Tuesday, March 29, 2016

12 yr old with anxiety and anger overload

Dear Dr. Gottlieb, 

I just finished reading your blog about angry children. I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was as if you'd been standing in my room watching and listening to my 12 year old son. He is currently diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD, but after having read this, I think it is more likely that he has anxiety and anger overload issues. 

My son has very little self confidence, thanks in large part to poorly educated teachers. He has had wonderful teachers up to this point in his education, and they worked very hard along side of us to build his confidence. This year, his Special Ed case manager, and his teachers have formed a wall that has prevented him from achieving his goals. In fact, they have added obstacles in front of him at every opportunity. 

He struggles with his anxiety to the point that he often has insomnia and can literally have breakdowns. When he gets to that point, his next reaction is almost always anger. He knows when it is coming on thanks to a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy that was started when he was just 7. I received training from his specialist at the time on the techniques to help him learn his triggers and recognize the signs of an impending meltdown or explosion. He has become an outstanding advocate for himself. 

This year, when he advocated for himself, he is told that he has to "prove that it will help" to have a request fulfilled. For example, he and I have made several requests to have him moved up in his classes. He is currently in the lowest level classes (intended for children who are significantly below grade level). He doesn't feel challenged in them at all. His standardized test come back with him being at grade level, and last year's teachers agreed that he should be placed with grade level peers. The teachers this year - without consulting us, moved him down. It was a blow to him. He has been trying to prove himself all year to meet the expectations that they set for him as proof of his ability, however these have never been clearly defined, nor discussed. We have been told multiple times that he will be moved in "a few days" or "a couple weeks" but then some "reason" happens and they do not follow through. 

To add to that, he has been dealing with a bully in his classes. She is in all of his classes, and they claim that due to her "special needs" they can't do much to stop her or help him. He is beyond frustrated and now shuts down in class to try to avoid being her target. This has compounded the problems with the teachers believing he is an able student. 

I plan to print this article to give a copy to his special edication case manager. Perhaps if she reads this, it will shed light on the difficulties he is having, and just maybe they will begin to see why he has struggled, and why I continue to advocate for him so strongly.

Thank you for your insight.

Hi, It sounds like you have worked hard to help your child, and I hope the school will help consider his strengths academically.  Sometimes when a child has anxiety or anger that at times affects his school behavior, schools overlook the child's strengths.  Hope they will look at your "whole" child, and determine which class is the best fit for him.

In my parent manuals and child workbook, the sections on mantras would be helpful.  It sounds like your son can already identify his triggers, and mantras are ways of looking at the triggers from a new perspective.    

Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb

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