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I have a 7-year-old girl who is in second grade and struggling. She was diagnosed with Adjustment Depression and ADHD last March. She was treated for depression with an SSRI and counseling. She is currently on an ADHD medication and has stopped the depression meds. The counseling was stopped this fall because her counselor could see no reason to continue.

We have struggled since she started school. She is a very strong-willed little girl who knows a lot more than what she is willing to show us or the teachers. Her work at school fluctuates from day to day. She can do the work with ease one day and then struggle the next with the same work. Her teachers are as perplexed as I am. I have tried many different things for her such as Hooked on Phonics, Sylvan, special tutoring at school, and working with her in different ways at home. The things we try seem to make an impact the first couple of weeks but then she no longer is interested in them and does not want to participate. There seems to be a battle of wills.

How do we go about finding the thing that will allow my daughter to be as bright as we know she is without traumatizing her or bringing back the depression and making things worse? Her teachers feel she should continue counseling. They are disagreeing with the diagnosis of ADHD even though we went through several hours of testing. I fear that if she is held back (which I am thinking may be next) that she will be traumatized from this and will not recover.

Her social skills are lacking. She avoids crowds and does not warm up to people like a typical 7-year-old. She would much rather play with younger kids and avoid group activities. She has no problems making new friends as long as it is just her and the other child. Could her social behavior be contributing to her academic behavior and, if so, how do we go about making changes?

Your questions and concerns are on target. You need to find out more about why your daughter is struggling. It is possible that her depression was the result of her frustrations and difficulties at school. Once some of these were addressed, her depression went away.

If you feel that you are not getting the answers you need from her school professionals, you might have to seek help from others. First, meet with the person who did the hours of testing to conclude that your daughter has ADHD. Discuss your concerns with this professional. Why is she struggling in school? Why is she inconsistent? Were there any test results that might suggest that she has a learning disability or is at risk for such a disability? Discuss the fact that her school staff do not agree with the diagnosis of ADHD and ask for help in responding to the teachers.

If these efforts do not help, seek a private special education consultant who can review all of the records and testing (by school and privately) and advise you on what is best to do.

One added thought: Many professionals within the school and private sector use a guideline for diagnosing someone as having a learning disability. They must be significantly behind expected grade level. If a student is in second grade and a year behind, he or she might be shown to have difficulties, but the degree of deficit is not great enough to use the formal term learning disabilities. Discuss this theme with both school and private professionals. Challenge them by asking, “Are you saying that I have to wait until she fails third grade before you can identify her as having a disability?”

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