06-12-2017 06:35 PM
Hello Fellow worn out parents
This is a really long post, I think I'm venting a little frustration. The short version is: what modifications or support does your school offer for kids with depression and "performance anxiety"? We are in NSW, and my son is at an independent school.
My 14 year old has been back at school (Yr 9) most of this year after a very bad 2016 (depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety...). He missed a lot of year 8. We finally got his medication working (mainly) by October, and he has been improving month by month since then.
We started him on a nearly full academic load this year, but stressed that we didn't care what marks he got for the time being. We just wanted him to join in and start to enjoy school. So whatever subject he was interested in he could focus on, and to hell with the rest.
The problem is now that he has received some poor grades in subjects and even though we say "We don't care" HE cares. It is bringing him down again. I simply cannot allow that.
The school have been......difficult. There are some really great individual teachers. "Management" however have been a nightmare. We've just had some really tough discussion with them, threatened them with the Human Rights Commission, etc. Right now it seems we are winning. Unfortunately the school counsellors are on the "bad" side. Moving my son would probably be a disaster, losing his network, etc.
Anyway, we are about to go to bat for some additional support for my son at school. I'd like to be able to say "this is what many schools do"....so my question is, what modifications or support does your school offer for kids with depression and "performance anxiety"? We are in NSW, and my son is at an independent school.
06-12-2017 08:13 PM
@Schooner well done in jumping onto the Parents Forum and sharing your journey, I certainly hope you find some quality peer support from other parents on the forum.
I guess like employers, school's really are case by case in terms of where their interests lie. I do know some schools pour copious amounts of money into the mental wellbeing of their student's, while others are a little less concerned; it really can be tricky. But a huge well done on all your efforts on behalf of your son, it sounds like you're betting on your strengths as you work through management. It is a shame to hear the counsellor's are not one of the positive staff members of the school. I am wondering is there a particular teacher you have a good rapport with at the school who may be able to help give you some advice in regards to advocating alongside your son?
In case you haven't heard of it, I just wanted to link you in with an online service called COPMI [click here], there's a stack of resources you may find beneficial.
06-13-2017 08:02 AM
Yes. We are working with his maths teacher in particular, as that is a real concern for him (he is miles behind). But all of his teachers are really supportive and he has a great relationship with them, which is another reason why we want to stick it out with this school.
Thanks for the link, I'll check it out later.
06-13-2017 10:54 AM
Hey @Schooner Welcome to ReachOut Parents!! Thanks so much for the post. Not a long one at all!
I think everything you've done so far is absolutely perfect. You guys sound very tuned in to what your son needs, which is amazing. Now you just need the school to catch up.
I agree with Tom-RO that all schools vary which means that two high schools can deliver vastly different levels of support and understanding to students with specific needs but where I think they share common ground is the area of your son's rights. I think you'll find quite a few parents here will back your approach and concur that 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease'. So often parents think that 'playing nice' with schools is going to get them what they need but unfortunately, after almost 20 years of personal and professional dealing with schools, I have not found that to be true.
So, moving him to a 'better' school is not an option, so you need to get the school to come to the party. Is it only maths? Would a tutor help him cover some of the lost ground? Teacher's aids are an option in some situations, would that be an appropriate path to go down?
I'm going to do a quick read through our earlier posts and tag some parents that have worked with their high school and achieved good outcomes so you can hear directly from them about what worked and didn't work in their situation.
06-13-2017 02:37 PM
We are looking at a tutor. I didn't want to start him on a tutor initially as he is very tired from his medication. I feel it is more important to make sure he exercised and had some fun after school rather than do homework (and I've told the school that). By the time he has had a swim, unwound, and had a good dinner it is about time for bed, so it is hard to squeeze in homework let alone a tutor.
In hindsight I may have been wrong as his poor maths results get him down. Also his grades mean he is in the lowest stream with a group of kids who don't want to learn (my son is very keen to learn). On the plus side the class is small and has a teachers aide. The plan at the moment is to get him some tutoring during the holiday or on the weekend. We also want to talk to the school to make sure he is in the right class, or if the management of that class can be adjusted.
It is not just maths. His results are mixed. He loves photography and is doing well there (~5th in the class) and he did surprisingly well on some geography assessments (2nd in the class!!). This reflects our "do the stuff you enjoy" approach at the moment.
We bent over backwards for the school for about a year. It backfired. Since February we have been hard with them. It is unpleasant and stressful. I saw the Deputy this morning, he was very sheepish after the blast I sent off last week. We shouldn't have to threaten these people with legal action to do their jobs. Anyway, don't get me started on that
Cheers, thanks for the welcome guys
06-13-2017 05:41 PM
I think that's a great approach @Schooner to be working towards a balance between school and life and trying to make sure he gets physical activity as well as schoolwork without too much of either so he's not exhausted.
I hear what you're saying about the impact of doing poorly and being in a class where he is surrounded by kids who aren't as interested in learning. I am definitely not a believer in endlessly stacking a kids schedule with stuff so I'm wondering if there's some space in his school schedule for maths tutoring. For example, can he drop something to free up the time or stop doing school sport if he's doing extracurricular stuff with you?
I hate to sound overly ideal but I've learned that sometimes schools can come up with amazing flexible options but only if asked.
06-13-2017 06:50 PM
Yes @Ngaio-RO, that's what we are hoping to convince the school to do. I don't know if he is allowed to do less than a full load or not? We have spoken to the curriculum coordinator (last year) and she had some really clever ideas about using one assessment for two subjects, etc. So we are hoping she can help. There seems to be a disconnect between the bright ideas and the actual doing of the bright ideas, so we need to work on the school following through.
I don't think we can drop school sport. One of my sons ambitions is to get into the "championship" group (I'm not sure if that's what its called but it is some sort of elite group). It is one of the things he loves about school so...it stays. I do wonder if he can drop an elective? He is struggling now in Italian...and I don't think it is a essential skill! Of course there is a supervision issue for the school, I'm hoping he could sit in the learning support area and work on assessments or just study.
06-14-2017 01:10 PM
06-18-2017 02:28 PM - edited 06-18-2017 03:39 PM
Hi @Schooner, thank you for sharing with us. We also live in NSW and I've found that being nice gets you nowhere when it comes to dealing with schools. I signed paperwork each year for 5 years for funding for the schools to be able to support my daughter in primary and high school. The first year we got a support teacher, funding used for only 3 days per week instead of 5, as I was told the funding was for. After a few months she left and I was asked to keep my daughter at home. We didn't see any benefits from the funding any other year. In Year 7, the school did implement a 'safety plan' for her. If she put her head down on the desk, teachers left her alone and got on with the class. When she had herself sorted, she would re-engage with the class. Year 8 - the opposite and battles with the school began. Year 9 she attended 2 days. Now she is working well via distance ed.
You are doing an awesome job at standing up for your son, although I completely understand how stressful and unpleasant it is, especially when we, by nature, aren't aggressive people. We shouldn't have to be jumping up and down and theatening to enforce our human rights for schools to look to the left or right from their tunnel visioned idea of education. There ARE things they can do, why must me have to be so forceful for these options to be utilised?
YES, your son's school schedule can be cut back. I agree that he should continue with the things he loves, as you want to keep him encouraged. Just to throw a different light out there, if you are considering a tutor, getting your son to do one subject he finds more challenging, can bring big rewards for him. Some kids learn various things in a different way to others, and once they realise they can actually do something they've struggled with, it can be quite a boost for their self esteem. I saw this with my daughter, which is why I mention it.
Looking back, when being told about things that could be done (thinking about your curriculum coordinator), things I would ask in the same conversation would be:
Does your son have a counsellor who can be an added spokesperson for your son? My daughter's counsellor was a great advocate for her best interests at school.
Please keep us informed, and if anything else comes to mind, I'll let you know.
06-18-2017 03:33 PM
Thanks for your suggestions and questions for the school. Good advice!
I think you are right about getting a tutor for his most challenging subject. I feel he is ready to push himself a little, and the boost from even an "OK" maths result would be enormous. Of course there are no guarantees!
The school counsellors are not on our side, and in the last week or so the school has agreed that James will not see them again. However his psychologist is very supportive and has come to school to talk with them once this year. She has also had numerous phone calls with the school. The staff at hospital have been great too. Two of them have called up the school in the last week to argue James case. I have a feeling that the school will get another call next week. This helps a lot.
Actually I was very touched by the discharge report we got from the hospital last week, which started "James is a lovely 14 year old boy....". The report from the week before (different doc) said almost exactly the same thing. The hospital staff are almost all fantastic and supportive, and they are mystified as to why the school has been so unsupportive.
So yes, my son has been back to the E.D. for the first time in 9 months. He is feeling the stress from this term, which seems to stretch out forever. I can't wait for the holidays (because, frankly, I too am close to exhaustion).
Enjoy what is left of your weekend