View Full Version : HELP! Son won't try in school.

12-19-12, 08:27 PM
I am at my wits end. I have no idea what to do. I broke down and started crying in front of my son today when talking to him about his school work. My son is nine and was diagnosed with ADHD when he was six. He was on Concerta for some time, but then it just seemed to stop working. When he first started, his school work improved dramatically and he got in much less trouble in class. After the Concerta seemed to stop working, about a year to a year and a half ago, we tried the Daytrana patch. That worked well, but gave him a slight rash and he kept pulling it off. It doesn't work hif he won't leave it on. We just recently started on 70 mg of Vyvanse. This seemed to calm him down quite a bit for the first few days, but now he seems almost back to normal. He is less hyper, but there is no improvement in school.

He has struggled in math all year. His current average is a 57. He started off well in the other subjects, but his grades have come steadily down as the year has progressed. He is passing everything but math, but mostly with Cs. In math, he seems to understand the majority of the material, but he just doesn't try on any of the work. He rushes through it and just circles answers. I have tried rewarding him for good grades and punishing him for bad. He has been grounded for the last month, until his math grade comes up. He can do almost nothing, only reading and work books.

I would think this would encourage him to try, but no. He brought home a 50 on a test today. We went over it, and some stuff he did not understand, but I know it was because he did not listen to the teacher. Other stuff, he simply didn't try on at all. I have stressed to him the importance of his grades, the possibility of failing, everything. He may get a good grade one week, but then the next it is back to failing grades. I don't know what to do!!!!! Does anyone have any advice for motivating him to try or care about his work?

Ms. Mango
12-19-12, 09:07 PM
Punishing him won't really have much effect--you're seeing that already. It won't encourage him to try but to give up or act out.

It sounds like when you found a medication that worked for him he did better in school, so it's not really a matter of motivation. You might need to work with your son's doctor to find another medication/dose that worked as well for him as Concerta did.

The other possibilities are that he might need some tutoring, or that he has another learning disability in addition to ADHD, like dyscalculia. Can you speak with someone at school to get him some extra help and/or testing?

Phoenix Ash
12-19-12, 10:15 PM
One of the most frustrating, difficult things about having AD/HD is the issue of effort vs. results. With non-AD/HD folks, it seems like a simple equation: greater effort = greater results. Right?

Problem is, in the AD/HD brain, that equation is BROKEN.

It just simply does not work that way. You have to understand that your son is already trying very, very hard, even though it doesn't always look like he is.

I know it's difficult to understand this, but it's crucial.

Because he has AD/HD, your son's brain does not work the way he wants it to, or the way you want it to. The AD/HD brain lacks the right balance of chemicals required in order to function properly. As a result, trying to function AT ALL is a major drain on resources. Motivation is a problem because it is an additional drain. Productivity is therefore a problem.

The usual reward/punishment systems that may work with other kids DO NOT WORK with AD/HD. In fact, they usually make it worse. Why? In part, it's because feeling bad/guilty/stupid/lazy/insufficient is an additional drain on mental resources! Not to mention the consequences to self esteem.

Trying to get him to "try harder" will not accomplish anything except to frustrate the both of you and make him feel progressively worse. He already knows the importance of grades and he wants to do well, but he is too young to understand why it is so difficult for him. What he needs from you is to understand this tremendous challenge he faces and continue to pursue appropriate treatment for him.

Does that mean you give up on him? Do you stop holding him accountable? No, not at all! We do need to be held accountable. But we also need positivity, understanding, structure and treatment.

LOADS of positive reinforcement is critical!!

Medication can help, too. But as you've seen, medication can be a tricky thing. Dosages need to be carefully monitored and often need to be adjusted, especially with a growing child whose challenges are increasing year by year.

You said he was doing well on Concerta for awhile until it stopped working. Had you tried upping the dose with his doctor? What about his diet, sleep, exercise? Could any other medications have been interfering? There are other medications that can be tried as well.

One other note -- he may also have some kind of learning disability that could be interfering; that's commonly found along with AD/HD. Have you had him tested for LDs?

12-26-12, 04:22 PM
I get what you are saying. How would you suggest holding him accountable without punishing him? Also, I have tried positive reinforcement and not gotten results. Is there a system that might help or any specific reinforcement that I may not be trying? Or is it just trial and error until I find what works? We did go up on the Concerta, but it did nothing, so we switched to new medication. I contacted the doctor to increase the dosage of the Vyvanse/ change medications, but he wanted to wait until after the holidays. I will contact the school about having him tested for other LDs when school resumes after the break. Thank you for the help!

01-10-13, 01:12 PM
I had a problem like that, I knew the stuff, I just couldn't do it, like I kept making mistakes. With my personal experience I tend to rush through test, it could be that he is try, but he is rushing because he is afraid of not finishing in time, or taking to long and looking stupid in front of other kids. Most of the time with ADHD/ADD kids it isn't that they aren't trying, they are trying, it is that we learn differently. When it comes to math, well it is hard for us to learn because there is no way to make it interesting.

01-10-13, 01:42 PM
Check out the links that one of our members has collected. You might find something useful in there:

01-10-13, 02:16 PM

You have to find out where the kid is then figure out how to work with him. The suggestion of having him checked out for learning disabilities is a good one.

A very good way to get this done is with a clinic connected with a major teaching hospital or university.

Here is a list in Texas

Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas (Austin) Mental Health Services Program Notes: Serves children.

Children's Medical Center (Dallas) Department of Neuropsychology Program Notes: Serves children.

Cook Children's Health Care System (Fort Worth) Behavioral and Health Services Program Notes: Serves children and adolescents.

Texas Children's Hospital (Houston) Clinical Care Center Children's Psychiatric Clinic Program Notes: Serves children.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston The Center for Human Development Research Program Notes: Serves children, adolescents and adultsSource:

If you go to the link Fuzzy12 posted, it will take you to my corner and there you may find some ideas that could be helpful.

One of the major points is for ADHD is the consequences both positive and negative must be fast and in the environment.

Russell Barkley suggested one thing (From memory) called Bucks for B's. What this involves is to give a reward (money or other useable rewards) for making a B or better on a test or paper. It is given on the same day he brings it home or the teacher reports it. The amount is what works for you and your child.

The thing to keep in mind with ADHD children is that delayed consequences of any sort will have little impact. Immediate consequences are best but always as soon as possible after the event.

For an ADHD child, they need this prompt reinforcement to operate. Think to yourself, why should the kid study especially when he is not doing well and there is no pay off? Punishment seldom works unless it is done in a way that is effective for ADHD kids. Look at the essay on discipline, it might give you some ideas. Read the one on Acknowledgements. Especially look at the ones on point of performance and consequences in the environment.

Keep in mind that we are not trying to punish away unwanted behaviors but substitute good behaviors instead and for that positive reinforcement is the key.

Anyway good luck. Working with ADHD kids takes special effort and special methods designed to work with the disability.


02-26-13, 07:32 PM
It's most likely because the way he is being taught doesn't fit his learning style. You should look into the school's resources to see if he can get 1-on-1 help with math. Math is a common struggle for kids, especially ADHD kids.

Lecture style teaching in a classroom with 20+ kids is a hard environment for kids to learn Math, especially if they are not highly auditory in their learning style. If he's not learning, it's not his fault.