Next step for struggling High Schooler?

I could use some suggestions from those who've gone before on trying to sort out the issues of a 15 year old who's struggled with Math and some other aspects of school forever.

My observation is that she processes at a slightly reduced speed then her sister and I, It can be hard for her to grasp concepts from complex questions, or statements. As in: All Quiet on the Western Front is over her head and the essay questions just don't make sense to her. She's not cognitively slow: she has a perceptive wit and sharp insights. But when she's pressed for time, or people become impatient with her, or is given too many directions at one time, she gets very anxious and frustrated and shuts down. Math is very hard for her, and tests are a disaster. She is a model student, not disruptive, polite and kind. She can tend to daydream, really has no interest in school other than knowing she needs to make a living someday. She's hard working, and does ok, but there are a few areas of concern, and as her course work gets more complex, she seems less able to function well. She hates that school seems much harder for her than for her friends.

I don't know if I should go to a Neurological Psychologist and have a full work up so we can put accommodations in place? An Executive Function expert? Or a therapist for her anxiety?  I know any direction I go is out of pocket so I want to make sure I'm heading in a direction that'll get the most results. 

Anyone have any experience or advice? Thank you.

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Hi! My son does this too. He has slow processing speed (check out the book bright kids who can't keep up). That book helped me understand what was going on. Taking information in is slow,coming out too sometimes. We were in a private school and had to pay out of pocket but I think public schools have to provide for testing and for help. He didn't realize he was slower and we didn't either. Technically he has some sort of dyslexia. But I'm guessing maybe that is going on? One md said he could be helped by drugs but that was incorrect . You know some people who go lightning fast? This is the other side of it :). One your daughter knows what is going on she will be able to ask people to communicate with her more effectively and it will get better! The anxiety is normal too, obviously, if you are being rushed....take care!

Hi there, my son had some of the same issues and we were referred (by his middle school) to the Anne Martin Center for educational testing. They do testing over a 3 day period of all aspects of processing, comprehension, and ability.
It is not cheap ($2300) and there is no financial aid available, but it was VERY informative and helpful. The person who administered the test identified some issues, but guided us to another diagnosis....very a-typically expressed ADD.
They are super thorough. My son got the support he needed and has just made the honor roll this year. It's an incredible turn of events. We got the testing done a year ago and it has really paid off.
Publc schools can also be petitionedto do assessments....just be reallyproactivefor your daughter.
I wish you all the best.

It sounds like she may have undiagnosed learning disabilities. You can go through your school district for a free evaluation and IEP -you don't have to pay out of pocket. I'd start with having her evaluated and then work on the anxiety, for which you will have to pay yourself, but at least you'll know exactly what the problems are and how to help. Good luck!

Hi there- 

I totally empathize with you and your daughter as I had similar struggles when I felt pressure to perform or discuss things on the spot. 

I did well in school but struggled during tests or timed exercises where there was a need to perform on the spot. A really great teacher recommended that my parents test me for auditory processing problems and it showed that I was struggling when I had a mix or oral and written directions - my brain was basically not able to put the information in order since they weren't given to me in the same way. Once we discovered that I was able to get a 504 plan that accommodated having all directions provided in the same way. Also, a 504 plan is also useful in university settings and when I attended CAL they also were able to help with provided directions in a more understandable format for me. 

Fast forward to now and I was able to learn skills that allowed me to work in a business setting and I just have to take more time to prepare for meeting in advance. Please let your daughter know that this isn't an intelligence thing, it's a processing thing because until we discovered that for me, I felt very anxious and embarrassed about my ability to be successful in school and was constantly second guessing my own intellect. 

Hang in there mama!

Hi - If you have the means, I suggest getting a full neuropysch test. Having her tested & being able to understand her areas of strengths and challenges, will be helpful in understanding the best options to help support her though school. Lack of focus can cause all of the symptoms you describe in your post. When a person cannot focus, they cannot organize their thoughts to bring in and retain information --- even if they try hard to focus on the content, their brain cannot take in the information in an organized manner; this creates anxiety, which in turn may cause the person to shut down --- ignoring hw, not liking school, appearing to not to care, self esteem erodes, etc.  Also, having a slow processing mind (this is not indicative of intelligence --- just the need for more time to understand the material) can create anxiety as the student falls behind or becomes frustrated.  As for slow processing with math, this link to a quick lesson plan from Stanford smashes the myth about who is good at math and who is not.   I highly recommend you and she sign up for this free class. It is very short and no hw. It helped my math anxious middle schooler, at the tim,e to understand that being slower at math is fine (Einstein had a "slow" processing brain). I like to think of slow processors as deep thinkers. My slow processing child needs to understand the "why" in math.  My fast processing child gets it fast but only to a certain level and does fine, but doesn't remember as much the next year.  My slow processor has depth and fast processor is more surface level. Once my slow processor took the Stanford class, it helped her anxiety. Schools teach rocket math and "be quick" with math facts, there is a certain way to learn math and there are "math people" and not "math people" -- Fast math, learning math one way is the right way and math vs. non-math people are all myths. Being slow at math, learning more than one way to do math and in most cases hard work creates a "math person" not natural ability is reality. Because you mentioned some areas outside of math that your daughter struggles, I suggest getting her tested and finding tools (counseling, tutors, medication, etc.) to help create a way for her to learn best. The more you understand how her mind works, the more you can tailor her tools. It will still be a hard work to learn (it is for most of the population), but she will begin to see results which will give her self confidence again. My slow processor hated math going into 5th grade and now loves math in high school. Once she was diagnosed with ADHD inattentive, given medication, counseling and an understanding that slow is ok, she took off.  Without meds/counseling and the Stanford class, she would not be where she is today.  Wishing you the best in finding the best path for your daughter.

I am not a specialists but my son is exactly the same.  He was tested and came out as very bright but with very slow processing speed.  Knowing this helps, but it is still very frustrating as he seems 'normal', so it's hard to keep in mind at all times that he just can't do things faster.  For this very reason he has an IEP at his school and he gets extra time on things.  Last year I even managed to get him remedial help for English from his school.  Try seeing if you can get her tested; you will probably find the answers there.  

Good for you for taking action.  I have a nearly 17 y.o. in the same situation, though he was professionally assessed (by an Education Psychologist, not a Neurologist) at age 10 (and has had two subsequent assessments, as they need to be updated in order for IEP (Individualized Education Plans) to be implemented.  From what you are saying (and I'm not an expert, just a mom with a similar sounding kid) it sounds as if your daughter might have an "Auditory Processing Delay" (APD) -- which means she's processing information at a slower rate than most -- especially with topics she's not interested in, are "over her head" -- as new math concepts can be for many -- or that she's not heard before.  If this is determined to be true, learner support can be put into place to help.  Teachers can "pre-load" new information before a new concept will be introduced in class.  For kids with APDs, this can be massively helpful as they are not hearing new concepts for the first time in class -- and their brain can tune into them more. Receiving lectures in writing as well can help a great deal.  (If reading comprehension is determined to be good.)  This will be very helpful at the university level, for sure, as long lectures are hard to keep up with if you have an ADP.  For my son, the ADP has also created difficulty with memory retention of new concepts as well as a lot of anxiety about the time available to him in class for assessments or classroom work.  The ed-psych assessments have provided him with 50% more time for tests, including the SATs and ACTs (which the College Board must approve and will only do so with a professional assessment declaring the need.)  And, in my son's case and based on the assessments, a learner support teacher was provided in Math and Science -- his most difficult subjects -- to provide extra support.  He attends a private school and this was an additional expense but beyond worth it.  It's available in public schools as well.  He had that support in place for Grades 6-9.5, when the school determined he was fine on his own.  He had taken on board so much of the support strategies and knew how to advocate for himself. As parents, we were afraid to cut off the direct support but he's proven he's ready for school without it.  We also paid out of pocket for each of our son's assessments (however with the last one, the psychologist stated on our receipts that she was looking at his anxiety as well, so our insurance reimbursed us.) I will say it has been the best money we've ever spent.  For us, knowing exactly what his learning challenges were eased our minds. For him they've totally changed the way he sees himself (though self-doubt still often creeps in and he doesn't see the fairness in getting more time for tests). It's also given him tremendous confidence in school.  Math is still the thorn in his side, but you know what?  I didn't like it either and just did what I could to get by.  We all now know (teachers included)that the information is IN HIS BRAIN but it just takes a bit longer to get it out on the page. Best of luck with your explorations, but I can't say enough how invaluable the Ed-Psych Assessments have been in the life of our child.  Sooner than later.

My son has similar issues. He was evaluated when he was 10 by a developmental pediatrician who thought he had some auditory (language) processing problems, then by a neuropsychologist ($$!) at 15 so we could help him get a 504 for high school. The second eval. did not focus on the language processing, although we asked for this (frustrating). It found he had some anxiety and depression (you would too if you had to struggle to understand in the classroom). He does very well in school, but has to work very hard. Tests are the biggest challenge. He got the 504, which gives him time and a half on tests and quizzes, and that definitely helps. If it takes a neuropsych test to get the 504 (or IEP) it is probably worth it. If you go that route be sure to insist on testing for language processing speed and comprehension; there are apparently multiple short tests for that. The good news is that our smart son is doing well in most classes now. There will always be that one (or two) teachers with a teaching style that clashes with your kid, but we have found that tutoring helps immensely in those situations.