Question for parents of PD children

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HeadAboveWater

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Question for parents of PD children
« on: January 25, 2018, 04:13:55 PM »
A high school-age child I know is exhibiting some possible PD symptoms (maybe fleas). Mom (a non) is distraught and has asked my advice on supporting the child academically. I'm at a loss as to what to say to Mom about the child's personality and behavior, if anything. I want to be compassionate and ethical in my interactions, so I've come here to ask what parents of PD adolescents would want/would have wanted for their own families. 

Some background: I am an educator, and I have known this family in a professional capacity for years. I will call the child "J" (not his/her actual initial) and refer to him/her in the gender-neutral "they" to preserve anonymity. J has a younger sibling, B, whom I also know fairly well. J and B have always reported some family friction, but no one story ever caused me much concern. They say that Dad is hard on them and yells a lot. Dad is also the sort to insult coaches and officials at the children's sporting matches. Yet, he often buys the children gifts, sometimes extravagant ones, and calls daily when frequent business travel takes him away from home. J and B have an older relative who sometimes resides in their home. While my encounters with this relative have always been lovely, J and B report this person is also a yeller who always seems after them to do one household chore or another. At times I have chastised J and B for vicious put-downs and for competing in unhealthy ways. Once I labeled the behavior "not normal," and the children responded "It's normal in our family." Long story short, I am seeing hints that there are some family dynamics that are not ideal. However, there is nothing that I know of that rises to the level of physical or emotional abuse as defined by the state's mandated reporter laws.

For as long as I have known J, they have had academic ups and downs. J is obviously highly intelligent, but sometimes their academic achievement does not reflect their ability. Over a few years, J's grades have been slowly sliding, but this academic year it is particularly noticeable. J is at risk of failing an elective course and their GPA is plummeting. While missing homework is a problem as is slapdash last-minute work, J is also missing classwork. For example, J did not turn-in an in-class lab or an in-class research project that they had several periods to complete. That's where I come in. Mom has asked me to assist with helping J to organize and prioritize work. The family has also put other supports in place -- psychoeducational testing, a 504 plan, multiple tutors, parental help with homework -- but the child's grades are still quite low. I have never seen a child with this much natural ability and this level of support earn C's. It feels like self-sabotage.

Aside from academics, there are some signs that J may not be happy. They have always struggled with their weight, and it has appeared to tick up recently. J also often complains about being tired and yawns frequently. In fact, I witnessed J falling asleep while in the middle of school work the other day. As with the family dynamic stuff, these signs are concerning, but it's not setting off major alarm bells that there is a critical emergency. 

The way I see it, I could take one of two courses of action. The first would be to advise Mom solely on the child's academics, to "stay in my lane." I could recommend a homework contract, time management strategies, and ways to put homework accountability into place. I am honestly not sure if these strategies would be effective in the long term. The second course of action would be to remark on how the child's behavior is influencing their academic progress. My observations would be that J has many times lied about missing work, saying that the teacher just had not updated the gradebook. When confronted about obvious lies about school work (that missing assignment from two months ago is on you, not the teacher), J's habit is to tell further, more elaborate lies. J also engages in blame shifting, identifying myriad reasons why they are unable to start their work on time. For any one incident the reasons are plausible, but it is impossible that they would face daily impediments to doing their work. When J is given opportunities to catch up on work and creates make-up schedules in consultation with adults, J immediately deviates from the schedules from day one. This is also something that J will lie about. When asked to produce written work as evidence, J is in the habit of saying it is "lost."   

I get the sense that Mom is increasingly frustrated and upset by the situation with J. I do not want to treat her as naieve; I've gotten the feeling in talking with parents over the years that they are aware of what is going on with their children, and they are just not always ready or able to make changes. If someone had known these things about your family, what, if anything, would you have wanted them to say to you?  Also, to be clear, I am not a diagnostician. While I have my suspicions, it would not be ethical for me to say "I think there is PD in your family." What I am debating is whether or not to be plain about the child's behaviors and assign them labels, like lying, blame shifting, etc.

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Michelle71

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2018, 06:23:48 PM »
I would say that the number one obstacle for the kids is stress. If they are under more stress than their bodies can handle, it will translate into utter exhaustion. Hormones, sleep disturbances, and an overloaded adrenal system will cause debilitating fatigue. Stress also affects cognitive functioning and long-term stress will cause structural changes within the brain itself and affecting focus, concentration, and memory, especially if the type of stress felt is due to emotional factors. Likewise, those under long-term stress might become hypervigilant, which according to wiki is an "enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors".

Just within this context, without needing to know specifics of the children's home life, you can try to teach them to proactively counter the effects of the stress they are under and it will work for all your student, you and your family too! According to an article I read on stress and cognitive decline, "one of the most powerful and effective of the positive emotions is appreciation, HeartMath researchers found. Heart-monitoring technology such as an electrocardiogram or HeartMath's emWave Pro (Desktop) to measure heart-rhythm patterns typically displays a nearly instant transformation from erratic to smooth patterns when a subject intentionally experiences appreciation. Smooth heart-rhythm patterns indicate lower stress and greater heart coherence and thus a range of psychophysiological benefits that include improved memory, focus and immune system among many others." This can be backed up by separate studies conducted by a doctor named Daniel Amen, who wrote a book called "Change your brain change your life", whereby he looks at the physiology of the brain via various imaging tests.

I know this seems odd but basically:
-- if you practice mindfulness to monitor and influence your emotional-thought connection then, happiness can result. See articles such as the following for reference: positive psychology program /mindfulness-emotional-intelligence/
-- If you practice intentional appreciation then brain functioning and memory can improve.
-- If diet, support networks, rest are optimized then stress is reduced significantly.

Five things ... Good luck.

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momnthefog

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2018, 02:48:55 PM »
Given your area of expertise is education, I think it's best to suggest family counseling or some sort of individual counseling.  You might say that he lied, but I'd avoid labeling with gas lighting, manipulation, blame shifting. 

PDs are not dx until late teens or even early 20s b/c so much teen/young adult behavior can look like a PD.  Drug/alcohol use can also look like PD behavior.  If he's had psychoeducational testing and has a 504 there may be other professionals that mom might rely to determine the root issue.

momnthefog








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HeadAboveWater

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2018, 07:52:38 PM »
Many thanks, Momnthefog!

As may be clear from the detail in my post, I'm sorting through a lot of my own "stuff" around this. I also want to be careful not to assume too much or overstep when talking with the family. Your suggestion to recommend counseling is a good one. The part of me that dislikes confrontation was unrealistically hoping that the mother might "catch on" that repeated lying to this level of detriment is not typical. Yet, in working things out here, I realize that suggesting counseling is probably best.

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Latchkey

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2018, 01:40:23 PM »
Sounds like you are a great person to have in this child's life so all are lucky.

I agree with personal counseling just for the child and if possible a separate session for mom and child once in a while. It sounds like the kid had issues going on beyond the family dynamic.

Also, how is this kid doing socially? Do they have friends and are they doing anything extracurricular? In many cases friends/ boyfriends/girlfriends and issues surrounding these up to and including weight, sexuality, experimenting with alcohol or drug use  etc can be huge factors.
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momnthefog

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2018, 11:03:05 AM »
Many thanks, Momnthefog!

As may be clear from the detail in my post, I'm sorting through a lot of my own "stuff" around this. I also want to be careful not to assume too much or overstep when talking with the family. Your suggestion to recommend counseling is a good one. The part of me that dislikes confrontation was unrealistically hoping that the mother might "catch on" that repeated lying to this level of detriment is not typical. Yet, in working things out here, I realize that suggesting counseling is probably best.

I've thought a lot about what I might have heard in a similar situation.

The more I think about it the more I'm sure that identifying the behavior....the lying....is the best way to go.

And even if she doesn't catch on now....denial is a powerful force......it's the reason why people stay with abusers, protect their adult children....its how we survive in the fog.....you've planted a seed.

I vividly remember a pastor telling me when ASPD son was only 11...."Johnny's (not real name) going to be an interesting ride."   Interesting....no.....heart breaking, gut wrenching, financially and emotionally draining....yes.

momnthefog
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HeadAboveWater

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2018, 03:47:27 PM »
Also, how is this kid doing socially? Do they have friends and are they doing anything extracurricular? In many cases friends/ boyfriends/girlfriends and issues surrounding these up to and including weight, sexuality, experimenting with alcohol or drug use  etc can be huge factors.

Hi, Latchkey! Thanks for chiming in here.

I'd say that J is in the middle of the pack socially -- not super popular, but not a loner either. No romantic attachments that I know of. They have a small circle of friends that they see throughout the day and hang out with on school grounds after the academic day ends. This peer group seems to support each other -- not too much drama, but all of the kids have a bit of a cynical edginess to them. J is also involved in community sports teams year-round. I haven't seen any obvious signs of alcohol or drug use, thankfully.

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Obliviot

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Re: Question for parents of PD children
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2018, 11:06:20 AM »
Just chiming in with a perspective from a person who used to lie when they were a teenager.  There was never one motivation for me lying, but the lies I told were to seem more interesting, I never lied in a way that would self sabotage school because it was pretty clear that good grades would be my ticket out of my dysfunctional home. 

I would absolutely tell the mother that the extent of the lying is not what you observe with other people of this age, and specifically mention that it has a self-sabotage element to the lying.  That will give the counselor something to be aware of as they work with this person and have to analyze their narrative, but also gives them a starting point of a specific problem they can help the person with.