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G & T - but failing at school

(27 Posts)
Solo2 Mon 11-Oct-10 18:44:33

DS1 - aged 9 and one of non-identical twins - is struggling at his academically selective school. He has an IQ of 139 but finds it difficult to settle to work or to concentrate. In Maths, for eg, he'll sit and do 3 sums whilst the rest of his class (he's in the middle set) complete 15 unaided.

He has a twin - DS2 - who has a quirky IQ profile - off the board talented at literacy skills but a big dip at numerical related things. DS2 is thriving at school, v popular with the teachers, a small group of equally quirky friends and is in the school's own G & T programme for English. DS2 has Asperger's traits, without meriting the full diagnosis but this seems to make him more able to focus in lessons and to work unaided. Even in Maths (he's in the same set as his twin), he's doing fine.

DS1 has the higher IQ, is by far the more 'normal' child - socially much more adept and without quirks - except for the inability to sit still and concentrate. He can do far far more if an adult sits beside him and supports him to work.

However, the twins are in a class of 26 (in Maths - otherwise 24), in separate classes, except for Maths and children like DS1 get 'lost' given the huge (for a fee-paying school) numbers of pupils.

So DS1 now feels 'stupid' and that his twin is the clever one - whereas he's actually got more innate ability across the board. I feel v guilty, as I turned down a place for him at pre-prep at age 2.75, when his now much more 'successful' twin was deemed 'backwards' and didn't get in. I wanted them to be together. But now I feel I've 'failed' DS1 as perhaps an early start at that school (which eventually fed into the one where they're now at) would have culitvated his talents and ability. They really wanted him back then.

How can I help DS1 to feel better self-esteem? He is constantly compared to his twin and found wanting by the school. There is a possibility that he may not be offered a place at the upper part of the school in 2 yrs time. He'd be devastated by this as our social lives revolve around the school and other families there. He'd also believe that he really is stupid.

Might he have some specific cognitive difficulties with focusing and attention? How can I possibly help him to overcome this if he needs to be functioning in a class of 26?

I've looked into other school options and there's nothing at all locally - nothing that's academically selective and/or that goes up to age 18 (most other schools stop at age 13).

I am trying to tutor him a bit in Maths (my worst subject but, from his IQ profile, one that he should be good at). He has nil confidence, yet can do a lot when I focus attention on him one-to-one compared with when he tries to do homework alone or classwork.

I am more interested in how to help a G & T child with attentional difficulties (and he's a bit twitchy and hyper and hates sitting still) than a proper psych. assessment, although I'll get one of those if it'd help.

Has anyone else helped their similar child and how have you done it?

ragged Tue 12-Oct-10 13:31:25

Why are you so sure that an academically selective school is only acceptable option for your DS1? Besides the hassle of school run to 2 different places each day, I mean.

Solo2 Tue 12-Oct-10 18:41:27

I can't afford the higher school fees at the other two 'posher' but non-academically selective school locally.

Also all his friends are at the school they both go to now and all our family socialising is with the families from this school and has been since aged 3.75.

There are two other small fee-paying schools locally but one only goes up to age 11 and the other to age 16. Both are for children with specific problems - emotional or learning difficulties or ASD. I like the smaller class sizes but DS1 already feels there's a stigma attached to going to either of those schools.

If he suddenly went into the local state school system, he'd interpret this as a 'come-down' if his twin were still at a fee-paying school - which has much better facilities and extra-curricular activities too.

The even larger class size in the state schools locally would make life infinitely harder for him still, as I think the quite large class sizes even now, exacerbate his problems.

I can't home-school him as I run a business full-time, single-handedly - and I'm a single parent and my income is the only household income we've ever had or will have.

Has anyone else got a child like this - G & T but not reaching their potential at school and with attentional problems? Can anyone advise me?

rabbitstew Tue 12-Oct-10 19:02:54

Sorry, I think it would be impossible for anyone to advise you on the basis of the information you have given. I think your ds1 might benefit from a proper assessment by a psychologist, as his lack of attention could be a symptom in and of itself, or a symptom of something else (namely, other issues that affect his ability to concentrate)... No way anyone reading about your ds1 on an internet chat forum could tell the difference.

PixieOnaLeaf Tue 12-Oct-10 19:12:38

Message withdrawn

milou2 Tue 12-Oct-10 19:30:15

Does the school have an Individual Learning Centre or similar where children are given tutoring in whatever they need extra help with?

My DS1 goes to this in his private school and it has been very helpful. Mind you we needed an ed psych report first, but I think that gives the school permission to treat the child that bit more individually and sensitively.

Once I had one report done I asked the same ed psych to see DS2. That was an eyeopener for me and her.

It took ages for our ed psych appt to come through so hurry to fix it if you want to do this. Though again it would be best to get the ed psych you prefer, so choose as wisely as you can.

Solo2 Wed 13-Oct-10 09:43:10

I'm meeting with the Head of Pastoral care on Friday to discuss his general unhappiness and his sense that he has no real friends this year plus lack of self-esteem. She's lovely but barely listens and has a lot to say herself, so not sure how well that'll go.

There IS a learning support teacher but DS1 isn't on their 'list' as he doesn't have a defined problem - eg dyslexia or acting-out misbehaviour.

I was up at 2am worrying about DS1 and when I woke him this morning for school, he looked pale and sad and was v withdrawn, compared to his twin who bounced awake, refreshed and happy to go to school.

There was another disater last night with DS1 who'd forgotten - or not taken in - what he was supposed to do for English homework. He also believed (found out later it wasn't rue) that he had to complete all three subjects last night - each taking most childrn about 20 mins max but taking him at least an hr a topic because of his difficulties settling to things.

He seems to be not taking in what's happening in lessons, not having things ready for the lesson and not starting work.

I think I WILL get an Ed Psych report for him. Would a child neuropsychologist be better - if he has cognitive issues - or do Ed Psychs do what's needed to get to the bottom of this kind of thing?

I think the school believe he's just simply not trying, rather than wondering why or considering the context of lifelong reports that he's v bright (plus IQ and other tests that say the same)yet never seeming to reach his potential in the classroom.

choccyp1g Wed 13-Oct-10 10:14:39

Have you thought about the physical stuff, like eyesight and hearing? Both can change a lot in a short time.

Acanthus Wed 13-Oct-10 10:28:18

A couple of points - maybe you need to broaden out your social life and that of your kids?

Also, the kids at the other private schools you mention presumably don't feel any sort of stigma in being there, it might be worth you looking round them to see whether they could meet your sons needs better and forming your own view. Do you (honestly) think there is a stigma too?

If he's bright but can't get on with stuff a "straight academic" school may not be the one for him. The pace in these schools really picks up in secondary and he just may not cope with the speed, quality and volume of work then. There is a temptation to look at the secondary entrance exams as an end in themselves but in fact they are the start of a lot of bloody hard work for the kids and a child needs to be able to cope with it both quickly and well AND organise themselves. Getting into the senior school may not do him any favours.

Solo2 Wed 13-Oct-10 15:11:54

Choccy...I'm having his 6 mnthly eye test again soon as he's slightly astignatic and long-sighted but not enough yet to merit wearing specs. He does tend to put his head right down when he reads and writes and his writing is worse and worse and he now says he hates reading. So it might be that something about his vision is affecting him more and more. I hadn't thought about hearing but might get him tested there too. Thanks.

Acanthus, I barely get time for a social life or supporting the twins' social lives either! I do take your point, however.

One of the schools I mentioned is really for children with things like full-blown Asperger's and learning difficulties which compromise the children's ability to function at an average level. DS1 just wouldn't fit it there. The other school might be an option - but only goes up to age 16 and there's a local (and not necessarily merited) 'labelling' of this school as being where children go if nowhere else will take them. DS1s peers would think of it that way and so DS1 already has a preconceived idea about it, which of course I could work on, should this be his only option - but it's not really ideal.

I AM worried about DS1 managing in the secondary part of the school, even if he gets in. They children need to be hugely independent and self-organising - although as it's full of mini-boffins, lots of them surely must be geniuses but unable to remember where they last put their pencils etc smile. Generally, I think any child who has the brains to survive and thrive there will have exceptions made if he's compromised in other ways. DS2 is like this but I'm not sure DS1 fits the bill.

I've now contacted an Ed Psych about an assessment and hope that this might help.

My ideal school for both my sons would be one with v small class sizes but therefore sufficient resources to challenge them at their own level and work with any difficulties. There seem to be no schools like this locally and all the schools seem only to be increasing their class sizes - both state and private.

rabbitstew Wed 13-Oct-10 21:12:48

Hi, Solo2,

Your ds1 sounds almost depressed. There is clearly something going on that no-one has picked up on.

For what it's worth, one of my brothers was recognised as extremely bright (and had an IQ of 143 when my mother took him to an Educational Psychologist in despair...), but was always in trouble for not getting on with his work, not copying from the blackboard quickly enough, messy work, working too slowly, doing everything at the last minute, etc. He was more or less written off as lazy, which I think he found deeply upsetting. Long after leaving school (and seeing the educational psychologist), he eventually got a diagnosis of dyspraxia, which I find odd, in that he was very early crawling, walking and talking and is very good with his hands (so if you take the meaning of dys-praxia literally, it makes no sense whatsoever). However, I guess it fits him on the attention, short-term memory and organisation side. He can have fantastic concentration if something really engages him, but struggles to concentrate if it is not of immediate interest. He also constantly has to write lists, reminding him of what he is supposed to be doing, and needs an awful lot of thinking time before he can get on with anything. When he does eventually produce work, it is always of exceptional quality, because he has thought around the subject in a very unusual and original way (whilst everyone thought he was sitting on his backside being lazy). His biggest problem really was the failure of others to understand how he worked and the difficulty of fitting his method of working into academic school life. He just couldn't fit the school mould, despite having all the necessary cognitive ability, because his problems with organisation, fitting in with a rigid working method where constant proof of effort is required, and short term memory, were not recognised or respected. Now that he understands what his issues are, he has found ways of working around them and is more able to stand up for himself if criticised for apparently not getting on with something, and has therefore achieved success in a creative field. It is a shame that sometimes the truly original thinkers in life are somewhat misunderstood at school and thrive better once they escape!

As for whether an educational psychologist would necessarily pick up on what is really going on with your ds - I don't honestly know. Hopefully, if you point out what the issues appear to be.

rabbitstew Thu 14-Oct-10 11:54:36

ps my brother would have appreciated it hugely if someone had stood his corner a bit more at school and tried a bit harder to find out why an apparently bright and interested little boy was so "lazy." It's a very easy label to give to a little boy who, despite his issues, is bright enough still to achieve reasonably well, but the result is generally that the child in question gives up trying, because everyone spends their time being so unnecessarily critical and stops giving encouragement for the child's good points. So you are doing the right thing by not just letting your son's self esteem shoot through the floor and not accepting the school's opinion of his work ethic!

Solo2 Thu 14-Oct-10 13:29:06

Thanks rabbitstew. The annoying thing is that the school has been v v good for other even brighter children who are v disorganised/ quirky/ socially challenged. there are a number of children in DCs classes who sound v like your brother - except that they seem able to shine hugely at Maths.

They might struggle in English, for example, or other general subjects and drop pencils and be slightly weird and challenging but the minute they have some Maths problems in front of them, they whizz happily though the questions and some are performing at a level way ahead of their years.

I always hoped that DS1 would be pretty good too at Maths and that success in this might outweigh his difficulties in other areas. Not so. He seems to forget - and re-forget - his times tables and number bonds and forget a technique which he formerly knew well from one lesson to the next or be convinced that he just can't do it - when, with some initial support - I find that he can do it.

I always think that if you're born with one of those brains that makes you a whizz at Maths that as long as you're concentrating on this area, you can block out all else and become absorbed. this seems to be the case with some of DCs peers. DS1 (and DS2) will never be a maths genius but should be functioning better than he is. His scores in IQ testing indicate that he should be performing around the higher-middle section of his form in this type of school instead of near the bottom.

If he were a Maths whizz, I think the school would be much much more forgiving actually.

I'm v interested in what you say about dyspraxia. I think his twin was diagnosed with this as he couldn't (and still can't v well) do things like ride a bike or do laces or tie his tie etc. He used to be hopeless at handwriting too. DS1 on the other hand had above average ability in coordination and is much much more able with hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills...

However, his handwriting is now appalling, whilst his dypsraxic twin's is extremely neat. Perhaps his dyspraxia - if this is what he might have - is manifesting in different areas.

Interestingly, a male, first cousin of my twins has dyspraxia, I think and has also struggled to do well in conventional academic settings and whilst at school, was allowed to type answers some of the time, I think and get extra time in exams. Another cousin of theirs is dyslexic. Maybe there's a third term to describe what DS1 seems to have that's a bit like dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Yes, I worry that DS1 is almost depressed, especially as he's not having a good year socially either and currently has no identified 'friends' as opposed to people with whom he is friendly. He WAS the one of the twins who was highly competent with friendships but now DS2 supercedes him in this too, at present.

I hope the school are helpful tomorrow. The Ed Psych. has emailed me back to say that she'll get in touch in the next few days.

choccyp1g Thu 14-Oct-10 15:21:18

I've been thinking about Rabbitstew's theory that laziness or drive is a quality you are just born with, and hoping it's not true.
My laziness is to do with wanting to stay in my comfort zone. I'm not lazy once I get started with something, and worked really hard, for long hours when in paid work, but would never try something that I wasn't sure I could do well. I do think that this could be caused by never being "challenged" at school. Because I did language subjects, I could (and did) do longer essays than required, read extra books around the subject etc., but I was never pushed to do more, or given a harder level of essay questions.
Whereas DS flair (and his father's) are more on the science side, so with maths homework (at Y5 anyway) there is a right or wrong answer, he just whizzes through and stops. On the literacy questions, he treats it in the same way, comprehension, short answers, gets them right; creative, imaginative work, does the bare minimum.
Maybe that's just the way he is, but maybe, if he were being asked to use his brains a bit more on the stuff he likes (maths), it might spill over into his less favourite subjects. It's not as if he can't think, we have great conversations about philosophical questions, and fantasies about alien life, whether people see colours in the same way etc. etc.

Anyway, what was the OP question again? grin

choccyp1g Thu 14-Oct-10 15:26:15

I think I put that last post into the wrong thread, but it is maybe a bit relevant, in that if the work is too easy, (or too hard) some children will either muck around or zone out.

Solo2 Thu 14-Oct-10 18:45:16

Choccy, I think part of the problem is that there are just so many children in the class that DS1 can't get the individual help he needs. I know that many here might not think it's a huge class (24 in most subjects but 26 in Maths, which is set) but for a fee-paying school, I think it's HUGE! The theory in the school is that all the children are so bright that it's stimulating for them to have lots of peers but in practice, I think that certain children - with specific issues with attention or processing or behavioural problems or even a maths whizz who's not good at English - just get lost.

I think the work is about at the level that DS1 CAN do but it's more that the 'whole class teaching' thing isn't good for him and he needs one-to-one or small group attention.

Right at the start of my twins' schooling cmall class size was the main reason I went for fee-paying, as they began in classes of 10 to 12 only. At age 7, they started their current school (other one only went up to age 7) and what had previosuly been small tendencies towards problems became much more apparent for DS1. It didn't get picked up quick enough that he was having problems concentrating etc.

Now in Yr 5, the children are expected to make a major step-up in independence and so the problem is further exacerbated.

I do wonder also how good - or not - the teaching is anyway. I'm not a teacher but my late mother was and she would probably have made subjects more 'alive' by getting the children to move around or act things out or be v creative about how she taught. In many subjects, the children at DSSs school sit and watch a video of a topic and then get a sheet to fill in about it in class or at home.

Anyway, I'm digressing from the issue - DS1s particular issues. Hope the meeting goes well with the Pastoral Care teacher tomorrow. In the past, I find that they come across as really lovely and helpful but things that are discussed are never quite put into action and I'm sure this is also to do with the sheer numbers of children - 74 in this year group.

toffeemonkey Fri 15-Oct-10 10:37:24

I just want to add two things that might be useful to you.

There's a really good book that might help: Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson.

Also, physical exercise might have an impact on attention. If he gets lots and lots of exercise this might help his attention difficulties. I'm not suggesting this is a solution to your problems, but it might go some way to helping.

betelguese Mon 18-Oct-10 23:20:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rabbitstew Tue 19-Oct-10 07:43:13

betelguese - I think you are lumping all "G&T" children in together somewhat. All children have different personalities, so not all children will react in the same way to an apparent lack of challenge (some may zone out altogether, others may become difficult and questioning, others may just do what they are asked but find it boring and uninspiring, and others may go off at a tangent to make the work more interesting for themselves...). And some gifted children who drop off and underachieve actually have something other than their sheer intelligence going on at the same time to blame for that.

Solo2 - Just a quick thought. You might want to have your DS checked for retained reflexes by an occupational therapist. This are infant reflexes that don't fade. They can affect concentration, the ability to sit still, reading, maths etc.

There is research that suggests visual perception problems affect maths abilities so the Beery Buktenica Visual Motor Integration tests might also help.

My DS1 (age 7) has quite a few retained reflexes and even after a couple of weeks of work I have seen improvements in his reading, handwriting and concentration.

Sorry these are

Solo2 Tue 19-Oct-10 18:46:21

Thanks. I saw the new Learning Support teacher today but found her really odd/'way-out' and opinionated. She recommended someone locally to assess DS1 who I know to be someone with a terrible reputation in her profession. She emailed me a summary of our meeting, getting 3 key facts wrong and copied it to two key members of school staff. So I had to reply and clarify things.

Anyway, that wasn't much help!

She did mention a few interesting things though about retained reflexes, as you mention, Chaz... and also about perhaps DS1 needs coloured lensed spectacles and also has auditory processing all felt a bit fringe/ alternative though.

I really felt worried about the fact that she seemed absolutely certain in her opinions, based on the little I told her, when she's never even met my son at all. She's one of those people who start with various assumptions and gets the world/ people/ children to fit her preconceived assumptions, rather than starting with a sense of openness and curiosity.

I'm going to look for a well-qualified neuropsychologist to see him rather than the person she suggested.

Toffeemonkey, that book sounds good. Must get hold of a copy. Thanks. Yes, he responds well to physical exercise and they do a lot of sports at school but of course some of the time he just has to stay still.

The LD teacher assumed he had ADHD but he doesn't and no one else has ever suggested this...quite frankly, I think she was a bit bonkers and should have retired yrs ago. Sorry, but I'm only just now processing my early morning meeting with her and the more I think about it, the more judgemental I feel!

The Pastoral Care teacher the other day was much better, although she also has her own opinions and finds it hard to listen to another point of view. At least she was absolutely on-side about boosting DS1s confidence.

I had a long chat with his Maths teacher the other day about this and then the stupid man (sorry again - I really feel angry tonight!) went and declared to the entire class that DS1 had got the worst mark in the class that day for the test! DS1 came out even less confident. The maths teacher gave DS1/me some extra work books for DS1 but they're all from the yr behind and say so on the front cover. What I really wanted was some specific help with the work they're currently doing and how exactly to help DS1 - given his specific difficulties!

DS1 definitely needs to be interested and challenged but not SO challenged that he loses confidence further.

He's basically in a school where all the children could be called G & T but even within that range, there's a difference both in exactly HOW G & T each child is and also in how far they're able to use what they've got to achieve in a conventional educational setting.

DS1 isn't the only one like this but the class size is far too large to help those like him with specific learning difficulties.

betelguese Tue 19-Oct-10 19:39:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Visual perception issues are not fringe or alternative even if it sounds it. There is a properly researched link between VP problems and maths abilities

and see this thread for information on Visual stress / Myers Irlan and coloured specs or overlays. Its another recognised problem with reading etc 032-Tinted-glasses-for-Irlen-39-s-syndrome-how-muc h-difference

If you do a search on retained reflexes on mumsnet you will find a number of threads on the topic. I was shocked when the OT asked my son to do some of the assessment exercises and it became clear the problems he was having. For example, if you as him to touch each finger to his thumb in sequence on his right hand with his eyes closed then his left hand copies the movement and vice versa. Imagine how hard it is to write neatly if your writing hand and non writing hand are trying to copy each other. Your brain is having to work hard just to overcome the chatter from the retained reflexes before it can focus on the task in hand.

betelguese Thu 21-Oct-10 01:53:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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