school refusers

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School Refusal
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9 year old school refuser. Help Help me!

My 9 year old son is awesome. He is well adjusted, makes good grades and has lots of friends at school. He has been sick quite a bit this year with his asthma. I'm it trouble with the school and if he doesn't go everyday and pass his end of year testing he will fail. He acts like a crazy person in the morning. His stomach hurts, he has a headache, he is going to throw up... On and on. I've had to physically dress him, put on his shoes and put him in the car, during which he is crying saying, I wish I was never born, I hate my life, no one cares about me, please take me to the doctor. He isn't sick. I know that his symptoms feel real because of the anxiety. If I let him stay home he is fine in 30 minutes. Once a physically walk him to class (which is very embarrassing and stressful because he'll continue saying the previous things, stop and sit on the floor or bang his head on the wall) his teacher says he is fine. He interacts with the class, raises his hand to answer questions, plays with all the other children at recess, etc. I wish I could just have one morning where he'd get up, get ready and get on the bus. Just at my wits end here!

Re: 9 year old school refuser. Help Help me!

Hi Susan
so sorry to read your post. I can feel the stress coming from it. It is such a hard time when this happens in a family.

How long has it been happening? You said he has asthma, so he's obviously been checked by his gp.
Have the GP or the school talked to you about the issue?

From my own experience, I just eventually had to stop coaxing, walking my daughter into school. There comes a time it's just not practical and as you said, it does become embarrassing. This in turn will impact on the child because some will pounce on it as something to tease about.

Others on this site are much more helpful and I hope they can lead you in the right direction.
Take care of yourself as your son needs you during a very stressful time.

Re: 9 year old school refuser. Help Help me!

Hi Susan

So sorry to hear how things are at the moment - it must be so stressful for you. From what I have learnt, School Refusal can hit any kind of kid - they can be out going or much quieter - lots of friends or few friends - it doesn't matter- it suddenly takes over them and non of us are quite sure what the triggers are but having time off school can make it a lot worse.
It might be that when your son went back after having time off that he felt left out because the other kids had all 'moved on'. They usually cannot pin point anything though - so your son is probably the same.

I have kept trying to keep my son going to school and he is now in Year 9 (this all started when he was about 6). It works for some and not others. We have had a rocky road as we had no idea where to get help and the school made us feel like it was just my son that had ever suffered this. The high school also set out to blame me as a parent - but I seem to have finally got through to them that this is a mental health issue and not a behavioural issue.

You are not alone. There are probably others at your son's school and certainly will be nearby and lots on this forum to listen.
What has helped me was to get a diagnosis (we had to get a private paediatrician initially - then he saw a psychologist and then a psychiatrist to get medication). A diagnosis through CAMHS in the UK is important so that the school can see where they fit in - but the waiting list can be quite long. See if you can get yourself on the waiting list as soon as possible. Also get something from your GP. And document everything as you go - when your son goes , when he can't , meeting outcomes, what steps you have taken to hellp etc. This is so that later on you can be seen as having done all you can in the process of getting your son to school.

If you can afford a private psychologist - you might find they are able to work with cognitive behaviour therapy with your son which does work well with anxiety - but your son will need to feel able to take it on board at the time (sometimes you have to wait for maturity to kick in). My son started to move forward when he accepted he had anxiety and I also embraced him for where he was and stopped trying to have expectations that there must be a miraculous cure or putting expectations on his head that he would go...this week....or this week....etc.
Later (apart from the medication) what has really helped me this year is my ex husband taking my son to school Monday and Tuesday mornings. It keeps the flow going - as my son is afraid to have a meltdown in front of his dad but of course does in front of me - which make it so much harder for both of us. We have good days and week and then bad days and weeks but he is still hanging in there and doing an average of 4 out of 5 days a week at the moment. If you can get someone else in the family or a friend to take your son on one or two days - that might help. He won't like it - but he should hopefully get used to it - my son has and now just accepts that these two days I won't be taking him.

If you find it is all just too much - then you can look at other alternatives - such as home schooling, on-line learning (there are posts for both of these on this website and in the resources sections). Some on this forum have found that it is the only way forward. If your son can keep contact with his friends, however, that is also vital. So catching up with them whenever he can at the moment will keep him in the loop whether you decide to stay at school or take him out.

Small tiny steps forward are all good. And although the teachers tell you your son is fine at school - and this is very true on one hand - as it is the 'getting to school' that is the issue - on the other hand as my son explains - it takes a lot of energy to get through a school day as there are so many things he hates (the noise, the crowds, the expectations, the unpredictable nature of school and so forth). So he ends up exhausted by day four So the teachers might see a happy kid to some degree- but they also don't see the effort each individual puts in to remain that way. Your son is probably quite worn out from the meltdowns as well as coping each day. He will be feeling very overwhelmed and probably scared - as it is a horrible thing to suddenly have take over.
Changing his thought patterns from the negative to the positive is what cognitive behaviour is all about - so if you can find someone who will work with your son on this, you might find an improvement. My son was 9 when he went through depression for the first time that had him unable to move or leave the house. Acceptance (from me and him) was the turning point that helped us through that year.

Also Find something you like doing and spend some of your time doing something just for yourself - you will need the renewed energy and also a renewed belief in yourself as there is this horrible feeling of loosing control of the situation yourself with school refusal as you well know- nothing you say or do when they are in a state helps. It is totally irrational. Build up your own strength and embrace your son and make sure he knows that you know he can't help how he is feeling. This is not a behaviour issue (don't let the school blame you) - this is an anxiety disorder and your son needs all the help and support he can get.

Hang in there - you will start to move forward. Many on here have been through enormous difficulty and many have come out the other side or found ways forward. Always someone here to help you in your time of need : )
Take care and keep in touch - hopefully we can be of help.
Linda xx