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School refusal and attendance.

(14 Posts)
PhilPhilConnors Thu 19-Nov-15 11:56:44

Ds1 is 15 in yr 10.
He has ASD, OCD and anxiety (although not formally diagnosed).
He is occasionally school refusing which has lowered his attendance, and I am now getting letters about this.
School don't understand it and think that we are pandering to ds and allowing him to stay at home.
This morning dh and I both had to make him get dressed, frogmarched him to the car and held him until I could set off, as he was trying to escape sad
When we got to school, he was at breakdown point, was sobbing and saying he wanted to die.
His year group pastoral teacher happened to be in the car park, so came over and saw him in a state, tried to persuade him to get out, but he wouldn't, so I have him at home again.

Where do we go from here?
He is struggling with work, has poor processing skills and is getting no support for this (he masks in school so they don't see a need for support)
If I could homeschool him I would, but I don't think I can take on responsibility for GCSEs.

Could he drop out of any of his subjects so he can focus more on the ones he absolutely needs?

Any other suggestions?

Runningtokeepstill Thu 19-Nov-15 13:04:09

I've been in a similar situation. Ds has chronic pain syndrome (manageable if not stressed) and mega anxiety regarding school and now college which often rendered him incapable of getting in. Probably as an average his school attendance at secondary from yrs 7 to 11 would be around 30 per cent with one period of 60 per cent and lows of 20 per cent.

Forcing him in never worked. The anxiety just went through the roof and our relationship deteriorated. My ds has always been quite anxious and at an assessment for his pain condition recently the psychologists suspected ASD. Our GP has tried to refer him for assessment but I don't know where this is going currently.

Things worked better for ds when he moved to a supportive school. His first secondary school didn't understand why he couldn't get in. Due to the complication of having a pain condition our CAMHS service felt they couldn't treat him for anxiety so it was hard to get support.

We tried an online school for a while when relationships with the first secondary school broke down. This could be an option for your ds. They use the national curriculum, teach GCSE's and many people who post on here have found them a lifeline. You do need to be able to afford to pay and if doing GCSE'S there is the additional cost of exam entry. Sadly online school didn't work for my ds. He joined a different and more supportive secondary school towards the end of yr 10 and they were able to work with him and me even when ds didn't get in much. He had a reduced time table and took a reduced number of subjects and got enough to get to college where sadly it's all fallen apart again.

I'm not clear which of your ds's conditions are officially diagnosed. If he's diagnosed as having ASD the school should already be aware that your ds may need additional support and the pastoral teacher for his yeargroup has seen how distressed he is. I'd be booking an appointment at the school to discuss how they can best help and pointing out that putting more pressure on you all as a family will only make things worse. A lot depends on how supportive the school is. My ds's last school let him spend the last few months of year 11 working from home with the support of the LA team that provides help for children too ill to attend. He kept in touch with subject teachers by email. The school also sent an exam invigilator (a TA) to the house so he could take the exams at home.

PhilPhilConnors Thu 19-Nov-15 13:31:40

Thank you for your reply.

He's had an academic assessment, so it has picked up these issues, but it's not formally recognised, as we hoped we wouldn't have to go down that route with him (ds2 has a diagnosis), and we're hoping that some counselling will help him.

I've just spoken to the gp, who has said that because he hasn't engaged with CAMHS or school about how he is feeling, there's not much we can do, so we need to impress on him that he needs to engage (which feels a little like "just get him into school")

School are not being supportive at all, probably because he has no diagnosis and in school he looks fine. I will mention flexi schooling, see if that could be an option for him.

Sorry things with your ds keep breaking down.

GruntledOne Thu 19-Nov-15 14:27:20

Your GP has a point about getting him to engage, difficult as that will be. What you need ideally is a report from CAMHS confirming your DS' anxiety and the fact that that is leading him to be unable to cope in school. That report will ward off any formal school attendance action, and indeed might be used to get him something in the nature of home tuition if necessary.

PhilPhilConnors Thu 19-Nov-15 14:46:38

He was discharged from CAMHS a couple of years ago as he wouldn't engage.
He masked and looked like a delightful child.

The lady we saw this week (counsellor with a specialism in ASD) was different, as he chose to go and he engaged fine with her for some reason. She is sending a letter to school.

She picked up on lots of little rules and rituals he carries out that hide anything different about him, I think because she spotted it, he opened up.

I'm seeing someone at CAMHS tomorrow with ds2 so will ask her opinion on this too.

Ineedmorepatience Thu 19-Nov-15 17:00:08

First bit of advice I would give you is to not call it school refusal!

School refusal makes it in to a behaviour which can then be made in to a parenting issue!

Call it unable to attend due to anxiety, I know that is a mouthful but it puts the emphasis on him needing support with the anxiety not just to be told to get on with it!

Its great tha he has engaged with someone I hope that can continue!

Dd3 is home ed at the moment and we are just in the process of looking for a counsellor for her to work on her anxiety and self esteem. I will have to push her to engage but I am sure it will be worth it!

We couldnt continue to work with her school as they were so bad at spotting when she was anxious.

Good luck flowers

PhilPhilConnors Thu 19-Nov-15 17:09:10

Thank you!

I've discussed it with the attendance officer who will not accept that this is anxiety based as he has nothing medical to confirm this (discharged from CAMHS due to not engaging, not in GP's remit without involvement from,CAMHS).

Waitingforsherlock Thu 19-Nov-15 23:23:41

phil so many things your posts apply to us too. My dd seems to be able to charm any professional that she comes into contact with and like your ds appears delightful and yet she is paralysed by fear at the mention of school, ( hasn't attended at all since Easter this year). School placement broke down due to a lack of support although the school I'm sure would feel that they did lots to help.

I refuse to accept that dragging a crying and sometimes vomiting child into school is ok and I couldn't continue doing that every day. When I found myself in this situation I really didn't know what to do for the best; what I did know is that both my and my dd's mental health was being damaged by this. Before you get to that point can the school try any of the following?
Provide a student mentor/ assign a full time member of staff to meet and greet your ds every morning or who can be at the end of the phone when you are struggling/ provide a school counsellor.

This problem escalated alarmingly fast for us. Our dd is at an Internet school now but is having little or no social contact in RL . I could and frequently do weep for the life she used to have. instead of the school chasing and blaming you they need to be putting measures in place to help you.

Look for articles about masking, lots of stuff on Internet to back up your argument. Also some great documents about school refusal that may give you some ideas. Could school provide some ed psych assessment for some clarity on processing issue?

Sorry post so all over the place, I'm trying to think of anything useful that you might be able to use. Please feel free to PM me as I'm right in the middle of this too.

PhilPhilConnors Thu 19-Nov-15 23:41:16

Thank you Waiting. Sorry you're going through this too, it's rough isn't it!

There is a staff member who takes care of the pastoral side of things, technically only yrs 7, 8 and 9, but she's kept ds under her wing as he gets on with her. She is lovely and has seen ds break down.

Ed psych is a brilliant idea, I'll give the SENCO a ring after she's got the email and see if this can be arranged.

I think what has happened this week is that at last someone (apart from dh and me) has validated how he is feeling and acknowledged how hard it is for him. Before this everyone has said it's hard for everyone and he needs to pull himself together.
He was very relieved after the appointment on Tuesday and was exhausted, I wonder if he's had a little collapse which is making things impossible for him.

PolterGoose Fri 20-Nov-15 09:03:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PhilPhilConnors Fri 20-Nov-15 10:16:37

Thanks Polter smile

Another bad morning, took us 40 minutes to get him out of the house.
He's in school now, looking happy.
I've arranged a meeting for next week to try to finally get some things put into place for him.

I'm not sure how I would HE GCSEs. I can't get him to tidy his room, or put his shoes away, how would I help him learn anything? And (selfishly) I go to pieces if I don't get time alone, I don't know how I'd manage mentally either.

Interestingly, ds2 says that ds1 shouldn't go to school, if he's so miserable he does this, we should let him stay at home.
Lots of thinking to be done.

Waitingforsherlock Fri 20-Nov-15 11:06:12

Do you think the ramping up of anxiety is related to the demands being placed on your ds in Yr 10? IME the pressure really ramps up a this point and if your ds is struggling with processing this could be really adding to his anxiety. The tasks required of Yr10 pupils are much more complex than lower down the school, ( eg organising thoughts and paragraphs into a coherent essay , retention of more complex facts and application of these in a different way). Perhaps he cannot verbalise that these factors are stressing him out?

Just a thought.

Ineedmorepatience Fri 20-Nov-15 11:25:59

Fwiw, the school have to accept your explanation of anxiety for absences! They dont ask for evidence of your child having a cold, they trust your judgement then so why not over the anxiety!

When I asked my GP to write a Dr's note for Dd3 to send to school when she was off with anxiety he said it wasnt necessary and the school should accept my judgement! At the time I was angry with him for not supporting us but now I understand his reasons.

waiting sorry you are going through this aswell! I agree about how harmful it is to mental health. We stopped sending Dd3 in June after many yrs of struggling to keep going.

phil there are some colleges offering GCSE's to home ed kids. They dont do loads and only go for a couple of days a week. Whether that would be worth looking into I dont know, its certainly on our radar but dont know if its a national thing!

There are also online courses but my guess is that you would have to fund that yourself.

I can understand why you would be worried about taking him out at this time we took Dd3 out at the end of yr 7 and have planned for a 2 yr break, she wants to do a music course in yr 10 so is planning to go back into education then!

I think I might have been more hesitant if she had been at the end of yr 9!

Definitely ask for an EP assessment and if the senco tells you he doesnt need one try ringing the EP department at your council and speaking to someone there! Or as an alternative if you can go private do that, you would probably get a more comprehensive report although we did have an issue over the school not taking any notice of the report!

Good luck whatever you decide flowers

PhilPhilConnors Fri 20-Nov-15 18:04:31

Waiting, I think that's what's happening, we've certainly seen a decline in him since September.
He went in today, after a hellish morning, then found it wasn't as bad as he remembered, so I think a lot of it is the anxiety around going in.
He's been told he's not doing badly enough in geography to be allowed to drop it, so I think he feels a bit more resigned to it, although he refuses to go to intervention lessons (after school to help him catch up) and comes home on the bus instead, which means he gets into trouble for missing them.

I was at CAMHS this morning with ds2 (went surprisingly well), and talked to the therapist about ds1, she has said I can send his report to her and have a chat with her about him when she's read it. I feel a bit bad for slamming CAMHS now, because she's going above and beyond to do this, as he's not even on their books any more.

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