Am I doing the right thing ?

Ok , long post warning , I am wife and mother to people with asc. My 16 yr old daughter is currently taking gcses , is very bright and able but in the past year has dropped off , refuses to attend school for whole days to avoid certain teachers/lessons. Attendance has impacted on her attainment but I believe there is also a part of her that is refusing to work for particular teachers , who she has decided arent worth her effort. She has been entered into foundation maths following her mock results after spending previous 4 years (with a different teacher) in highest math group . I have seen recent papers and she has not attempted 1 question . I and senco suggested She move to another math group , which she point blank refused to do. It feels like she is spiting herself and the teacher . This has happened before with other subjects and she has lost whole year of learning due to withdrawing her attention and making no effort after deciding the teacher was not good enough. School have offered her time in ls instead of going to lessons to try and ensure she attends the other lessons on those days but she is refusing to accept maths is the reason she is not going in. There is no problem according to her. 

I know , as in the past this has happened, she will talk in a few months or a year about how awful this maths lesson / teacher was and the reasons will come tumbling out. I also know it will be anxiety driven . Meeting it head on has not worked and strategies used so far are just driving a wedge between us. I am now resigned to backing off completely , which feels wrong but i do not want to be an additional cause of anxiety. My asc husband says to let her make the mistakes as he had to himself but i see how he has to work twice as hard as others to get to the same point . He can now accept a little help or support to make his life/job easier but for years had fixed ideas . It is so hard standing back ,, watching someone you love so dearly making mistakes which will shape the next few years of her life. 

Thank you for listening

Any advice would be welcome. 

  • After 4 years in the top group for Maths, she has been put into the bottom group following ONE bad test result? This sounds more like a problem with the school. Has this decision been questioned? 

  • I have to admit, this is a familiar scenario for me, but from the viewpoint of the child concerned - after years of being the so-called perfect pupil, I myself began to refuse to attend school at age 13 following years of bullying that went unattended to by teachers. I moved schools, but was still bullied so my attendance wasn’t brilliant and by the time I sat my GCSEs and A Levels there were some lessons I wouldn’t attend at all. I described school as a prison and argued about how cruel it was that I was forced to attend the place that was causing me such distress, when if  an adult suffers workplace stress they get signed off sick! 

    My teachers were very negative about my behaviour through my GCSEs - they told me I was going to fail my exams, they told me I wouldn’t get enough GCSEs to move on to A Levels, they told me I had to drop triple science for additional science because I hadn’t done an ISA I actually had etc. But I sat at home with my revision guides and studied despite their assertions. I even sat English Literature and English Language in the same year despite all of my classmates taking a year for each, all because I didn’t understand the teacher the first year and had therefore refused to sit the exam. Then when I got my GCSE results - 3 A*, 3 A and 2 B - rather than being happy for me, those teachers whose classes I hadn’t attended looked annoyed with me, because I’d shown them up by getting better results than my classmates that had been in lessons all year. Schools are very political and about bragging rights you see,and this doesn’t fit with an aspie mind in my opinion...

    I took A Levels at the same school and by then my teachers had grown rather accepting of my absence - as long as homework was completed on time and tests were sat then they had no issue with me not being there. I think that they had learnt from my GCESs that I put the work in regardless and I was no longer in compulsory education so it was less of an issue in that sense.

    A final note regarding mock papers - I never sat a single one because I refused to do so. After all, who are they for - your child, or the school? I was not going to make the effort to revise for something that would serve no purpose for me, and nor was I going to sit a paper I wasn’t fully prepared for; it all seemed a waste of time to me.

    Anyway, enough about me, I just thought I’d let you know how I was thinking and feeling when I was having similar problems. Your daughter may feel similarly or she may not, but I certainly do think because of my experience that it is best for you not to pressure her too much regarding the situation, because as you say this can cause more stress and anxiety, and further if she is bright then she does understand the consequences of what she is doing. At sixteen you are becoming more independent, and I would be inclined to let her make her choices now and then deal with the consequences of those. It is not the end of the world if she doesn’t get the best GCSEs first time round - they can be retaken and a different learning provider may perhaps suit your daughter better. Further, if you later gain A Levels or professional qualifications, then you really are never asked what your GCSE results are!

    I would say, most importantly try and find out what she wants for her future. Does she want to study A Levels? Does she want to go to university? Do she want to do a vocational course? Does she want to get a job? If she isn’t sure, then what interests her? This will likely dictate the importance of her exam results, and if you know her goal then you can help her to work towards attaining that, through whatever means works best for her (for example I took night classes and worked at the same time to get my professional qualification, because I knew university wouldn’t be something I could cope with and because I thought the costs were much more reasonable this way!) Doing well in school isn’t the only way to progress in life - my brother has only two GCSEs because he didn’t bother to take the rest, but he since gained professional qualifications which allowed him to live independently from age seventeen (because of his high wage) and he now lives abroad doing a senior job. That’s more than most people in their twenties manage these days.

    I apologise for having written so much, but I hope my own experiences serve to quell some of your concerns about the effects your daughter’s current choices may have on her future. I realise it must be a difficult situation for yourself, but try to look at how future progress can be made, even if this bit doesn’t go as you had originally hoped. Transition into adulthood isn’t easy for anyone, and I think if you’re autistic then it just becomes all the more difficult, especially as there is so much change between being in school and then going to university or working full time. Try to work through this period together and keep communication open (easier said than done I know). 

  • Did your daughter like her previous maths teacher (the one with whom she was in the highest group)? Could your daughter be upset that she is no longer with that teacher?

    It could be that your daughter simply feels uncomfortable about the change in her maths lessons, but cannot really explain (even to herself) why exactly it is that she feels uncomfortable. Sometimes the teaching style of a new teacher is difficult to process, and if she previously considered herself to be good at maths, but encountered difficulty with a new concept just because of the way it was taught, it could have shaken her whole self-identity. This might have caused her to stop trying, which is suggested by the fact that she does not even attempt the questions on the mock tests.

    Perhaps your daughter would benefit from a private maths tutor, just until she gets her confidence back, if that is the issue.