Coping with refusal to go to school

It is not unusual for a child to refuse to go to school. This refusal may take the form of a full-blown meltdown, with tears and tantrums, or it may be more indirect, with complaints of illness.

Here are strategies that have helped other families:

  • Find the problem to fix the problem. Be a detective. Investigate what is triggering your child’s anxiety. Are they being bullied? Are they overwhelmed by what feels like chaos or overstimulation? Are they bored, tired or hungry? There may be multiple issues to address.
  • Approach teachers and school staff as your allies. Arrange an informal meeting to get their perspective. Focus on building positive relationships.
  • Emphasize the positive aspects of what your child does enjoy about school.
  • Encourage special interests to build confidence. Incorporate a special interest or hobby into a school project to so your child has the opportunity to share it with teachers and peers.
  • Do not allow your child to stay home from school unless it is necessary. This reinforces a strategy of avoidance. If a full day of school really is too much, start with briefer exposure with the understanding that they will be back to full days.
  • Help your child develop a personal “toolbox” of calming strategies, for      example, reading or fidgeting.
  • Identify safe people and places in school. Be sure your child has a safe “escape      route” when stress gets overwhelming.
  • Make yourself available for calls at pre-determined times to check in and      soothe your child.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network