School Refusal Disorder ! Did it ever happen to to you?

July 9th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by Bupha Ravirot  

“Our daughter won’t go to school!!”. A family in London wrote to a doctor when their bright and sporty daughter of 15, has been refusing to go to school after a normal first term at a local private school. Her behavior was a mixture of determination, belligerence, sadness, anger, anxiety, rudeness and being out of control with her emotions with everyone, but especially with parents and her house mistress.

“we decided we would have to move her to another school closer to home, with shorter hours and excellent pastoral care. She was immediately offered a place and started three days later, but after the first day she arrived home in emotional turmoil and school-refusing again. The problem is obviously not with the school but with our daughter. What should we do?”

Dr Tanya Byron describes this kind of behavior as school refusal (SR) known as disorder. One in four children occasionally refuses to attend school, and it becomes a routine problem in about 2 per cent of children. It is seen equally in boys and girls and generally occurs between the ages of 5 and 11 (due to school transitions), and 14 and 15 (due to puberty and associated pressures). Most children with SR will have shown related difficulties at some earlier time - separation anxiety when first going to school, social anxiety, or low mood.

“Do not just make her go to school!!!.There is an element of control and manipulation in the behavior of a school refuser, and clearly when they are older it is not as simple as hauling that child into the car and depositing him or her at school. However what now needs to happen is that parents feel really clear about what is going on and find ways to become assertively supportive of your daughter.” Doctor suggested.

There are plenty of reasons for not going to school of young girls and boys. Generally the child is anxious to leave his parent. It is common to see this in children whose parents are separating or having marital problems; after a parental illness; or due to significant life events such as a house/school move, bereavement, birth of a new sibling etc.

“I hate to be negative, but it is not ideal that you have changed her school. Obviously you are now clear that the problem is located in your daughter and not the school, but the challenge to get her in is greater as her anxiety will be increased by the unfamiliarity and lack of a friendship network. I strongly advise a return to the old school if possible.” Said doctor .

“As parents, you need to not be anxious with your daughter. You are her role models, and unless there really is something bad going on at school, you can show her how to face fear in life. The best outcomes are seen when families become assertive and organized in the face of their child’s chaotic behavior”.

Treatment will be combined of therapies to help the child to challenge her anxiety-driven thoughts and beliefs. She will be systematically desentised to return to school by starting with short daily attendance and building over time. There will be rewards for desired behavior and no reinforcement if her progress slows or stops. Doctor suggested.

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