school refusers

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School Refusal
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Refusal to attend school

Hi I'm at my wits end my daughter has been refusing to go to school since year 8,things got so bad that she was even on the roof of the school.It was decided by camhs to remove her from school,and they would work closely with her to get her back on track.She's now in year 10 and we have effectively been told that all this is down to her family causing all this and her depression because of circumstances.What can I do? Now her brother hasn't been in school since primary and again no help.
Can anyone advise what they have tried,and if it has worked.Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Re: Refusal to attend school


I haven't had much success with CAMHS either. I think some people have found them great and others have felt they couldn't offer much so it seems to vary quite a bit according to where you live and your own specific circumstances.

Don't know what exactly what's been said to you, and I can understand that you need to weigh up how much detail to give in an open forum, but as you feel that you are being blamed as a family for your daughter's (and now your son's) problems, the stress levels at home must be really high. Try, and it's not easy I know, but really try to resist being depressed and demoralised by this. If your daughter ended up on the roof and CAMHS at the time said she should come out of school, then this isn't a "quick fix" situation and no-one should be allowed to push you into any arrangements that don't feel right.

Has your daughter got a diagnosed mental health condition or other health issue such as aspergers syndrome? Have you approached any parent groups for support?

I am in a bit of a "no man's land" myself at the moment in terms of getting help for my son but other people have had help from private psychologists and therapists offering CBT (although I realise cost may be an issue) and some have found that medication for their teenagers, although a scary thought at first, has helped. Hopefully, someone will be along shortly with more advice. I ended up taking my son out of school last year and using an online school but not everyone is in a position to do this and I felt resentful that we were put in a situation where we had little choice due to the attitude of the school he had attended.

The bit that no-one tells you in the education system, is that you might need to write off a year, or more, of school-based education if your child cannot cope with it. It's still possible to get education in other ways or later on in life at an institution that is more flexible/tailored to your children's needs. It's not what any of us want for our children but I am beginning to suspect that sometimes it will happen whether as parents we like it or not.

Re: Refusal to attend school


It must be tough on you at the moment -especially with two in the family going through this.
Don't let camhs or anyone else blame you - that is their way of saying 'we don't know what is happening' more than anything.It is too easy to blame the parent and the home situation when, in fact, there is usually something else going on as well.

Leah has offered you some good support - and hopefully others will be able to offer some advice based on their situation. I am one of those who took the medication road - and whilst things are not all smooth sailing by any means - it has overall helped the situation move forward.

Like Leah asks - has there been a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression or anything else with your daughter?
Do you think your son has the same problem or do you think his issues have arisen from the tension in the family of your daughter not going to school? Whilst you don't have to tell us your circumstance which camhs have pointed to - there are lots of different 'circumstances' that parents on here find themselves in. On here there are one and two parent families - and there are those who work and those who ahve been forced not to work, given the time the son/daughter has had to spend at home. I take anti-depressants myself as i found some time ago that my stress levels were not helping the situation and being in tears nearly every day was no way to help my son.

Has the school offered any plan options to get your daughter back to school or to provide tutoring at home or one day a week in the library or suggest any other alternatives. We went to private psychologists and psychiatrists because my son's school did not provide the help he needed. Cognitive behaviour therapy can help anxiety a lot and at your daughter's age now she might be willing to give it a try.
Has she done any school work at home in the past two years? Does she still have friends from school? Does she have on-line friends? Was their any bullying going on at the school do you think?

You may already know the following groups in the UK - sometimes they can help you find the right support for you or what is close by.

Parent partnership are very supportive and they can also give advice about where else to get support.

There is also Parent Support Group and they have a helpline.

Meanwhile - stay in touch - and come on here any time to off load the pressure or ask for advice.
Take some time out just for yourself and don't let others make you feel you are not doing your best.
Take care and hear from you soon

Re: Refusal to attend school

what you're going through is very tough and stressful.
most of us on here have been through or are going through it so we understand.

there is no 'one size fits all' approach to school refusal so what may work with your daughter may not work with your son or viceversa, so don't be hard on yourself or them.
chances are they may not even know why they are refusing school.

have you spoken to your gp? you'll need all the support you can get.

sorry to have no answers/solutions, but trust me, you will survive.
take care and post whenever you feel the need.

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi I'm at my wits end my daughter has been refusing to go to school since year 8,things got so bad that she was even on the roof of the school.It was decided by camhs to remove her from school,and they would work closely with her to get her back on track.She's now in year 10 and we have effectively been told that all this is down to her family causing all this and her depression because of circumstances.What can I do? Now her brother hasn't been in school since primary and again no help.
Can anyone advise what they have tried,and if it has worked.Thanks for taking the time to read this.

My son has started secondary school in sept 2013 and I am having terrible trouble getting him to school , the last time he went was on 9 th January 2014 when he was messaging me to pick him up ( begging me ) but have been told by the flo that I am not to pick him up cause he s attendance is 76 , he than told me through text he was going to jump the school gate , which he did 6 ft gate with metal spike s on it , the school is telling me we need your son in school , but this is really out of character for my son , he than went into depression crying , not going out just sitting in his room , I have since had a meeting physiologist at the school with my son and they said about half days which we tried before in October for 4 weeks , and my son was happy with this , he was due to go on Friday , he got dressed went out the door but came back crying , I am waiting on a phone call from camh s at the moment ,but I really don't know what to do as a parent , do I send him tom ( Monday ) I have tried everything from punishing him , too just not sending him due to his emotional/ health welfare , but I have still got the flo telling me he has to come to school , but as a parent he s health is more important . Can anyone suggest what I'm to do please , I'm at my whits end :(

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate

So sorry to hear how things are at the moment. Just remember your son can't help how he feels - so is probably quite frightened by the anxiety that has taken over him.
How old is your son? It sounds like a typical time for school refusal to start - although like with my son - can start much much earlier too.

Has there been any bullying? Schools are also just not a good environment when you are suffering from anxiety and depression. Hopefully camhs can see you as soon as possible. Sometimes it takes a long time to get our kids back to full days and also if they have had any time away from school it is so much harder to go back. This might just be a hiccup in the scheme of things.

Your son does need help and if the school can't come forth with help - are you able to seek a private psychologist who deals with children and adolescents? Cognitive Behaviour therapy can help and sometimes medication (my son is on medication).
PUnishing him won't help as you have found out - as this is not behaviour issue it is a mental health issue. IN the long run it is better to try and keep your son going to school - but not like he is at the moment. See if the school will come up with a support plan - and a special timetable or keep up the half days. IS there someone at the school who he can meet with (a welfare person of some kind?). Can he go to the library and do some work from there for short times? Can they provide a place in the school that he can go to when he feels so terribly bad?
Does he have any friends? Did he have friends in the past too?
My son went through a stage of emailing me and begging to come home and it was so terribly terribly hard to ignore - so I didn't! But I then rang the school and was lucky enough to get the chaplain they had employed to meet with him twice a week for an hour. This seemed to get us over this 'hot' spot where the days just weren't happening and as a mum I was finding it impossible to ignore his emails.

See if you can talk these things out with the school. Also see if you can get some immediate help/support/counselling for your son. Also see if you can get a family member or friend to help you get your son to school. My ex took my son to school two days a week last year and that helped me with the other days - as once he had been for one day - it was easier for the rest (although we still had a number of days off!(.
You cannot be expected to do this (take him to school) on your own and your poor son just needs you to hug him and tell him you are doing all you can to help make him feel better about everything. Tell him you know he cannot help it. Try and accept where he is at for the moment and understand that this will take time and tiny steps are all good. At the moment I think it sounds like your son needs to not go until there is support in place for yourself and your son.

You have probably read many of the posts on here and there is no magical answer - but a lot of people do find ways to keep taking those small steps forward and a number of people do find lots of light at the end of the tunnel. So hang in there - its tough and terribly stressful but you are not alone. We understand how you must be feeling. Feel free to come on here any time and offload or ask advice -
Thinking of you -
Take care

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi thanks Linda the school are helping but just can't seem to understand from a mums point of view, I have lots of friends and my friends have tried to get him to go . He is 12 in May , he says that there Is nothing going on at school he just don't wanna go he says the only reason he went is because I will get fined , I really feel alone and as a mother not sure what to do any more , my son did have a fight on day 3 ( very out of character for my son ) of starting secondary school and was put into isolation for the day , we did have a bullying issue in primary school that got sorted and he goes to secondary school with him , all seems ok my son says there ok , my son has told me that he feels lonely (a loner) so the school have changed his tutor class and all classes so he is with his friends ( Ryan still not wanting to go ) my son is a worrier he worrys about what other people think the school have offered him to go in room and play games but he refuses I believe this is cause he don't want to be the odd one out . They have also offered a place called bridge in school where there is only few children , Ryan said no . I feel that the school are helping and doing every thing they can to get my son into school . They say that they are doing everything and it is down to my son to come to school, which annoys me , when we see the school physiologist thy said that Ryan likes to be in control , has no confidence , and anxiety to starting school with no friends ,I don't have another app with them for a month and Ryan is refusing to go I feel that I need more help eg camh s do u know how long it takes , my son is on the priority list and was referred 2 weeks ago . Do u think I should send my son to school ? All the time he not there he happy, soonas u mention school he changes gets angry and storms out the room . Ryan walks up with a friend to school and I feel like I'm letting them down when Ryan refuses to go

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate
Sorry to read what you're going through.
I never fail to be surprised by the lack of understanding shown by the educational authorities to a parent when their child is going through a difficult time.

Are you able to consider home schooling? prehaps even for a term or two it might help get your son back on an even keel.
He seems so thoughtful that he was willing to go to a place he clearly didn't want to go to save you getting into trouble. SR children are very smart and sensitive and it can mean that they find somethings difficult to deal with that wouldn't bother someone else.

Do take care of yourself as your son needs a strong adult in his corner.
Post anytime, the support here is excellent.

Re: Refusal to attend school

Thank u , I don't know much about home schooling to be honest ,

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate

THere are some parents on here who have homed schooled and found that was a great success. Sometimes though - it is just not possible if you need to be at work and your son is at home. I have been advised by the psychiatrist that my son still needs to socialise. My son also does not seem to have the motivation to complete homework - so I wondered if he'd have the motivation to complete home school work.

At this stage it might be a matter of sorting out the support from school - GP as Virginia mentions and a psychologist or help through camhs. If you son is a priority he should be seen quicker. It can take from weeks to months but in your case sounds more like weeks.
Don't blame yourself and don't blame your son. The school will tend to blame parents and child because they are also at their wits end and just do the school authority thing and forget to go down the personal support road. They end up wanting to just tick the boxes so that they also don't get into trouble.

Make sure you write down everything that has been happening and what you have done to get your son to school. Write down like a diary - dates - who you rang, emailed - even this forum - and that way you can use this to support your case and also if any fingers start pointing at you in regard to whether or not you are trying. The fact that you sought out this forum is a very good indication to them in the future that you are doing all you can. Also write down your son's reactions when you try to get him to school.

You could also try ringing Parent Partnership - they sometimes can offer you support and advice.

Don't be afraid to offload onto your GP for yourself and/or your son. It is hard to remain strong and I ended up taking anti-depressants in order to help me face the rocky road that it is. Other parents don't understand what we go through - and often will think we are just not being strong enough. But we are caught - as you say in the bind of looking after our child's mental health as well as trying to get them to go to school because we know they should!

School isn't the only road - and sometimes the school will set up home tutoring - so enquire about this. There are on-line schools- one in particular just mentioned recently on this forum. There are also sometimes groups that meet so that these children can still socialise. If your son is a loner - then its hard to know what is best as it also means he does need to experience socialising.

HEre is a home eduction site in the UK.

There is always someone on here to listen and give support or advice - so hang in there.
Take care

Re: Refusal to attend school

I got my son up this morning still refusing to go , really wish I knew why , thanks I just hope camh s hurry up , he never use to be a loner he has got lots of friends but really not interested in them at mo which is so sad because thy were always together at primary school

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate

If your son is suffering from anxiety - then he might be finding it hard to keep up with his friends - so is withdrawing.
The psychiatrist also explained to me that the anxiety can change and sometimes at this age when they start high school it can turn into social anxiety. So self esteem can plummet and finding out where you belong in the scheme of things is difficult.
My son also had good friends at primary school but sadly they went to other schools and so he was left to make new friends at high school and he found that really difficult and at first used to go on his own with is iPad to the library every lunch time. I felt so sad because he had never been like this.
He got over this keep this in mind....and started hanging out with a couple of boys and playing basketball at lunch time. He still had his anxiety and he still missed many days during the year - but he hung in there.

Your son may not know why he feels like this - there is no one issue. It sometimes is fear of fear itself even.
Give him lots of positives at the moment - maybe see if you can do something with just the two of you. Take the pressure off - even if just for a day or two. Tell him you know how hard it must be and you will do all you can to make it easier. Ask him at this stage if he can think of anything that will make it easier - but often there is no answer.

Another thing you can try is take a piece of paper and divide in half. On the left write down everything he can think of that is worrying him at the moment. It might be 'getting to school' , having a panic feeling, what to do at lunch times, who to sit with letting mum down and so forth. You might find he comes forth with a few things or he might flatly refuse to do this. Either way is fine. Then on the other side of the page for each one - try and get him to think of something he could do that might help or anything anyone else could do that might help.

This can also be done more as a 'write down your negative thoughts at the moment' and then help him turn them into positive thoughts. "I don't want to go to school' might become "I will try and find a way to make going to school easier.' It can sound too simple - but sometimes the negative thoughts get stuck in rut - and if we can try and turn them around for them on a frequent basis - bit can get them thinking a bit more.

Perhaps also see if your son can describe what he feels before he goes to school, when he arrives at school and during the day at school. Is there any time he feels a bit better? Is there a subject that seems to go ok? Is there a teacher he feels understands him a bit more? Just little things can sometimes allow you to open up with your son and also find perhaps a teacher at the school who you might be able to communicate with.
If you can get a diagnosis - from camhs or even your GP - then ask the school to let all your son's teacher's know that your son is having difficulties getting to school and it is NOT a behaviour issue. Be firm with them on this.
Then tell them that whenever he cannot make it to school you would like the teachers to email you work he can do at home. Provide them with your contact and you may find some teachers communicate well like this. Others may never quite understand.

Just a few things that I have tried - but don't worry if your son doesn't want to do any of them. Sometimes they just want to shut everything out. Avoidance behaviour though can take over - so be aware of that also.
Sorry for my long posts!!
Take c are
PS Do something nice for yourself today. Don't let your whole world spiral down into where your son is at the moment. He needs you to remain strong.

Re: Refusal to attend school

Thank u for ur response I do believe my son is scared of the school , so I went up had a meeting today with the vice principal , she advised me to send my son to another school , I said that will not work he is scared and has no friends at a new school , she also said that as a school thy are doing everything thy can and my son s not , I have a meeting tom with vice principle and flo to start small steps in getting my son back into school , I said good luck he won't leave the house so god know s what thy are going to suggest , what do u think I should do Linda .?

Re: Refusal to attend school

Went to meeting he gonna try go tom for half an hour if not then thy will be finding him a new school , so we will see what tom brings

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate

Sorry I only just read this today. Did your son manage the half hour?
My son's school also told us to find another school. I felt insulted when they told me this. I felt they were just wiping their hands of the issue. The other schools round here are not much smaller - but perhaps they might have been a bit friendlier - who knows. But my son not surprisingly- said there was no way he was going to a new school as he would know no one - at least he had friends and knew the kids and the way things worked at the school he is at.
They told me that I should move my son before starting Year 9 as he definitely wouldn't cope with Year 9. I told them that we would just face Year 9 as we had every other year - and if it happens it happens and if it doesn't - we will - as we always do - look for support.

I then went to the Year 9 coordinator last year and asked her what she thought. complete opposite. She said that she felt he might cope better than in Year 7 and 8 because the whole course is aimed to keep kids (especially boys) engaged with school and that they looked after the kids more and one teacher was assigned to be form and subject teacher and see them a lot during the week.

You might find at your son's school that there is even one teacher that can connect with your son - and that will help. Perhaps like our school - each year level will be different enough for your son to connect better later on.
Your school, as far as I know, can't just tell you to go to another school, anyway. They legally have to provide an education to all children - including those with disabilities - and your son has a mental health 'disability'.
Talk to Parent Partnership - they might have some advice regarding what you can do and what next steps to take.

See if you can figure out a program you and your son think might work - eg. 15 minutes the first day, half an hour the next day , an hour each day for a week and the increase it etc. Then give this to the school and say this is what you will try and follow but there may be days when your son just can't make it. Your son needs to feel that he is not going to be thrown into full days suddenly and all those expectations rise again. He needs to feel that some things are on his terms. This is how avoidance behaviour seems to work - and whilst we want them not to have avoidance behaviour - it does involve some compromise.

Does the school have any welfare officer or any person who you might be able to be in touch with to look out for your son? Are you able to contact his teachers individually ( email or phone or letter?). Explain the situation and ask if they can provide work at home when he misses school (and give them your email) and explain to them what you are doing to make things work. Write as clearly and precisely as you can - and don't assume they know anything about school refusal anxiety. Explain to them that it is a 'disorder' and that this means that it is not a behaviour issue and it is not a parent issue - but it is a mental health issue that needs some understanding. Explain your son has low self esteem and this also results in depression (people listen more when you mention depression).
Tell them you will do your best to ensure he does make it to school but you want them to ensure that he also receives an education. Do try something like this as I have found emailing my son's teachers has helped. Not all teachers care - I can almost hear some laughing - saying 'you've got to to be joking - just give him a kick up the backside' but those teachers are not worth worrying about. But you should get one or two who are willing to communicate and look out for your son. I don't think it sounds like it is something you want to ask permission for from the Vice Principal - in regard to contacting all his teachers - just go ahead and do it.

Tell your son he is not alone and tell him about the forum and how you know there are lots of other kids going through the same thing. Tell him about my son managing to get 'mostly' to school but has times where it just doesn't happen and he struggles but then somehow he then moves forward. And any steps - no matter how small - are all good. See if you can get your son to go out in the car with you and stay in the car whilst you go to the shop - or get him to visit a relative with you - or get others to come over to visit you. Any interaction at this stage does help. But my son went into complete shutdown last christmas and refused to leave the house or see anyone. He'd close all curtains after I had opened them - saying he did not want anyone to see him. Somehow he got over your son will too. Hang in there and take care
PS Sorry for such a long post - I do get carried away!

Re: Refusal to attend school

Thanks I enjoy reading your post s helps me out big time , but I know how u are feeling and feel sorry for u , he got on ok for half hour and gonna do half hour tom , I email the flo she s lovely she. Has helped me a lot and text me to say he was happy in his class today , he not down at the moment but he has been on edge today . He said he will do an hour on Monday so I will see what he says min if not he can do half hour . I'm dreading the half term coming up to be honest . That always causes problems , does it for u ? I don't know Ryan s teacher he has changed form tutors and not met her yet as only went into school today , thy have moved him so he is with his friends , I have got everything written down since this first started . I do find that I walking on egg shells with him though concerning school so I will just along with what he wants to do I'm not gonna push him thanks for your advice

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Kate

Yes my son always has trouble after term breaks too. Especially long ones. My son has found though, that as long as he makes it to school on that first day after holidays - he can kind of get through the rest of the week. So him and I always aim for ease of pain on that day. He used to always walk with a friend on those days - now he manages to do it by himself (I have to drop him off at the school gates though as the hates the thought of walking to school when he feels so anxious. Ironically - the walk - as in exercise - would make him feel better by the time he got there.

I am so glad to hear your son made it in for half an hour and is willing got give it a go on Monday. If he can just keep up that link/connection - no matter how short a time - it means he doesn't completely break with the school and when he gains just that wee bit of confidence he doesn't have to try and jump a hurdle to get back into school as such but he just has to take a bigger step to stay longer. It is a good idea and I really hope it works for you.

We can only do our best and you sound like you are very supportive of your son. He will appreciate this as it is a very bewildering time for them and their self esteem is pretty low.
All the best - let us know how each day progresses - and remember - little steps are all good and if there is a step backwards - its probably just a hiccup and it will be ok. Show your son you believe in him - and if he can't make the hour - even though you will feel frustrated (gosh I know that feeling oh so well!!)...try and remain calm and tell him it was not a step backwards - just a pause in his progress forward. And try again ...
Take care

Re: Refusal to attend school

Yer I am 100 percent on his side I need my son happy again , I know it's gonna be a bumpy ride but I will try to remain strong it's so hard :( I just hope he be ok after the weekend x thank s and I will let you know

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Foxy (and everyone)
Am sorry to read you having such a massive stressful situation, I bet you feel so terribly helpless especially since your lad is now not wanting to go to school.I can totally understand as my youngest son is now not wanting to go to primary as he has watched his brother struggle for 16 months trying to cope with highschool.

Its been a little while since I have been on the forum an was hoping to be able to say that things were better an working out for us but sadly it isn't the case.
Before Xmas we had been sent work home for my son ( who is in year 8) to do at home but he isnt very motivated so its moving at a snails pace and as I have to work am not home every day to help!

We have just had a 4 month wait for camhs to make an assessment and have now been placed on another waiting list for a therapist to become available. My son has become so very introverted he wouldn't even come downstairs to meet the lady doing the assessment!
Am at a loss myself so don't feel I can give any sound advice -but you are not alone and I really hope you can find the strength to stay strong, not easy I know especially now my youngest son is getting very stressed by the whole situation as he can't understand why he has to face school and his brother isnt ATM.

I had been told there is a small education unit local to us but I don't know how long it will be before they would even consider us - inclusion officer told me we were along way off - but after 16 months of struggling not sure how long they reckon is long enough! Everything went worse for my son after his one friend fell out with him about a week after he moved into his tutor group an he told everyone that my son bullied him - my lad was absolutely devasted as he really is quiet an not at all the controlling type, don't know who was gutted most me or my son as his friend had regularly stayed out our house at weekends etc. He has now turned a lot of the lads in class against my son and I know he will never want to go to mainstream school because of the unpredictability of the way of school life.

I pray you find some help asap an that you can get support so hard to know where to try - are you in the UK Foxy?
My regards to you all - it makes everything seem possible reading all your advice - it is very comforting to know that you all understand. Stay strong

Re: Refusal to attend school

Hi Gerry

Sorry things are still very much topsy turvy with your elder son and now your younger son. HOpefully your younger son will find his feet and then not keep worrying about 'why does he get to stay home etc'.
I can only imagine how hard it must be for you do ask your son to do school work but come home yourself and find he hasn't had the motivation to do it. My son also lacks motivation to do any work at home - which is why he gets so far behind when he misses school. He says he hates the mention of school when he is not there.

It seems an awful long time to wait for camhs. Maybe you need to get even more pushy and get them to take notice.
I am sure you have done all you can - but they sound like they need people to just keep hammering away at them. It just is not good enough how our young people are treated.
Hang in there - and let us know how you go -