Avatar universal

What is the best way to handle a 19 year old BOY?

Sorry this is going to be long but I'm so frustrated and just don't know what to do.

History: So my youngest son has always been immature for his age.  He has also always been extra emotional and not exactly grounded in logic.  He is very very VERY opinionated and stubborn.  We have had problems with him his whole time in school but especially at age 13.  He had to repeat the 7th grade which I was actually glad about because he seemed younger than the other kids and seemed like he needed more time to adjust to middle school and eventually high school.  At 13 when he finally realized he was really going to fail 7th grade he flipped out.  We had been telling him he would't pass if he didn't go to school and do his school work.  We had been talking to the councilor at school and trying to work with him.  When he finally realized it he went nuts one morning when I was trying to get him to go to school so I could get to work.  He was acting very odd and I was worried about him. He finally said he wanted to die and I took him to the ER.  I also took him to the pediatrician and he saw a therapist and psychologist I think?  They ruled out ADD or ADHD and diagnosed him with a "mood disorder"  (which I'm sure is code for they have no idea what is wrong but know something definitely is) and had us take him to a physical therapist for occupational therapy and a different type of therapy for fine and large motor development.   He was awkward and didn't like people touching him.  It was also suggested that he had SPD (sensory processing disorder) because he couldn't stand rough clothing or loud sounds or bright lights....etc.  He did improve and did better in school the next year but we have always struggled with him not wanting to go to school and not turning in assignments.  He has also had pain in his legs that no doctor could ever find a cause for.  A few years ago I took him to a different doctor with the idea that he might be getting seasonal depression since he seems to start having problems every November and then his attitude improves in the spring.   Only he doesn't get sad or down he gets more agitated and argumentative.  The doctor agreed with me but my son wouldn't take any depression meds.  The lab work that time showed nothing that could cause his leg pain again but he did have very low vit D (We live in Alaska so that is not a big surprise).  He did improve with Vitamin D but said he still had pain in his legs but wouldn't go back to the doctor because he said they couldn't help.

Okay, so now he is a senior in high school and he is doing this again.  This school year has been the worst for getting him to go to school.  He is bigger than me (and his dad too actually) and sleeps very sound.  His dad tries to help but it seems like he only makes matters worse.  My son has always related better to me and my husband doesn't understand him so he just yells and ends up going into his room because he is so frustrated and mad.  My son really pushes all of his dad's buttons too and so my husband has to walk away to avoid smacking him.  In the past we have taken away his computer when he started this and if he needs to do homework on a computer or use the internet for school he has to do it out in the living room with someone there.  Well the problem is now he has his own money and has bought his own computer and other things so he says "you can't take that away from me because it is mine - I paid for it with my own money"  So, we turned off the wireless to his computer.  He does have computer games though that don't require internet access.  The main thing we want to accomplish is getting him to sleep at night so he will be able to wake up and go to school.  Usually, if he doesn't have internet he will eventually go to sleep even though he is mad.  He gives us this argument that it will be OUR fault that he doesn't get his homework turned in because he needed the internet to do it.  This time around we are turning off the internet at 9 pm and told him he has to have his school work finished before then or it is on him.  He wants to play internet games with his friends until that time and then do his homework after that.  He had a lengthy argument and was successful at making me doubt myself but I told him 9 pm was the cut off time.  He said he needed to write a document (after 9 pm) and needed to use the internet since he uses google docs.  It was tough but it stayed off.  

Friday was the worst though.  I talked to several of his teachers since he had missed 4 days of school in a row.  I didn't excuse his absences because I'd been having bad migraines daily.  I only have 48 hours to excuse a day and have to call during school hours so I missed it.  I also do not excuse days unless he is really sick or there is a real reason.  He knows he can't make up missed work unless it is excused so that is the only real recourse I have to get him to go to school.  Anyway, I ended up emailing all of his teachers and talking to them about the situation.  I told them I believed he was depressed and he has a doctor appointment which is even more difficult because now he is an adult and I can't go in and talk to the doctor unless my son says it is okay with him and fills out the paperwork but at the same time I am still expected to excuse his absences.  The school refuses to let him excuse himself even though he is 19.  So Friday he did go to school and was able to catch up on some of the missed work but after my husband came home from work he went to my son's room to talk to him.  I didn't hear what was said but my husband must have said something alone the lines of you don't like our rules than you can leave.  So my son just says OK and storms outside into the dark and cold (this is alaska).  He didn't grab a coat or any warm gear at all and didn't take his cell phone.  I was worried sick but my husband didn't seem worried at all.  He seemed to think he would come crawling back.  I know better though.  This kid is not like that.  He is really stubborn.  I finally, after hours of worry and dealing with a migraine, broke down into heavy sobbing and couldn't even talk.  I finally grabbed my coat to go find my son.  My husband said he would go but I knew my son wouldn't come home if my husband went.  It was dark so I just started walking around and my son came out of the shadows.  He was worried about me because he knows I have fibromyalgia and the cold makes my pain get really bad.  As soon as I saw him I just grabbed him and sobbed.  I have read too many stories of people found frozen to death.  I got him to come back home and told him to never leave the house again unless he had warm gear and a freakin plan of where to go and how to pay for food etc.  

So it has only been a few days since that night.  It is Monday morning and if he gets up early he can have some time to work on that paper because the internet is back on.  He has already failed one class and now has to take an online course to make up a half credit so he can still graduate and he has to still finish his other classes.  I'm hoping he will be able to get it together and be able to graduate this year.  It will be really awkward for him to be in school again next year when he'll be 20 at graduation time.  

Does anyone have any advise for us?  

Thank you to anyone who read all of that.  It helps just to get it off my chest since I haven't been able to talk to anyone about it.  
7 Responses
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1699033 tn?1514113133
Hi there.  I'm going to ask Sandman to read this and respond.  He was a high school principal and is the community leader of the ADHD forum.  I know that your son has not been diagnosed with ADHD but he will have a lot of useful information just from his own personal experiences as a teacher/principal.  Hang in there.  I'm sure he will respond soon.  JGF
Helpful - 0
189897 tn?1441126518
   Oh man,  have you guys been let down by the medical community.  
What make it tough to help your son is that unless you and HE know what/why things are going on the way they are - all you can do is to keep beating your head against the wall.
    Starting with the docs who ruled out AD/HD when he was 13.   How did they rule it out?  The ONLY correct way to diagnose AD/HD is through questionaires to the parents and the school.  If this was not done, then it means they only interviewed him.   That not only does not follow the clinical guidelines, it usually is not very accurate.  If he does have AD/HD, its probably more like ADD as if he was hyper, they would have picked that up.  
    One thing that you and he might be interested in checking out is this site.  Its basically an ADD site aimed at adults.  The videos he has to watch are very good at explaining ADD and how it can effect you.  The point is - if he does have something like ADD, that would not only explain a lot - there are then a lot of strategies (besides meds) that can help.  The site is
     And, yes, he does sound like he could have SPD.   It is not unusual to have both that and ADD for that matter.   Here is a good link dealing with both conditions -
    And this link deals more with adult SPD and it mentions two books that might be worth looking at since OT's don't do a lot of work with adults -
   This is probably the best overall site on sensory I have found on the web.  While it is aimed more at the younger person, it does a good job of explaining how sensory can affect you in school.  That is important as that might help you son understand why he has had problems in school.
    Oh, and I did a quick search of the above site on sleep and found that getting to sleep is a common problem (as well with AD/HD when they just can't turn off their minds).  Here is the link on sleep.
            By the way, I have some very good friends who live in Port Townsend, WA - not as far north as you, but still not a lot of day light.  They have installed a lot of those special lights (especially in the kitchen) to help with seasonal affective disorder.   They said it makes a difference.
          And ya, he does sound depressed.   Depression (as well as anxiety) is a very common side disorder of AD/HD  (see the videos or look at some of the posts in Jeffsadddmind).   And lack of sunlight definitely does not help.   Depending on the type of depression - medication for depression may not help and could make things worse.   Knowing what you have got and specifically treating it is what makes the difference.
         So what do you do?  
  First, have your husband read this.
  Second, have you son read this.
      Then sit down and come up with a plan.  Obviously, some of the stuff you have tried has not worked.  Thats fine, thats how you learn.  Its only if you keep repeating the stuff that isn't working - thats not good.
      Personal opinion - what you have tried to do to get him to sleep at night - limiting computer time, etc.  Isn't dealing with the problem of why he isn't able to sleep.   Sleep is extremely important!!!!   There is nothing that can screw up your day, your grades, your attitude more then lack of sleep.   I have numerous links to sleep stuff, but this one is pretty good.
       So come up with a plan to deal with the sleep problems.  He needs 8 hours and he is the one who needs (with your help) to figure out how to get it.   It will take some trial and error and as he will be trying to change a learned behavior.
       The next thing is to figure out (if possible) what is going on.  I think that all family members will be more understanding if it turns out that at least some of his problems are not due to his decisions.    Stick some of those videos from jeffsaddmind up on the tv and watch them together.   See if they make sense.
     Oh, I am curious if the docs when he was 13 used questionaires or not?
     Wow, I have given you guys a lot of homework.  Good thing you have long nights up there :)
    In all seriousness,   you have tried - but I think that lack of info has been a big factor in the problems.  Its pretty hard to make something better if you don't know whats wrong.
          Anyway, I can help, please ask.  This really is just more of a start.  Best wishes!!!
Helpful - 0
1699033 tn?1514113133
Please read and research what Sandman said.  He is so incredibly knowledgeable about these things and I agree that it needs to be a family affair.  You can't have one person sitting on the sidelines while the others are trying to work it out.  Good luck!  
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189897 tn?1441126518
Good article here on dealing with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) - http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/arm-yourself-against-sad-0921155
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13167 tn?1327194124
What a great compilation of information Sandman!  

To the OP - there are more parents than you know of who have kids who struggle like yours does.  Some school districts have alternate programs that they can complete and graduate with the very minimal coursework.

People along the way will tell you well, it's up to him.  He's an adult now.  Let him fail,  it will teach him to succeed.

It won't.  He can fail at a lot of stuff,  but he CAN NOT be allowed to fail at getting a high school diploma or equivalent.  He can't.  He MUST have that,  if it requires daily work on your part to help him meet that goal.  

Best wishes.   If kids just followed the advise we give them,  their lives would be a piece of cake.  Too bad it doesn't work that way.  ;D
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Avatar universal
Many things you mentioned suggest Bipolar II. I have two children who were diagnosed at 8 and 5 years of age. We had such similar experiences, you could be talking about my kids. The sleep problems, the seasonal shift in mood, the stubbornness. Also, your history of migraines and fibromyalgia suggest genetic loading. The specialist who seemed to know the disorder best called it "an inherited, organic, neurotransmitter disorder". He didn't think it was proper to put the label of "Bipolar" on such young kids, and I was in agreement with him, as they weren't classic presentations. I agree that sleep is the most important thing right now, for his health more than for school. Also, make sure that you safeguard your relationship with your son. He knows that he frustrates you and makes you worry and makes you mad. Make sure he feels your love. He can always go to adult school to pick up whatever credits he needs for his diploma. His health and well-being are the important things.
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Avatar universal
It sounds to me as if your son is an "owl' and not a "lark" as you and your husband are.  And, unfortunately, there is no "cure" for being an "owl".  Have his sleep cycle tested - you say that he "sleeps very soundly" and that he is depressed a lot.  (Lack of "restful" sleep can make a person depressed.)  If he IS an "owl", have the doctor explain that this is something your son can deal with once he graduates high school as it is unlikely that your district will offer night classes.  Also, too much computer time can disrupt a person's sleep cycle - "lark" or "owl".  

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