school refusers

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School Refusal
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School Refusal - Senior in HS

Our 17 year old son stopped attending school last year about half way through. He doesn't know why he can't go he just can't walk into the building. He says nothing happened to spark the anxiety. He was an inpatient for a week and was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. He was seen a therapist and taking medication, but has quit both because he says they don't make a difference and he doesn't need them.

I really want to work on getting him back in school, even if it's only part time. Does anyone have any experience with reentry? If only to prepare him for the "real" world later in life, I want him to conquer this fear to prove that he can do it.


Re: School Refusal - Senior in HS

Hi Kasee

Sorry to hear how things are with your son. Its a tough time when this happens. Were their signs coming on before this that he was not happy at school? Often it does start earlier, so there may have been signs even outside school?
Does he still have friends and have contact with them?

I can hear your concern re how to cope with life later on.
My son didn't re enter the same school, he changed schools. But that is just too hard as you have to make new friends and it is very difficult.
He then tried at a college that has mature age and late teenagers wanting to finish the final year, but he couldn't complete that either.
A friend of mine's son was able to eventually go back to school part time and the school allowed him to go and sit in or near the office when he felt unable to cope. I think there was a small room he could go to. A counsellor at the school also looked out for him all the time and made sure she caught uo with him rather than ask him to go to her. That school was quite flexible, unlike my son's school which was a much larger school.
So it can be done but it depends on how supportive the school is and how much your son is able to feel able to give it a go.

school is not everything and sometimes our focus on trying to get them there ends up bringing their self esteem right down as it is a constant reminder of something they couldn't do.
It is important to keep building the self esteem outside of school.

Cognitive behaviour therapy is very good but your son has to be willing to do this with a psycholigist or counsellor.

Maturity eventually allows them to start taking more charge of managing the anxiety, but it can take awhile! My son is just beginning to do this.
Hang in there and see what alternatives you can come up with outside of school to build up his self esteem and confidence.
He might finish his schooling elsewhere or he might not, The main thing is to ensure his mental health does not deteriorate.
If he thinks he does not need the medication, what does he think will help him face the world? Tell him that often medication can take the edge off the anxiety and then allow you to learn strategies to cope. Then later he can come off the medication.

What has your son been doing whilst not at school?
Hear soon,
take care,

Re: School Refusal - Senior in HS

Hi Kasee:

You said:

"I really want to work on getting him back in school, even if it's only part time. Does anyone have any experience with reentry? If only to prepare him for the "real" world later in life, I want him to conquer this fear to prove that he can do it"

That is exactly how both my wife and I wanted for our 17 year old son. We have been struggling with school refusal for 1 year, but have experienced general school issues for over 2 years.

We had a turning point moment when his social worker met with and challenged us on a similar set of concerns we raised with him. Our goal was to get him back to school, It was our goal to prepare him for the 'real' world through school and it was our goal to have him conquer his fear of school as well.

He said, those were our goals, not his. The social worker said, school should be the least of our concerns for him. We needed to focus on his well being and what mattered to him. We needed to show confidence in him.
The moment we changed ourselves and stopped trying to change our son, we started to move in a positive direction with him. I will share our experience in a new post called
"School just doesn't work for every child"