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HELP! Worried about DS14 in Year 10

(39 Posts)
AndieNZ Wed 21-Sep-16 09:28:39

I wasn't sure whether to post this here or in chat for traffic but I will do both. Sorry it's a bit long..

To give a bit of a background... DS14 has always been very switched on, ahead of his game right from day one, through nursery and primary, very bright and extremely good at Maths and LOVES science. He puts the rest of the family to shame in his knowledge of computer science and also is fantastic at science. He absolutely hates English and written work. He has always struggled with writing and presentation. He spent the first six years of his school life in NZ where the education system is much different. They spend the first several years of school life focusing on learning through play.

He does everything 100 miles an hour and is generally extremely slap dash. He is impatient and just wants homework done as quickly as possible.

DH and I have had so many chats with him about the importance of taking his time etc etc. A couple of years ago, we paid for an English tutor to help him with his presentation skills. The sessions stopped as she moved away, but we didn't really see much of an improvement.

He started year 10 this month. He still struggles with remembering to use capital letters, full stops and the grammar is terrible! He will do the bare minimum as much as possible. If the teacher sets homework and asks for a paragraph written on a specific topic, he will write three lines and make his writing as large as possible to pad it out! Yesterday he ripped out a piece of lined A4 paper and wrote out his science homework. When I say rip, I mean literally ripped so that the edges were all a mess! It took him all of fifteen minutes and he stuffed it in his bag all screwed up and all dog eared! How can he even think that doing that at this late stage of high school??? Last year we have contacted the school and expressed our concerns. The teachers have told us that he is doing well but yes needs to improve his presentation. His school reports have generally been very positive.

DH is a bit more laid back about it than me. Thinks that he is clever and in the big picture what he lacks in presentation, he will make up in other areas. I on the other hand have been extremely concerned.

A friend of work has mentioned dyslexia testing. I know nothing about dyslexia and was shocked when she mentioned he could be showing a mild form of it. (She has children who have been diagnosed) when I mentioned it to DH he laughed and said that he is just lazy! He has no trouble in reading and it's just never entered my head it could be the answer. I've spent hours googling and looking into it and the first step is to get him assessed. This will cost an arm and a leg. (Which I will pay if it's warranted)

My thoughts are
Do I contact the school (again) and express concerns (again)
Get another English tutor on board
Go down the route of getting him assessed for Dyslexia?
Do all three??
Calm down and back off and just let him do it for himself

Has anyone got any advice on what I have mentioned or in the same boat?
Thanks Andie

nocampinghere Wed 21-Sep-16 10:26:00

honestly he sounds totally "can't be arsed" lazy to me. i agree with your dh.
i'd talk to the school and get them to put a rocket up him. no capital letters. no full stops? that is barely acceptable in yr3 of primary never mind yr10.

does he put any effort into subjects he likes/is good at? or is it always the bare minimum? does he realise if he doesn't get a C in GCSE English he will have to repeat it?

nocampinghere Wed 21-Sep-16 10:27:22

Maybe tap into some ambition he has? Give him a reason for putting a bit more thought and effort in? Am amazed the school is letting him away with it tbh.

JustRichmal Wed 21-Sep-16 11:03:42

Dd had a tutor for her written English when she was about to sit the 11+. The progress she made was excellent. I got the tutor through recommendation.
Also I have a dd who will most probably go into stem subjects at A level. However I cannot think of a career where an ability at written communication will not be important.
I think with children, it is more effective to ask them their views rather than tell them what they are going wrong. So does he want to do better in written work? Does he feels he struggles and needs help? What sort of career does he want? Can he see why being able to write well may be of benefit?
I too went to a school which had the idea of learning through play, so know the struggle it can be to catch up with those children who have spent those same years learning through being taught.

DragonRojo Wed 21-Sep-16 11:12:07

My Ds13 is very VERY similar and finally, after years of pushing and complaining, the school agreed yesterday to run some tests to see what's going on. I don't think it's just laziness. If I were you, I would talk to the school again. Don't worry about being labeled as THAT parent. If he doesn't manage to get over this hurdle, his whole education will be compromised. In the case of my ds, his lack of ability in English if starting to affect his Geography, History and any other subject where you have to actually write to show your knowledge. I have spent 1000s in tutors, but now it's time for the school to actually take this seriously

nocampinghere Wed 21-Sep-16 11:42:47

Yesterday he ripped out a piece of lined A4 paper and wrote out his science homework. When I say rip, I mean literally ripped so that the edges were all a mess! It took him all of fifteen minutes and he stuffed it in his bag all screwed up and all dog eared!

this isn't about dyslexia or a learning issue. he loves science and is really good.

AndieNZ Wed 21-Sep-16 12:30:24

Thanks for the replies

I can't honestly say anymore to him than I already have. I've sat down and painted a very bleak picture of what things will be like for him if he carries on with this attitude. My eldest son messed around in his exams too and now has a mundane job, (which he has had to start from the bottom with) working nights in a parcel warehouse. My DS21 has sat down with DS14 and told him not to make the same mistakes as him.

DS14 wants to do something with his love for science and computing. Not sure what yet. He took advanced science for one of his options, but at this rate he won't last five minutes. I've told him that he will have to repeat his English if he doesn't get a good grade as he wont get accepted into college without it. He just rolls his eyes and tells me to back off and stop nagging.

I don't understand either why the school haven't put a rocket up his backside. Feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall!

nocampinghere Wed 21-Sep-16 14:00:53

i would try to build on his love of science & computing
find some courses he might like to do, try and make some plans for beyond 16, see if anything will motivate him.

ask to see his science and IT teachers. ask for some back up. ask them not to accept scrunched up homework (you really shouldn't have to do this!)

i doubt nagging him is going to work if it hasn't already, at his age it has to come from within so i would try and spark some kind of motivation, some kind of "point" to it all. easier said than done i know...

Homebird8 Wed 21-Sep-16 21:42:18

I'm going to go against the grain here and go back to the dyslexia thing. DS2 was looked at as lazy and even after his diagnosis his teacher at the time refused to believe it because his reading age was 14 at the age of 10. He has an unusual presentation which resonates with your son's experience and behaviour (and yes, some of it may be behaviour based on his difficulties).

My DS's form is called stealth dyslexia. You can google it. It is called stealth because it masks itself in bright children. They can gain enough from context to be adequate or even advanced readers although the writing side can be indecipherable. As I understand it the brain mechanisms for being able to take auditory or visual input (say from a teacher or a book) and turn it into language, and then output it as coded fine motor skills needed for writing gets disrupted. Rather like the usual dyslexia where letters and words are hard to read with this version they are hard to form.

In DS2, the difficulties also exhibit themselves as emotional. When he gets flooded with emotion, good or bad, he can no longer express himself verbally. When he was little he just froze up, didn't speak, wouldn't focus his eyes on you, physically froze, until the height of the emotion had passed. Then he could answer yes no questions about his feelings and eventually when he was calm could explain himself reasonably again. This happens less as he grows older but still happens.

This is the same language issue as with the writing. Stuff inside can't get processed into language and coded into writing (or speech under the heights of emotion) without a huge amount of effort. Anything which reduces the headspace for effort reduces the ability to output.

This year in school they actually read and understood the report which suggests using a keyboard for all written work and have allowed this (Year 7). DS2 will be able to continue this in years to come with the report and diagnosis. The keyboard has made an amazing difference. All the stuff in his head can now come out and he is suddenly achieving so much more in writing based work. He can also get presentation issues dealt with much more easily by formatting and cutting and pasting and then printing if necessary, or just emailing to the teacher concerned.

The behaviours your DS is showing, a lack of care for presentation shown with the ripped page for example, may be his expression of the difficulty he finds with writing and presentation. Feelings of inadequacy may actually be hampering him. That mixed with teenage hormones which tend to screw with emotional regulation and your obvious concerns for his achievement may unfortunately be adding to the issue.

Happy to tell you more if you think there is any possibility your DS might struggle along the same lines as mine. It is unlikely that a child so strong in science, maths, computing etc. simply doesn't care about school stuff to the extent that they are refusing to try in other areas unless something is going on. It might not be stealth dyslexia but I wouldn't put it down to laziness.

AndieNZ Wed 21-Sep-16 23:20:36

I came back on here to mention about a very interesting chat I have had this evening with him.

Today I have emailed the school requesting a quick catch up in person with his English and science teachers. So I mentioned it to him and explained that we are very concerned, but we want to help. At first, he was really angry and said that I am nagging him and that we are expecting too much of him and expect his work to be perfect. Cue storming off to his room in a rage. So I managed to go up and try and talk to him further. I sat on the bed with him and took a different approach and asked him to try and explain how he feels. He started crying. I mean proper sobbing which I was shocked about as I have not seem him cry for some time. He said that he feels useless and behind everyone else and really struggling. He says that he can't really explain how things are in his head but he thinks there is something not right with him. (Now I have purposely not mentioned anything about us ruling out dyslexia as I didn't want him to think "aha, now I have a get out clause") he has struggled to describe it but says that if feels like his brain is wanting him to go at full speed with everything instead of slowing down and digesting the information..and he said things are getting jumbled up. He said that he tries to slow things down but finds it difficult. He said that he is finding he is easily forgetting things if someone gives him more than one thing to do at a time. I have found that with him at home with just basic instructions. I will tell him to make sure he does three specific things before he comes downstairs but he always just does the one and then I have to send him back up again as he has forgotten. It maybe just a teenage thing but I don't remember DS21 doing that.

I have no idea what to make of that at all. I am really interested to hear what type of testing you had done dragonrojo?

Homebird8 thanks for your post. Does any of the both sound anything like stealth dyslexia?

CauliflowerSqueeze Wed 21-Sep-16 23:27:47

It could be lots of things and it's going to be impossible to diagnose over the Internet to be honest.
It could also be that he has rushed at things so much that he hasn't learned the habit of how to work effectively and isn't sure how to sort this out. Add into that normal teen laziness and a gazillion hormones and it could be any number of things.

I think I would recommend you cut out the long discussions and reminding him how important this year is, because he will see it as nagging.

Perhaps also look into work experience - something he might enjoy and see a point to.

mymatemax Wed 21-Sep-16 23:28:05

Maybe he is just not good at everything. I work in a science environment & some of our brightest minds work & live in chaos. Have multiple things on the go at a time, never appear to finish anything properly & can't decipher their writing. They are paid for the things they can do. Maybe he will find his place & have a bright future doing the things he's good at.

ursusnix Wed 21-Sep-16 23:28:33

Ok, I don't post very often at all, but in this case I feel I must.

Your son, is struggling.

He has standards at home, and school, that he feels are unattainable. He has minimums that he must do (have something to hand in). He knows he will be growled at, but knows it's serious and must have something (anything) to hand in.

He is still trying.

This will stop, when he has internalised the message that he is "lazy", that he "wastes time", that he is a "failure".

A little about me.

I'm bright, by 'academic measures' and everyone had high expectations of what I could achieve. I was fed the great academic dream. Except I had absolutely no interest in doing the great academic thing. I also loathed writing - and the actual process of writing is a painful and tortuous process it's now little more than scribble, (DS's writing has been likened to chicken scratch)

Frankly I'm not surprised that my son has dyslexia, as it seems to be moderately prevalent in my family. I stopped trying, at around 14 - over some science homework. By that point, I'd become disengaged with the school process, and was busy internalising the mantra that everyone was telling me - failure, lazy, a time waster. This particular homework I redid 8 times (yes, 8 times), because it didn't meet the arbitrary 'standards' of presentation expected even though the content remained the same - I struggled to manually create something beautiful.

That was a formative lesson, and I then questioned why I was even wasting my time bothering trying to try.

So I didn't.

Every half year the growling a would occur. But, it was no worse than trying and failing. It had no impact. The United school / Parent message was that I was capable, but lazy, a failure (or would be), and a time waster.

Those messages have been internalised to such an extent that I now struggle with imposter syndrome, some 30-odd years later. It can be crippling, especially if starting something new, the nagging doubt and the repeated internal script. Not to mention the now self imposed impossible standards, because obviously my own standards weren't good enough.

You and your DS have an opportunity to not replay the same story. There is a problem, somewhere.

Please get some help to find it, and gain strategies.


mumsiedarlingrevolta Wed 21-Sep-16 23:34:51

I would also like to suggest you look at the dyslexia thing again. My DS very capable but all of the slapdash things could be him. Often times clever children have coping skills that don't make the diagnosis easy. To be fair my DS was younger but one of the things that stood out for me was that with dyslexia the gap between written work and verbal work-what they are capable of-is bigger than it should be. If finances available I suggest you find a good independent ed psych and get him tested. Not one associated with your school or council. That will give you a good starting point...well worth it IMO...

mumsiedarlingrevolta Wed 21-Sep-16 23:40:28

Have just crossed posts with your last post and it could be my son....the frustration, everything. Get him tested. My DS would read the first bit of a question and race to the end without reading properly. The diagnosis won't fix him but you may get tools to help. He may get extra exam time or breaks. And it will help you help him....

Luna9 Wed 21-Sep-16 23:46:22

I would definitely get him tested for dyslexia; even if it is just to discard it; can the school do it ?

Homebird8 Thu 22-Sep-16 03:31:23

Actually Andie it sounds more like my other DS. He had a head injury a few years ago and massively reduced his processing speed (part of the IQ measurement). He still was very able in visual and spacial processing and working memory but the processing speed had been badly affected. Think three things in the 90s for centile, and the processing speed under 10.

There can be quite a discrepancy even for people who haven't had an injury like DS1's. Maybe processing speed could be your DSs issue? Or there are plenty of other things that could make his brain seem to work fast and yet he doesn't appear to achieve what he and you might hope for.

I cannot give more than one instruction to DS1 and even then if he is tired or 'in his head' he might not carry it out. It isn't wilful. It isn't disinterest. It isn't disengagement.

The way we found out about the issues of both of our boys was to get a neuropsych check done. This took the best part of a day in each case and was expensive. It was so worth it though. Now we can parent, we can support school (or correct them), and our boys have the best chance of following their dreams.

I would talk to school about whether he could be seen by an ed. psych. through them. Or consider whether you can manage to afford a private neuro/ed psych assessment. Ask school for recommendations. There could easily be more than one thing going on and they may be neither of the issues we deal with.

Keep up the talking with him. Let him feel he has a voice in this. Together you can find a new way.

AndieNZ Thu 22-Sep-16 11:56:07

Thank you so much for the replies. Well a bit of an update..

English teacher phones me this morning in response to my email I sent yesterday requesting a quick catch up in person to discuss ongoing concerns. Asked me to explain in more detail what my concerns are. I said that I would rather discuss it in person but I have concerns about the standard of his work and also the fact he has finally admitted he is struggling, and basically I briefly outlined the various comments as I have previously posted.

She says "well I've just been looking through his books and he has been using capital letters, full stops and correct grammar some of the time. Would you like me to organise for him to have extra work"?


I said "no, I absolutely don't! I have done some research and I think it warrants us to look deeper than that and I think we need to discuss getting some testing done." She seemed shocked and I got the impression that yes, in her head I am one of those parents that a PP suggested! But I took a breath and stood my ground.

It's been left that she will talk to the learning support officer and instigate a meeting. I get the feeling this is the start of some major head banging against brick walls.

I feel a bit alone in all this. DH hasn't said much but I get the impression he thinks I am going a bit too far. The thing is, I can't not do anything now that the seed has been planted in my head. If it's a waste of time, so be it. I just can't stand back and do nothing.

Homebird8 Thu 22-Sep-16 22:10:23

So DS has been using punctuation sometimes? Have you tried writing without it when you are used to doing it? I would think it's quite hard. It strikes me that the occasions he uses capital letters etc. he has probably put extra effort in to remember everything. Good on you for refusing extra work for him. The point is that he's not coping with what he has.

Don't worry about needing to do do more for him even if school aren't supportive. Teachers are specialists in their own field. Their field is not psychology. I reference DS2's earlier teacher refusing to acknowledge his specialist ed psych report. There are plenty of good ones though who are happy to work as part of a team to get the best for a child. (Like the one DS2 has now.) Let's hope the situation turns out to be like that for your DS now you are working with school for him.

Longlost10 Fri 23-Sep-16 00:38:36

I reference DS2's earlier teacher refusing to acknowledge his specialist ed psych report

If it is private, schools are not supposed to accept it. We can't take on board every private assessment done on every child, that is sent in. Some privte practitioners are ok, but many are either unethical, wildly inaccurate, or just plain woo. I have one pupil who has arrived with at least 10 private assessments just for her alone, some are dozens of pages long.....

Have you thought about screen time/ word processing etc, the type of difficulties you are describing are sometimes the result of over use of IT. It can be very obstructive to the development of judgement and organisation, as well as hindering handwriting development.

Otherwise, push for the school to screen. It doesn't take much to run a basic screening programme, and is better than paying £££££ to get a private report of dubious quality the school could well ignore. I arranged for this for my sons, who had no symptoms at all, but as I am severely dyslexic, and know it can be inherited, I wanted to be sure. They were both weak spellers, and weak at organisation, because I had not been able to support them with this, but the screening came back as clearly non dyslexic.

Homebird8 Fri 23-Sep-16 01:55:28

I don't need to do anything Longlost. The reports are now accepted by both DSs schools and they are more than adequately supported. Glad you were able to find out what you needed to about your DSs so that you have a measure of certainty about their abilities and needs. Me too.

Longlost10 Fri 23-Sep-16 05:44:37

Thats good homebird, my post was for the op, though

Homebird8 Fri 23-Sep-16 08:35:17

Then we agree Longlost. I was just confused because it was me you quoted.

Homebird8 Fri 23-Sep-16 21:26:51

It's been left that she will talk to the learning support officer and instigate a meeting

Was there a timescale suggested? Can you find out who the learning support officer is? Perhaps it'll be on the school website.

AndieNZ Fri 23-Sep-16 22:25:00

Homebird Ive had an email this afternoon asking if i am free next Thursday for a meeting with the learning support officer plus the head of English department.

She said that the meeting time is 12.10 but that she will be teaching a lesson at 12.35. At first I was a bit put out that it is going to be an extremely short meeting but it's the first step so hopefully it will be one of many meetings.

On the phone she was firing all these questions at me..."do you want to involve DS in the meeting?" "do you want to meet with the learning support officer on your own or with the head of English as well"

I told her I needed a bit of guidance with the right way to deal with all this as I wasn't sure. She didn't offer any advice so I said not to involve DS just as yet and yes, I wanted the head of English to be part of the meeting too. Shall keep you posted!

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