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Sarah, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 143
Experience:  Chart'd Psych, 12 yrs exp. English prisons, Clinical Hypnotherapist, EMDR Therapist, BPS, HPC reg'd.
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My son seem to be fairly intellegent. His, marks at school,

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My son seem to be fairly intellegent. His, marks at school, however declined since grade 9. He can not sit down and study effectively. It seems his got a blockage when he need to study. He will find all sorts of things to do before studying. He in grade 12 this year and is about to start his final exame. It also seesm that he do not understand the urgency to study for the final exame or he can not get to the point to do it. Can this be more than pure laziness? Thus can it be a phiscal or a phycological problem. Is hipnoses therepy recommended?
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Sarah : Hi there,
Sarah : Thanks for your question.
Sarah : I see that you are offline, so I am going to change the format to Q and A. You can answer when you a ready.
Hi there,

The most telling piece of information that you give about your son is that he lost his brother in a car accident when he was 10. This can have a traumatic effect on your son's life in many ways, and although it is not valuable for me to guess what that effect could be, I will explain that it might be something like 'I can't be successful because my brother can't ' or 'it's not worth working hard because everything is snatched away one day'. I give these examples to show you how it can work. Now the important thing to know is that this belief (whatever you son's personal belief is) will exist in his subconscious mind, not s conscious mind, so whatever you say to him will not hit home, because someone needs to speak with his subconscious mind. You are very perceptive and have worked out that maybe a hypnotherapist would be able to help, and the answer is yes, that could be helpful. However, I would urge you to consider EMDR for your son. This is a trauma therapy, which delves deeply into the subconscious mind and allows the client to recognise their underlying beliefs and best of all allow them to process them away, along with the emotion that is attached ( potentially the anger that you have seen along the way and other feelings such as sadness, grief, guilt, etc. etc.). If you ask your son about this, he will probably and genuinely tell you that it isn't relevant, because the beliefs really are subconscious. I suggest that you have a look at for more info and a therapist local to you. Look for one who specialises with children because they treat children with issues like this all the time and they use special techniques with toys and sometimes sand trays to get the child to express themselves. I do hope this is useful. Tell your son that you wewre affected by losing your son and you understand that it is possible that he may be affected by it - if he says it's not the case, maybe you could ask him to just to give it a try and see if it helps, just to get him there. It might also be worth speaking with his teachers and letting them know that you have been advised that he has trauma related issues and maybe they could allow him to re-take the year or something? Sometimes exam boards are able to take this into account. You could take a copy of this email with you to school or maybe contact your doctor and have him or her write a letter. Please try and accept that your son genuinely doesn't mean to upset you and he needs your support, just as you need it from others around you. I do hope this will help you and your son, feel free to reply, Best Wishes, Sarah

Edited by Sarah on 10/6/2010 at 8:02 PM EST
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for your reply. I did metion that he was also with the school Physcologist. She did not mention EMDR treatment. Perhaps it is not available here. However, she work a lot on the trauma component as she believed it that was the reason for the anger. She did work on the study as wel. It did improve slightly, but the tendency is still a decline. I must also mention that he seem to be very sensitive for rejection. He will withdraw if his abilities is not recognised and stop competing. Unfortunately it did happen in the sport at school where other boys was selected above him where he was definitively the better option. I do not know if this can contribute to the problem.

Concerning the study problem, some of the teachers in his school know about the loss of his brother, but don't seem to care. The way he is treated will directly affect his performance.

In primary school he never really had to study, although I tried to get him to study effectively by sitting down and write things out, even before his brother passed. At that time he already showed signs that it will be difficult to sit down and study effectively. It was not that big deal back then as his marks was fairly good.

Perhaps another thing to mention. When he was a baby from new born to a couple of months, he anly slept on one side of his head. So much so that his head become out of shape. He was a very strong baby and we could not get him to sleep on both sides of his head. He would find a way to wiggle himself loose. His head did aventually return to very close to the shape it should be, but the deformation was still visable for a couple of years afterwards. It did not seem to hamper his developement as he start to walk between 9 and 10 months. He never crawled. I don't know if it will help, but is perhaps worth mentioning.

My question is still, why can't he sit down and study. can it be a phisical problem. Is it a metal block? Perhaps he worry about the exame, but stil can not sit down and study. His argument is his not made for it. Why?

Hi, thanks for your reply. I am not able to spend time on it now as I have a meeting, but I will come back very soon. Did you every get the head change checked out with the doctors? Without being a medical person, I cannot really comment on whether or not that would have brought about physical differences, which is what you are asking. It might sound like a simple answer, but have you considered whether it is simply because he is a male and that males often prefer to be out and about rather than with a pencil and a book? As he was well ahead as a young boy, he may have got used to the fact that things come easily and therefore set up his own expectations that he doesn't need to work hard. Perhaps he needs a goal - I know he is young, but does he need to see how things will be different for him if he works at school? Does he have life goals you can encourage him with, although I suspect you are already doing this. Can you bargain with him, do one hour homework, one hour football ( or whatever) ? I would still suspect that the psychologist was working with the conscious mind, which is great, but often it is the subconscious mind that rules the brain and can put blocks or barriers in the way of progress. I will come back later to check you reply and offer more thoughts. Best Wishes, Sarah
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Yes, I did bargain with him, he has got draems, and yes he do want to study in Geological direction. ALthough we talk about it a lot and I explained the hirargy of needs and he know if he do not do something urgend he will not be able to study further. That is not enough. The fact is he can not get himself to a point to sit down and study effectively. He will read through some of the work, then believe that is enough. If he did it that for 10 minutes, he feels that he has done a lot. When I ask him to go back and study, he get upset. I have left him to see for himself the results, which was a lot of times not too good, yet still not enough motivation to get down and do the studying the way he should.

The doctors did check him out when he was still small. They said he will outgrow it as there was absolutly nothing to indicate any problems in his developement. I just wondered if that might have a negative effect on him in later years.

I do not know what to do now. Unfortunately Hipnotherapsit is far from where we stay. If there is anything I can do until he finished his final exame it will be very helpfull. Medication or what ever. If I have to take him to a hipnotherapist, I can only do it when he is finish with school after the exame.

I wonder if you could help him to extend his attention span without him knowing it - if you agree with him that he can study for 10minutes and then play for 20 minutes, he must agree to come back for 10 minutes again. We all only have a limited attention span, for adults it is an average of 40 minutes, yet we are expected to concentrate often an hour at a time at school. Then slowly extend his study time by a minute, so he is doing 11 minutes study for a few days, then 12 and 13. You can shift I'm gently without a struggle. This technique is often recommended for changing bedtimes with children, as their body clock slowly adjusts. There is another aspect that may need consideration - when a parent has a lost a child, they can become more lenient with the child that they still have, because this child is perhaps mo precious now and the parent wants the child to have a good life. However, every child still needs rules and boundaries, they are what makes a child feel safe and comfortable, knowing that the adults are keeping them within theses boundaries. They won't tell you that, they may not realize that. But they are the child and need to be told that these are the rules and they need to abide by them - you are the adult and need to remain strong in what you know is right. If you try this technique as above, you are meeting him at 10minutes, but staying in control because he has to do what you say and he has to return. Do you spend special time with him, even if it's only 10 minutes every day? When we take this time to really be with them in mind and in body, then they can begin to accept our rules more easily. How does that sound? Sarah
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Please remember he is 18 years old. I have tried this technique many time before. I even tried to sit down with hime to work through the work with him. It just do not work. The only thing that seem to help a little was to take extra classes from a complete outsider with only a few other chinldren in one of his subjects. This person treated him with respect and antswered his questions without being rude. His marks improved with about 20%. He went back for a few more classe with him the last term, but it seems that he had a "relapse" again as his marks dropped again. The fact is I can not hire somebody to "spoonfeed" him in all the subjects (post school as well) until he finish all his studies. He need to get out of whatever prevent him from sitting down and study by himself in order to achieve his goals in the future. Is that possible that he may have an extreme case of "laziness"? The School Psycologist suggested that I back-off a bit. I even tried that also but when I do that, he stury even less. So that did not help either.
I'm so sorry, I had misunderstood and was imagining he was much younger. Of course he will be aware if you use the technique by increasing the time length. Maybe he simply has a short attention span and beds to study short and often rather than for long periods of time. I guess the other option is to leave him to it and let him learn from s consequences - I know this is hard, but at 18 he is old enough to be making his own decisions to a great extent. We can only ever beer responsible for our own behaviour, no matter how much we would like to change someone sometimes, and it sounds like you have tried everything to encourage him. Maybe he feels for some reason that he doesn't want to do this for someone else, even his mum, but if left to his own devices, eventually he may learn that to not do the work in the first place has consequences for himself only. If he gets told off at school for not doing the work, then so be it. If his grades fall, then I'm sorry, there has to become a time when has to accept that. He has to learn and sometimes reaching the ultimate is the only way. Your intentions have always been good, but you cannot do this for him. I suspect that may sound difficult, but perhaps it is time for you to let him go a little more? Having said that, I still wouldn't underestimate the effects of trauma. With very Best Wishes, Sarah

Edited by Sarah on 10/7/2010 at 2:48 PM EST
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Hi, thanks for your payment and feedback, I see that you still feel a bit uneasy about this. The medical profession have said that he is fine, he has worked with a psychologist at school. Have you have a look at Attention Deficit DIsorder? You could search for symptoms on line - it might give you more clues or put your mind at rest that he doesn't have this either. Sometimes as parents we want our children to do their very best, XXXXX XXXXX our vision of their best is more than they can muster. Sometimes we have to swallow our needs and let them be. I totally understand that this is an important year for him, I still wonder whether his subconscious is telling him its not worth it. If you choose not to take the extra therapy route, then perhaps you could list the actual evidence that something is wrong. How is he different from other boys of his age? Of course they are all different, but is it different from normal, or different from what you have envisaged for him? It is possible that you have extra angst and misplaced guilt from the past and perhaps feel that it is your responsibility to make m everything he can be? Perhaps a session for you would be beneficial and help you to see that you are a great mum, that you have a lovely son and that he will be fine (even if that's not the fine that you envisaged). This is only another thought to consider ..... Best Wishes, Sarah
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks Sarah, just to put one thing wright. I am his Dad not his Mom. She left these issues with me as she do not know how to handle it. He is normal compared to other boys his age, except perhaps that he is a lot more sensitive to critisism and, very easy, read it as rejection. He will then withdraw rather then fight back. To compare his problem with something Physical is to tel you to put your hand on a hot plate. You can put is next to the plate, but not on it. He will "study" by sitting or laying on his bed, reading through it but will not sit down and wright it out. He miss a lot of small important things that cost him points.

Just some useless information, he is a brown belt in Judo and got provincial coulers 7 years in a row, from age 8 y to 14years. (We move to another town and province.) The year after his brother passed, he nearly did not make it, but just pulled through in the trails (about 8 moths later).

hi there,


I am sorry, you're right, I had assumed I was speaking with this young man's Dad and it doesn't ever do to assume. I don't know how my advice would differ though if you were his mom - maybe as his Dad, you are under pressure from his Mom to find a problem and a solution, to work out what is wrong, when maybe there is nothing. He sounds fit and healthy enough from his Judo colours, he can obviously apply himself when he wants to. A move of house and the passing of a sibling would be expected to affect a persons ability to concentrate, etc. so he has done well. I understand that he won't quite step on to the plate, even if he will walk up close to it - maybe this is just the way that he is. My daughter is an observer and won't put herself forward to be the first to do something unless she has observed someone doing it before her - it's just the way she's wired. She watches and learns, then takes it forward for herself - it's her way and her brother and sister aren't like that at all. Being sensitive to criticism and feeling rejection suggests that there is a time when he felt rejected by someone who was important to him? Was he bullied or made fun of, for example, did he put himself out one time and then get knocked back by someone's attitude towards him? These incidents can have an effect and can carry through to the daily life. But if he has always been that way, then maybe that's just how he is. I understand that he is losing points by not concentrating properly at a table, but he may be fighting back to the pressure of doing it 'right'. I don't want to dismiss your concerns, but maybe he is simply being a teenager and you are worrying for his future (as good parents do) whilst he isn't. Hope this is helpful, Sarah

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
This will be the last return for the week. I am leaving my computer in the office going off on the weekend. There was a boy in his old school who was very much disliked by the other kids because of continiuosly telling lies and doing the wrong things. After his brother died, he felt sorry for this boy and made friends with him, as he had no friends. This resulted in him also being picked on and the kids. This boy was a year older but big build and exstemely good sportsman. My son was smaller but also a good sportsman and a thread to his age group boys. In grade 6 this boy competed against the Head Prefect in sports and possed a big thread. Needless to say they tried to outdo him where ever they could. Some of the Head Boy's friends were my son's age and as a result tried to outdo him as wel. Both of them would be left out of a team because they don't like them, and not because they not good enough. My son felt cheated because me ment well. I think he got tired of continiously justify himself and aventually just kept quite to get by.
There you go. I would therefore imagine that this string of incidents and occurrences has chip chip chipped away at him and now he chooses not to go the extra mile.  It's like he has this belief in his subconscious mind to tell him not to bother.  If he could have a few sessions of EMDR, he could let all of the hurt, angst, anger, etc. Etc. Go and see the world for what it is again - that you don't always get bitten when you give your best.  It's not for me to predict the future, but this could affect his whole life if not nipped early.  As you are seeing now, it could impact on his exams, then his career, his job, his pastimes, his sport, etc.  You were very observant to know that something was wrong and I think we have now identified the source.  It is out of your sons control for this to have happened, as the role of the subconscious mind is to protect us - it stops us from going somewhere where it believes we will get hurt, so for someone who fears aeroplanes because they have been in bad turbulence, the person can form a phobia because the subconscious mind says you're not going on there, it's dangerous.  So when your son is considering of going the extra mile, he subconsciously believes it's going to lead to being disliked and taunted.  He can't help this, it is pretty much beyond his conscious control. His psych could help him to use CBT to learn to manage these feelings, but using EMDR pulls it out by the root so he no longer struggles with it at all.  It is worth mentioning to his psych if he still sees him or her, but I cannot recommend EMDR strongly enough.  It's not a long term therapy, but would take a few sessions.   Have a good weekend away, perhaps you can let your mind rest from this awhile now that we have located the source.  With very Best Wishes for you and your son, Sarah