Solutions for Smart but Struggling Students

Session 6: When Kids Get Traumatized at School

Melanie Hayes, Ed.D.
Running time: 18:04

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  1. Min on October 17, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    OMG, it’s my older son!
    I’m in this for my younger son who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS and Gifted, but this particular session with Dr. Hayes is all about my older one who has been diagnosed with OCD and High Anxiety.
    He can be reasonable, polite and generally well-liked at school, but when he is alone with me, especially when I am driving him, he pours out his pessimistic, criticizing, negative, rude, disrespectful thoughts, opinions, and complains about everything towards me.
    He is keen on current issues, has strong opinions, and insists that his thoughts and opinions are true and right.
    His G1 teacher said that he was very articulated, above of his peers. (It was about time he started arguing back with me and since then, more than several times, I couldn’t find a better argument point over his.)
    He never liked school and is now already G12.
    While he can have highly sophisticated arguments and writing assignments, he struggles with Math.

    We’ve been through ASD/ADHD assessments, Learning Disability assessment, individual and group counseling sessions for anxious kids (and their parents), counseling sessions with Youth Psychiatrist, and even Growth hormone deficiency assessment (since he is under-weight, under-hight).

    I can say we’ve been through worse days, but it is still a struggle for all of us (himself, too) due to his attitude and verbal expressions. I even think the conflict between him and me influenced my younger son’s social development disorder (ASD).

    How can I guide him wisely and patiently and be more patient, understanding and supportive?

    Any advice from anyone?

    • Amanda & Matthew Holm on October 18, 2019 at 8:48 am

      Hi Min, it sounds like it’s been such a rough road for your son and your family. Have you ever read any of Dr. Ross Greene’s books? The Explosive Child and Raising Human Beings have been really really helpful to us in navigating the journey and getting to the root of what our 2e kiddo needs.

  2. Judith on October 17, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Living in Germany where all kids are required (forced) by law to attend school it gets even tougher since there are no options of homeschooling or of keeping your kids at home for a time….Instead if we as parents don’t send them there are and will be legal consequences even a threat that the government could take your kids out of your care! It’s way too stressful for 2e kids and their parents who want to help their special and unique kids.
    The concept of 2e is completely unknown here so thank you for these inspirational videos that help me immensely to understand what is going on with my three children who all suffer in their own unique way in school: My two oldest were diagnosed as ADD and ADHD kids with IQ’s over 140. And school has always been traumatizing for them. My third child is in second grade now and I just realized through this interview that she is starting to show signs of trauma. Glad I found out about bright and quirky a week ago even though I missed out on the first weeks!

  3. Janet on October 17, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    Re-watching this for the 2nd time, it’s so helpful and valuable. Dr. Hayes said (around minute 7) that she could send some links to (books/resources) for how to deal with the situation when kids go into that fight or flight mode. I would greatly appreciate any resources she can share for handling those situations better. Thanks!

    So Debbie, would you recommend EMDR then for kids who are prone to the “fight” response? At one point we were told OT would help decrease the reactivity, but can’t say we saw any improvement after a year of OT. But in addition to Plan B & Self -Reg help, we are certainly willing to do more to take the anger intensity down a notch.

  4. Amy M Richards on October 17, 2019 at 10:21 am

    My son is an imploder! 🙁 So much anxiety in school. He holds it together and then melts down after school. Going to relocate to get him in a place where he feels safe and where he feels he fits. It’s taken me awhile to figure this all out unfortunately he has suffered a lot of school trauma over the years which we didn’t realize. Now, I am in the process of finding a school that fits him and we will relocate.

  5. Jenny on October 17, 2019 at 4:04 am

    Thankyou. Set helpful. Just wondering how you go about arranging a year sabbatical from school? How does the education department cope with this?

  6. Elizabeth on October 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    My son is a 10 years old. I feel that you are describing him. The school suspended him three times in 5th grade because he was leaving his classroom when feeling overwhelmed, and the teacher would not allowed him to take a break because she said it was an excuse to not finish his work. At the end of the year he was exhaustive, he couldn’t wait for school to end. Was denied accommodations as they said he is gifted but didn’t want to do what expected, and he is bored. The school referred him to a gifted program. He was great and happy during the Summer. Once school started he went back to act out again at school. The school say that he is defiant, disrespectful, non complaint, etc. He had a psychiatric evaluation and the psychiatrist said that he showed signs of anxiety and depression, on top of a ADHD diagnosis. We found that he has a vision problem, executive deficiency, and significantly slow processing. The psychiatrist said that he shows as defiant as a response of how the school was treating him but that it was a way to response.
    He just had a neuropsychological evaluation and came with a diagnosis of ODD. I disagree, and I think he is showing signs of depression, anxiety, and he is traumatized. He goes to school as if he goes to war. Can the ODD diagnosis can be changed?

    • Spiritedwife on October 16, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      My son was misdiagnosed with ODD, It lead us to mishandled some situations and most likely made things worse. Go with your instincts, as Dr. Greene says, kids do well if they can.

    • Janet on October 17, 2019 at 2:21 pm


      Once I realized that there was an ODD Dx for our daughter on our paperwork from the therapist (who specialized in kids and anxiety), I said “Please remove that diagnosis.” Luckily I didn’t have to fight hard, (being a therapist myself!) but it was clear that this person really did not understand giftedness + anxiety nor the symptoms of a person who is constant fight or flight. I would appeal the ODD Dx for your son. It’s too bad this video won’t be public, otherwise, I’d suggest sharing it with the clinician(s).

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