Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Older Son's Plan B for This Year

This is a follow-up post to Neurofeedback Therapy Has Started regarding my fourteen year old son.

Plan A for 2011-2012 year was:

Do a typical grade nine academic course load year with rigorous academics geared toward fulfilling college prerequisites for an engineering degree. Arrange math so can finish levels required for future sciences.

Due to the move, the fall semester will focus on home studies, independent or taught by parent-teacher. Take one online math class. Look for options for more group learning for second half of year as we settle in to this new place.

Do one sport (fall, winter, spring), for physical fitness and social fun.

Continue with Boy Scouts.

Eat well and get enough rest. Reduce the staying up too late reading great fiction books habit.

Avoid foods that cause food intolerances and sensitivities.

Try to get through "typical teen behavior and the slacker years" by taking life one day at a time and picking my battles.

After the move, find a new behavioral optometrist to continue monitoring the visual processing issues which have been under treatment for four years.

Adjust to life in our new home after the long distance move, try to help ease the transition any way I can so he is not stressed out.

Heal from the June 2011 case of Lyme Disease.

Focus on academics not girls.

The reality:

My son is sleeping more than he ever has in his life.

Puberty is going at top gear. He is gaining about two pounds a week and growing inches and inches taller.

The academic course load is too heavy for him to handle. His brain fizzles out and he can't sustain for long periods of studying.

The online math class is a terrible match for my son's learning style. He struggles to learn math by reading lines of words on a screen, or in a textbook. He needs to hear a teacher talk and see the operations done out, such as on a video lesson or in a live class (the way 100% of school kids are taught).

New consult was sought in early October after about six weeks of various struggles. Neurological issues were confirmed by EEG and a brain map (qEEG) was scheduled for more detailed information in November. Neurofeedback therapy began in October, 12 sessions done at the time of this writing, 20-30 more will likely be performed. This takes half a day two days a week and leaves my son with headaches and so tired that he falls asleep at lunch time. Not much academic work can be done on those two days a week. Thus, the academic work load has decreased more than we were doing.

The sport team takes four evenings a week and four entire weekends a season. Boy Scout camping trips take one weekend a month. These interfere with shifting academics to nights or weekends. In fact those activities are so time consuming and exhausting that they prevent even a few hours of work to be done Saturday and Sunday. Also, his brain is fried already so he couldn't do night work even if I wanted him to.

My son is getting distracted by girls. From body language reading, I suspect there are three and maybe for girls on his co-ed sports team that have crushes on him. (We continue to not allow texting so that has not invaded on his time.)

I caught my son web surfing using my old smart phone (which I gave him to use for music listening when his MP3 player broke). He was goofing off online instead of doing his studies. This had been going on for weeks but it took me a while to put two and two together, because I didn't realize the phone could do that, since the phone had no phone service and we did not pay for internet access. He was riding on our neighbor's internet service! Thank goodness I had a strong Google parental filter set on or he may have been viewing even worse things than what I found. The Droid was taken away but later he asked to please not give it back to him lest he be tempted again.

I was left not knowing how to proceed with a rigorous an academic plan could be accomplished during the neurofeedback therapy time (30-40 weeks of this year).

Plan B:

After speaking with the board certified neurofeedback therapist (a pyschologist) a more big picture perspective was encouraged.

To justify his recommendation (which I will share momentarily) he explained to me that he can see with my son's behavior and his tenacity with the neurofeedback compared to the brain wave measurements that my son is very motivated and works hard. My son is showing a calm, pleasant, and easy to get along with attitude, and he's a "good kid". When his brain is tired and the brain waves reflect the struggle the psychologist offers him an easier exercise and my son refuses and asks to continue on the hard exercise. He does not show any signs of laziness or a lack of cooperation.

In addition the brain waves are really off and he is struggling. Delta should be at 5 or below and my son averages 17 for the session, and goes up to 30 for the last third of the exercise time and he continues to not give up and to push through and make effort. Thus, the psychologist feels that my son is not lazy at all and has good character traits, and that if he could do a heavier academic load, he would. The issue is the brain is struggling and unable to do the work, thanks to the Lyme Disease's neurological effects. My son has a true biological block hindering him that can be corrected with the therapy and helped by the fact that he is young and his brain is so plastic at this age.

Continue with neurofeedback therapy. View this as a therapy to help heal a medical problem that is important. It is time consuming. Accept the reality that the therapy is a top priority to help him heal.

Get enough sleep. Try to go to bed about the same time each night. Set an alarm to wake up in the morning at the same time.

Eat a protein breakfast immediately upon waking, which will help energy levels. It alters brain waves and puts them into a more active state good for learning.

After breakfast, go outside and exercise vigorously for 30 minutes. Get some sun on the face to boost Vitamin D and serotonin and to avoid the winter blues (apparently people do get those in Texas too).

Supplement with Vitamin D. Most American's Vitamin D levels are too low.

Eat well and avoid as many processed foods as possible.

Supplement with fish oils, including omega 6. This helps the brain's ability to think and process and aids learning.

Scale back the academics to focus on what is most important. Make goals achievable or else self-esteem will suffer. More do-able goals will also help me not become a task master nagger.

Due to the fatigue from the neurofeedback therapy, from getting up at a set time each day, and from the sports, take a nap from 2pm to 3pm each day for one hour only. This is better for the body and brain than sleeping an extra hour in the morning. Too much sleep negatively affects delta waves so don't overdo it.

Continue with sports. Even though it is time consuming the exercise is good for his body and the experience is self-esteem boosting. It provides social opportunities that do not yet exist for us in this new place.

Continue working at his Boy Scout rank advancement on the path to Eagle. Do Troop activities as the schedule allows, don't kill ourselves having him attend every single thing. Others his age are not super participants, this Troop has a different culture than our former Troop. So now our son will do less with the Troop but will focus inward on finishing some difficult merit badges and getting closer to Eagle.

Consider adding a fifth year to the high school studies. It is common for school kids to stay back a grade after having mono. He had mono for 8 months in grade 7 in 2009, (misdiagnosed many times by different doctors) and he couldn't keep up with his studies that year which pushed back his subsequent studies (like a falling row of dominoes). Since my son has had Lyme Disease multiple times, including in 2009 and 2011 (not to mention previous cases) this is a reasonable idea. My son hates this idea so we are keeping it as an option to deal with in the future.

The new academic goals are a major focus on math to include finishing Algebra I and to also complete Algebra 2. He will finish Biology with lab and will study to take the SAT II test in June 2012. He will finish up the last work on his literature course. He will work on writing composition. The rest will be "bare minimum" to comply with standards.

We will not go "above and beyond" in every single subject. Foreign langage is being pushed off until after the neurofeedback therapy is finished, possibly until fall of 2012 (he has stopped Rosetta Stone due to hating it, he formerly loved it, and we need to look for a live class to take instead as I think this is a preferable method for him).

We dropped the online math class as it is not working and found another online math class with a video format that is working well for him. He has been working at that for about two weeks with great success academically, and he enjoys it too.

Continue the family ban on text messaging in order to help curb distractors.

Continue to not provide him with a smart phone or on any other mobile device to avoid internet surfing so he can focus on his priorities and avoid temptation.

(I am hoping he doesn't get girl obsessed which may dominate his mind but I can't prevent that if it does happen.)

The TV watching and video game playing policies remain the same: watch something as a family at night only. Video games on weekends for two hours a day only. Facebook time is minimal.

Per the psychologist he should earn one minute of screen time for every one minute of exercise he does.

This new plan is more realistic and attainable. I feel a sense of relief to know that what is best is for my son's general health and well-being to be the primary focus and that he is getting professional help via the neurofeedback therapy. Now I have been given permission to lay off the rigorous academics that I had planned. It will not be the end of the world if my son has to "stay back a grade" due to medical conditions. In any event he has an August birthday and we did not "red shirt" (for social reasons) him as many parents did in my area. Since "red shirting" is so common with boys now it should not be held against him if he stays back a grade due to recovery from multiple medical conditions.

It is hard for me sometimes as a homeschooling parent to know "how much is enough" regarding expectations and academic load. It is hard to also struggle with the worry that we're not doing enough as homeschooling parents.

It is now clearer to me that what is truly most important in every child's life is to be well medically and mentally. Getting educated and learning comes after that first foundational need has been met. I'd rather slow down and take some extra time so my son can receive a high quality education than cram in the schooling while feeling too tired and not functioning at full brain capacity just to say he crossed the graduation finish line in four years at age 17. Who are we rushing for anyway? Both my son and I would rather have a higher quality of life and quality learning instead of rushing and cramming academics in a stressful manner while feeling unwell and while functioning at partial capacity just to "get 'er done" by some certain date.

1 comment:

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Amen! My older daughter (now 10) struggled to learn to read and has difficulties with spelling and, to a lesser degree, math. I did start her on K work just after she'd 5 because that's what I was "supposed" to do, but we've ostensibly "red-shirted" her with the start of this year. Due to her age, being young emotionally, and the fact that she might as well be her younger sister's twin (they were born just 11.5 months apart), she is okay with that; in fact, she's thrilled. We will re-evaluate before high school - I was a late bloomer academically and it's possible she will be, too - but it just seems "right" now in a way it didn't before. She would flounder as a "5th grader" but is doing beautifully as a "4th grader" - even in social settings such as church, etc. So she'll graduate right around the time she turns 19 instead of 18. We may have to do some convincing later, but right now that surely seems like the best thing for her, in so many ways.