I have been tutoring a teenage student for several months and have observed some unusual things, some of them quite worrying. His parents asked me to help him get his online classwork done (he's in a full-time online high school). He had done next to no work on his own, but it seemed he was capable enough, especially with his math assignments, although he needed a lot of prompting and hand-holding for written work. However, he seemed to have trouble walking (odd gait, sometimes crashes into walls) and couldn't type or write very well (holds a pen very awkwardly, very poor handwriting, types with one finger and literally can't strike two keys at the same time). More worryingly, he can't seem to concentrate and often just stares off into space with his eyelids drooping. This problem seems to be getting worse, and on a recent day he told me he needed to "keep [his] brain absolutely empty to get rid of [his] tiredness." I get the impression his vision may be deteriorating too; he seems to have trouble reading text on his computer screen now, which I had not noticed until recently.
posted by molybdenumblue to human relations (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Cognitively he doesn't seem normal, although he's good at math. He doesn't write or read at an appropriate level for a teenager. He occasionally makes strange, tic-like whining sounds.
I usually speak to his mother, since her English is better than his father's (complicating matters, they come from a different cultural background than mine). When I first began tutoring the student she told me he was "special," and when I drew her out more about this she told me that he'd had hydrocephalus as a young child. However, he'd been able to attend regular high school until this past school year, and she told me that he had "recently" developed "balance problems," but that the doctor said there was "no medication for this." I'm worried that something serious and new may be going wrong in his brain. I have repeatedly expressed concern to his mother, and a few times she told me that they would try to take him to a doctor again, but it's never gone farther than that.
The student himself continually denies there's a problem and apparently refuses to go to the doctor. In my experience he refuses to do virtually everything else, too: several times he's locked himself in his room when we were scheduled to meet, and getting him to work is often like pulling teeth. Sometimes he wears the same clothes several days in a row, he usually appears unkempt, and it seems he almost never goes outside. His mother tells me he sleeps most of the day. Apparently his parents think he's just lazy and shy.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had gotten through to the mom; after the student refused to come out of his room I had a sitdown talk with her about my observations. She seemed concerned and said she would talk to a doctor. I told her that until he'd seen someone I thought it would be better to discontinue tutoring (they care a lot about his school work, and I thought that as long as he was making progress with school they might not think the situation was urgent). I called back earlier this week to check in, and she said they had decided not to take him to a doctor after all because his father "doesn't think it's necessary."
What, if anything, can I do? Since he is not in a physical school I don't think there are any services to be had that way (the online school's website does list counselors, but they seem to be all about helping students choose which courses to take). I'm willing to try talking to the parents again if it would do any good, but I doubt I'm going to get anywhere with the mom if the dad is against it, and he doesn't want to talk to me. And none of this really feels reportable, just weird and worrying--am I wrong there?
I strongly suspect that I can't do anything more and will just have to let this one go, but I wanted to ask in case anyone has any insights, bright ideas, or relevant knowledge, or in case everyone thinks I'm crazy, which would also be valuable information.