Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Preventing Your Child from Missing School

When a bright, capable, and promising child comes home with a below average or failing report card, many parents respond with anger and frustration.

Bright teenagers with behavioral and emotional problems often manage to keep up their grades and create the illusion that all is well. When those grades begin to slip, or suddenly drop precipitously, this serves as an urgent warning to moms and dads that the teenager who was furiously treading water is now drowning. Underachieving teens often find themselves in a vicious cycle.

Cycle of School Failure:

1. Poor grades
2. Negative reaction by teachers/parents
3. Drop in self-esteem
4. Struggle to catch up
5. Worse grades
6. Teachers begin to "give up" on the child
7. Another drop in self-esteem
8. Apathy
9. Worse grades
10. Student begins to skip school or drop out all together

Failing school can lead to social impairment if the student is held back, economic impact if the student drops out or cannot continue his or her education, and emotional impact as the cycle of failure diminishes the teen's self-esteem.

If your child is failing in school, avoiding homework, skipping classes, or threatening to drop out, or simply not achieving at his or her potential, there are probably underlying behavioral and emotional problems causing the academic issues.

If your teen is frequently absent or truant from school, he or she is statistically at highest risk for dropping out of high school. If your teen has repeated a year due to failing grades, he or she is at even higher risk of dropping out before finishing his or her education.

High School drop outs are 72% more likely to be unemployed and they will earn 27% less than high school graduates.

The National Dropout Prevention Center has identified many strategies that have had positive effects on the dropout rate. Among them are:

• Service learning
• Reading and writing programs
• Out-of-school experiences
• Mentoring/tutoring
• Learning style/multiple intelligences strategies
• Instructional technologies
• Individualized instruction
• Family involvement
• Conflict resolution
• Community collaboration
• Career education/workforce readiness
• Alternative schooling

You can help prevent your child skipping school by:

  • ask about school work and encourage them to get involved in school activities
  • discussing any problems they may have at school - inform their teacher about anything serious
  • making sure they understand the importance of good attendance and punctuality
  • not letting them take time off school for minor ailments, particularly those which would not prevent you from going to work
  • taking an interest in their education

Arranging appointments and outings after school hours, at weekends or during school holidays will help to prevent disruption to your youngster’s education and to the school. Under normal circumstances, you should not expect the school to agree to your youngster going on holiday during term time.

There are many different issues which can affect school attendance. Examples include problems with:

• work and money
• transport to and from school
• housing or care arrangements
• bullying

If your youngster starts missing school, there may a problem you are not aware of. Ask your youngster first, then approach their teacher or form tutor.

Support from the school—

Your youngster’s school is the first place to go to discuss any attendance problems. The school should try to agree a plan with you to improve your youngster’s attendance (e.g., the fast-track to attendance program). If you don’t follow the plan and things don’t improve, the school will take further action. 1,200 schools are currently using Parent Support Advisers (PSAs) to work with moms and dads to improve kid's behavior and attendance. The government is expanding the availability of PSAs to allow them to reach 10 to 15 schools in each local authority.

Support from your local authority—

Your local authority can also help if you are struggling to ensure that your youngster goes to school. Potential forms of support include:

  • working with families and schools to overcome bullying and other serious problems
  • support to help reduce the burden on kids where families are in difficulty (for example, if a youngster is spending a lot of time caring for someone)
  • home tuition for kids with long term and recurring illnesses, so they do not fall too far behind

Parenting contracts—

If your youngster is missing school without good reason, one option the school or local authority might suggest is a parenting contract.

A parenting contract is a voluntary written agreement between you and either the local authority or the school’s governing body. Parenting contracts aren’t a punishment - they’re used to help you and the school or local authority work together to improve your youngster’s attendance, and get you access to practical support. Under the contract you agree to do certain things - for example, ensure that your youngster arrives at school punctually every day.

If your youngster is not attending school regularly, however, and you refuse to agree to a contract or do not keep to its terms, this can be used as evidence if the local authority decides to prosecute you.

Here is a sample “Parenting Contract” regarding school (adjust to fit your child’s needs):

Parents' Commitment—


 We understand that every three unexcused tardies or early dismissals will be recorded as an unexcused absence on our child’s record and put him/her at risk of repeating the grade.
 We understand that if our child is absent for more than 12 days in the school year without a school-approved excuse, he/she will need to repeat the grade.
 We understand that if our child is late for school without a school-approved excuse, he/she will be required to serve after-school detention that same day.
 We understand that our child will not be permitted to enter the school building before 7:15 a.m.
 We understand that our child will not earn credit for work missed after absences.
 We understand that the school day ends at 4:30 p.m., and we will make arrangement so that our child can remain at Foundation Academy until that time and be picked up promptly at that time.
 We understand that the school year runs from the beginning of August through June and we will not plan family vacations or other extended absences to occur on school days.
 We will ensure that our child comes to school every day by 7:30 a.m.
 We will make sure that our son/daughter promptly makes up missed work following absences.
 We will telephone the school prior to 8:00 a.m. on the day of any absence to report why our son/daughter is out.


 We agree to check our son/daughter’s homework daily to ensure that it’s complete, accurate and neat.
 We understand that our son/daughter will be required to serve an after-school detention the same day if he/she does not complete assigned homework or completes homework that does not meet Foundation Academy standards.
 We understand that our son/daughter will have 90 minutes to two hours of homework each night, including weekends.
 We will provide a quiet, undisturbed time and space for our son/daughter to complete his/her homework.


 We understand that if our son/daughter comes to school in violation of the school dress code, he or she may not be permitted to attend class, may need to wait for the appropriate clothing to be brought from home and will receive an automatic after-school detention to be served that day.
 We will ensure that our son/daughter comes to school each day in proper dress, according to the guidelines listed in the Parent-Student Handbook.


 We understand that our son/daughter must pass all but one class in order to be promoted to the next grade. More than one failure will result in retention.


 We understand that detentions happen on the day of the offense.
 We understand that if our son/daughter is suspended that he/she will have to be picked up from school on the day of the offense, that we will have to accompany the child for a meeting in order for the child to return to classes and that our son/daughter will have to present a sincere written and verbal apology before the community.
 We understand that it is our son/daughter’s responsibility to contact us and let us know that he/she has earned an after-school detention.
 We understand that our son/daughter cannot be excused from detention unless there is a documented family emergency.
 We understand that our son/daughter may be suspended if he/she misses an after-school detention.
 We understand that our son/daughter will have to remain in school until at least 5:20 p.m. if he/she commits a detention-level offense and that we are responsible for ensuring his/her safe transportation home after detention.


 We understand that we are not required to sign this contract as a term of our son/daughter’s admission to Foundation Academy, but do so voluntarily because we believe that Foundation Academy is a partnership between moms and dads and teachers in creating the best possible education for our son/daughter.
 We agree to support our son/daughter’s academic work by communicating regularly with our son/daughter’s teachers.
 We agree to attend all Parent-Teacher Conferences for which we are scheduled so that we may collect our son/daughter’s report card and meet with his/her teachers to discuss our son/daughter’s performance in school.

Student's Commitment—

 I commit to consistently work, think and behave in the best way I know how and will do whatever it takes for me and my classmates to learn and to prepare myself for college.
 I will attend Foundation Academy from the beginning of the summer session in August through June.
 I will wear my uniform to school every day and adhere to the Foundation Academy dress code.
 I will complete all of my homework and reading every night.
 I will raise my hand and ask questions in class if I do not understand something.
 I embrace and will consistently model the values of caring, respect, responsibility and honesty.
 I am responsible for my own behavior and I will follow the teacher’s directions. If I make a mistake, I will tell the truth to my teachers, accept responsibility for my actions and sincerely apologize to those who I have wronged.
 I will remain at school daily until 4:30 p.m.
 I will arrive at school every day by 7:30 a.m.

Parent’s Name: _______________
Student’s Name: _______________

High School Students and Academic Boredom

Today's high school kids say they are bored in class because they dislike the material and experience inadequate teacher interaction, according to a special report from Indiana University's High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). The findings show that 2 out of 3 kids are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class.

More than 81,000 kids responded to the annual survey. HSSSE was administered in 110 high schools, ranging in size from 37 kids to nearly 4,000, across 26 states.

According to the director of the project, the reasons high school kids claim they are bored are as significant as the boredom itself. The finding that nearly one in three respondents (31 percent) indicate he or she is bored in class due to "no interaction with teacher" is a troubling result.

So, in a high school class, 1 out of 3 kids is sitting there and not interacting with a teacher on a daily basis and maybe never. They're not having those interactions, which we know are critical for student engagement with learning and with high schools.

Some of the key findings include:

• Fewer than 2 percent of kids say they are never bored in high school.
• Nearly 40 percent felt bored because the material "wasn't relevant to me."
• Seventy-five percent of kids surveyed say they are bored in class because the "material wasn't interesting."

The lack of adult support may play a role in student disengagement from school. While 78 percent of kids responding agree or strongly agree that at least "one adult in my school cares about me and knows me well," 22 percent have considered dropping out of school. Of those kids who have considered dropping out, approximately 1 out of 4 indicated that one reason for considering this option was that "no adults in the school cared about me."

The fact that this many kids have considered dropping out of high school makes the numbers of dropouts that we actually see across the country -- and the supposed dropout crisis that we have -- not surprising. I think schools definitely need to pay a lot more attention to what kids are thinking and the reasons why they're dropping out.

The high dropout rate may also be related to the finding that half of the respondents said they have skipped school; 34 percent said they had skipped school either "once or twice," and 16 percent said they had skipped "many times." The kids who skip school are far more likely to consider dropping out and that this finding may suggest a reason for schools to reconsider how they handle discipline for kids who skip.

Among the other findings:

• The survey found that kids aren't spending a lot of time on homework. While 80 percent of the kids surveyed indicated that doing written homework is either "somewhat important," "very important" or a "top priority," 43 percent reported spending an hour or less doing homework each week. Similarly, 73 percent of the kids said reading and studying for class is either "somewhat important," "very important" or a "top priority." But 55 percent said they spent an hour or less per week reading and studying for class.

• Kids said activities in which they learn with and from peers are the most exciting and engaging. More than 80 percent of kids responded that "discussion and debate" are "a little," "somewhat" or "very much" exciting and engaging, and more than 70 percent responded in this way about "group projects." By contrast, just 52 percent said teacher lecture is "a little," "somewhat" or "very much" exciting and engaging.

• Seventy-three percent of kids who have considered dropping out said it was because "I didn't like the school." Sixty-one percent said, "I didn't like the educators," and 60 percent said, "I didn't see the value in the work I was being asked to do."

Even though kids may not be putting in time outside of class, they expect to earn a diploma and go to college. Nearly 3 out of 4 kids responded that they go to school for that very reason. The lack of time spent studying and reading may work against such a goal.

Kids may not be doing the work to get them to that point. Or, they're not interested so much in what they're doing in their classes as they are in the goal of getting a diploma and going on to college.

The size of the sample certainly means that high schools from across the country can draw some conclusions about their own student bodies. A administrators consider restructuring programs, the HSSSE data can be especially valuable.

I think this brings critical student voices into reform efforts and into conversations about the structures and practices of individual schools.

This data here is saying, well maybe we need to look at this in a preventive way. So that kids who skip school, we need to bring them in and talk to them about why they're skipping school and are they considering dropping out. Because those kids who are skipping school most frequently are at the highest risk--it seems--of dropping out because of the amount of times they consider dropping out.

The survey indicates kids are just trying to get the diploma and leave. It's as if the focus is so much on getting that degree, ending high school, and going to college, that the focus on learning is actually lost. If they're not interacting with their learning, if they're not feeling that what they're learning is relevant, if they're not engaged in it, there's no seeds planted for that passion for learning or exploration which is what would drive them to college and the next stage. So I think a large part of this is 'what is the purpose of schooling?' Is the purpose of schooling in high school to get children out with a degree and move them on to some level of postsecondary education, or is the point of high school to involve them in some way in learning and plant a seed for discovery in education that actually carried into whatever they do next?

Interaction with educators is important. We know that those interactions are critical for learning and critical for participation in school. If only two out of three kids are having some interaction, then we know there's a large chunk of kids being left out and being left behind.

It's the reasons why kids are bored and the implications of what that means that they're bored that are very important. The big thing is that they're finding the material not interesting. Three out of four kids say they're bored because the material is not interesting. That's critical in an environment in which there's so much emphasis on student achievement and accountability. If kids are not finding the material interesting, we can say they're not likely to learn it, and they're bored with it, and achievement is not likely to go anywhere.

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Violence Between Siblings

Moms and dads must be able to distinguish between healthy sibling conflict and damaging abuse. Sibling rivalry is a normal, and mostly harmless, part of growing up. Siblings often compete without anyone getting hurt. These sometimes fierce, but balanced comparisons regarding achievement, attractiveness, and social relations with peers may actually strengthen sibling ties. For example, fair and balanced competition teaches kids how to share, compromise, win without humiliation and lose without self-debasement.

Sibling violence or abuse can be described as a repeated pattern of physical aggression with the intent to inflict harm and motivated by a need for power and control. Often, it is an escalating pattern of aggression that moms and dads have difficulty stopping. Some of the most important questions to ask are: “Is one child consistently a victim of the other?” “How often and how long has the behavior been occurring?” and “Is the behavior age appropriate?”

A 6-year-old youngster hitting his 4-year-old brother over a toy is one thing. A 12-year-old repeatedly hauling off and slamming his 8-year-old brother for hogging the video remote is something else again. When one youngster is always the loser, the aggression keeps escalating, and if moms and dads do not intervene effectively, the safety of the victimized youngster becomes the primary concern.

There is often an emotional component to sibling violence, as well. Frequently, the aggression begins as “teasing,” which might include ridiculing, insulting, threatening, terrorizing, and belittling a younger or less powerful sibling. Sometimes, a youngster will destroy a younger sibling’s property as a means to incite the violence. Sibling violence appears to occur more frequently than violence between parents and kids or spousal abuse.

What causes or leads to abuse?

What begins as normal sibling rivalry can escalate into something more when moms and dads fail to adequately supervise their kids or teach them appropriate means of resolving conflict. In one fairly common set of circumstances, parents may leave an older sibling in charge of younger ones. The youngster in charge may not know how to mete out appropriate discipline. When one youngster misbehaves, the older sibling may go to extremes to get the youngster to comply.

There is solid evidence now that being hurt by an older or stronger sibling has both long and short-term consequences. The younger child may begin to exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, fear of the dark, school behavior problems and even, in some cases, thoughts of self harm. The youngster who is the aggressor may also suffer. He or she may also be bullying kids at school. There is some evidence that the youngster in the aggressor role may experience long-term effects, like being aggressive with dating partners or spouses in adulthood.

Don’t overlook cruel behavior—

Moms and dads often overlook, ignore, or deny cruel behavior between their kids. Parents must intervene anytime there is a suspicion or danger of one youngster being hurt. They should also intervene after providing siblings with the opportunity to resolve their own conflicts and seeing that they may need some extra help. Timing and sensitivity is critical. At first, sibling conflict is often about fighting over resources (like toys, space, money, etc.). When moms and dads intervene there is the danger of it becoming about the parent’s love. Fighting over a parent’s love will generally lead to much more aggressive sibling behavior.

How to intervene in early stages—

If your family tends toward competitive disagreements, be mindful of minimizing rivalries between kids by pointing out similarities in their behavior and avoid accentuating differences. Reward sensitive, positive behavior among brothers and sisters. When you praise positive interactions, the potential for sibling abuse is reduced. Set ground rules early regarding hitting, name-calling, belittling, taunting, and terrorizing. You may dislike such emotional abuse but excuse it as sibling rivalry and mistakenly accept it as normal childhood behavior.

Set aside time regularly to talk with your kids individually, especially after they have been alone together. Be sure to monitor your kid’s media choices (TV, video games, and Internet surfing), and either participate and then discuss the inappropriate media messages, or ban their poor choices.

Once a sibling struggle begins, learn how to intervene in ways which prevent an escalation of the conflict. Take the time necessary to get each youngster’s perception of the conflict. Allow each youngster to say what the other’s perception is until they fully understand it. Get an expression of feeling from each youngster, whenever possible. What does each youngster want to do about the problem? Help them forge a compromise. If they cannot agree, take 10 minutes to work out options for a compromise.

Give your kids reminders when they begin picking on each other. Help them to remember how to state their feelings to each other. Don’t solve the problem for them, but help them remember how to problem solve. Remember, it doesn’t matter who started it, because it takes two to make a quarrel. Hold kids equally responsible when clearly established ground rules are broken. Teach your kids how to compromise, respect one another, and divide things fairly. Give them the tools and then express your confidence that they can work it out by telling them, “I’m sure you two can figure out a solution.” Don’t get drawn in.


Listen and believe your kids. Never dismiss a youngster who says that he or she is being victimized. Also, avoid giving one youngster too much responsibility or power over another. Provide good adult supervision in your absence. Be sure to investigate sudden changes in mood or temperament in your youngster. And seek professional help if you cannot control combative or abusive behavior among your kids.

Professional Intervention—

Therapists with training in both family therapy and family violence can help your family meet the challenge of dealing with sibling aggression. A therapeutic climate where families are encouraged and reminded of what they do well and moms and dads learn to help kids resolve conflicts on their own can reduce or eliminate sibling aggression. Parents can learn how to intervene in serious sibling conflicts immediately and effectively through a series of prescribed rules and conduct meant to encourage a win-win solution.

Moms and dads sometimes also need to learn how to manage their own levels of anger so that they can teach their kids how to manage theirs. The development, implementation and modeling of good conflict resolution skills during calm times can be helpful in moderating and reducing arguments and disagreements. Dangerous fights need to be stopped immediately. Kids must be separated and taught how to calm themselves. Once they have calmed down, parents can facilitate discussion about what happened and make it clear that no violence is ever allowed. Kids caught in fierce power struggles with a brother or sister usually appreciate a safe and structured therapeutic environment where they can address current conflicts without fear of retaliation or judgment.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents with Rebellious Teenagers

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