Thursday, March 7, 2013


There are some days in which I just feel terribly, terribly alone.

I'm sure I'm not unique in this; most of us go through good and bad days, days where we feel more connected and understood, and days where we don't.

I'm also sure this feeling will pass. It always does. But it's good to remind myself that feelings are not facts, because right now I just want to burst into tears and rail at the universe.

There is a reason for the loneliness today; it's the loneliness of a parent who feels she is failing her son, that she is missing something that would be the magic key to help him, that she will forever be worrying and wondering what kind of life he will have, and is there a remote chance of him being happy and successful?

It doesn't feel like there's a chance right now. He's in his first year of middle school, and struggling. Struggling hard. Not socially, ironically, given his Aspie and TS diagnoses - he goes to a private school and has been in the same class with the same kids since kindergarten, and so while none of them have adopted my son as their "bestie", he's well-accepted and does not seem to suffer teasing from his peers. For this I am eternally grateful, and it is one of the many reasons we love the school where he is.

But he's struggling academically this year, really struggling in many of his subjects. Not math. We never help him with math and he's pulling an A just fine there. This is one example I hold on to of knowing my kid is smart. That, and his ability to intuitively get any video game and know how to play it much more quickly and thoroughly than I ever could. And the kid has mad Lego skillz and can build amazing things from scratch with no instructions.

So I don't think it's a matter of raw intelligence. What I don't know is how much of it is Aspie/TS related. And if we're missing a learning disability of some kind - which today, I fear, we must be missing. Because this kid cannot comprehend or retain what he reads very well. He gets the main ideas mixed up, states things that are not true that he thinks he gets from the material, can't retell or write about what he's just read. And I think that is what makes homework take FOREVER, and makes it excruciatingly frustrating for my husband and I as we try to help him. Things that seem like they should be relatively simple and straightforward are not. There doesn't seem to be anything "up there" in terms of recalling information. Several times my husband has griped we might as well be homeschooling, considering he doesn't seem to be learning anything at school and we're trying to do it all at home.

And sometimes it feels like that. We get a lot of resistance from our son. He hates homework. Sometimes he seems flat out lazy (not just in homework, but in other areas of life, too), so we need to take a hard look at that. But with school work, I don't think that's entirely it. Granted, I feel as if the curriculum at his school is quite challenging - too challenging, in fact, in several subjects. Although if my son is the only one failing tests and assignments, perhaps I'm wrong.

I don't know what to do. I don't know what the next step is. One minute I feel as if we're helping my son WAY too much, doing everything for him in a way that, of course, does not make him want to take up the reins and take responsibility himself - why should he, if mom and dad are doing it for him? The next I feel as if we're not doing enough - as if we're obviously missing something, not getting him services he needs, maybe, or just not understanding what the problem is.

I don't even know where to turn for help. I don't know the first step. And that is what makes me feel so, so alone. My husband and I are in this together, but we have different feelings and beliefs that come into conflict more and more regarding our son. That's uncomfortable and saddening. We love our kids' school, but know from its size and budget it doesn't have the ability to provide the aid and resources a public school would. And that's maddening. I don't want him in the public school because I know THAT would bring up a whole bunch of social issues that we just don't need to be dealing with right now.

Homeschooling does not seem like the solution, although I have to consider it. But considering we're at arms with each other just over homework, and that our son works harder to please outside adults, especially teachers, than he ever works for us (I know, we're his safe place), it just feels like that's not the right answer, either. I don't think God gave me the heart or patience for homeschooling. But I will consider it if it's the best solution.

And we need a solution, because the strain on our son and our family is too high this year. It's too high. Jeff is clearly angry and frustrated and self-critical and, apparently, lazy, in wanting to avoid it all for the sake of a screen.  Yes, I know some of this is probably pre-teen-itis. Yes, I know the strain has always been higher than for some other families because of the challenges of Tourette's and Asperger's. But the intensity is worse this year, and I'm exhausted. And alone. And sad. And scared.

O.K., I'm those things today. But those feelings will pass. They will.

Still, what to do? Where to turn? Who can help?

I don't know. I don't know.


  1. I had a similar situation with my son when he was in middle school, so I'll share with you what we did. He was never formally diagnosed, but the school system suggested ADHD or Asperger's (I have a family history). Maybe this won't help you much, but maybe it will.

    1) Probably the most important thing we did was get him involved in band. Learning and playing an instrument gives several different areas of the brain a workout, and creates new neural pathways in the process. Some people find that their competencies in areas unrelated to music are enhanced after picking up an instrument. Plus he'll have another social support group at school, which doesn't hurt.

    2) Cross discipline studies. Encourage him to read to his interests; maybe the history of legos, video game fan fiction (Legend of Zelda was big in my house), or even write his own stories.

    3) Take what he likes and use that as a reward/motivator. No video games, etc. until homework is done, period. You will have to deal with being the bad guy for a while, and some days will consist entirely of exhausting power struggle, but in the long run it paid big dividends for us. We are big believers in operant conditioning in our household.

    4) Diet. We gave our son as unprocessed food as we could find. We were especially strict about removing artificial food dyes from his diet. This seemed to make a difference with regards to his hyperness.

    Your son sounds very bright, so this is probably just a bump in the road. I used to have similar concerns, but now my son is a sophomore studying video game programming and design at UW. He even made the Dean's List this last semester!

  2. Perhaps not my place to say, but I feel that both parents have to come to some sort of agreement about how to handle/deal/ with issues. If that can't be done easily, then can both parents talk to an impartial someone who can help? The overused adage, "A house divided......." applies here.

    Your son presents many challenges but has many gifts. "Exploit" his gifts and gently but firmly work on the challenges. Remember that he can't be "good" at everything. When you think ahead to where you would realistically like him to be in 1 day, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1, 5, 10 years, you can break down the challenges into more manageable bites. But unless you really know exactly what his struggles, challenges and abilities are, you can't determine what he can and cannot do, nor what you can expect of him. He may not be able to meet all expectations. He may only be able to meet a few. Is there a specialist you trust who could evaluate his capabilities and help you to develop workable plans to help him achieve age/condition appropriate goals? Do his teachers understand his issues as well as they could? Are their expectations appropriate for him?

    Given the challenges that your son faces (and you with him), its OK (and important) to ask for help. Can your local school district recommend someone? Maybe you will find out that you are doing exactly what is needed!! Maybe you will find some useful tools to help. More importantly, you could find that you are not in this alone.