school refusers

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Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Hi all,
I've been reading all posts with a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness that children are going through such anguish without proper understanding and relief that I've found people who know how much anxiety and school refusal take out of a family.
My daughter is 11 and started secondary school in September. She has been to school for approximately 4 weeks all together since she started. Our story is a very long draw out one involving multi agencies and teams. Olivia always was a nervous child who was difficult to leave and demanded a lot of attention and reassurance. She is the 3rd daughter in the line up of 4. She cried and screamed her way through pre-school which was hard to deal with but put down as toddler tantrums and not liking leaving the security of me and home. In her last 2 terms before school starting we changed pre-school as the anxiety ramped up and I couldn't take leaving her screaming then picking her up exhausted and still crying. The change helped slightly but I feel this was because they accommodated her anxiety and reassured her constantly.
On starting reception class Olivia stepped it up to a whole new level. It was awful. She ran away from school to her Nan's house that luckily is one door from the school, she would be sick all over the playground and the worst part was having to physically carry her and restrain her to stop her running away. Me and my husband were in bits and frequently went to the school for help but we were fobbed off and lied to. We had various months of child worker types try and help but they usually ended up stumped and we end up left alone dealing with it again. This continued all through her primary school days until year 4 when it become too much and obvious to us there were massive anxiety issues. We ended up being referred to CAMHS. To cut a long story short (I could spend weeks on CAMHS)! We were put through the emotional ringer by them, I ended up seeing a therapist to help cope with Olivia and the diagnosed separation anxiety on my part (!) but there was no acknowledgment really that Olivia herself needed help as it was deemed as controlling behaviour and she was fine once separation from me happened. (This isn't the case as Olivia was dealing with panic and anxiety all through the day it just wasn't dealt with). At this point I decided to give up work as getting her to school was taking up the time I was supposed to be in the surgery seeing patients as I was nursing. By year 6 CAMHS decided to sign us off and Olivia struggled on through and we got a brief break from having to drag onto the school premises.
Fast forward to now. CAMHS back on the scene but not helping whatsoever apart from making me feel like c**p. they keep digging around old ground which we have been through already and disregarded trying to find the magic reason for Olivia's behaviour. We have complied with all their suggestions and advice, I attended a group (that was totally unsuitable which required Olivia to attend on her own with children much older than her). I was made to feel like a completely incompetent mother who wouldn't drag her child through the streets of Chelmsford to get her to attend and the one time my husband did lift her out the car and carry her we thought they were going to press charges for child abuse! (I exaggerate but only slightly)!
Do any of you feel that their child's school refusal and anxiety "just is there"? That there is no awful family incident behind it. There aren't any repressed memories (apart from ones caused by the already present anxiety).
The one positive is her school have a brilliant family team who are working to try and get Olivia in although I'm getting the feeling that time is running out and all the stuff they said was going to happen won't. There have been a few occasions now where the school haven't kept to their side of "the deal" which has set Olivia back as she doesn't trust anyone anymore. She feels adults particularly teachers will say anything to get her in school and also tell me she's been fine and happy when in fact she hasn't.
This situation is having a huge impact on my whole family. My 3 other daughters find it so difficult to understand why Olivia isn't being "made" to go to school and they seem to direct al their anger at me. My husband is also finding it hard to deal with everybody else's expectations and family opinions that we aren't doing what we should be doing to get her into school. He gets angry that she's stopping herself from going and that I'm too soft on her - believe me I'm tough with her just not angry!
I'm sorry this is such a long post and a bit jumpy as I keep remembering things - I could into so much more detail. It feels like it's been a lifetime of dealing with anxiety around school.
Ultimately I'm a mum at my wits end, scared for her daughter who is dealing with so many horrible feelings she can't explain who's not getting much understanding from the people who are supposed to be helping her.
Today I'm starting to research home schooling - I really don't know if it's the right thing to do but feel our options are running out.
Thanks for reading, it means so much to be able to vent to people who won't tut and judge.

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Your Daugter sounds just like my son . I feel for u and your family it's hard work , scary upsetting and no one help s thy just say we need your child in school , the last time my son went was on 9 th January when he jumped the 6 ft fence as he was so scared and I was advised bit to pick him up because of his attendance , my son has not been to school since I had a meeting today and I have got a meeting with my son at 9 am to make little steps to get him back because as a school thy are doing everything thy can and my son s not , I said its because he s scared good luck with trying to get him out my front door and in too your school, thy just have no understanding what so ever , I feel for u and your daughter take care

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Thankyou Kate for your kind words. Such a similar situation - it's hard when you know all the things that are put in place make absolutely no difference because the fear is so strong it overrides everything. I started to question myself for being negative and was it my parenting that made her this way (despite Olivia having her dad here, all sets of grandparents, aunts & uncles etc who are all around). After trying everything apart from medication I now KNOW I can't do anymore (even having therapy myself) which is why I'm starting to look at home schooling for Olivia's benefit. Good luck with upcoming meetings. We can support each other through this difficult time. As long as our kids know they're loved that's the main thing.
Take Care
Beccy x

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Hi Beccy

Our story goes back to before school as well. In fact I noticed a change in personality when he was nearly 3.
According to the psychiatrist we now see - it probably started as separation anxiety (but in a big way) and now has turned into social anxiety. He never had separation anxiety at the usual two years old mark - it didn't start until preschool/kindergarten.

Don't blame yourself. Others are so quick to do this as they just don't understand how a child can have such severe anxiety. It is too easy to blame the parents. All of us on here have shown by looking for help that we are doing all we can - and you are no different. It is very hard to stand up to them though.
I have mentioned previously how I now turn up to to meetings with the school, dressed up, and with a black folder under my arm. I also try to get in first and say 'what are you going to do for us?'. It tends to throw them off a bit and avoids some of the finger pointing. NOthing worse than a young, unmarried teacher wit hno kids trying ot tell me how to bring up my anxiety disorder child! And i used to be a secondary school teacher - so even more frustrating to see them just not listening.

Have the school offered any home tutoring? Someo n the forum have found this has been able to be put in place. Homeschooling might be a good way to go as at least your daughter has siblings to socialise with (the worry with only children for example is that they won't socialise if they just stay home).

My son is now on medication and it has helped take the edge off. His acceptance and my acceptance of his anxiety disorder also helped both of us move forward. It is a mental health issue and until the schools and other authorities realise this - they are going to keep approaching it from the wrong angle - treating it as a behaviour issue on behalf of the child or a parent issue.

So it depends on whether you can get the help your daughter needs via private means (I uploaded a url on a post recently regarding how to find a psychologist in the UK) - and thus try and keep her going to school. Or you start the home schooling. (there are recent posts on here too regarding this). Do you think your daughter will be motivated enough to complete the work at home?

Have you been to your GP to see if they will give a diagnosis or refer you to someone who will? And would you ever consider medication? I never thought I would - but I am glad we did as it had just gone on for far too many years. My son is still not right - but he tries to keep going to school. He missed 45 days last year - which is kind of an average for him - so neither better nor worse - but at his age now (14) it could have got worse as he is also a typical boy and doesn't really care about doing his homework and so forth.

Let us know what you decide to do - and whether you are able to try and get the school to do more for you - or get more help from a GP etc.
Take care - and do something nice for yourself today - you are a good mum.

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Hi Beccy
so sorry to read wht you and your family are going through.
definitely give home schooling some thought. when the SR started for my daughter, i really thought the only thing to do was insist she go to school.
it was really all i could think of, and that insistence only brough stress and upset into an already stressful situation.

my daughter didn't show any SR signs until she was 14 and in her second year of secondary school.
up to that she had been a model pupil. even on her first day in primary school she waved me off and went to look after a little girl who was crying.

her SR started through bullying by girls she had come to see as her best friends. it damaged her confidence for a very long time.
home schooling was the only answer for us and today at 19 she is in college and a different person.
all though her own work.

there is light at the end of the tunnel, i just used to think it was a train approaching!

surround yourself with as much support as you can. try to expl,ain to your other girls what their sister is going through.

i really think that every SR child wants to be like everyone else, in school and jnust going about their lives, but sometimes it just doesn't work like that, but it does make them stronger in the end.
take care. sorry for long post.

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal


I hope someone will read this. I have just posted on the Mental Health blog by mistake but have a seven year old who is refusing to go to school. She has had problems with the school all the way along and now is getting ill all the time because she a) cannot stand the teachers shouting b) feels overwhelmed by the work (she is behind and does not like doing it). She is having constant tantrums and although I have been trying to work with the school have not really had any level of understanding or proper support from them as they just blame the child! Any suggestions as my own health and marriage are under huge pressure too!


Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Hello Beccy

So sorry to read how much you and your family have been through and are still facing.

It makes my blood boil every time I read of a family going through this, while many professionals involved treat them without proper understanding or care and in most cases add to their challenges. The parents or family dynamic are always the ones scrutinised and blamed for the child's SR behaviour, there is no self-reflection or awareness of where the systems themselves could be adapted - it's a very narcissistic system in my opinion.

These agencies are supposed to work on a child centred approach but for most SR kids it isn't like that, it is far more a 'school attendance at any cost' approach and it drove me crazy too. Of course the more frustrated I became at the lack of support and added stress the education authorities and agencies caused, the more they pointed fingers at me as 'unbalanced' Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhhhhh!!!! Our family situation has moved forward and yet still I feel the injustice of the current education and support systems so deeply especially when I learn what others are going through.

There were those who supported us too, though sadly not from the areas we needed it most. Without the support though I do not think I could have kept my head above water. Our doctor was very understanding and supportive and wrote letters of support, as were our local parenting support service, we also have a local youth counselling service and they were brilliant with my daughter. Brook advisory service is also good. I went to see an anti-bullying counsellor myself which really helped me vent out all my frustration and anger to someone who really 'got it'. At the end of the day that's what happened, we were bullied by the very people who should have been supporting us. All these services were free.

If you could find one person outside of education/camhs that your daughter could learn to trust and connect with, it could be very helpful. If she knows they are not there to make her go into school but there just to listen to her needs and support her, she may open up more than she will at camhs. It is important you and your husband and your other children have support too, have you considered finding a supportive family therapist?

I am so glad you found this forum, it really is a Godsend to find a community of people who truly understand.

Welcome again and a big cyber hug to you (((((((((((Beccy)))))))))))

Re: Long standing School anxiety now Refusal

Hi Explorer

I copy and pasted your post above into a new thread of it's own - I entitled it 7yr old daughter with longterm SR - I hope that is ok.

That way you will get more views and responses than you will having your intro tucked away in an existing thread.

So sorry to hear your family is also struggling with the stresses of SR. Perhaps there's some suggestions in Beccy's thread here that could be of help? Being part of this online community who understands what you are going through is very helpful too.

Welcome again, Clarity