Failing Math and Other Adventures in Fourth Grade
September 15, 2019 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Our son, 9.5 years old, is in the fourth grade and currently has an F in Math and a D in ELA. How do we best respond to this?

School has been in session since Aug. 12 and he has been in school for five weeks. He hasn't missed any school, been late, etc. We haven't had any behavioral issue reports at school and he has been pretty even keel at home. He gets a solid 9 hours of sleep at night and eats well.

He is very, very bright. We see this and his teachers see it too. He is interested in school and participates (according to his teachers). He does not show a math anxiety (which I had starting around that age). He is a good reader.

He is almost consistently getting Fs or low grades on math tests. When we go over the tests with him, his mistakes are usually simple math errors, not reading the question well, or not understanding the question. We do know that when he is at home he likes to zip through his homework and makes careless mistakes that way. I don't know how fast he goes on tests at school. This is not a new problem. It was a big problem last year in third grade as well.

He is also doing poorly on English Language Arts (ELA) assignments, including an open book test on which he got a D. When we asked how that happened because the answers were on the paper he was given, he said that he didn't see them. He had this problem in third grade as well where he was unable to find the answers to questions that were in the text.

He is doing well in Social Studies and Science (straight As in that one). We have reached out to his teachers who responded that some kids have trouble adjusting to fourth grade.

We are having him evaluated for dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc in December. In the mean time, how should we respond? My husband's answer to to take away privileges until grades improve but this frankly isn't working and I'm afraid that it will lead to brinksmanship because they are both quite stubborn.

On the other hand, I can't see how relying on his teachers' attitude that some kids just don't adjust as fast as others is the answer either since this seems like a rather serious problem to me. Do we get a tutor? Do we get someone to help him with study and test taking skills? Do we continue to withhold privileges? We had him do math and ELA work over the summer to try to bridge the gap and he earned special treats for completing so many days of summer work. I'm afraid that offering rewards for better grades will either cause anxiety (if he can't get them) or entitlement to rewards for doing what we expect him to do as a matter of course.

Any suggestions, theories, anecdotes, or recommendations welcome. Also, if you have any recommendations on how not to internalize this as a failure of parenting or reflection on me as a parent (since I was a straight A student pretty much from the get go), I'm all ears.
posted by tafetta, darling! to Education (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is my own personal anecdata. Can he see the chalkboard? Has he had a recent eye exam? I needed glasses by at least 5th grade, but didn't get them until late 6th grade. Most of my lifetime math anxiety is rooted in that period.
posted by invisible ink at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2019 [33 favorites]

He may be easily distracted (ADHD?). It's also possible he's stressed about something outside of school. Has your son given you any hints about people he doesn't like, places he doesn't want to be, or any gender stuff? There may be someone in those classes? He may have had a bad experience with a teacher or classmate of one or both topics.

If it's not possible to move the assessments to any time sooner than December, I'd say start with a meditation and reviewing his homework with him each night, patiently. Yoga and/or meditation can help him practice being where he is and not darting into the future to be somewhere else.

Do not punish him over schoolwork, it's not developmentally appropriate for him to understand yet that results on assignments or tests have any impact on other activities/resources.

Also, no yelling and no name calling. And this includes "but you're so smart, we don't understand how this could happen." He needs to be incentivized to slow down.

+1 to vision test.

And also, what time of day are these classes happening? And how close is that to any meals/snacks? What is the situation with available food at homework time? I have incredible difficulty focusing when I am hungry. If ELA is right before lunch, math is at the end of the day, and there are no snacks allowed before dinner, that might indicate that he's low on fuel. Try sending him in with a high protein snack with a little bit of carbs and see if that helps. Definitely have some fruit and nuts available for grazing before/during homework.
posted by bilabial at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

When I was in 5th grade, right after I started honors math, my grades started tanking. It wasn't that the math was too hard--it was too easy. The teacher would go over and over things until everyone got everything perfect, which meant we were doing math that was way too easy, so I got more and more careless and started making more and more mistakes.

Agreed that he needs to be incentivized to slow down. Check his homework and tell him there's a mistake but don't tell him where. He might learn what kinds of mistakes he makes.

For the open book test, I'd be interested in asking him HOW he looked for the answers. Where did he look? Did he read things or just look at key words? Did he think he knew where the answer was and couldn't find it when it was elsewhere? Find a worksheet like the test and sit with him while he talks you through his thought process; he'll do it differently with you watching, but you can then make a plan about what he'll do in the real situation.

ADHD evaluation, definitely.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is clearly a learning/skills issue and not a willful disobedience/I don't care issue, so taking away privileges and punishment is likely to do more harm than good.

While you wait for diagnostic tests, you might inquire about testing accommodations that could be available, such as going to another room to take the test, having more time to take the test, being able to wear noise canceling headphones, etc.

And clearly he need more hands on supervision while doing homework to make sure he doesn't rush through things. I know schedules can be difficult, but set aside time to be with your son as he does homework to make sure he takes time. Check homework assignments before they're turned in and if you catch a mistake have him try again. Teaching him that making mistakes and persevering until you get the right answer is an important lesson to learn.
posted by brookeb at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2019 [19 favorites]

Some thoughts:

1. When was the last time he had his vision checked?

2. I agree with you, taking away privileges is not going to help. It never does. Based on my experience when we have hit rocky patches with school (homework, tests, behavior) we found that we needed to engage more with our kid one-to-one and punish less.

3. From what you describe, it appears that his problem is that he is going through the work too quickly and not giving his brain a chance to fully comprehend the material. How much time does he have for the math and ELA tests and is it enough time? When he does homework, are you able to sit with him and encourage hims to slow down instead of rushing through it? Have you observed how long it takes him to finish his work successfully at home? This would probably be a good place to get a tutor for the short term.

4. Is he actually interested in math and ELA? Maybe he finds it crushingly boring.

5. Is your child kind to others? Behaves well? Can be relied on to do the right thing most of the time at 9.5 years of age. A delight to have around otherwise? Do you feel like you are raising a good human? Then you are not failing as a parent. You are doing a terrific job.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

We are having him evaluated for dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc in December. In the mean time, how should we respond? My husband's answer to to take away privileges until grades improve but this frankly isn't working

Your husband wants to punish your child because he potentially has a learning disability? No?

Look I have been smart my whole fucking life. It makes less difference than you think. I also got a very late diagnosis of dyscalculia because nobody thought I could have a learning disability because I was smart and read at college level at age 8 or whatever. Thank FUCK I was in a hippy-dippy school that didn't assign grades or my self esteem would have been destroyed by continual Fs in math and languages. My 4th grade math teacher spent every single lunch with me trying to help me learn to add and multiply in every way possible. I had private tutors all through school. I could not learn math or a foreign language without one-on-one help.

In other words I have no idea what you should do aside from try to find your son a support person who will help him learn the same material a different way. But I do know you shouldn't punish him.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:34 PM on September 15, 2019 [15 favorites]

Teacher here. Easy advice: set up an early conference with your child's teachers. Do it in person. Ask in person if they're really unconcerned. If they are, ask them how you can help. Really truly listen to what they say. If they're not worried, you needn't be either. Or, at least, you needn't be deeply worried about them. Not after five weeks. Like fevers, most bad academic patches are self-limiting.

Medium advice: Talk to your kid about grades. Have a long, open-ended conversation with him about the grades, in such a way that he doesn't feel threatened. Start from positives, with something like "why do you get As in geography and science? What makes them fun?" Try to suss out his relationship to grades. Is he motivated by them? Lots of kids aren't. More importantly, ask him what an F means to him. Can he redo assignments for credit? If he has this option, does he use it? Does he actually know the answer to the tests he screwed up? Does he care? I'd suggest that you talk to him about redoing a symbolic portion of assignments he totally bonks (for credit or not). Also, talk to his school about grades. Giving fourth graders repeated Fs on math assignments is ... harsh, a little regressive, and just kind of bad practice.

Hard advice: sit with your kid while he works. Watch and observe. See what errors he make. Call it 'helping with homework,' but only help by observing, gently redirecting only when absolutely necessary. Be a coach and a cheerleader in one. Give him space to screw up. After the work session, or a couple of work sessions talk to hom about what went well. Ask him what thing he'd change so that *all* work went as well as the session you had. Listen to his answer and do what you can to (reasonably) enact it.

(Likely) unpopular bonus advice: I work in an inclusion classroom. I'm a huge advocate for testing, and an ardent believer in the special education process. You speak to having your son evaluated for dysgraphia, dyscalculia, etc., in December. I can't tell from your question if you're having him evaluated privately or through the school system, and generally or for a certain categories of learning disability. In any case, if you're undergoing this process I'd start by conducting some research on the special education process. Also, if your concerns continue, I'd actually start the ball rolling by speaking with your son's pediatrician about ruling out health causes (ADHD or anxiety) before the testing. Best luck!
posted by mr. remy at 3:37 PM on September 15, 2019 [18 favorites]

I was a tutor for a child that presented like this - obviously smart, but rushing through boring and seemingly irrelevant assignments. At first, I used my educator training to model tactics for completing assignments, and to make general observations about their learning style, and to coach them about school generally. IIRC, their parents found me by posting to a job board in my M.Ed program.

In the quiet confines of the university library, progress was slow-going, but everything changed one day when we moved to the campus center, so we could also have snacks and beverages while we worked, and the ambient noise in the area seemed to really help them focus, and all of a sudden we were making huge progress.

I'm not at all qualified to make a diagnosis, I was just doing student-centered teaching and trying to figure out how to adapt to the needs of my student, and our work together seemed to bolster their study skills and motivation to complete assignments.

Also, their parents were wonderful, and you are also wonderful for posting such a thoughtful question, but as a tutor, I think I had an advantage as an outsider, with the coolness of the college campus as part of the positive reinforcement for the sessions.

On another note, you may want to review this FPP: At a Loss for Words: Why millions of kids are poor readers.
posted by katra at 3:58 PM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

My ADD presented exactly this way: We do know that when he is at home he likes to zip through his homework and makes careless mistakes that way. . . . When we asked how that happened because the answers were on the paper he was given, he said that he didn't see them.

Does he often seem impatient? Finishing other people’s sentences, shouting out answers before raising his hand, doing chores halfway and then abandoning them for other things? An inability to focus due to ADD for me is the moment I’m SURE I’ve done everything I need to do, and it’s only after someone else checks my work and points out the error that I’m able to “see” it.

One exercise my father did with me at about your kid’s age was to check over my work and tell me he found 3 mistakes (or whatever), but not tell me what they were, so I had to go find them myself. For some reason that slowed me down enough for me to be able to see them.
posted by sallybrown at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

Everyone above has covered a lot of the important stuff, but speaking as someone whose atypical learning stuff presented in a similar fashion, I just want to emphasize that neither you nor your kid is failing here. Education gets more "outcome focused" and therefore more brutally reductive every year, but he's only in fourth grade, and even in our currently-metrics-overfocused learning environment, the stakes are pretty low. "Straight As" still don't mean that much at the elementary level, unless your kid is gunning for a very competitive middle school.

That doesn't mean you should ignore the problems, but you're not ignoring them, since his teachers are aware there are issues and since you're already looking into evaluations. It's hard to be patient, especially if you really personally value academic achievement and want to see that value-set reflected by your child. It is wise, though, I think, to lean more towards the teachers' approach, here, though: watchful waiting, appropriate supports and interventions once you know what those are, and, above all, reminding yourself he's still young and still learning how to learn. He might not be the same kind of achiever you are, and might have other strengths, which is okay! He might be even stronger than you are, academically, but still in a developmental phase, which is also okay!

Whatever you do, please don't go the punishment route. If this is a learning difference issue, and it sure sounds like one, punishment will absolutely not help. If he doesn't have a math block now, he *will* have one if you go the punishment route -- it took me years to learn how to work around mine. frankly, it is still an issue, both in terms of my math ability and my parent-child relationship. i still suck at math and i'm now >30 and i think i'm still technically grounded because my grades never did improve...
posted by halation at 4:25 PM on September 15, 2019 [11 favorites]

If you cannot point out specific, discrete behaviors he can change, there is no point in punishing him. "You are grounded until you do one hour of math homework every night for a week": Possibly harsh, but comes with a goal. "You are grounded until you get the grades I believe you are capable of getting": Child will immediately give up all hope of ever succeeding at school.

Like several other people here, I don't think there's anything to punish. I don't think he's deliberately doing anything wrong, and it's very unfair to punish a child for something they didn't know they were doing, even if it is something they could change. If it's not, which is the case when there are learning disabilities, it's just outright cruelty.

"Spend more time on homework" is something he could change.
"Learn to read the problems more carefully" is something that needs guidance and support; he will not develop those habits under threat.
"Get better grades" is entirely outside of his control, and penalizing a child for grades is punishing him for something the teacher did.

(Pretending that a child "earned" a grade implies that there is an objective standard to schoolwork. There is not. Grades are not given like paychecks, as a negotiated reward for a specific set of tasks done. While this year, this school, may have teachers who are fair, unbiased, and well-intentioned, as well as only grading according to pre-established standards, that doesn't mean he'll always face that. There are plenty of teachers who adjust grades according to the child's temperament or perceived level of dedication - children who "work hard" are given a slightly better grade; children who are "willful" or "inattentive" get lower grades for the same work, or for work with no objective standard.)

If he's being punished for low grades, is that for
* Not learning his multiplication tables?
* Not answering test questions fast enough or accurately enough?
* Not having the correct answers on homework?
* Not answering correctly when asked in class?
* Not knowing how to turn fractions into decimals?
* Not memorizing the rules the teacher told them in class?

Punishments, if they need to exist at all, should be reserved for things he did wrong. If he was expected to get A's or B's in math, this needed to be told to him at the beginning of the year, and he needed to be given the resources to achieve that. If he's punished for "bad grades," he will indeed set himself the task of fixing his grades. He will not decide he needs to learn math; he will decide he needs to figure out whatever tricks make it possible to get the grades that don't get him punished. If the easiest way is, "he starts failing everything, so that everyone is convinced he's just a D student who had a bright start and then fizzled out," that's what will happen.

"I know you are smarter than this" has motivated exactly no child ever.

I may have been re-reading Holt's How Children Fail recently.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2019 [13 favorites]

Punishment is for deliberate misbehavior. I can't stress this enough. Have your husband read George Orwell's Such, such were the joys (an essay largely about being punished for bedwetting when he was sent away to boarding school as a small boy) if he doesn't get it. "But at any rate this was the great, abiding lesson of my boyhood: that I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good." Don't set up that world for your kid.
posted by praemunire at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Also, if you have any recommendations on how not to internalize this as a failure of parenting or reflection on me as a parent (since I was a straight A student pretty much from the get go), I'm all ears.

I was your kid when I was 10, and suffered quite some opprobium from parents and teachers. It was the single least pleasant thing about my childhood. If you got straight As in elementary school, I hope you did it out of the pleasure of being a good student, because grades in elementary school (AFAIK?) have no consequences. You aren't a bad parent because your kid isn't optimizing for something that doesn't matter.

It's good that you are thinking about what the grades might signal, but in my opinion, you should keep your focus on helping him build concrete skills that he lacks, like attention, problem-solving, or knowledge, not on his grades.
posted by value of information at 4:59 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

This was meeeeee - very bright, very bored, and undiagnosed AD(H)D. I didn't read the instructions, didn't read the whole question, lacked the stamina to sustain my attention during longer tests - and didn't care because it was all too easy anyway. Often it was so easy I'd do well anyway - but not always, and this got trickier as I got older. Math was also a pitfall of mine and in the long run the careless mistakes made it difficult to understand the underlying concepts and it all compounded until I failed Trig in high school and quit taking math altogether. It took studying for the GRE as and adult to right things (I am actually quite good at math!).

I coasted through school doing very well on coursework and being teachers pet so they'd overlook my missed deadlines and mediocre tests. I'd score really high on skill based tests (like state exams), and then bail on subject tests where I had to remember dates or what the book said. I have terrible working memory. Exceptions were made for favorite subjects or teachers (Spanish and physics for me, maybe social studies for your son?) since hyperfocus on things I do like is a uh... special skill. I was high-energy, sure - but not crazy hyper either. For somewhat unrelated reasons, I also really hated fourth grade. The teacher was nice enough, but it was a bad match - she gave lots of too-easy detail oriented homework (like word searches and "busywork", and there were more tedious math conepts being introduced that I started to struggle with (i.e. keeping track of things during long division). It's totally possible there are a couple things misaligning here.

Lastly: You are definitely not a failure! You are a loving, caring, attentive parent = FTW! Here is a wonderful thread on parenting from several years ago. It is probably worth chatting with a therapist yourself about the grades, concepts of failure, etc.

Withholding privleges doesn't enable someone to do something they can't do. Please don't punish him. He needs help (which you're doing! yay!).

+1 for eye test, ADHD, and then Disgraphia etc.
+1 for the book Smart But Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard...somebody. This will give you some things to start trying out *right now* to identify and build concrete skills as mentioned above.

ADHD doesn't have to be managed with meds (if that worries you); but I will also say that meds (and their dosing) is getting better and better. I'm on a very low dose of Ritalin - 25mg a day - but holy sh*t... it's life changing.

I'm happy for you, your spouse, or your kid to me-mail/email me.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

While you’re sorting the rest out, a tutor familiar with your local school/board could really help. We’ve invested a bit this year in helping one of my children shore up some math gaps and it’s making a real difference. The tutor is able to help my child slow down and apply what he knows better.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2019

Hi, one more thought: I'd take under a little advisement any advice from adults who see themselves in your son's academic struggles. In no way do I want to invalidate their experiences or undermine their hard-won wisdom, but I do think that MOST learning issues seem somewhat samey when posted on a message-board, and it's easy for empathetic folks to say 'aha! that's just like me!' when the etiology of your son's case could turn out as something entirely different. In other words, you're seeing a little fever, and you don't want to immediately decide that the issue is strep, because you hear from some people that their strep started out with a little fever. Only your kid and his educators have the full complexity of what's going on, and the regular labels (ADHD/dyslexia/anxiety/SLD in reading, etc.) have a tendency to hide and stereotype more than they have a potential to help.
posted by mr. remy at 6:16 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Tutor here. mr. remy has the right of it, and if you at all can, please take his "hard advice" route. See it all first-hand. Catch it as it happens.

Now I'm going to second, third, fourth, whatever, that withholding privileges (i.e. punishing the kid for the sin of having difficulty with some aspects of school) does not work, and only serves to make the kid more miserable. In the 8+ years I've been tutoring, I have only been fired twice; both times because the parents (okay, it was always the fathers) punished the kid for their difficulties at school, which made for fraught tutoring sessions where the kid would break down in tears because of all of the things they knew they wouldn't be getting back if they didn't get everything right, which made tutoring impossible because they couldn't concentrate on the work. In both situations, I talked to the fathers and explained how punishment was more harmful than not, and they told me that I should stick to tutoring and keep my nose out of parenting their child, and then fired me. (Both students went on to fail their respective years. One moved ahead anyway; one was kept back. Neither ended up liking their father much, by the by.)

Fine, whatever. But it's just mean, and nothing good comes from it. Don't do it.
posted by tzikeh at 6:49 PM on September 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

This is super duper anecdotal, but as a 'gifted' kid, that is right about the age my getting bored while the teacher taught to the least performing kids while the higher performing kids basically waited collided with my preteen attitude onset - I first read The Outsiders about the same time, 4th grade ish, and determined that I'd drop out of school when I was old enough. There were certain tests that I purposefully did terribly on as a sort of protest, although I would never have explained that to my parents, who would never have stood for it had they known. Like I just wrote the dumbest possible answers because the test seemed frankly condescending. It's one thought. It's a phase that didn't last super long, I think.
posted by Occula at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is more anecdata than anything else, but like your son I would have been described as "very, very bright" at his age.

Is he aware that you and his teachers think this about him? I was, and I collated being 'bright' with being 'fast'. I wonder if you son is doing the same. If I wasn't the first to finish a test, I felt like I was somehow falling behind or being beaten by a peer. If I'm bright, the homework shouldn't take long, right? Perhaps this is driving him to rush through work.

Metafilter often reflects on this - how being a bright kid doesn't always set you up well for the future as it allows you to skip the building blocks of academia for a little while, because it's easy or it comes naturally - until it's too late and you start to come across genuinely hard concepts and have no tools available to you to keep slogging through. Slogging is an important lesson in life!

It may just be that your son is used to being able to rush and get it all right, and has finally hit a stage in the curriculum which is stretching him; and needs to be encouraged to slow down without feeling like it somehow doesn't impact his 'bright' standing in your eyes.
posted by citands at 1:19 AM on September 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

You are right to get your son evaluated by a psychologist (education / learning) whatever. But please don't limit it to Dyslexie/ dyscalculia and please don't wait until December, if you can.

The psychologist should do a lot of testing designed to see what parts of different learning your son is having problems with.

One very good example is the IQ test, which has a really justified terrible reputation and is really problematic, but is also very useful for a situation like yours. You should really forget the overall score (actually ask the psychologist to NOT TELL YOU THE SCORE), but pay attention to the sub-scores for the different types of specific skills: "Verbal Comprehension, Visual/Spatial, Fluid Reasoning, Working Memory, Processing Speed" This will show you if there are one or two outliers which will not only explain the difficulties your son is having, but will also give you ideas how best to help him. Educational/School psychologists have lots of tests like these and you should use them. Also, before your son goes, explain clearly why he is doing the testing.

There is some chance that your son has a weakness in a specific area that you can and should help him compensate for.

I urge you not to wait, because the combination of bad grades and punishment have a chance to really poison your son against school (and maybe even against you guys). Because of this, you might even want to watch his mental health and see if the stress that you and school are putting on him are having any adverse affect. If so, please see a family therapist and go together... not alone.

Also... there is no reason a fourth grader should be getting Fs. This doesn't help him or anyone. Talk to the teacher ASAP if he/she can changes the grades to something that won't destroy the motivation of your son. B- or C+ or whatever. For a fourth grader, the test result should not look like it bled to death, but should be a combination of motivating your son by what he could do and reminding him what he needs to do better. It serves no purpose if it destroys him.

Also, please try to cooperate and not fight with the teacher to help your son. The last thing he needs in this situation is to be in the middle of a fight between parents and the school.

Good luck...
posted by jazh at 5:41 AM on September 16, 2019

Is the December evaluation through your doctors or are you also having him evaluated through the schools? If you request a school evaluation, it will be done much sooner and can get you underway for an IEP if you need one much faster, and after the tests from the December evaluation come through (assuming they are through a doctor you are paying/using your own health insurance for it), you can request an IEP amendment meeting to discuss those results and incorporate those recommendations into the existing IEP.

Otherwise, it's looking like three to four months before you even have results, and if you request the school evaluation after getting those December results, then the school has 30 days from the requesting day to get their testing done that they have to do anyway regardless of any outside testing that you had, and then there's the meeting to determine eligibility for services followed by a period of time they have to send you the finalized IEP, so now you're looking at five to six months before even getting an IEP in the schools underway should one be necessary. And there goes your school year and any services or accommodations he may have qualified for earlier!

I suggest you do these two testing streams in parallel and make note of which test each group has used and convey that to the other so as not to repeat the same test for validity purposes. But if you're looking for services and accommodations, I'd get moving on that with the schools today and not wait until December's results to start this process with the schools.
posted by zizzle at 8:30 AM on September 16, 2019

My husband's answer to to take away privileges until grades improve but this frankly isn't working and I'm afraid that it will lead to brinksmanship because they are both quite stubborn.

Oh god no don't tie privileges to grades. I ended up with a major, major complex about math in Fifth Grade because we had a teacher who did this thing where she would give pop quizzes on the times tables, and she would tell us that each time everyone got a perfect score we would all have a pizza party. And for weeks, I would be the only one who didn't get a perfect score, and I would end up costing everyone the pizza party; and the teacher would always announce who didn't get a perfect score so all my classmates knew that I was the one costing them the pizza party and they started to hold it against me.

And I didn't make mistakes because I didn't know the answers; this was the damn times table. I made mistakes because I had a little anxiety about testing and fluffed maybe one or two questions, and the added guilt from costing everyone the pizza party made my anxiety even worse, and I was only ten damn years old, and I still have a grudge against that teacher to this day.

Withholding privileges only makes sense if there is a direct corollary between the privileges and the grade (meaning: you know for certain that he didn't study because he stayed up all night playing with his X-box or whatever). Unless there is a clear connection between the privilege and the grade, withholding it doesn't do a damn thing to fix the problem and it may create another one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:06 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Definitely get his eyes checked, and definitely get him evaluated for ADHD. You might be saying to yourself, "Well, he focuses well enough on Minecraft" or whatever his special interests are in, but that's actually a symptom of ADHD. See: hyperfocus. ADHD isn't precisely a generalized lack of focus but an inability to shift focus appropriately and easily. I used to spend hours reading about John Lennon, drawing pictures of John Lennon, playing John Lennon songs on guitar. I would then rush through my homework so I could go right back to John Lennon.

I'm medicated now, for the first time at age 35, and I still like my personal pet interests, but now I can focus when people are giving me instructions, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:41 PM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Echoing what a lot of other people have said- As someone diagnosed with ADHD in my late 20s, and whose parents refused to admit she needed glasses until 6th grade- get those things checked out, too.

Another thing- and I suspect his teachers would have mentioned it- is that I never, ever turned in homework. Even if I had finished it. I hated grading it in class and people seeing me fail. I hated having to get up and walk to the front of the room with everyone looking at me. I rushed through every test to be the first, and thus smartest, and made a lot of oversight based mistakes.
posted by Torosaurus at 10:48 AM on September 17, 2019

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