13-year-old not getting school work completed.

My bright and capable 13-year-old daughter works all evening, each evening, and throughout most Saturdays and Sundays. She's getting Fs in most of her classes because she's not getting her work completed. She works extremely slowly and meticulously. (Always has. When she was in kindergarten her teacher made her a mock remote control with a fast-forward button.) I hate to know she's sitting all day in school, then see her sitting all evening and throughout weekends. Wisdom tells me I'm not the person to guide her to "Just get it done... you can't spend that kind of time on every assignment!" Any recommendations? (including recommendations for tutors or time management coaches to help "retrain" her) 

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Your poor daughter, what a struggle! Have you ever had her tested for a learning difference? It sounds like she may have a type of processing disorder or even ADD that requires intervention. I would encourage you to reach out to her school district or one of the people recommended on this site for an evaluation. Even careful working all day and night and weekends would yield more than "F's" in her classes - good luck to you!!

It sounds like she might have a processing disorder or even dyslexia. I would have her assesses asap for a learning disability. If that’s the case you can then provide the best kind of supports to help her along with accommodations. It’s a complicated process but the first step is to make a written request for an IEP assessment to the District . They will have 30 days to respond. 

Hi there. I'm so glad you're tackling this now. She will truly struggle in HS with much more HW. I don't have a coach to recommend but I would like to strongly suggest you have her evaluated for ADD, for Anxiety and for a possible processing disorder. You can request this via your school. Do it in writing and there are laws requiring them to comply within a short period of time. We could not understand what was going on with our bright son, whose grades did not reflect his intellect. The school testing was extremely comprehensive and very very helpful, and an entire team will help her, at no cost to you. 

I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I’m a teacher as well as a mom and I would suggest you push the school to test your daughter. If they won’t you may need to get a private assessment. Sounds like she has some kind of learning difference that is having a significant impact. You need to know what’s going on so a 504 or IEP can be developed for her. She sounds like an amazingly diligent person, she hasn't given up and it must be so hard for her!! Help is out there but you will need to advocate for her. Good luck! 

This was kind of my child at that age (all As unfortunately, because this added to her problems). It turned out she has perfectionism obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and basically had OCD since she was a toddler but undiagnosed until 15. I highly encourage you to have her seen by a specialist in anxiety/ocd and perhaps educational testing to see what the problem might be. Most general practitioners don’t know much about OCD and the wrong treatment can make it worse. See this article from the international ocd foundation. 

I would look for an educational therapist for support outside of school. Ed Therapists are trained in supporting students with all kinds of learning challenges, which is more comprehensive than finding a tutor.  There is a national organization, Association for Educational Therapists, that has information and referrals.

Also check the website: <Understood.org>

Poor girl, that sounds so exhausting! Have you considered her evaluated for OCD?

Our daughter, now 23, had a similar problem with school starting in 1-2nd grade when the homework load increased. We hired college kids to come weekends and evenings as "executive function coaches" to help her plan and get through her homework. It took the pressure off us, preserved our relationship, and helped her develop new skills, which she used through college. We also had her undergo a lot of neuropsych testing, which indicated she was highly intelligent but very "right brained". However, after all the testing and subsequent recommendations for educational therapy, she interpreted it as her having a "learning disability" and "less than" all her peers. Now at age 23, which she feels gave her long-term trauma, mostly related to our high expectations of her needing to be achievement oriented in order be loved and accepted by us.

In college she found her own practitioners, and got diagnoses for ADHD and bipolar disorder, and medicated for both. She says it helped her, but I know that everyone can feel cognitive benefits from ADHD meds. Her case is complicated, in that she has other medical issues and covid hit and she took a break from college until in-person classes resumed. She is functioning independently living away from home still pursuing her college degree and is financially supported by us. Hopefully she will graduate in a year or so and find a career where she can support herself.

I think a recent breakthrough for her was that she started considering that she has OCD. I started researching it myself and realized that I had classic signs of OCD as a kid myself. It is a very misunderstood condition, and can present in children as ADHD. The compulsions to do things perfectly and not be able to finish school work or projects until they are "just right" are classic symptoms of OCD. OCD can interfere with young peoples ability to do well in school. Luckily I have found her a practitioner who specializes in OCD Therapy, and I am hopefully that this will help her with the many areas of her life that are affected.

If you can find someone to evaluate her for OCD and find a therapist to help, maybe she would benefit. Good luck!

I think your child needs to be evaluated by a psychologist-soon. You say she’sbright and capable but she is not capable- she can’t get her work done no matter how much time she has- so something is preventing her from being successful. She is failing. She may have a psychological or learning disorder that can be treated!

You didn't mention whether you'd already explored this possibility, but I have a child with ADHD, and I would recommend that you get your child evaluated for a learning disability ASAP. Some learning disabilities are not obvious, and ADHD is particularly undiagnosed in girls as it doesn't always present with the typical "can't stop moving" hyperactivity that many people associate with it. Many kids with learning disabilities learn to compensate because they're bright, but this huge effort to compensate can take a serious toll on their confidence, energy, and self-worth over time. If your child is working all evening and all weekend and still not completing her homework, that's just not right. She shouldn't have to do that -- no child should. Getting a diagnosis from a neuropsychologist can help you find the right specialists and tutors, and it can also help you work with your daughter's school to make sure she isn't spending all her waking hours on homework.

In the near term, you should also communicate with her teachers and let them know how much time these assignments are taking, because I'm sure most teachers would not want a student to spend all available free time on homework. (Sometimes "giving extra time to finish" does more harm than good, as it means a kid never stops working.) It would be more appropriate to have an arrangement where your daughter works on an assignment for a set period of time (an hour, for example), and then even if she doesn't finish, a parent signs off to show that she did an hour's work. It may not be as much about "retraining" your child as it is about readjusting expectations at school. If you seek out a diagnosis, specialists can help you navigate this type of issue. Additionally, it can be helpful for your child emotionally to understand her own learning style and to have academic goals that are better tailored to her needs. Getting "F's" in all subjects despite a lot of time and effort is a red flag that this current academic situation is not working for her -- not the other way around. 

f your child is working all day, all evening and even weekends but getting Fs something is off. You may need some help figuring out what that is.  Some possibilities that come to mind: ADHD/ inattentive type (she looks likes she's working but her mind is elsewhere); an auditory or visual processing disorder (she is missing information others assume she has and/ or it takes her much longer to process information and produce answers); or a specific learning disability (despite her intelligence she learns differently and is not benefiting fully from the classroom instruction.)

A good place to start for assessments is with your child’s school if she is in public school.  They can assess for learning disabilities and ADHD.  Talk to the teacher, principal or school psychologist about how to start this process.  If the problem is a processing disorder an outside neuropsych assessment  may be needed.  Once you have a better idea what the problem is your daughter can have a 504 plan to modify the workload or an IEP for additional services.  

Hope these thoughts are helpful.  Best of luck to you and your daughter

Given the fact that she's getting Fs, you might want to ask the school to do an evaluation for learning differences. You can go to DREDF https://dredf.org, to get more information on how to do this, but basically you write a letter to the school requesting an evaluation. They are required to do one within 60 days. This seems like a situation that needs more than just tutoring or coaching, or at least to rule out other causes than perfectionism.

Hi there - just a quick clarification on the IEP evaluation process - once you send an email asking for an assessment, the district has 15 calendar days to respond with either an assessment plan or a letter detailing why they will not agree to assess. If you get an assessment plan, the district then has 60 calendar days from the date of you signing the plan to assess your daughter and hold what’s called an initial IEP meeting, where the team (including you) discusses eligibility for specialized instruction. During this process, you can request a 504 plan if you can get an interim diagnosis of ADHD, anxiety or depression, etc., from your pediatrician. Hope this helps. Please feel free to reach out. 

Our child had the same problems. They were definitely a perfectionist (at younger ages they would wear holes into homework assignments erasing imperfectly written letters), but it turned out that the real problem was an executive function disorder. Because they had no sense of time or timing, they were never able to assess whether they were working slowly, nor estimate how long something might take to complete. They would simply work on it until it was done, whether it took 45 minutes or 4 hours. Only then would they move on to another assignment. They were a straight A student, but because of the perfectionism they refused to sleep until everything was done. We got them an academic coach who immediately identified the EFD (we’d never heard of this before), and he was able to work constructively with them until they graduated from high school. They also chose a small, liberal arts college that had support services for this particular LD, including peer support groups and individual coaching. They have also worked very hard to build skills and workarounds that work for them. They graduated several years ago, and they live as an independent adult. They hold a job, pay their rent, provide for their own needs, enjoy time alone and with friends, and engage in activism for issues they hold dear.

We never had our kid tested because by the time we realized there was an issue beyond what we had thought was just spaciness we were told that testing wouldn’t really do much beyond slap a label on them. They had developed workarounds for school, and they are very bright, so their teachers had no idea there was a problem. Teachers were puzzled by the amount of time homework took them, but never thought there might be an LD.

 I’m relating this to reassure you that there is light at the end of this tunnel. We did not have the additional pressure of our child earning Fs in school, but the upside to your situation is your child’s teachers won’t need to be convinced that something is amiss. They also have time to get their problem(s) identified and develop strategies. In the meantime, I suggest focusing on your child’s self-esteem. The situation must be very discouraging, and your child may be blaming themself for their “deficiency.” Make sure they know that you know how hard they work, and try to ensure they spend time doing things they enjoy and are good at. Whether a sport or an art or cooking or whatever, point out that they can do this thing, and do it well, and complete projects. They are not their grades; they are not a failure.

Best of luck to you all!

School psychologist here. I would look at getting your daughter evaluated. Have them look at processing speed. You would need to talk to one of her teachers at the middle school about the process of getting her tested for special education services. Based on her getting "Fs" there is something that is impacting her ability to access the curriculum. If you are at a private school you can still request an evaluation. 

My nine year old was just diagnosed with slow processing speed. This often comes as a secondary diagnosis/“part of the package” with adhd, ocd, ASD—but sometimes it’s just its own thing. She’s extremely bright and in an odd way I guess this makes the problem even worse— there’s a LOT of complex thought going on in her head but it’s as if everything going in and out has to get funneled through a very small straw… more complexity = more time to process, and it also means the gap between how bright she is and how bright she seems will become pretty big without intervention. I’m joining the chorus here but please get a neuropsych evaluation pronto. And also PLEASE let her know it’s likely a matter of neurodiversity and not character or intelligence. I was diagnosed with ADD in college but in light of my kid’s diagnosis I think it’s more likely I too have slow processing speed…I was an A+ student but always got things in late, after spending 4x as much time on them as my peers, and routinely failed timed exams because I couldn’t finish them in time no matter how hard I studied. With accommodations I graduated phi beta kappa and went on to get a masters from an Ivy school—but had I not gotten a diagnosis and time accommodations, I probably would have flunked out of college. It’s a huge deal.

I would suggest getting her evaluated by a private neuropsychologist who specializes in ADHD. You can go through the schools but it is in their interest to delay and deny any sort of testing or accommodations so unfortunately you might not get a thorough or unbiased perspective which is why I recommend going the private route. Wait lists for assessments often range into the months (I've heard 6-8 months) so in the meantime you might want to connect with Classroom Matters to help her with "executive functioning tutoring" (they have regular subject matter tutors as well). I believe they have summer workshops for kids (and parents) that might be helpful. They have been lifesavers for my daughter with executive functioning support and also recommended a neuropsychologist to do the ADHD evaluation. Tatiana at CM has been a staunch and fierce advocate for my daughter as we've been battling BUSD for accommodations. www.classroommatters.com

I just joined BPN and came across your Question.  I am a retired teacher from a local school district, and I know how frustrating it can be for parents of students that have learning challenges.  Our son struggled with conventional classroom learning (we never pursued a diagnosis, but I'd call it something like Executive Function Disorder) in the Albany schools.  It started in 5th grade, and in 6th grade, when students change classes and have different teachers for different subjects, he imploded.  Eventually, we enrolled him in a private school called Tilden Prep (located on Solano Ave in Albany, and also in Walnut Creek).  The students are taught one-on-one with teachers, so the learning progresses at your child's pace.  The teachers seem highly qualified and dedicated to the students.  The administration is very supportive, too.  The teachers provide a short written report (stored online, which you can access) after every "class" with the student, so you are kept up to date almost in "real time."  They offer middle school and high school, and yes it is expensive (private school; 1 on 1 learning) but it got our son through high school.  He's a smart kid, but just wasn't able to plug-in to the conventional learning style.