Most commonly affecting those aged 5-6 and 10-11 years old, school refusal is a reluctance or refusal to go to school, accompanied with real emotional distress for the child. In younger children, school avoidance or refusal may be due to separation anxiety. In older children, social anxiety is more often the underlying cause. School refusal is different to truancy – often children who are school refusers want to attend (whereas those who play truant often have a very strong dislike for school).
Concerns about others - a child who is worried about a family member, perhaps because of an illness or bereavement, may show signs of school refusal
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What help is available for children who have School Refusal?
The first step many families take is to get a comprehensive assessment by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. This helps to understand if mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression are present.
Often children who have school refusal also struggle with anxiety disorders - it’s important to know this so the right treatment option can be found.
Psychological and behavioural therapies, such as CBT and other psychological therapies can be really effective at helping children overcome their fears. Our Psychologists and Psychotherapists are experienced in helping children with school-related issues, so understand the complexities well.
Parenting support can be invaluable in teaching parents the best way of handling difficult situations in a way that will support your child’s progress. It also gives parents a space to talk to a child behavioural expert about their experiences and frustrations – it can be very hard to talk to family and friends honestly about what is happening in your family.
School refusal is not a disorder in itself, but rather an indication that the young person might suffer from a disorder. In my practice, by far the most common reason for school refusal in Separation Anxiety Disorder, but I have also seen young people who would refuse to go to school who had autism, psychosis, depression and many other disorders as well as no disorders. It is important to understand that school refusal is different from truancy. Unlike truancy, the young person with school refusal typically feels distressed and sometimes ashamed by their inability to go to school. CBT is by far the most effective intervention for anxiety-based school refusal.
Dr Ougrin is a psychiatrist with nearly 10 years of clinical and academic experience specialising in child and adolescent psychiatry. He also has undertaken much research in the area of self-harm and has developed an effective intervention for...
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