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If you think school refusal could be a problem, it already is

This is the time of year when students begin showing signs of school refusal. If your child is getting sick too often, texting you to pick him up during the school day or asking not to go to school, you may be concerned. Understandably so. We urge parents to trust their early instincts, and act now to handle the issue.

Milestone years trigger

Research shows that school refusal, if ignored or not addressed with school support, can lead to more adamant and increased refusal that becomes harder to overcome. Even if the issue seems resolved, the chance of school refusal returning in later years is high.

The onset can happen at any age, but 3rd, 8th and 10th grades seem to be trigger milestone grades for the emergence of school refusal. If a child overcomes the anxiety in early grades, it may return, especially during these milestone grades

The good news is school support is available to help parents manage school refusal.

School support is available

We have helped families dealing with school refusal to get the resources they need, and are entitled to, at many Cape Cod schools. Parents are typically unaware support is available, or how to ask for it and what to do when a proposed solution doesn’t fit.

For example, school systems often suggest tutoring services at a public library. But if the child won’t leave the house, that is not realistic.

Bridge programs at local schools

A few school systems on Cape Cod have implemented Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) , a program that provides clinical support and academic tutoring for students who are returning to school after an extended absences due to illness and/or hospitalization.

The program typically involves a dedicated classroom with small class size staffed by a certified teacher and support staff, including a social worker. The goals are to keep kids in school, reduce pressure and teach them coping skills to manage the demands of a school day. A “bridge” plan is developed highlighting coping skills, and classwork/homework is supported. When the students return to the traditional classrooms, they should be academically up to date and have tools to help them cope.

A myriad of other techniques, tools and accommodations can be implemented to address every child’s situation. The plan to help him manage the anxiety should be as unique as your child is. Knowing where to begin often stops parents in their tracks. That’s when you may want to consider bringing in one of our education advocates.

Finding what's best for your child

We come armed with comprehensive knowledge of what is available and what can be done to help your child with his or her specific needs or disabilities related to school refusal. Whether it is a 504 Plan, IEP or less structured accommodations, we work through the situation with the parents, child and school. Often, a student has an underlying disability that has not been identified yet.

Ignoring the issue is not the solution

The worst way to deal with school refusal is to ignore it, or give up and in to your child’s anxieties, never resolving the underlying reason or disability.

Get the support you and your child need from the school; we can help you through that process for the best possible outcome.

Trust, communicate and persevere

Trust the school, communicate with them and with us, and persevere. We are here to help with solid experience successfully guiding many clients through school refusal. Call on myself, Tina Qvarnstrom or Michel Gilmore to provide support for you and your family today.

Christine M. Riley established Cape Cod Advocate in 2005 to provide educational consultation and advocacy for children of all ages and disabilities. A certified mediator, she is trained through Wrightslaw and the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN). Christine is a member of National Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and Special Needs Advisory Network-Massachusetts (SpaN) and is a former board member of SPaN, FCSN, ISEA and SEAT. This blog is not intended as legal advice nor to take the place of professional consultation. Each child and situation is different. Call or email Cape Cod Advocate for more information.

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