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By Leslie S. Goldberg, M.Ed., CEP, founder and President of the Goldberg Center for Educational Planning in Braintree, MA

If we were to compare the lives of our teenagers to the weather we’d be fraught with everything from beautiful sunny days to those of a hurricane or tornado. Moods, behaviors, academic needs all seem to ebb and flow like the tide. When do we need to worry? When do we need to seek a change of schools? Can we help our kids enough at home in their current school? What about transitioning to a new school, college, or special needs program?….HELP!

When do we need to worry?

We have all read about noticing when our kids’ friends have changed, their former interests have been dropped, grades are plummeting, sleep and nutritional habits have changed. Is any of this normal? For those students on an IEP or a 504 plan it is a good idea to check in frequently with teachers and administrators at the school to hear what they have to say about what is happening. Is Johnny trying as hard as he can but failing tests? Is homework not getting turned in? Is Susie falling asleep during class or even cutting classes? The last testing should be reviewed to see if other tests should be administered at this point, or if it is time for a new full battery of tests.

That’s it! We will put Johnny or Susie into the local private school!

STOP! This is not always the best idea; just because a school is private does not mean it is the best setting for the child. At this point perhaps additional or new testing, including neuropsychological batteries plus projective and personality tests should be performed. Very often depression can yield similar behaviors to an attentional problem and it is very important to determine which it is, even for those already diagnosed with ADHD. One of the most common problems with adolescents today is anxiety which can mask itself as oppositional behavior, or a learning profile that is somewhere on the autism spectrum rather than a more commonly diagnosed ADHD with executive function difficulties.

So what do we do?

The following are some steps parents may want to follow or at the very least consider:

  1. Speak to the professionals in your child’s life, including but not restricted to guidance counselor, pediatrician, psychologist, social worker, and/or psychiatrist. They can help provide additional perspectives.
  2. Have a neuropsychologist conduct an independent evaluation including the projective and personality testing. It is important to not only have this done in a timely manner, but also to inquire when you can expect the results.
  3. Depending on your educational planning goals, consider engaging the services of either an experienced educational consultant or a special education advocate who has plenty of experience with profiles like that of your child.
  4. Do not worry if your child does not want to get help. There are many solutions to this kind of situation and the educational consultant or special education advocate can recommend and advise the appropriate direction to take.
  5. If the hesitation is about transitioning to the next type of private setting (e.g. independent middle or high school, college, moving from special needs program to mainstream or vice versa) or transitioning to a different level of accommodations within a public school setting, an educational consultant or a special education advocate can also help.

Adolescence is a time of ups and downs, of sunny days and stormy ones. If we lay the groundwork and can predict what happens during the next transition, the warnings and watches will be no surprise and the parents and family will be prepared for the future, whatever it may hold.

Leslie S. Goldberg, M.Ed, CEP is founder and President of the Goldberg Center for Educational Planning in Braintree, MA with offices in CT, NY, and FL. She can be reached at 781-848-8800, or on the web at

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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