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Advice on 14 yo DD disengaging from school

(22 Posts)
Libertymae Thu 08-Dec-16 12:48:49

My DD is in Year 10 at a very academic, girls only, state school. She has never been top of the class and while this has certainly affected her confidence, I thought Year 10 would be the year she turned it all around - she has dropped some subjects she found tricky e.g. Latin and added some of her favourite subjects e.g. art/drama/textiles.

Her latest report was a horrible shock, with lower than expected attainment, progress and effort across the board. I've spoken to the Head of Year about it, and she has collated comments from my DD's teachers. This was a worse shock - almost all say she is daydreaming in class, often appears sleepy, is very slow to complete any work, completely disorganised and can't remember what she has done from one lesson to the next. Her favourite subjects have been given the most scathing comments.

I'm gutted for her (she will never see those comments) but also at a loss to know what she is going on. I have not noticed a change in her personality at home, although I've been aware she hasn't been doing much homework. She says that she hasn't had any, but I now think this is untrue. When she does do homework, it has started to take her ages - she'll stare at a blank computer screen for ages and say she doesn't know what to put - and the work she produces is pretty poor. She has said at school she finds it hard to keep up and her brain feels foggy.

I have read Liedtomum's thread on here with interest, especially about fear of failure, and wonder if that is part of the problem, so will research that more.

I'm as sure as I can be that she isn't taking drugs. She eats well and normally, although she doesn't exercise as much as she could which we are taking steps to address. There have been one or two friendship related incidents (normal teenage stuff) which worried her a bit at the time.

I wondered if anyone had experienced similar with their DD? Does it sound silly if I wonder about a mental health issue (there is depression in our family) Or even a food allergy or chemical imbalance?

I don't really know where to start to help her, so any advice would be really welcome. Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
TeenAndTween Thu 08-Dec-16 19:14:14

Could she have dyspraxia?

This may well be way off beam, but the extent of my DD's dyspraxia didn't become evident until GCSE years, though there had been signs of it from late primary.

difficulty concentrating
difficulty getting going on tasks / generating ideas

Is she getting enough sleep? All of these could just be caused by tiredness of course.

SaltyMyDear Thu 08-Dec-16 19:19:07

I'd start with diet and vitamins.

Gluten can cause 'brain fog'

Obvious vitamins to try are Omega, Vit D, & B12.

AmyInTheBoonies Thu 08-Dec-16 19:24:41

I agree with food allergies and b12. I suffered really badly from brain fog. Taking B12 sublingual tablets in a high dose made a significant difference.

Sweepingchange Thu 08-Dec-16 19:49:22

I have a 13 yr old with similar issues ie under-achieving at academic school (although slightly different problems because we live abroad and she studies in two languages other than her native lang.). I wish I had answers. She used to be a whirlwind of activity, did ballet to a fairly high level, was always dancing or singing and was difficult to keep up with. All I can say is that adolescence has hit her like a ton of bricks, bless her. She has given up all extra-curricular activities, she is slow and disorganised, seems white and tired (although she fights going to bed). I veer between feeling really anxious and worried for her, and wanting to give her a metaphorical kick up the rear (I know that sounds awful - I know adolescence is really tough - and I am trying to be as supportive as possible.) It's like a tangible mist has descended upon her and she is wading through it. As far as I can tell, it's not depression, because she has lots of friends and a good social life and seems happy in social situations. So it could just be that she is crumbling under academic pressure (although, at the same time, she seems blissfully unaware of where she is going wrong and doesn't "get" the overall picture; she is still quite impulsive and "young" in that respect. So I am putting it down to lack of confidence and hormones ... .

I have rationed time spent on her iPod and that has helped a bit, but other than that, I don't really know what to do for the best tbh, except to keep supporting her and trying g to motivate her and struggling on.

Mrsmadcatlady Thu 08-Dec-16 19:58:12

Hi there, your post could have been mine a few months ago! DS (13) had been doing well in primary but labelled a 'day dreamer', would frequently miss things out but couldn't understand why he was missing work. He was getting told off a fair bit and class work was coming home to be completed so he could keep up. At home was similar, I even took him for a hearing test as there were times he would ignore me completely. Came back with no problems.

Started secondary school, was doing ok then first report came and it was a bit of a shock. Did not hit one single target set in any subjects, lost focus in class, always knackered and sleepy, many unfinished pieces of work in his books, very unorganised, the school were very concerned and wondered if he had any SN issues and started the ball rolling on having a specialist see him in school (none found eventually). Then, one morning, after sleeping in late (which was very unusual) he had a seizure whilst me and dh were talking to him. Fast forward 11 months, he has been diagnosed with Epilepsy and is medicated twice a day. The majority of his seizures are classed as 'Absence seizures' were he just daydreams off for up to a minute a time which is long enough to miss out significant bits of work. This could have been happening dozens of times a day. The epilepsy team also said after these seizures the brain is exhausted (and he has them in his sleep) and he can't just recharge his batteries. He is just starting to settle now, and hopefully he will continue to remain stable.

I would definitely go and see your GP, and say it is impacting on school life. We had no idea until he had a full blown seizure that this was the problem. Good luck op, it can't be very easy for her or you

Sweepingchange Thu 08-Dec-16 20:01:22

(That came out a bit wrong ... I didn't mean to say "just" crumbling under academic pressure, but that it appears to be an overall problem, rather than specifically related to school ifyswim.)

Sweepingchange Thu 08-Dec-16 20:04:28

Gosh MrsMadcatlady that sounds really tough. Hope your ds is doing ok now and getting the support he needs at school.

littlenicky61 Thu 08-Dec-16 20:08:34

I would probably get her a routine blood test done just to rule certain things out like anaemia and vitamin d deficiency which is very common in girls this age and can cause tiredness brain fog etc

EmeraldIsle100 Thu 08-Dec-16 20:19:45

I wouldn't dismiss depression because it is not uncommon in young adolescents. My DD now 20 had a breakdown this year and told me she started feeling depressed at around 14 years of age. I didn't realise that she was depressed probably because I wasn't looking for it. I saw her behaviour as challenging and I thought it was normal for her age.

Have you had her eyes tested? She might be zoning out because it is tiring to focus. My DS told me recently he had been having headaches for a while. I asked him how long and he said a year!!

I am not a monster and have a pretty open relationship with my DC and yet they didn't tell me things that I really should know.

Teenagers can be unpredictable and they are going through massive changes. It is worth having an open mind. I hope she comes through it.

Mrsmadcatlady Thu 08-Dec-16 20:23:03

Thanks sweepingchange his secondary school have been very supportive, although I felt a bit awful terribly guilty for getting on his case prior to his diagnosis. I've had to be careful I don't excuse laziness and attribute it to his condition, although now he will get some extra help if bits of work are not completed (and extra time in exams). He is still coming to terms with it himself, but is feeling a bit 'more with it' now he's been on his meds for the last couple of months, and he can start to see a difference himself. He is still a lazy teenager though!

SaltyMyDear Thu 08-Dec-16 21:05:41

Sweeping - did your DD get the cervical cancer jab?

lljkk Thu 08-Dec-16 21:23:20

Is she sleeping enough?

Libertymae Thu 08-Dec-16 22:24:53

Hi everyone, thanks for your responses. Mrsmadcatlady that must have been a huge shock and best wishes to you and your DS. Interestingly, we do have epilepsy in our family, I hadn't thought of that.... Is there a pre-test for epilepsy?

Will look into gluten, vits and dyspraxia. The school have offered to test for dyslexia.

I think she is sleeping enough, she gets about 8.5 hrs on school nights, more at the weekend.

As for depression, EmeraldIsle100 sorry to hear about your DD and hope she is recovering well. What would be the signs to look out for and how could you have helped?

OP’s posts: |
Mrsmadcatlady Thu 08-Dec-16 23:23:49

It was a huge shock, but we were relieved to have a diagnosis at the same time. We don't have epilepsy in the family to my knowledge. As he'd had a large seizure, and it scared us silly, he was referred through A&E to see a paediatrician once they'd checked his blood glucose and did a heart trace to rule those things out. Later, as an outpatient, he had an EEG test (didn't show much) then they did a sleep deprived EEG and that's when they found the abnormal activity in his brain. He's on sodium valproate which we keep having to tweak, and the consultant prescribed Melatonin to help with his sleep. I have since spoken to parents who have had similar experiences and were seen via GP to consultant once the impact on home/school life was known. It could be so many different things at her age poor thing - I would get medical advice from your family GP, but log everything you can before you go. If you notice any times she day dreams with no response, try and film it on your phone. This website helped us a lot to understand what was going on with him

Sweepingchange Sat 10-Dec-16 15:47:31

MrsMadcatlady guilt & parenting are inextricably linked but you couldn't have possibly known. And you have obviously mustered excellent support & care for your D's since his diagnosis flowers

Libertymae hope your investigations come up with an answer or a way forward

EmeraldIsle yr post makes a lot of sense (I remember how little I opened up to my parents at dad's age). Also, I suppose most adolescents wouldn't recognize depression in themselves as they would have very little knowledge of it.

Salty no, dd hasn't had the cervical cancer jab yet. They all are offered it in the state school system here (some of dad's classmates have just had it) but there is an option to get it done through your gp (which we opted for) and our gp advised that we should get it done in a few years time.

Sweepingchange Sat 10-Dec-16 15:49:14

Sorry, autocorrect driving me mad! For "dad" read dd!

EmeraldIsle100 Sat 10-Dec-16 16:24:50

Liberty she is definitely a lot better, thanks very much for asking.

Her symptoms were disrupted sleep, staying awake late and sleeping in late, either eating a lot or very little and eating rubbish, bad temper and angry outbursts, inability to concentrate, very disorganised and in trouble at school for not handing in work.

When I realised that she was depressed I could have kicked myself. I put her behaviour down to typical teenage behaviour but in retrospect I was a mile off!

She was undoubtedly cranky but there were times when she was having a great time with her friends so I don't beat myself too much. At one stage she fell out with her main group of friends and in retrospect I think this impacted badly on her.

I really hope things start to improve for your daughter

t875 Sun 11-Dec-16 17:26:43

We saw quite a difference in our daughter at this age. It certainly was a roller coaster
The more she worries about her subjects the more she will spiral into self worth self esteem issues been there with this.
Say to her just a blip learn from what you possibly could pick up on on the subjects she's could have done better but sounds like she is possibly getting depressed and going into herself.
I would check her computer / jump in on her texts
See if anything going on in friend ship circles? She's being bullied is she?
I would pick out the positives as I'm sure you have already as I know from my dd when the school gave her a scathing report it didn't help how she was feeling.
She is doing great now. Year 10 was quite a tough year moved from her friends some not so helpful teachers she settled 4 months into year 10!
Pm if you wAnt a chat. Hope she turns a corner very soon take care. flowers xx

Libertymae Mon 12-Dec-16 13:49:14

Thanks to everyone for your support, and for sharing your experiences.

Quick update: I've taken her to the docs, who was very good and we're going to arrange a blood test.

We've increased her opportunities to exercise and spent time with her one-to-one whilst doing so. This has been very effective and has also given her time to chat with her and I away from anyone else.

I've bought her a really good nutritional supplement to increase iron and B vits, amongst others.

She's going to bed earlier (she's not happy about this, but needs must.)

Hopefully, something will make a difference......

OP’s posts: |
t875 Fri 16-Dec-16 12:54:24

Oh that's great to hear things are going in the right direction liberty! smile keep us posted.

PurpleAlerts Fri 16-Dec-16 13:08:45

My DD was similar at this age- was also very emotional but we put this down to her age. She always seemed to be a bit of a hypochondriac, made a big fuss about the smallest of injuries we were in and out of the doctors for about 6 months.

Eventually the GP referred us to a pediatrician who, after speaking to her for 5 mins, turned to me and asked if there was anyone in our family with fibromyalgia. My cousin did. The doctor then examined her and found she had all the sore spots typical in fibro patients and that she had an amazingly low pain threshold and wasn't getting quality sleep despite having 8-10 hours sleep a night.

She was put on medication which helped a lot and her school were informed so she had a bit of extra support and also got extra time in exams. She had to work really hard but did very well in her exams and is now at University.

She kept herself very active and now as a 20 year old, doesn't suffer too much and manages with supplements as she decided not to take the medication any more.

Hope the investigations with your daughter find some answers.

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