What to do?

<p>My son seems to be in a bit of a rut, and I don't know what to do. </p>

<p>My son is a 2e child; diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 7 years old. He also tested for a 154 IQ and (until freshman year) blew away all of his teachers. By the time he was in 4th grade he began developing a very strong interest in chemistry and math and was self studying algebra 1 as well (the school wouldn't let him take advanced classes early.) I'm not trying to brag about my son; they would tell me that he might as well be teaching them. He learned quickly, though, that other kids didn't share his interests and love for knowledge and began to get bullied at a very early age. I tried to get him whatever help he would accept for building social skills (he always thought that needing help made him stupid), as well as telling teachers to keep an eye on things. </p>

<p>As the years went on the bullied escalated, exponentially. By 8th grade we started to notice a bit of a slip in school performance, possibly some signs of depression and very prominent signs of general anxiety. We tried to help him as much as we could but the more we tried the more he seemed to be pushing us back. We ended up sending him to an out of district high school in hopes of the bullying ceasing completely, which it ended up doing. The first semester of freshman year was so promising; he was on the advanced math track, taking chemistry, making friends. It seemed like he just needed a new school and everything would be great. Then suddenly in 3rd quarter he began to seem, tired. School work began slipping; he would continuously groan about how much he despised it but felt bad about not doing it. I would ask him why he didn't just do it then and he wouldn't be able to answer. Sophomore year saw the same thing, except now he was beginning to sleep in classes on a regular basis, starting second semester or so. Junior year was somewhat better and it seems like he's beginning to realize college is coming up and needs to pull everything back together; he's getting extremely stressed out.</p>

<p>My son has a 3.6 GPA, in the top quarter of his school. He took the SATs and only got a 1700. I know he can do a million times better. He has (some kind of) aspirations to go to UChicago as a physics major. He's begun studying math and physics relentlessly a year or so ago and is making pretty good progress (with his self studying.) He has a great list of extracurriculars, ranging from jobs to volunteer work to sports, and plenty of leadership opportunities in those activities. Still, his SAT is bad to be honest and his GPA is nowhere near what he could've had. Does anyone have advice for what to do next? I really don't know what to do. I want to help him reach his full potential, but he thinks he's just gotten dumber over the years. Please help!</p>

<p>The first thing to do is to focus on the future. He could have had a better GPA, but like a lot of kids he had obstacles, so this is the GPA he has now. Focus on helping him bring it up as much as he can. </p>

<p>As for the SAT, what kind of prep is he doing? Since it sounds like he's pretty good at self-study (maybe better than in a group/classroom setting) look into getting him either an SAT tutor who can work one-on-one or some good prep books and have him just practice, practice, practice. Where specifically are his scores the lowest? Math? Reading? Writing? Focus on the area that needs the most improvement. </p>

<p>Also, it's a good idea to start introducing him to a wide range of colleges. UChicago may not be in the cards if he doesn't get his GPA/SAT scores up. If he does, that's great! But if he doesn't, he should start to get excited about other colleges with great science/physics programs. He can still get into a selective school, definitely, and frankly, a smaller school than UChicago, one where he can get lots of attention and support, and one where he'll be surrounded by fellow intellectually minded kids, is probably a better fit. Have you looked at any LACs with strong science programs?</p>

<p>smaller sci tech schools? RPI, WPI, RIT, etc, etc.</p>

<p>Who did the Aspergers dx? If this was a result of a full neuropsych eval, he should be eligible for support services. It's also possible, with his high IQ, that he is not AS but NLD -- much overlap but some subtle differences.</p>

<p>Does he have a 504 or IEP? He may need help with both social skills support as well as academic support. Eventually many AS kids "hit the wall" academically. You need to be working with your son's school to get him the support to which he is entitled. It also sounds like he could benefit from a medical eval and counseling to address the possible depression.</p>

<p>Suggested reading that may give you additional ideas:
Amazon.com:</a> Helping a Child With Nonverbal Learning Disorder or Asperger's…</p>

<p>His sectional scores were:</p>

<p>CR - 570</p>

<p>Writing - 540 (10 on the essay)</p>

<p>Math - 630</p>

<p>He had a prep group at his school, but mainly they just went over the structure of the test and how to use deductive reasoning to make an educated guess for problems they didn't quite know how to do. He did study a bit here and there with his prep book, but it was hard to pull him away from his non-school studying. I think it was probably just a bad day, because my husband and I were just so surprised at his score. He's a great critical thinker and problem solver, he knows the basic math behind the math section (even on a theoretical level); we thought his SAT would be the golden ticket. But the bad score might be a good thing for him right now. Maybe it will make him study a little bit harder for the October test.</p>

<p>Indeed he did get diagnosed with a full neuropsychological evaluation. He had an IEP in grades 2-8 to work on the social skills. Frankly, he's actually doing pretty good socially. At least, he says he's happy where he is. He has a few friends that he talks to very often and hangs out with, and had a very successful relationship which lasted about a year and a half. He used to hate that he was socially different, but as high school came along he figured out ways to use his differences to his advantage and the friends came with it. Perhaps I should look in to an IEP for academic support.</p>

<p>As a school sychologist I've encountered this senerio. A couple of things: 1) The diagnosis of Aspergers (or any other disorder) does automatically quailify a student for an IEP or a 504 plan. For a 504 plan the disorder must "substantially limit" the students abilityto perform a life function, which as far as the school is concerned is learning. With a 3.6 GPA there is no substantial limitation to learning. The intent of the law isn't "students could do better if the had accommodations" rather it is "students need the accommodation to perform as an average student does". Special Ed law is more vague staing the disorder must "adversely affects the students academic performance". This again would not appear appropriate with a 3.6 GPA. 2) Your son seems to me to have done well. he has good grades, friends, good EC's with leadership, etc. Don't get hung up on the "154 IQ" which makes you think he could have done so much more academically. Would you rather have him with a 4.0, 2,400 SATs, have his choice of colleges but have no social skills or friends? Or would you rather have him as he is now, but having to attend a lesser college? </p>

<p>Students end up getting accepted at the colleges they belong at. I know you think your son is capable of much more than he's showing but the bottom line is that he would do best at a college that his performance will get him into. Be happy with how far he's come and don't dwell on "what could have been".</p>

<p>I just added the 154 IQ for extra information. HE is the one that is really disappointed with his performance in school. He is a real perfectionist, and despite my constant reassurance that his personal best is perfect, he won't buy it. The way he told me he saw it was he frankly wasn't fond of high school, and that all he wanted to do was get a chance at a good college to prove just how much he felt he could achieve. He also has said he just wasn't comfortable with the idea of going to WPI, despite that it would probably be a good fit for him. He thinks that since WPI tends to be a saftey school on a lot of kid's college lists, he wouldn't shine on job applications as much as he'd like to. He also realizes that colleges won't just "give him a chance," and as such he has worked out arrangements with his high school to take calculus I, II, III, calculus-based physics, and computer science I at a local community college to help prove himself.</p>

<p>I'm absolutely happy that he wants to go to college. My husband didn't go and instead enlisted in the military, unsure of what he wanted to do. He soon found that he had a fascination with computers and capitalized on the interest. He landed a great job and for years was happier than ever, but one day the company outsourced and he got laid off. After that he tried applying to job after job, but he kept getting rejected; computer companies were starting to require a college degree, despite my husband's skill level. </p>

<p>So ultimately, I'm happy that my son recognizes the importance of even going to college at all, but he told me over and over again that all he wants is to go to a college where he can learn the most, and he's convinced that the only institutions where he can gain the most mastery of math and physics are prestigious colleges such as UChicago.</p>

<p>It sounds like he's doing wonderfully socially! I don't have any experience with AS, but please also consider the giftedness angle. He's in school that's below his intellectual level. He may just be burned out. HoagiesGifted.org has good info on giftedness and AS.</p>

<p>I am an MD (however AS is outside my area of specialization) with a nephew that has AS and also scored very high on IQ tests. He did have problems in elementary and middle school and just graduated from a high school that specializes in students with disabilities. He has been accepted at the University of Massachusetts as a computer science major which I think is a good fit for him since even though he is much better than he used to be, he is still somewhat socially awkward.</p>

<p>One problem with AS sufferers is that they will tend to fixate on something such as the University of Chicago being the only place he can reach his potential in math and physics when in reality there are many colleges he could get admitted to and learn these subjects just as well. It may just be a matter of time before he gains this insight.</p>

<p>While your son's Math SAT score is certainly not bad he probably could do better with the help of a tutor to keep him on track to learn how to solve the types of problems that are found on the SAT rather than what is presented in a college math textbook. His AS could continue to limit how well he does in the CR and W sections of the SAT. Doing well on these sections to a certain extent requires the ability to gain insight into what others are thinking and pick up on social cues that come naturally to most people but are very difficult for AS patients to grasp.</p>

<p>It might be best for him to start with a small school first. My brother is a physicist who went to U of C for his PHD. But, he went to a great small LAC for undergraduate. Remember, usually physics requires graduate work. It would be much better for him to have a U of C graduate degree than undergraduate.</p>

<p>Regarding the SAT scores being a surprise, were your son's actual scores substantially lower than he was getting on practice tests? I found with my son that the practice test results and actual results correlated rather well. And if he hasn't been taking a lot of practice tests, perhaps he should. Have you considered signing him up for a formal prep course with Princeton Review or a similar company? </p>

<p>It certainly is possible to raise one's score the second time if one prepares; my son's math score went up almost 100 points. (His CR and writing scores stayed about the same, but were extremely high to begin with, so he didn't really need work in those areas.)</p>

<p>Does he snore? Sleep a lot? One of my guys has sleep apnea -- thank God for the fraternity brother who suggested my guy get a sleep evaluation. The kid had some miserable times trying to stay awake in class and it turned out to be a medical problem. </p>

<p>A CPAP machine to keep an open airway made a tremendous difference. A sleep study is usually a referral item (ie, your doc may be slow to go down this road) -- I had to really push for it -- but when the printout came out, there it was -- the kid truly needed some help. </p>

<p>I would also have the teen checked for mononucleosis.<br>
Give your guy a hug. He probably despises himself right now -- life is not about being perfect. It's about finding a path and a place in the world that works for him. Talk about that, please. He'll be relieved if you are confident that he is worthwhile and that a few bumps in the old GPA do not define his worthiness.</p>

<p>Try signing up for SAT Question of the Day (on College Board site). THen your son (and you too if you like) could get one question per day via email. It's a fun, nonstressful way to get used to their kinds of questions. </p>

<p>Being well rested on test day may be even more important than studying.</p>

<p>Try the ACT. It may be that your son does better on that. Other than that, I would work on getting him to work on mental flexibility-- gray areas. It's not U Chicago or bust. He's not failing himself if he doesn't go to a certain school. It doesn't matter that a school is "everyone's safety." I realize that might be especially hard for him because of the Asperger's but, really, a lot of kids fall in love with one college much to their detriment. </p>

<p>We toured RIT this spring and it had excellent support services-- and not just for students with 504s/IEPs. I realize your son hasn't needed them until now but I might explore that option.</p>

<p>Could the time factor of the SAT be part of the problem? As was suggested the ACT which has a science section might be a better test for him. Time will also be a factor for this test so practice tests done within time contraints might help.</p>

<p>He did fairly better on the PSATs than the SATs: critical reading was 62 or so and math was about 68, maybe 69. We figured that he was pretty much good to go and with a little studying could get 2100+. Maybe it was because he took the actual SAT at the end of the year, maybe it was because he took it at a different high school, I don't know. </p>

<p>He has had rather severe insomnia pretty much his whole life (he hated sleeping even as an infant). His psychiatrist tried prescribing sleeping medication which knocked him out but he'd wake up more tired than when he wasn't sleeping. We tried meds for depression, anxiety, and impulsivity but they seemed to have no effect or in some cases made things worse. </p>

<p>There's just still something wrong, and perhaps it is depression, maybe even more just being a teenager. When he was young, he had such passion for learning, for solving puzzles, for physics and math, music and writing. He could always see past the equations, what they meant, what they did, what they looked like. He spoke of math like an art. Nowadays it's hard to even get him to talk at all. He still has an internal interest in math and the sciences, he still loves music, and his writing still brings home really impressive reports from his English teacher. He still just doesn't seem as "connected" with life as he used to be. srco14, you said AS kids tend to "hit the wall" academically. Did you mean they tend to start well and end up getting sick of it? Do you know any effective ways to help him "snap out of it?"</p>

<p>I'm going to try to get some information from a few different schools, especially RIT, WPI, and RPI. I'm sure once he actually visits a few of the campuses, talks to a few people, and sees the libraries (:P) he'll love one of them. WPI especially, since they'll give him more control over his course selection than many other colleges and he'll be able to pick things up at a very fast pace.</p>

<p>I also have heard a few people suggest Rose-Hulman. I've read a bit about the school, and it seems very good; small classes, rather individualized, small, quiet campus and neighboring town. I've heard a lot about their engineering program, but not much about their physical sciences programs (if they have dedicated majors for those fields.) Does anyone know anything about this?</p>

<p>Sorry you and your son are going through challenging times.</p>

<p>I, too, recommend he try the ACT. My D did exceptionally well on the PSAT (220), yet having taken both the ACT and SAT, she slightly preferred the former.</p>

<p>She highly recommends the Princeton Review books. If your son will devote some time to them (and the practice tests), it's a pretty sure bet his scores will go up.</p>

<p>In my previous post (#&) I meant to say that having Aspergers (or any other disorder) does NOT automatically quailify the student to ahve an IEP or 504 plan. Sorry. for the mistake!</p>

<p>"There's just still something wrong, and perhaps it is depression, maybe even more just being a teenager."</p>

<p>"He still just doesn't seem as "connected" with life as he used to be."</p>

<p>I hate to bring this up, but I assume you've already ruled out any type of drug or alcohol use?</p>