Please talk to me about school refusal and anxiety in 6yos

(16 Posts)
Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 11:52:24

We are having an increasing problem with ds, just about to turn 6 and in y1. He has always been on the anxious side but since starting school and ever increasingly in y1 has been having screaming/crying fits, clinging to me/dh and physically resisting getting ready for and going to school. He also does the same thing with going to bed. It is not every day but several days a week and it goes in phases - he can be fine for a week or two but then have a dreadful week.

We have thus far always managed to get him to school in the end, despite the resistance. Often he has to be pulled away from me or dh by his teacher. He is always fine, so his teacher says, within minutes after we have left. He seems to enjoy school once he's there.

We have tried to talk to him (both while he's been upset and later when he's been calm) about why he gets so upset but he doesn't seem to know or be able to explain. It is much worse after a school holiday or whenever there has been even the slightest change in his normal routine.

I feel exhausted and drained and don't know what to do. I am meeting his class teacher this week to discuss things. I don't really know who else to turn to for help or advice. I am thinking about going to see a GP but am not sure if we will just be laughed at and dismissed. School nurse? Head teacher? Any advice or shared experience welcome!

DeWe Wed 23-Jan-13 12:11:40

If he seems to enjoy school when you've left, I would look at things to get him in.

Would he go happily in with a "buddy" from an older class or a TA who can stay and just get him settled.
Would he be fin if he walks in with a friend (so you say goodbye at the door of your house.
What about if the teacher has a special job for him right at the beginning of the day.
Can he go in 5-10 minutes early/late.
Would he be better if you go in and hang his coat up, and leave once he's got organised.
Can he take a small toy from home to "look after him" in his pocket.

Bedtime, have you a routine? I always give ds 10 minute, 5 minute, 2 minute warning as he's better when he expects it. He may still scowl and say "I need to finish this" but he's much better if he's got warning. With ds he gets 1 chapter of a book generally, but if he's quick gets two. That helps him hurry up on the first bit of getting ready for bed.

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 12:20:41

Thanks for your response DeWe - will give your suggestions some thought and discuss possibilities with his teacher. His teacher does usually try to coax him in with a special task for him which sometimes helps.
I have also got a copy of his timetable so we can talk through what he will be doing that day at school: his anxiety seems to be less if he knows what's going to happen.

JuliaScurr Wed 23-Jan-13 12:22:28

we had all that with dd - yes, persuaded her to go to yrs 1-2, but yr 3 was a different school, refused again, home ed for 6mths - and then <harps><sunbeam through cloud>
then, my friend - came <fanfare> Mrs Bright!
This woman is a genius head of another local primary recommended by a child psych friend. I went to school with dd, she had a card to hold up if she needed time out in a safe place, no questions asked. After years of anxiety, misery, school refusal etc etc dd was cured within 3 months.

My strong advice is do not force/trick him, it will make him worse. Find a sympathetic school.

youngminds.org were very helpful

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 13:01:26

Thanks JuliaScurr, glad you found a solution. Tell me more about what you mean by not forcing. At the moment my view is that I will do everything I can to get him to school, both from the point of view of refusing to contemplate giving in to his pleading and also in physically restraining him from trying to run away when we arrive. Thankfully I've not yet had to attempt to pick him up and carry him. I would think differently if I thought he wasn't enjoying school once he was there.

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 17:30:19

Good meeting with his teacher this p.m. We agreed a number of actions and strategies including regular meetings, a home-school liaison book, a "safe place" where he can go when he feels stressed and overwhelmed at school, special tasks for him to be given to "help the teacher" first thing in the mornings, and more examples of "good work" to be sent home in his book bag so we can talk about things he has enjoyed doing at school. Also, she will talk to the school's inclusion officer who will be able to assess whether e.g. referral to psychologist is appropriate and/or whether other support could be given.

Feeling a bit happier that school are being supportive and doing everything they can to support us/him.

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 17:33:17

Oh, and she also mentioned it would be a possibility to give him cards he could show the teacher to show that he was feeling angry/sad etc, but was unable to articulate this.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 23-Jan-13 17:34:03

There is a thread on here to support parents of anxious children, I will bump it there are quite a few people in similar situations.

Sounds like the school are being helpful though which is greatsmile

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 17:40:05

Thanks Ineedmore.

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 20:00:00

Could you point me in the direction of that support thread, Ineedmore?

Ineedmorepatience Wed 23-Jan-13 20:37:22

Sorry jacks, I did bump it earlier but the board is moving quickly at the moment. I will bump it again nowsmile

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 20:45:37

Thanks smile

Have been googling today and some of the descriptions of separation anxiety disorder in children could have been written about him.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 23-Jan-13 21:01:59

My Dd3 has struggled with separation anxiety all her life, starting school was the worst period, it was awful.

She was diagnosed with ASD last year and it has really just been assumed that the separation issues are part of her ASD. I am not so sure though and wonder if she should have a separate diagnosis for it.

Having said that since moving schools and having a senco with a sensible approach to the problem we have made great strides forward with it.

Good luck and I hope you find the other threadsmile

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 21:55:51

Glad your dd making progress. Teacher mentioned the spectrum today but from what I've read it doesn't seem to fit. He has difficulty controlling his emotions and likes routine, BUT he is very articulate, his social skills are fine, and he is if anything overly affectionate: constantly seeking cuddles, hand-holding and eye contact to the point where it can become suffocating.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 23-Jan-13 22:05:45

Hmm, its worth keeping an open mind with ASD because loads of children dont meet all the criteria but still fall into the diagnosis.

Eye contact is one of the things that can vary from child to child. Dd3 can be suffocating too, she lacks awareness of other peoples personal space and will literally lie on top of me.

The thing with ASD is that lots of children have excellent skills in many areas but use them on their own terms and only when they feel the need.

I would never dream of suggesting that your ds has ASD but please bear in mind that asd and anxiety can go hand in hand.

Good lucksmile

Jacksterbear Wed 23-Jan-13 22:11:49

Ooh, ok interesting, DS is the same with personal space and also lies on top of me, climbs on me etc.

Just found the other thread and about to go over there and say hello...

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