...And the Kid Still Turned Out Fine

My son is 15 and I am starting to feel hopeless about his future. He has ADHD, which is not so much of a problem as the fact that he refuses to cooperate with me or his therapist. Every adult in his life is trying to help him with learning to self accomodate, but he won’t do a thing to help himself.

I need stories of kids that turned out fine in spite of themselves; if any exist.

BTW- I am fairly new to this website and I want to say thank you to all of you for being warm and fuzzy.

My Dad.

Hostile, resentful & dyslexic. Dropped out of High School, despite Grandma being a teacher.

He got tech school/trade school training, went into a specialized field, gradulally moved into sales.

Was a VP in a corporation for a little while, & then left to form a small firm that earned him a cash profit in 2 days of what I earn in 2 months.

Get tools in the kid’s hands, & get him working.

Lots o ADHD kids have strong mechanical aptitudes.

I don’t know about ADHD, but almost all of my cousins were more or less directionless after high school and would bounce from one thing to the next. But they all pulled it together and now have great jobs, great families and just plain great lives.

Curious story with twists. My cousin was definitely ADHD. But pulled himself together, went to college, did well, went to med school, became an anasthesiologist, opened a pain clinic, made a lot of money, then sampled once too often the merchandise, got his license suspended, went into rehab, decided his family was the cause of his problems and pretty much disengaged from him. He eventually got his license back and opened a new pain clinic. My sister, who suffers from chronic back pain went to the clinic, not realizing he was one of the partners. The other partner treated her and couz was away. She tried calling him, but he didn’t return her call. AFAIK, he is doing well.

The most bizarre part of the story is that the shrink who treated him in rehab decided that his problems were caused his grandfather having sexually abused his mother! This without ever having met the mother and the grandfather having long since gone to his reward. I knew the grandfather (not related to me) moderately well since he taught me in HS and anyone who knew him would have this inconceivable.

I don’t think ADHD is relevant to my contribution. I’ll share it nonetheless because I think it’s so impressive. (I would like to reiterate what someone said, there are certain hands-on jobs that are perfect for ADHD people.)

Long story short: friend with 16 year old (a week shy of her 17th birthday) daughter. Friend filed for divorce - rancor, shouting, dysfunction all around. The girl moved out - put all of her stuff into her boyfriend’s van one night and moved in with him. Since that time, the girl: went to high school every day; worked at a fast food place every night; went to business school; learned to drive/got her license/and has since bought three cars all on her own (one at a time of course); got an excellent job; is renting a house with the boyfriend who works as a mechanic, and they own a humongous flat screen TV and each has their own computer. All this from age 17 - 20. Because she WANTED to get ahead, to better herself, to become better than her birth family. She WORKED at it. I am so impressed. My own 20 something dummy can’t even seem to get around to filling out a change of address card at the post office, much less buying herself a car.

OP, Your son has a therapist, he has people in his life exerting themselves to help him, he has you. I don’t understand why he doesn’t “get it”. Is he lazy, just being defiant and contrary, does he think he can’t change his life for the better, does he feel the future goals presented are too much for him? What does he see himself doing for a living, for living on his own? Does he plan on living at home for his young adulthood? … Because without that clear ambition to better yourself, he’s just going to be stuck. At that age, “future” is a vague term, and most kids don’t have any idea what they’re going to do. Maybe when he’s done with school and has to get on with his life, he’ll get a clue and wake up. But it’s all up to him, and he shouldn’t be forced to consider things that seem beyond his capabilities, like more school. Nothing wrong with working with his hands, as a landscaper assistnt, garage mechanic, whatever . Good luck.

An friend of mine who just finished her PhD work on technologies for people with dyslexia does a lot of work in disabilities and education. She asked me to recommend two great books on this exact topic:

“The short bus: A journey beyond normal” by Jonathan Mooney
“Learning Outside The Lines: Two Ivy League Students With Learning Disabilities And ADHD Give You The Tools” by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole

I have a number of friends who didn’t do well in high school. They spent time directionless and floating. I can’t say that they’ve all been wildly successful, but they’ve all managed to find a way to support themselves and find contentment.

High school dropout now in grad school to become a teacher (at 45!). High school dropout now managing a print shop, owns a home. High school drop out making a living as a musician (his wife does help support him, but sometimes that is what it takes). High school dropout now a chef.

I will say that one thing these people all had in common is that they were not coddled post high school. They HAD TO move out of their parents houses and figure out a way to feed themselves. They delivered pizzas and waited tables at Perkins. They spent ten years stringing together shit jobs and living hand to mouth. But that is what it took for them to decide to apply themselves.

My husband’s youngest son was diagnosed ADHD. I don’t know what treatment was offered. He was on Ritalin for awhile, and at age 14 he spent a couple weeks in a treatment program that really seemed to be helping, but his mother pulled him out. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade, worked odd jobs, no work ethic, got a girl pregnant when he was 19. They had a second child a couple years later and he was still unmotivated and not working steady at anything.

Then he and his girlfriend split up. He filed for custody of the girls and won. (Unusual, but I don’t think mom really wanted them.) That straightened him right up. For the last eight years or so he’s worked steady – not great jobs but good enough so that he could buy a little house and provide for the girls.

I’m not advocating parenthood to solve the problem, but it does seem to indicate that motivation is a huge factor. When someone has to apply himself, usually they will. It might be that your son won’t get to that point until he sees his friends getting jobs, buying cars, having spending money, graduating high school and college, and leaving him behind. It’s really never too late.

On preview, what Dangerosa said.

Is he a pot-head? When I was a teen I found that pot sapped my motivation. At 16, I started to refrain from smoking during the day, and until my homework was done. School and planning a future became much easier. After the Marines, I had planned to go to college, but didn’t get around to it until my probation officer actually called and made the appointment at the admissions office at my local community college. After that I was focused on school and my degree, and graduated from a great college.
Some people just need to pushed, and are not sure about how to proceed with the future. Starting the ball rolling for them sometimes gives them the inertia they need.
Do you make it clear to him that he needs to pay his way in life when he finishes school?

Most of my family were horrible in their teens and fine from their mid-twenties onwards.

The most extreme example is a brother who was a little hoodlum who stayed just enough clear of the law to get into the army. I remember him smashing things up, the police being around a lot, him forging cheques, etc.

He then murdered another soldier (he’s the source of my childhood ‘while my brother was on the run, I found and hid his stolen gun, rolled the bullets around in my hand, took them to the woods and buried them in the ground’ unintentional country music anecdote), eventually got sent to prison, served his time, then left and became a very successful businessman and multimillionaire. To be fair, he is on his third marriage (in his forties), but he’s on good terms with all his wives and kids and is very happy.

All of my siblings, and myself, have similar stories, but with less murder.

Thank you all for your help. I have the kid on Adderall, which works the best for him right now. We did have him on Ritalin for a while but it made him scary depressed.

His therapist specializes in behavior modification through cognative awareness. In other words, he tries to help him recognize his problems, learn how to generate solutions, plan, then execute. He helps him see his responsibility within his problems so he can change HIS behavior.

I don’t think he is a pot head. Nothing is for sure, but his behavior has been a long term thing starting when he was 4 yrs. old. I will keep that in mind. I can always have his FNP do a urine test.

I think the military would be good for him, but he needs his meds or he gets lost from one end of the house to the other. Last I heard, the military did not accept anyone on Schedule II maintainance medications. Damn

I also believe he needs to work hard at physical labor, but the local child labor laws are damn restrictive. Not to mention he cannot get a work permit as a high school student unless he has a C average. Not happening.

The ulitmate frustration is the fact that he is gifted. Yes, all moms think their kids are gifted, but this kid is on another planet most of the time, doesn’t read voluntarily, never does homework. But then anihilates all of the benchmark and assesment tests as easily as he downs 3 Taco Bell burritos - in one bite, while looking for more.

I have made it abundantly clear, at least I hope, that he is on his own 3 months after graduation, should he make it that far.

I also would like to avoid the whole ‘murder’ scenario. If I am lucky maybe we can skip maiming and pillaging as well. However, I might wring is scrawny neck.

You all have been very comforting. Thank you

Well, my nephew had major ADHD as a kid, and I had a hard time imagining him ever joining the human race. He is now the most successful member of our family.

Indeed. The largest disservice you can do for a kid is enable their laziness into adulthood. IMO, it’s only fine to let them live at home for free if they are getting a higher education. And to let them stay at home, but not for free, if they are employed and appear to be working hard. Charge rent if they stay home past the date where they would have otherwise started college, or kick them out (give advance notice of this of course, a few months at least) if they’re still jobless. It teaches responsibility.

If an 18, 19, 20, 30 year old guy is allowed to be unemployed and sit around playing video games, they will. (this doesn’t just apply to kids with ADD, but most kids these days. It applies to me, too–26 y/o female–but my mom was smart and wouldn’t let me sit on my ass after I dropped out of college)

Sometimes, what is often a weakness turns into a strength. People who are risk takers, or who don’t have a whole lot of look ahead depth, will often take chances that people who are more “level headed” and 'better educated" would never take. And while taking those risks can sometimes mean a lifetime of making stupid investments and losing it all, sometimes those risks pay off.

My friend the chef is an example of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future he ends up wildly successful. Right now, he works in someone else’s restaurant, IF he opens his own place, and IF that place is successful, he could end up very wealthy. Sensible risk adverse people don’t open restaurants. People who tend to leap without looking can be very successful - or declare bankruptcy over and over.

I know what you mean, but there are also adults who are genuinely trying to get work, and can’t get it, meaning that they then also can’t afford to move out.

It’s easy to tell the difference if you pay attention to your kid.

Most of my friends didn’t have a choice. They had to move out, job or no job. That meant they lived in some really scary situations where three or four of them would live in an apartment in a neighbor where you weren’t sure if the ladies next door were making slow drug deals or turning fast tricks, whoever was working would pay the rent. And the jobs they took - telemarketing, temp industrial work, pizza delivery, debt collections, selling their plasma.

Somehow, when the shit hits the fan, you make it work. And you are more likely to make it work when you can’t sleep in Mom’s basement because when you turned eighteen, she moved in with her boyfriend. Or when your parents sell the house and spend two years overseas on sabbatical.

Your son needs some manner of responsibility that is meaningful to him without having adults looking over his shoulder all the time.

It could be a job. It could be volunteer work. It could be a project of some sort. The trouble is, he has to come up with it or at least recognize and agree to it, and then you have to let him figure it out.

If you’ve got the money, I’d say send him on an Outward Bound expedition. Or ship him to another (safe) country with his passport, tickets, and a set amount of cash that will not be added to. Offer to send him to a one hour scuba introductory course. Horseback riding. Archery.

The thing about kids (and adults) with ADHD - and I speak as one - is that if it is not immediately engaging, it is extremely difficult to stick with. Immediately engaging can range from “Ooooh, shiny!” to “Oh, crap, if I don’t do this, I’ll DIE!”. It’s not a matter of being willful or lazy, it’s that the threshold for distractibility is so low, it takes something monumentally interesting to trigger enough interest to keep someone with ADD engaged long enough to get some good out of it.

Long term, look for something with a lot of structure and accountability. A lot of people with ADHD find success in the military or in fields where the action is extremely fast paced - like emergency medicine and fire fighting.

Once he’s got something that he knows he can do, then he can start projecting that on to other areas of his life.

Piece of advice, worth all you paid me for it: stop bending backwards so much, you’re not leaving him any work to do.

One of my HS classmates was definitely hyperactive: I don’t know about ADD, he got bored easily but so did the majority of the kids in our class. When he came in jumping like a live wire at the start of the first lesson, the teachers (well, some of them) would send him to run a few laps and come back, so he’d burn off some of the excess energy and be at teenage-normalish levels of bouncy. We were in the same class group for 10th grade (where half the group were merely bidding their time until they turned 16 and could leave school), again in 11th and again in 12th. His parents had some land and no studies to speak of: he would purposefully fail a couple of subjects every year, in order to have summer school and thus avoid the kind of physical work his parents would have bestowed upon him. Then, come September, he’d pass the retake test and start the next year on equal footing with everybody else. One day he was clowning around real bad, the teacher had told him to sit down, he’d started saying “aw cmon, what’s wrong with a bit of fun” and a dozen of us got fed up and simultaneously roared “SIT! DOWN!” Yeah, buddy, if you’ve somehow managed to run your classmates out of patience, you really really ought’a shut the hell up and try to pass for a mouse. A specially mousy mouse. We were told the roar had been heard understandably from the school’s other building, across the yard.

He’s now our former HS’s Phys Ed teacher and a very good one. Having suffered several horrible ones, I’m very glad my nephews will have him. He was a PITA to have in class sometimes, but he’s conscious that most people simply don’t have his energy levels, and he’s patient and good at explaining.

Is he mainstreamed? Maybe try to get him into a school specificly for kids with ADD or LDs? He might do better.