Thursday, December 19, 2013

Educational Challenges

This week I met with Anthony's team at school to discuss his IEP.  He is currently receiving help with math but I have seen a huge increase in struggles with reading comprehension.  He has been off of his ADHD meds for about 6 weeks now because of eye twitches.  We have tried two different medications and is still eye twitching.  His educational issues started before the ADHD medication challenges began.

We talked for over an hour and struggled to find any ways to help him.  At one point they mentioned that his behavior is not bad.  A few minutes later I realized that they said that.  His behavior is not affected by being off of his ADHD medications.  That makes me wonder if he is ADHD.  It is not unusual for a child with bipolar to be misdiagnosed with ADHD.  He is still on his mood disorder medication.  Obviously that is effective in helping with the behavior problems.

Anthony's biggest problem is he doesn't finish anything.  I mean anything.  He never finishes his homework even though he sits for hours.  Even when several of us sit down to help him.  The other day I gave him some answers before heading out the door to drop Sarah off at dance.  When I got back he hadn't written any of those answers down.  His teacher says he does the same thing in class.

He avoids the work at all costs to include hiding it.  Why?  Is it because he can't do the work or something else.  That is our struggle.  There have been other clues.  We played hangman at home.  When it got to him he couldn't pick a letter.  Simply couldn't.  He had to know what the word was so he could pick the right letter.  He couldn't stand to get the wrong letter, it paralyzed him.  We finally had to play the game without him.

We started to discuss the possibility that he had to have it right and if he didn't think it would be he couldn't' do it.  His teacher mentioned that if he was taking a test and couldn't get number 2 right then he couldn't skip ahead to the other questions.  Are we dealing with severe perfectionism?

He hasn't had his medication for bipolar changed since he started it last year.  Perhaps that needs adjusting.  Honestly, I believe that we are dealing with a combination of mental illness and learning disability. 

We ended the meeting with a plan to meet again the end of January.  In the meantime he is going to meet with the counselor at school to talk about his perfectionism.  Also, I am going to get him to his doctor to see about a little increase in his medication.  I will send him to school after Christmas break with the increased medication to see if there is any effect.  After two weeks I will bring back in the ADHD medication to see if it helps.  Then we will meet again to see how to help him.

I decided to go home and look a little more at bipolar.  When you read on it you mainly notice the behaviors that you are dealing with.  When something new pops up it helps to go research again.

I found this site...

A child struggling with a bipolar disorder is often highly gifted, but may have difficulty making transitions, and may have co-morbid syndromes that make him or her distractible, inattentive, anxious or very perfectionistic.

Ahhh, this is the first time I noticed the perfectionism that we are seeing.  Interesting.  Larissa has the anxiety and some of the perfectionism.

The site gives IEP suggestions but I really don't' see much for what we are dealing with so I go and search perfectionism and find this.......

Some characteristics of children who are extreme perfectionists:
• having exceptionally high expectations for themselves;
• being self-critical, self-conscious and easily embarrassed;
• having strong feelings of inadequacy and low self-confidence;
• exhibiting persistent anxiety about making mistakes;
• being highly sensitive to criticism;
• procrastinating and avoiding stressful situations or difficult tasks;
• being emotionally guarded and socially inhibited;
• having a tendency to be critical of others;
• exhibiting difficulty making decisions and prioritizing tasks;
• experiencing headaches or other physical ailments when they perform below the expectations of themselves or others.

This site gives some suggestion on how to deal with the problem.  Hopefully by our next meeting I can have some suggestions on how to help Anthony.  Managing education and mental health issues is challenging.  It is hard to distinguish exactly what the problem is.  When everyone at the table looks confused then you know you have a problem!

The question might be why don't I homeschool him like I do Larissa.  The quick answer is he wouldn't work for me.  I can't get him to do homework how would I get him to do anything else.  He is the master of the blank look.  I don't want to have the responsibility of trying to teach a child who will not work independently.

On a good note his cursive is beautiful.  I guess perfectionism in some areas can be positive.  I will post a copy of his writing tonight after I get one from him and scan it.


  1. What a tough situation! I hope you can find the right balance of meds for him that will give him some relief. It must be so frustrating for him.

  2. What about trying a low dose anti-anxiety for him instead of the ADHD meds? To help him cope while modifying his perfectionism?

  3. Hope you can get a workable IEP for him that focuses on these things.

  4. Could he be ADD (without the hyperactivity) - that's my son's DX and he is all those things you listed, particularly the fact that he can't finish anything,

    1. It may be an ADD issue. His other behavior issues improved dramatically when he started on the mood disorder medications and he has gained weight since then so I assume that it needs adjusting. I will be curious to see what his doctor thinks.