drop out regret it within a few years. The all look back and wish they had stayed in school.

So despite what some other posters have said, I'd say that the mere fact that you're looking to help this boy stay in school and graduate means you have his best interest at heart.

Again, I'll just say that IMO so much depends on what this boy wants -- if he can get motivated to do well and just needs help, that's the first step. If he's going to reject your help then the first step has to be to figure out how to make him realize that finishing school is the best thing for him.

Since he was a kid everyone said he wasn't "college material". That's very sad. I firmly believe that kids will live up or down to expectations, and clearly not much has been expected from this boy for a long time.

I don't know if this is even possible, but the very best thing for this child is to get out of the house he's currently living in, and into a house where the adults make him toe the line. Get rid of the computer and TV. Give him responsibilities around the house. Do not allow him to stay in his room all the time. Get him going to school and follow up to see that he attends and does his homework every day.

What about the social aspect? Does he have any friends? Or maybe his friends are all "on line"? It's clear that this boy needs help, I wish you good luck in helping him, and I'm sorry that I don't have better advice.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 3:57PM
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I think the kid needs to see a psychologist immediately - to find out if he has any learning disabilties that prevent him from learning in a "normal" way. I may not be so much the subject matter as the inability to process or focus. Getting a GED is certainly not going to address the problem.

I also think your sister needs to find out exactly what he is doing in his room on the computer when he locks himself in there and with whom is he doing it.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 4:13PM
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He has a lot of friends. I've met many of then, and they seem like good kids. I think he is the "slacker" in the group. They have jobs, cars, girlfriends - he does not. What does he do in his room? Gaming is a big thing. His computer doesn't even have Windows on it. All he does is game. Is there porn involved? We mentioned this to SIL and she said she didn't have an issue with that even if he was (naive, I know). His computer got a virus at one point and when they took it to be fixed they asked the guy to look at the history and tell them what he was doing. The guy said it was tied up tighter than Fort Knox. There was no way of seeing what he was doing. DH and I both told SIL that should set off alarms right there (why hide something if it is innocent?). She firmly believes, as does MIL, that he is just gaming. Again with the "at least he is home and not off somewhere doing drugs".

There is nowhere else for him to go. Even if we were willing to have him live with us, he would not be eligible to go to the high school in our town. They have strict rules on residency. Your parent of legal guardian (per a court order) has to be a resident of the town. A court would have to give us custody. Since his mother and (disappeared) father "share" custody, that won't happen. I don't know if we want that. I know after one week he would just run home because we would be too strict.

Would counseling do him some good? Probably. How do you tell someone that? Has the kid needed counseling since he was little? Some people are naturally driven, some are not. He is not, and lives in a house where no one drives him at all.

He was diagnosed with a learning disability years ago, but it was very undefined and it seemed to disappear. All the kids were tested and they said he drew some letters backwards (this was early elementary school). It wasn't dyslexia or anything like that. If I remember, they said that he would need to write things down or he wouldn't remember them (I guess I have that disability as well). When they moved he was re-evaluated, and I think they said there was no disability. He has used the "disability" as an excuse. DH and I think that it just means he has to work harder. He doesn't work at all. He gets home from school and leaves his bookbag near the door. It stays there until morning.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 4:41PM
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"Is there porn involved? We mentioned this to SIL and she said she didn't have an issue with that even if he was (naive, I know)"

Wow, if your SIL thinks it's okay for her son to lock himself in the room and view porn, then I think Child Protective Services should be called. Your SIL can't possibly believe that's okay. I am not trying to be alarmist but he could be mixed up in some additional bad stuff not related to porn. The fact that he knows how to make his computer "invisible" kinda indicates to me that he is up to no good (and very good at something - computers).

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 5:09PM
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How can I say this? My SIL lives in a bit of a bubble. She never goes online herself and thinks online porn is like virtual Playboy (which both her brothers his under the porch at that age). She has no clue about the stuff out there. I tried explaining it to her, but she said he would only look at the "normal" (presumably Playboy-ish) stuff and not at the sick stuff. It's hopeless.

The kid has issues. I don't think we can tackle them all. I just want him to finish school.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 5:14PM
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I'm hearing you....but he is not going to finish school if he has issues that are preventing him from learning. In fact, he probably shouldn't finish school if he can't pass the courses and tests - that would be enabling him.

Would it be possible to invite him over to your house for a weekend visit. In the meantime, you could hire a psychologist who would come to dinner under the pretense of being one of your long lost friends? The psychologist could then observe him interacting with you and your DH. Probably a long shot that this could happen but I think he needs to be observed by a professional and this is the only way I could think of since his mom seems to have tuned out.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 5:25PM
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Let me make certain I have this right:

"He was diagnosed with a learning disability years ago, but it was very undefined and it seemed to disappear. "

Learning disabilities DO NOT disappear. Some kids learn to cope--but the LD is still there. Additionally--sometimes the schools manipulate the test so that the LD appears to diappear (Happened to my son. If he hadn't had his dad and me advocating for him, I shudder as to what would have happened.)If this kid has an unaddressed LD then he feels like a failure. Kids don't work at things that make them feel like failures.

"[L]ast week his guidance counselor told him he should drop out and get a GED."

Any counselor that suggest a kid drop out of school and get a GED is IN THE WRONG JOB. Now, I can see counseling parents that the public school might not be the place for the kid--I've known kids who did better in private schools and charter schools--but DROP OUT? Yeesh.

"The kid only leaves his room to get food (which he brings back into his room) and to use the bathroom."

If that is an accurate assessment--this kid needs to be evaluated for depression. Why would he be depressed?

"[H]e adored and idolized his father, who disappeared about 2 years ago. " He's got a guidance counselor telling him to drop out of school...the adults in his life that he trusts (17 y/o's don't confide in folks they don't trust)think he's a screw-up...and his living situation is becoming untenable. (It's bad enough when your mom is MARRIED to the guy who isn't your dad and is trying to tell you what to do...)

I have two boys, one is 17, the other 20. BOTH have learning issues--and both succeed academically. 20 y/o is a physics major (regularly makes the dean's list)--17 y/o is a senior in HS (all A's and B's). It hasn't always been easy--and we've paid through the nose for psychiatrists and such (OT ain't cheap) but it's been worth it. And my kids knew that, even when they screwed up (and they have!) I believed they were worthwhile human beings. I'm no paragon of parenting--heaven knows--but I've NEVER called either of my kids a "screw-up." Screwing-up is something we DO--not who we are. And we ALL screw-up.

My heart breaks for this kid.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 6:13PM
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Just realized I never answered your question. Sorry!

No, you should NOT get involved. This kid deserves and advocate who thinks he has SOME potential as a human being.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 6:14PM
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From what I understand, Playboy ain't what it used to be.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 6:27PM
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First off- That Guidance counselor is an A-hole.
Let what he said go in one ear and out the other.

Second- To whoever criticized you for not "seeing anything positive" in the child, is being hypocritical, IMO. I am sure you find something POSITIVE in this child or you wouldn't be concerned with his welfare.

And yes, I agree with you that your EDUCATION speaks for itself. It doesn't say that youre the smartest person in the world, but it does say that you accomplished A)high school diploma B) College degree C)Professional certification. That does make you qualified to speak on behalf of his educational future.

My suggestions are to just start talking to him. He will resist and think you guys are totally lame. But keep trying. He doesn't get a free ride because his Dad is a loser. You should encourage him to overcome this.
Point out his positives-- he is a good gamer. The military love kids with that kind of eye/hand coordination.
I honestly think he should consider the NAVY. This is what we did with our nephew several years ago. He is 31 years old and doing great. He has proved everyone wrong and has made us very proud. There is hope for your nephew.
You are being a good aunt and uncle and coomend you your efforts

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 6:42PM
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I don't think that I was being hypocritical--that would imply that I am telling someone to do something I haven't done or don't believe in myself. Judgemental would be a better adjective. And that was inappropriate. I should know better than to post when I'm angry--and the situation, as described, makes me angry. So let me see if I can say this in a less confrontational, saner way.

It was wrong of me to assume, sue36, that you don't see any good in this child. I apologize. But surely you can see why? You didn't say ONE positive thing about him in eight paragraphs. 875 words!

So--tell me--what do you LIKE about this kid? Becasue that is where you need to start. And then tell him what you like about him--and what you think he is capable of--and that you are worried he's going to screw it up by flunking out of HS.

And then, ask him what HE thinks he should do?

And then listen.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 7:14PM
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"Commend" forgive the spelling

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 7:14PM
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Sue, I do think you should get involved. Kids like this need adults in their lives who can set an example. But before you get involved, please do a little online research about learning disabilities. If he was diagnosed with an LD when young, and wrote lots of letters backwards, he likely has a learning disability. The only way to know is to get an independent neuropsych evaluation. These are not cheap. But you can't trust the school system to tell you if a kid has a learning disability. Trust me. School personnel will be sweet as anything while they lie straight to your face about whether your child qualifies for special education.

mjsee is right about how kids with learning disabilities which are not properly addressed react. Most "drop out" emotionally because they feel like losers all the time. Imagine sitting at a desk all day in school, and having no idea what's going on because you can't read fast enough, write well enough, etc. It is immensely frustrating. Even if the disability is relatively mild, compensating for it without the proper tools and training is exhausting and unsatisfying. So kids quit trying. And often, they feel like losers. So they get depressed. And then it's harder to motivate. It's an endless cycle.

It's never too late to address a learning disability, but the kid has to want to do it. And it has to be done by professionals. While you are very well educated, you aren't educated in how to deal with a kid with LD. I think the best way you could help him would be to offer to bring him to the Sylvan Learning Center or somewhere similar for tutoring. It's not a perfect solution, but it's probably the best you can do since you are not the parent.

As a parent with an LD child, I can tell you it's practically a full-time job to stay on top of the school system. I'm an attorney, but I still had to hire an attorney because this area of law is very highly regulated and they always had the advantage over me. In any case, it doesn't sound like your SIL is up to the task of doing what this kid really needs. I would try to offer a friendly ear to this kid and just be as supportive as you can, because he probably likes himself even less than others like him. And at this rate, he doesn't have much of a chance to succeed.

Good luck and I think it's great that you care enough to try.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 7:23PM
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mlaj2000, I believe you may have twisted my words. What I stated to Sue is that I don't believe her profession has any bearing on her abilities to effectively tutor her DN. I stand by that statement.

Sue, knowing you, I was just as surprised by your attitude towards your DN. The kids not mugging old ladies or stealing cars - his 'crime' is poor decision making and not appropriately prioritizing. Very common for that age, especially in light of the fact there's apparently parenting and quite possibly learning issues involved.

I am in agreement with those that say that the school's GC is totally out of line and I agree that the OP of most schools is to deny or ignore 'problems', rather than remediate. I think here is where your skills may really help the kid. If SIL will allow you to intervene on a professional level, the school *may* take a more proactive position in regards to providing DN a screening & services. The combination of additional school support & seeing your active advocacy, will hopefully have a positive impact on DN. I do have some experience in advocacy, so don't hesitate to call or privately email me, if you'd like. Wishing you the best.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 8:03PM
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Thanks for giving Sue such good suggestions. You put it MUCH better than I did.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 8:43PM
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In defense of the school system, which is taking quite a beating here:

First, you are assuming that the counselor has been correctly quoted. I would be surprised if that were the case. Schools are not looking to get rid of students - it is generally quite the reverse, as money comes from having kids in the school. If the counselor suggested getting a GED, then I would expect there were some compelling reasons for it beyond what has been expressed, and you cannot judge that counselor without exposure to the facts.

Second, the schools are often in a budget hell. This sometimes means that there isn't enough funding to do all of the intensive testing and remediation that some cases require. Nevertheless, they are mandated to do a great deal, and where I work it is incredible what is done to identify problem areas and work on easing or eliminating them. It is very true, though, that without parental advocacy it doesn't always happen to the degree it should/could. It probably doesn't occur to a lot of people that every extra that is required and requested is more money the school has to take from the general fund, which only goes so far. While it would be fabulous if we could provide every kind of aid and test that the incredibly huge number of LDs need, it isn't feasible with the amount of money a school receives from the government. Remember, there are many, many, many other special needs that also must be addressed. And beyond that, the general population with no special needs must be educated, the site must be maintained, staff paid, etc. That is why parents are such a critical part of the formula.

It insults me to hear how many of you feel that the schools only want to take the easy path when it comes to kids. I particularly detest the insinuation that schools consider special needs as too much trouble to address. Administrative constraints and poor decisions can and do adversely affect students, but the vast majority of staff members are there because they want to help and educate kids. Amazing, incredible things are done with students all the time, and to be honest, most of the resources of the schools are spent on special needs. So many people put in so much of their time and dedication every day to assist kids in reaching their potential that I am upset to read how the perception is the opposite.

Put yourself for a moment in the shoes of a secondary teacher, who in my district has ~170 students. Every day, that teacher deals with not just one student like Sue's nephew, but possibly a dozen. Many teachers are caring individuals who do try to help those students on the fringes, but how can you give each of those kids the care and attention they need and are not getting at home? How do you take the place of a parent, all the while working full-time and trying to take care of your own family? It burns me up when I read about teachers "writing him off." Do you think it's easy to go home at night and think of those kids you just can't seem to reach, to try and come up with ways to help while maintaining what you have with the others? Sometimes there comes a point at which you *have* to let go, because if you didn't, you could lose yourself and your own family.

Now put yourself in the role of parent of an average kid. Every day, at least one of your student's classes is interrupted by others who won't listen, won't be quiet, come in late, argue, are high, start fights, won't participate, etc. Your kid is beginning to hate some of his/her classes because it's so disruptive and hard to learn in that environment. Some of those disruptive kids are coming over from juvenile hall, some were expelled from other schools, some have a very violent history, some are frustrated because they can't make sense out of the information, some are "bored." How do you feel about more of the educational budget going to those kids and not your own? That is something to consider, because it is another parental point of view the school must address.

This boy needs professional help. It is nice of Sue and her dh to offer to get involved, and their participation may be needed, but the tutoring isn't going to help him and very well may hurt them. I just wanted her to be aware of that. I agree with others who have said he needs evaluation for depression and learning disabilities. A competent psychologist who specializes in this field can offer suggestions as to what can be done, but it will likely require someone to advocate for him and that does not mean a mother who sets no boundaries. As I said, this boy will need respect but must be taught that respect is a 2-way street.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 1:38PM
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seeking, I should have been more specific. I didn't mean to disparage my DS' teachers. By and large, they work very hard and would like to do more for him, but they are stretched far too thin. I think most parents recognize that. It was the administrators I was referring to (although I did not specify). And of course, I'm sure there are exceptions. But administrators, by virtue of their positions, have to tow the party line. And yes, they have to watch the budget. But they shouldn't accomplish this by deceit, which I have seen happen time and time again.

And I am not talking just about my son. I have become an informal, behind-the-scenes advocate for other families of children with LD's. I know of two who were told there was no room in special ed for their children. Excuse me? It's not a "space available" type of thing. If you qualify, you get services, by law. I know of many, many other parents who had the school system do the testing, only to be told there was no problem and the child has "attention problems" and they should see the family doctor. He/she does not have a learning disability and does not qualify for special ed. Read, put your kid on ADD meds, because we're not going to do anything. This has happened to about 10 families that I have worked with - - pretty much all of the ones I have worked with, actually. I looked at the test results with them, and there were painfully significant discrepancies in the subtests, clearly indicating learning disabilities.

So the parents go back to the next PPT meeting, armed with a working knowledge of what the test results actually mean, and copies of the relevant statutes and regulations, and what do you know! Junior DOES qualify for special ed after all! A space just recently opened up, and we'll be certain your little guy gets it, because we can see how concerned you are.

Of course, getting the child into special ed is just the beginning of the battle. In the beginning, you trust that the school will follow the IEP (Individualized Education Plan), since they are required to by law. But you soon realize that it's just a piece of paper, and unless you are calling and hounding and emailing all the time, they won't do what they have already agreed to do. And then, years later, you realize they are just pushing your child through year to year, because they can't wait until he is someone else's problem.

Sorry if I sound bitter. I guess I am. I had to spend $4500 on a lawyer because we are getting ready for middle school and DS is simply not going to make it, regardless of how hard he is working, and the program they have provided is basically to have him go to a special ed teacher who will do the majority of the work for him, rather than teach him how to do it himself.

So what happens to the kids who's parents don't advocate for them, can't afford $4500 for a lawyer, or simply don't want to invest that kind of money? They become much like Sue's nephew.

Yes, these kids eat up lots of resources. There has to be a better way to educate them than what we're doing now. Perhaps there is too much focus on trying to mainstream them. You can't have it all. I personally think it would be easier to teach my son how to learn if he wasn't surrounded by kids who were outperforming him, and if he wasn't constantly struggling to keep up with them instead of remediating his own skills.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 6:25PM
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Sorry Seeking -- but I'm with Paige on this.

Back when I was still an idealistic rookie, I called DS#1's school because I was concerned he was dyslexic. They sweetly explained that they didn't test for that (Lie #1), and that if I was really worried, I should talk to his pediatrician. Ped. referred us to a psychologist, who did test for it, diagnosed dyslexia, and explained what the school, by federal law, needed to do and how to get them to do it. (Cost: $1,000 for me) I wrote the proper legalese letter to the school, then lo' and behold, they DO test.

School administers a battery of tests and subtests with widely scattered results -- the typical profile of a bright child with specific LDs. They then explained that DS#1 is too smart to have LDs, and how having LDs indicated that a child wasn't very smart. (Lie #2) They said that type of mixed profile wasn't typical of LDs at all (Lie #3), that he didn't qualify for Special Ed. services because his average score was still above average (Lie #4), and that the only programs they had available were for resource room groups for 'slow learners'. (Lie #5) They explained that if he was LD, that they would have to drop him from the gifted & talented program. (Lie #6) They recommended I relax, or just hire a private tutor. I hired a private tutor twice a week for two years. (Cost: $3,800 to me)

Then there's DS#2. A similar string of untruths and failure to follow the law. I had to choose whether to spend my money and mental health on lawyers, re-battling every year and monitoring constantly to eek out an education that met the bare minimum standards of 'appropriate', or to spend my resources on private services and private schools to give my son the best chance he could have. At least I had the resources to have the choice, and there were great services available privately -- (closing in on $300,000 so far)

Despite all that, I also believe the teachers truly care; I even think the administrators care. But still the system doesn't work. The law tells the schools what they have to do, but won't give them any funding to do it. And they are required to provide a 'free and appropriate education' to every child, regardless of disability. They get all sorts of awards for the high achievement of the brightest students, and only headaches from the low test scores, diverse needs and behavior issues of students with disabilities. Is it any wonder the schools don't want them around?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 7:22PM
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Unfortunately Seeking, similiar story on this front as Paige & Sweeby's.

Educators are no different from the rest of society, there are true professionals, very fine and caring, as well as ummm, people that should find another field of employment, and everything in between. I don't think any of us WANT to beat up on our school systems, we are just parents of children, who have been through what noone should go through.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 7:49PM
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Wow, I am shocked by what some of you have been through with LD children. My nephew did have an IEP, or something similar, when they lived in Mass. After they moved my SIL mentioned to me that he had been in the new school for 1 year and it hadn't gotten the IEP from his old school or updated it. As if she had NO responsibility to keep on top of the administrators. She was never able to explain what his issue was. The whole thing was odd and vague. But this is a woman whose ex should be on the "most wanted deadbeat dads list" because of all the money he owes her in unpaid child support, and she has done nothing about it even though she really needs the money. She is not one to stick up for herself. She is very passive when strangers are involved. DH is the same way. They were raised to "not cause trouble" and not do anything that could make them seem unlikeable. They are both willing to go at it with people they know well, but not with others. Very frustrating (this has caused major problems for DH and I. He will scream and yell at me over the smallest thing, but then won't even call the plumber to come fix something he did wrong. She is the same way. Strangers can walk all over them, then they they flip out to the people who love them).

I have seen some standardized test results of his (this is when he was in maybe 7th or 8th grade) and it was clear from them that he had poor reading skills. His vocobulary was fine, but his reading comprehension was poor. His math grades were excellent, unless it was a word problem, then it was poor. He always hated reading. He wouldn't even read Harry Potter (it was age appropriate for him back then), which DH and I bought him years ago.

We still haven't decided what to do. At the least we will have a "come to Jesus" (as someone put it) meeting with her. She needs to become more active in his education. She needs to see how destructive all this is, no matter the cause (LD, bad father, whatever). She needs to start being the parent and stop letting him do whatever he wants (like not going to the "catch up" program after school).

If anyone has more comments, I'll read them with an open mind.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 11:28PM
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I am also in the same "club" as Paulines, Paige and Sweeby.

We live in a school district ranked in the top 10 of Illinois. I have had to fight tooth and nail to have my daughter tested for LD's. One of the tests that is given in a complete battery is also psychological testing.

We already knew DD was ADHD and bright, but she had other issues. She got tested(after I practically hinted I would litigate)and surprize She's has multiple LD's, ADHD and she's Gifted! She also has a high anxiety level.

Even really good school systems are notorious for not wanting to spend the time and money on kids who might need special services.

BTW, the LAW allow your SIL to have anyone she wants attend the meetings with her and Sue36 you would make an excellent advocate.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 11:39PM
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Sweeby, I'm so glad for your DS #2 that you were able to get him a private education. We have an excellent private school for kids with LD's right in town. People come from all over the state for this school. Unfortunately, it costs $38k per year. No scholarships. I simply cannot pay that, no matter what I give up. Actually, I could pay for 2 years if I sold my house, and I have contemplated doing so, but then we would have nowhere to live. And I can't take out a home equity loan - - the payments would be impossible on my budget.

Hence the lawyer.

Sue, I do hope this is a revelation for you. You couldn't know that this is the way it is, because noone would unless they were in the situation. If your DN had an IEP at one time, then he has already been diagnosed with an LD. They do not go away. If he is not a reader and does poorly on the reading portions of standardized testing, that is a clear indication that his problem was never remediated. The poor kid fell through the cracks because his mother did nothing to advocate for him. No wonder he has no respect for women.

OK, I'll stop now. I just read your words about this boy and I think to myself that it could have been my son, and it breaks my heart.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 11:47PM
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Below is the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA). If your DN had an IEP at one time, someone had to stick their neck on the line to decide DN didn't need services anymore. *Usually* IEP's are modified year to year, but remain in effect until the child graduates or turns, is it 25?

Here is a link that might be useful: IDEA...

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 6:59AM
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"We still haven't decided what to do. At the least we will have a "come to Jesus" (as someone put it) meeting with her. She needs to become more active in his education. She needs to see how destructive all this is, no matter the cause (LD, bad father, whatever). She needs to start being the parent and stop letting him do whatever he wants (like not going to the "catch up" program after school)."

Sue - since you asked, I hope you read this with an open mind. YOU needs to mind your business. There is always more than one side to the story and I imagine there is a good chance you don't know it all. Is he a junior or a senior? How close to his 18th birthday?

I know some posts angered you and you defended your comments about the boy as just being real - well let me ask you this - if he read your statements about him and his mom - how would he feel about it?

I agree with Seeking that tutoring once a week is not the answer and I don't think confronting his mom will be helpful either. I commend you for caring. He is obviously lacking a male figure in his life; I think the best thing your dh could do is become really active in his life. Get to know him by doing things with him a few times a week. The root of his academic problem could be social as well. Try to lift up his mom with support - not lecturing her on what she has done wrong as a mother all these years. Offer to go with her to the school and so on. The bottom line is you are not the parent or the child's advocate.

Also, as an aside - I don't think vocational school or even vocational college is the worst thing in the world. Some people cannot learn in a traditional enviroment. It could actually be a good thing for him. His gift may be using his mind toward the creative arts or mechanical or technical - who knows?

To all of you above fighting for your kids with lds - bravo to you. As the sister of a absolutely brilliant woman who happens to have dyslexia I know the struggles. My sister has alot of anger issues because of what she went through. She was working twice as hard as everyone else and people at the time thought she was lazy and not living up to her potential. She proved them all wrong and is a little computer genius (vocational school), making mad money, and happy in her life. Boy, it was a long road for our family with her.

Best wishes Sue for your nephew and family.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 9:36AM
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While I'm sure you mean well, there may be more going on than you know.

Calling this child lazy is very cruel and inappropriate, even if you never do it to his face. It will forever color your interactions with him. I think you should stay out of this.

Here's an interesting article from the Washington Post. Maybe your sister should consider a more "hands on" (industrial or technical arts) program for her son, something that might engage him now, and give him some success to build on.

Getting a GED may be the best thing for him. To be in a situation of continual failure isn't helping him at all, it just sets him up for more failure. With a GED he can get into a technical school (and learn to write programs for those computer games.)

Good luck to your sister and her son.

Here is a link that might be useful: Getting the right education

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 3:01PM
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Getting a GED isn't the worst thing in the world--good things can come from it. My hubby wasn't interested in school and got his GED before entering his junior year. He then immediately went to vocational school and became a dealership mechanic. He didn't like the way things were going for him so he then joined the Navy and learned some valuable skills. He has a very successful career now.

He may just be burned out on traditional school and a change would do him good. It doesn't hurt to find out what he wants to do if he does get his GED right now (other than laying around the house playing video games).

Bless you for caring about your nephew.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 10:08AM
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I'm back. It is a long story, but SIL called me today and asked DH and I to help her with this.

I asked about the LD, and she said he has a "504". She does not believe it has been updated since he was in 6th or 7th grade. She had never heard of an IEP.

Does anyone know about the "504"? I Googled it, but thought someone here might be able to explain it in layman's terms. Should he also have an IEP? In parent's night, 2 weeks ago, she spoke to his teachers and she said NONE of them knew he had a 504. They didn't know he was ever diagnosed with an LD.

Any help is appreciated. She doesn't know anthing about this area, their rights, etc. I would think the first step is to get him re-evaluated. What do you think?

We also talked about the situation with his grades, and he is failing a number of classes (except Algebra II), but the teachers are willing to let him make up the work. He has also agreed to attend summer school.

The computer will be the challenge. I asked her if she would be willing to pull it from his room, letting him have it back when things start turning around. She said that she thinks he can get all his work done in school! In study hall! We agreed to talk more tomorrow night, but I told her that I didn't see how he could make do make-up work, and do his current work, in 1 hour of study hall per day. He isn't doing it now. The reason he is so behind is that he doesn't do ANY work at home. The book bag literally sits by the front door and never moves.

We also spoke about her conversation with the guidance counselor, and she said he definitely said he should just drop out and get a GED. He said something like, "at this point...", as if it was too late for him. Does anyone know if you have a right to request a different guidance counselor? She told the teachers about what the GC said, and they were shocked. They said that he is smart and answers questions in class, but never does any work that is assigned to be done outside class (studying, papers, homework, etc.). He might get a passing grade on a test because he is there and pays attention, but he fails the class because homework is (let's say) 10% of the grade and he gets all zeros. Or a paper is 20% of the grade and he doesn't do it.

She said she now regrets accepting that he was not college material. She thinks it set all their expectations too low.

Fire away. I'll listen to all.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 7:54PM
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Your DN should have an IEP, if he has most types of LDs. A 504 is appropriate for students who need physical accommodations (elevator, ramp, tape recorder in class), have a temporary impairment, asthma, etc. It DOES NOT mandate any additional/special services to remediate educational lapses due to a disability.

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan - it basically is a contract between District and parent/guardian, that details services (resource room, school physcologist, speech, private tutorial, aide in math class, etc) the child will receive and the frequency that these services will occur. Even if a student has an IEP, I've found parents still have to stay on top of things, as services sometimes go by the wayside.

I think the link below can explain in more detail.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read this...

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 8:17PM
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OK. You now have something to work with.

Yes, his mother should request that the school perform full testing immediately. The way to do this is to request an immediate PPT (Pupil Placement Team meeting) in writing. She should specify that she wants the PPT within 2 weeks, and that she will be requesting testing at the PPT (only the PPT can approve going forward with testing). Then at the PPT, she requests the testing. I think they then have 45 days to complete the testing and reconvene the PPT to go over the results. The testing should include, at a minimum, a complete IQ test with all subtests, and an academic achievement test such as the Woodcock Johnson, also with a complete set of subtests (sometimes they try to get away with doing only a few subtests, which don't show the whole picture). They should also do any other testing they feel appropriate.

I do all of my communications via email, so they are easy to track. You can review her emails for her before she sends them. The email requesting an immediate PPT should specify that 1) she suspects DS has undiagnosed learning disabilities; 2) he has a 504 that no one has been following for years, but she thinks an IEP is necessary; 3) she wants him tested and the PPT reconvened before the school year is out. The email should be addressed to the loser guidance counselor, the principal, his homeroom teacher if he has one, and whoever at the board of ed handles such things - - in our town, it's the Director of Pupil Services - - a quick phone call to the Board of Ed would give you the answer.

Oh, and a 504 is basically a big step behind an IEP. Most schools will try to get away with using this instead. If he was diagnosed with an LD that is interfering with his educaiton, providing only a 504 is a violation of the law. If I remember correctly, it provides accommodations for someone with a disability, but no remediation and no special ed. So they might provide that he gets preferential seating (front of the room) and stuff like that, but no pull-out time for real help.

When they reconvene the PPT and tell her DS is not qualified for Special Ed (this is what usually happens), she should specifically disagree with the evaluation the school provided. This is very important. If she disagrees with the evaluation on the basis that it is flawed (not on the basis that it doesn't address all of her concerns), she can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the school board's expense. This would be a very complete set of tests performed by a neuropsychologist, which will give a much more accurate picture of DN's issues. The school board will have to pay for the testing if the parent disagrees with the validity of their evaluation, or they have to take the parent to due process. They will often refuse to pay for testing, but not initiate due process. This is a violation of the law, which should be pointed out to them. It is cheaper to shell out the $3500 for an evaluation than to litigate at a DP hearing, so they will likely cave at this point. And the neuropsychologist, if it is a good one (don't go to the one the school recommends - - independent research is necessary), will advocate for your DS at future PPTs.

Of course, if someone wants to shell out $3500 up front for the neuropsych testing to be done privately and then bring the results to the PPT, all of the above posturing can be avoided.

Ask me how I know all of this. ;-)

Good luck, and I would be happy to help with any further questions.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 8:28PM
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Thanks you guys SO much. I did a little more research before I read your responses, and came to the conclusion that the 504 was a cop-out.

paigect, Do you know of a good resource guide for this? In letters I like backing up requests with the CFR or statute that substantiates the request.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 8:59PM
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Sue, the Wrightslaw link that Pauline provided is probably the best resource outside of LEXIS. At the top of the page linked is a heading entitled IDEA 2004 - - click on that for the current statute. Also, I believe there are both federal and state regulations. I don't really know the actual citations to the laws I referred to above - - it's just what I know from personal experience and from working with my attorney.

Good luck! And I'm so glad your SIL asked for your help - - she definitely needs it.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 9:39PM
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"Of course, if someone wants to shell out $3,500 up front for the neuropsych testing to be done privately and then bring the results to the PPT, all of the above posturing can be avoided."

If I recall correctly, the federal law says the school "must consider outside evaluations" such as the $3,500 private neuropsych evaluation, but it doesn't say how much weight it has to give them. In other words, if the school's half-a$$ed evaluation shows a mild learning disability that preferential seating could address, and the outside in-depth neuropsych. work-up shows a much more complicated set of issues that require special accommodations, the school is absolutely within their legal rights to say "We considered the private evaluation and concluded our evaluation was more appropriate"... So your $3,500 doesn't get you anything from the school. (This is the rule, not the exception down here. I get the private testing done just so I can feel secure that the results are unbiased.) If the independent evaluation is one they order and pay for, they tend to give it more weight.

One thing a private neuropsych. is great for, is for reviewing the testing plan and recommending which tests to give or to avoid. For instance, an un-timed test of fine motor skills might show a careful child as not having any problems; but a timed test could show that he can reproduce figures accurately, but not quickly. This could illustrate a difficulty taking notes during class that would require a PC, a recorder, or a note-taking strategy to overcome. Consider the types of problems a math test with no word problems, or a single-word speech test might hide, or the score of a culturally-biased IQ test. (A too-low IQ score means there's no visible gap between a child's IQ and his performance, hence no learning disability. "He's doing poorly because he's not very smart, not because there's a disability.")

Accurate and comprehensive testing is the foundation for any special education plan, so it deserves a lot of attention up front to get the right tests with accurate scores that reveal ALL areas of strength or weakness.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 10:24PM
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Sweeby--you've got the untimed test thing right. That's how my kid lost his IEP--they gave him an hour and 15 minutes to write 15 sentences. He was a 4th grader then--he's a Junior in college now--so I can't remember which portion of the IQ test it was. All I DO remember is that it brought him JUST UNDER the score differential--so he was "Magically" no longer LD. What teacher is going to give a kid that kind of time? (He was a very careful child.) "Luckily" he has a documented disorder called dyspraxia--this allowed us to get a 504. 504's do not have the legal heft an IEP has--but it DID allow us to get him use of a keyboard for state writing tests and such.

When he gets it together to get it filed at college it allows him to take "blue book" exams on a computer. His handwriting is abominable...but he's a physics major--so that's somewhat expected.

Sue--I really owe you an apology. Having parented a couple of kids with LD/attention issues--and having dealt with MANY kids with the same--I am very sensitive to the damage "low expectations" and labeling can cause...and I over-reacted. I can think of one buddy of my son's (another HS senior) whose parents labeled him "lazy and dumb"--and I've talked politics with this kid. (He practically lives at my house...) He's VERY bright. WILDLY hyperactive--smokes like a fiend (nicotine helps with focus) but very intelligent. His parents FINALLY had him tested--(after he got into trouble at school and the guidance counselor suggested it) and he showed up with an LD AND ADHD. It's not going to help him in HS--he's graduaating in seven weeks--but now that he knows he's NOT lazy and stupid--he thinks he may try community college.

We have always had a "not tv/no computer in kids bedrooms" older guy did his homework on the DR table until he was in HS (unless he needed the computer--which is in the basement) and my younger guy STILL does his pen and paper work on the DR table...and he's a Senior in HS.

Good luck--Paige and Sweeby have given you great advice. If there are attention issues--contact your local CHADD chapter.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 11:53PM
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I'm not familiar with the format of a 504, but I suspect from what you've said, that DN's LD has been recognized by the district(s). If that's the case, you've 'won' half the battle. Have SIL request to see DN's full school file and make copies of pertinent docs, especially any that mention LD, assessments, services and/or accommodations.

If, in fact, his LD had been recognized, you can argue that he is not making 'effective progress' and the district may agree to an IEP and be willing to implement some services. Not as comprehensive as Paige's suggestion BUT, in light of his age & the time restraints, might be worth a shot.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 7:19AM
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As I recall, the schools are required BY LAW to review a 504 annually...and the schools are responsible for implementing the review. I know I had to kick up a fuss a couple of years to be certain it happened on time. They finally replaced the 504 co-ordinator my son's Senior year.

If your nephew's 504 hasn't been reviewed (and it sounds like it hasn't)--you may have some additional muscle. I know around here there are lawyers who specialize in education law--and one in pareticular has a name that works magic. A letter from him to the school administrators and the teacher or administrator who isn't "with the program" (be it IEP or 504) suddenly shapes up. I've never needed to use him, but a friend with kids who have Friedereich's Ataxia and need special physical accomodations did. Most larger communities have at least one person like this. They are parents' "big gun"--to be pulled out as a last resort. As you are a lawyer--it should be relatively easy for you to find out who has the "magic name."

I think it's great that your nephew is willing to do summer school. Also--see if his school allows kids to do courses by correspondence. I know one kid who failed many of his core classes Junior year, and may actually graduate on time, because he did summer school, doubled up on his math this year, and is taking Junior English as a correspondence course. He's another bright kid who managed to cope with his LD's until Junior year of HS--and then he couldn't keep it together anymore. You'd be astounded how many kids just figure out "work-arounds" for their learning problems and are just labeled as "under-achievers" or "lazy."

And DO get Mel Levine's book--it's an excellent source for understanding how kids' with learning differences brains work--as well as what LD's can do to their psyches. Also--Doug Ratey's Driven to Distraction. Great book on ADHD--well written.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 9:13AM
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As a parent and teacher, I feel so awful for you, your nephew, and his misguided, ineffectual mom. It seems that this boy is fortunate to have someone willing to go to bat for him. I realize that an advocate for a student can accomplish a great deal that's positive. School boards are kind of "wussy", and if you (or his mother) know your rights, aren't afraid to go up the chain of command, and be politely insistent, you CAN get the school to act because they're (at least mine is) afraid of publicity and/or lawsuits and don't want to spend money. By the way IEPs
and 504s MUST be revisited every year...that's the law.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 11:05PM
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I would just like to echo hapygram except that I'm not a parent and not a teacher - well, I'm a research advisor so guide my students' research. I also want to add that I'm appalled at some of the labels flung your way for being blunt about the young man BUT I am so impressed that you and your husband care enough to want to help him through at what will be extra work for the two of you. The idiom that it takes a village to raise a child is I suppose not far wrong.

It is a real shame that those closest to him gave up on him, and I have to believe that just knowing that you are trying to help him will motivate him to realize that he can't be worthless if others will sacrifice their time for him.

Lastly, although I disagree with those who've said that your professional quals don't qualify you to teach a kid - most parents aren't teachers but still help their kids out with homework! - HOWEVER, if indeed your nephew has a LD, you really may not be qualified to teach HIM. I think special teaching skills are needed, are they not, to tutor someone with an LD? If such is the case, I think it would still be beneficial for him to see you interested in his education in such a way that he can be motivated to work and not think that you are trying to shame him into working.

I wish you and especially your nephew all the best and hats off to you for caring enough about the young man to offering/thinking of commiting your energy and time to him in ways that others closer and more responsible to him have not.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 6:14PM
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Just to give everyone an update, I met with my SIL last weekend and we went over my nephew's transcript and the 504 information she has. The situation is pretty bad. Last year he only received 3 credits when he took 6 (he failed English, Math, Health, History). He is currently failing at least History and Chemistry.

I also read the testing information and it was very confusing. The testing done in 10th grade contradict the testing done in 7th grade. In other words, they found LDs in 10th grade, but not the ones found in 8th grade. The school has been updating his 504 every year, but his teachers seem to know nothing about it. She was going to talk to the guidance counselor again and get back to me. I have laryngitus right now, so I haven't called her this week to see what he said. Part of the issue, I think, might be that his IQ testing came out low. I think it was in the high 90s. That makes no sense to me, he seems very bright. I wonder if the IQ testing could have biases based on his issues. I think that because the IQ is low, their expectatiions for him are low. In other words, the school views him as "dumb" rather than learning disabled.

I made an impassioned argument for her pulling his computer and TV from his room. She isn't buying it. She is afraid that his "friends" online are his support system right now and she is afraid to take that away. Friends? They could be 50 year old sex offenders for all she knows. She is very computer naive. She admitted that he almost never does things with his group of friends anymore. He won't go to their houses because they aren't allowed to sit in their rooms all day and play computer games. The only time he sees his friends now is at school and when they come to his house (and they lock themselves in his room).

I love my SIL, but she have a serious case of denial.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 9:00PM
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Sue, I emailed you my email addy. I can help you interpret the scores. High 90's is not a low IQ - - it's average. So they shouldn't underestimate his abilities. Is there a significant amount of scatter among the subtests? That's really the key, as well as the difference between his IQ and his achievement tests.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 10:25PM
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Ok - I hardly ever post here anymore but this one I have to say something.

Why is this about the kid getting to therapy? Honestly the mother sounds like a huge enabler, and someone who has learned helplessness. She has no boundries, and has picked a partner who doesn't seem to have an open/honest relationship with. What good is it for a kid to get therapy when he'll be in a scenario where his mother doing her thing.

I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole. The mother needs to learn about tough love, and fiance needs to realize children don't evaporate at 18. This kid needs to understand how long term his current decisions are going to affect his life/ability to earn a living/etc. If I were you I'd find a way to get a copy of the Oprah recent episodes on high dropouts/education and show the testimonials of of kids that dropped out and regretted it.

I also feel like honestly, all this judgement, no offence I sat in front of the computer constantly when I was going to school. I was chatting, surfing the internet, etc etc. I didn't like to go out, I didn't get any enjoyment out of helping around the house and my parents thought I was lazy. Anyone that knows me personally now realizes that I'm probably one of the most motivated and driven people they know. But I had low self esteem and was fat so I didn't go swimming with everyone else in the summer - it had nothing to do with me being a terrible person.

Again, just my two cents.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 11:32PM
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I admire all that you are doing for this nephew. Keep that boy in school, the GED gives him a ticket to the streets should he remain at home after he gets it. You can make a huge difference in this boys life. God bless each and every effort that you're making, it matters very much. Your nephew will thank you and so will society. I haven't read all your posts, but it sounds like your SIL is depressed and desperately needs professional help. She is simply overwhelmed and beaten by her sad life and needs someone to push for her. Teenage boys are very tough to handle if they don't respect their parents. I hope you get this family the help they so desperately need. God bless you.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 2:24PM
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It's been awhile since I posted on this thread, but I thought I'd give you all an update. My nephew dropped out of school once he turned 18 this year, completing only his sophomore year of high school. He sat home and played video games for a few months and just started a job where he is outside and on his feet all day. He is thinking of quitting because his feet hurt.

DH and I ended up staying out of it, except for the occasional "you can do it, you are a smart kid" talk (and offers of help if he wanted it). My SIL wanted our more active involvement, but once it became clear that she wouldn't follow through with anything herself we backed off. She wasn't willing to impose rules and consequences, and she wasn't willing to yank the computer.

She doesn't think her behavior (the enablement, etc.) is an issue. She wants to be his "friend" and doesn't want to be grouch or strict parent like her father was (her mother was like she is, but the father was there to keep the kids in line).

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 11:02AM
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Sorry to hear things didn't magically improve -- But it's no surprise, I guess... Hopefully the 'real world' will help convince him of the need for a GED in the not-too-distant future, and/or he can find his way into a career that utilizes his strengths.

We had a lucky break in our LD saga this year in the form of a 'D' on DS #1's progress report. I call it a 'lucky break' because it was just the excuse we needed to yank the computer from his room and relocate it in a public area of the house. (a little trickier because DS had paid for the PC himself.) He complained; we wouldn't budge, and now he's back up to straight B's (all AP classes, so OK.) The extra 'face time' has also improved his social skills and attitude - or maybe he's just groing up.

With DS#2, we've finally re-entered the public school special ed. rat race. All of the local private services just weren't able to meet his needs well anymore, so we had to go through the schools. Since I knew the SpEd laws pretty well, we were able to agree on a pretty good initial IEP, and his first year has gone pretty well. He learned more than the last two years of private LD school, and hasn't had the 'social crash' we feared most. We're currently in round two of revisions for next year, and I'm more aware of the 'loopholes' in his current one that are causing problems.

So Paige, Melanie, Paulines, LibraryMom, Seeking -- How are your situations going?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 12:43PM
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Sue, thanks for the update. I'm sorry it didn't work out better, but without his mother's support I can understand how it would have been impossible to do anything about it.

Sweeby, I'm glad you didn't encounter the anticipated social issues. It says a lot for your public schools that they can offer more than private placements. Not so where I am. Unfortunately, things went badly at our PPTs last year and I ended up enrolling DS at an LD private school and filing for due process.

We had the O.J. trial of IDEA due process hearings. It went on from October through April with so many hearing dates I lost count. It was emotionally draining. The decision is due in a couple of weeks. I will fill you in on more details once the decision is out, assuming neither side appeals.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 11:17PM
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Sue, I want to say that I think you did a lovely thing, just trying to help. The outcome is not everything. The fact that you cared enough to try is what matters.

Your DN sounds like mine. He's 17 and has recently gotten a young gal pregnant. Their future is not bright. He thinks a GED is fine, and that he can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year being a welder, so that's all that matters. Our "come to Jesus" meeting was held when he came to us asking for a job welding in a few months when he quits school. We had to tell him the facts, and that is that we don't hire welders with GED's who don't finish their training. Our hope is that with this in hand he'll motivate himself enough to at least finish school (we did say we'd discuss work if he did so) but will he? I think he's lazy like his father and won't bother because he'll be sure we don't know what we're talking about. After all, we only employ 30 or more welders on any one day!

He sat there with me telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about. This I blame on his lazy father, but all we could do is share the facts with him and hope that he'd figure things out while he's still in school. So far, so good, but who knows.

I love my sister, and she does try, but she's indulged him. I will say though that at least she won't allow the computer in the bedroom. They have two but they're in the family room and she does check their activity regularly. She has only a GED and asked me to have that come to Jesus talk with him, so she's trying at least :)

I'm sorry things didn't work out as they might have, but perhaps in the future he'll figure things out. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 2:06AM
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I remember this thread from a year ago. I've got to be honest that it has turned out kind of the way I suspected it would.

In CA at least you aren't allowed to take the GED test until your class has graduated, to keep students from dropping out and using that as an option. Once his class (by age) graduates, that honestly might be an option, since a GED is better than nothing.

I teach with another teacher who is so young, and has a teenage daughter. Finally one day I asked her story. She told me that she had her daughter at 15 and dropped out of high school. Finally one day she realized that she wanted to do more with her life and went and got her GED, and then went on to community college. She later went on to a university and got her degree, then her teaching credential, and then her masters degree. My point is that it's never too late to reinvent yourself. Unfortunately, however, no one else can do that for you. This means that your nephew won't reinvent himself until HE wants to. Someday - he will.

Sharon - the aunt of a 20 year old learning disabled high school dropout who is too busy partying to hold down a job - so I know where you are coming from. :)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 8:50PM
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sue, thanks so much for the update. I'm sorry, too, that things did not go the way you had hoped. I know it is terribly discouraging to stand on the sidelines and watch what you know is a losing game plan and be unable to change it. However, it was wonderful that you cared so much and were willing to make sacrifices to help your nephew.

sweeby, I'll update my situation on my old thread.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:11PM
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