My feed

to access all these features


Help for school refuser

35 replies

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 09:14

Does anyone have any tip for getting 12 year old DS to school. We have started the ball rolling by contacting gp and counsellors etc. School can only offer support when he’s though the doors. He’s been unable to go for a week due to crippling anxiety.
anyone been through similar and made it through the other side?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

22 votes. Final results.

You are being unreasonable
You are NOT being unreasonable
K37529 · 07/09/2022 09:20

Poor thing, does he have anxiety in general or is this only about school? Is he maybe being bullied? Don’t really have any advice but it may help you to find out what exactly about school is making him anxious x

MintJulia · 07/09/2022 09:30

Do you know any older pupils who could act as a mentor? Walk with him to school, get him started on the day? Be available in break times if he has a wobble? Much better than a member of staff.

Can your ds explain his main worry? Something specific? Bullying? Not having the right kit? Public speaking in class? If he can narrow it down a bit, the school should be able to offer targeted support.

Tragicroundabout · 07/09/2022 09:31

Have you looked at the Not Fine In School website and Facebook page. Lots of info on there. If you're in Scotland, the Enquire website may also be of interest. My son (13) has autism and is off school more than he is in due to anxiety. The school have made several adjustments for him, but even then it is so hard so you have my sympathy. Is your son willing to engage in schoolwork at home? Is it something specific your son is anxious about or is it a more general anxiety about the whole experience? The school should at the very least make online resources available to your son ( if that would work for him - my son struggles even at home with schoolwork) at this stage. My son can sometimes be persuaded to go in at break time and goes to a pupil support group during subjects that make him particularly anxious. I'm not sure if that would be if any help in your case.

At this stage I think the key is to engage regularly with the school.

mrsparsnip · 07/09/2022 09:41

Yes, we have been through this. My youngest son began 'refusing' school in Year 7. He would lock himself in the car, hide under the bed and so on. We worked with his Head of Year and with an educational social worker. It turned out that, on this occasion, there was some bullying going on.
The bullying boys were tactfully moved class and my son began to attend again.

However, in Year 9, the 'refusal' happened again. This time, it was accompanied by a profound health anxiety, a fear of contamination and other things. School were supportive. Once or twice, he managed to attend but had to be taught on a one-to-one basis in a separate room.

It became obvious that his anxious behaviours were not confined to school but permeated all his life (he would not enter shops, he stopped seeing any friends and so on). CAMHS became involved and he was taught by a local authority tutor for the rest of his school career.

So, as other posters have said, work with the school to see if there are any underlying issues or triggers, but you are doing exactly the right thing to try to get help for his anxiety.

I know when my son first started 'refusing' school, well-meaning friends told me to 'drag him in' and that he would be OK once he got through the door. I tried this, and it just increased his anxiety and made things worse.

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 10:18

Yeh. He’s okay doing school work at home. He says it’s everything, eg new classes, new teachers, too long a day. Scared to use toilets, worries about lunch break. It’s seems more general anxiety than one thing.
he was fine at primary school.
the school interventions are all based on getting him through the door which is the hardest part at the moment. His mood also seems low and he struggled to meet with friends etc at the weekend

OP posts:
schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 10:37


OP posts:
StirredNotShaken00 · 07/09/2022 10:47

Hi op

Yes it's very difficult and I've been through similar with ds.

What worked for him was a reduced timetable and a very very gradual transition into classes with him being completely in control.

TBH at one point I thought we'd have to home school but the only thing that worked was a trusted friend meeting him before class and going in together. He still has moments now but is much better although I would say he is an anxious child and doesn't cope well with change etc.

I feel for you, it is the hardest thing to go through both for them and you Flowers

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 14:25

Ah yes this is what I am hoping for from the school, reduced timetable. Really good to hear that worked for your son.
yes, he is always likely to be anxious personality type, but I can’t even begin to fathom home schooling. I’m a single Full time working parent x

OP posts:
goldfinchonthelawn · 07/09/2022 14:31

Have you tried to identify precisely what it is that he is anxious about by breaking it down intot he various steps.
Say: if the only thing you had to do was get dressed in uniform and then have nothing else to do with going to school, would that make you anxious? Then if the only thing you had to do was get the bus every day then not go into school, would that make you anxious?

if you only had to walk through the gate sbut could then walk back, would that be OK?

if you only had to walk into the classroom etc etc. Do the same with each subject -if they only had to do X all day long? And the same with other pupils - if they only had to mix with A or B all day etc.

Try and help them pinpoint what they hate - is it being bullied by a specific teacher or pupil or set of pupils in a given class or at break? Is it a subject they really struggle with - Maths or English or sport? Is it the background nopise or lack of discipline, or the silence and too much discipline?

Once they and you know what they hate you can focus, with the school's support, on overcoming this specific issue.

spiderlight · 07/09/2022 14:33

My godson and my DS's best friend both went through this early in secondary school. Both were eventually diagnosed with autism - they had coped/masked in primary but secondary was just too much, too loud, too crowded for them. My godson ended up being taught at home, and is now at university and doing much better. DS's friend spent most of Y7 at home and then there was covid, followed by a gradual return. He's back in most days now (just starting Y11) with a reduced timetable, and does a lot of his lessons in the wellbeing centre.

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 15:07

@goldfinchonthelawn yeh this is the issue, I can’t get that information as it seems to be everything.. I’m going to try asking again.

OP posts:
schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 15:09

Seen autism mentioned a lot but is that likely when a child has never shown any autistic traits their entire childhood, nobody in any health or education setting has ever mentioned, nor other adults in his life? I’ve looked again at symptoms and there is nothing, apart from this school refusal, which started last week.

OP posts:
ForfuckssakeEXHstopbeingatwat · 07/09/2022 15:27

OP I feel for you. Had this with dd last year aged 11. Also a working SP so it was pretty terrifying when she'd just point blank refuse to go in and I had to sort out work / childcare etc. I think there are two possible issues...either a specific problem at school which may be fixable, or a general anxiety around the whole thing which is trickier, especially if they say it's x, so you fix x but then they say it's y, so you fix y and then....and so on. I was worn down by people asking what the problem was, neither I nor dd could really pinpoint it. She's started secondary now so I'm just fingers crossed at the moment. The only thing I can suggest is what others have, lots of Comms with the school, lots of talking with him, what does he actually want to happen? One thing that did help with dd was a really MASSIVE incentive, that she'd get to do if she made it in every day. But it has to be the right thing.

StirredNotShaken00 · 07/09/2022 15:53

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 15:09

Seen autism mentioned a lot but is that likely when a child has never shown any autistic traits their entire childhood, nobody in any health or education setting has ever mentioned, nor other adults in his life? I’ve looked again at symptoms and there is nothing, apart from this school refusal, which started last week.

Same here, sometimes there is no underlying issue it is "just" anxiety.

We found the book helping your child with fears and worries by Cathy Creswell helpful. Also things like fidget toys he can hold in his hand to distract from the way he feels particularly when going in first thing can help.

Skiphopbump · 07/09/2022 15:59

reduced timetables can be great but they can also be unhelpful. My DS was in a reduced timetable as he was struggling, it was a slippery slope and than increasing the timetable we kept reducing it.
If you do go for a reduced timetable ask the school to fill in the OA paperwork so if you do for example ask to change school you have an official record.

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 16:07

He’s currently locked in the bathroom screaming and crying. I feel at such a loss of what to do

OP posts:
Skiphopbump · 07/09/2022 16:14

@schoolissues1234 does he talk to you when he’s calm? Could you discuss with him some options for going into school

  • would he be prepared to start with just mornings
  • would he like to look around another school to see if he might be happier there
  • Are there any students or teachers he struggles with
lifeturnsonadime · 07/09/2022 16:15

I've had this with my children.

Don't put pressure on him to attend at the moment as this won't be resolved until you find out what is so awful for him about school that means that he can't attend.

School refusal is an unhelpful term, he's not refusing to go to school because he's being naughty. He can't go because it is impacting his mental health.

If a child was anxious to go home from school then investigations would take place as to what is happening in the home to make the child anxious yet it is seen as right to force a child to school when clearly something is awry.

Speak to the SENCO. Apply for an EHC Needs assessment. There could be an underlying SEN or it might simply be anxiety which of itself amounts to SEN when it prevents a child from attending a setting.

Once a child has missed 15 (does not have to be consecutive) days in a school then the LA MUST put in alternative provision.

You are NOT ALONE. 1000s of children and families go through this. The Not Fine In School website/ facebook page is really helpful.

My child stopped attending school in year 7 (undiagnosed ASD) and has now successfully completed GCSEs at home, with something called EOTAS provision. He has got his anxiety completely under control away from the setting that caused him trauma and is about to start A Levels in 6th form.

Good luck.

mistopheles · 07/09/2022 16:16

Oh the poor lad. And you, horrid for both of you.

I think I'd consider an online school just for a while, to see whether it works for him. Maybe at 12 he can work alone and you visit him at lunchtime? I'm not sure that's a good suggestion, just thinking out loud... I've heard people talk highly about the Oxford home school.

If you remove the current school from his life maybe his other anxieties will settle a bit.

DinosApple · 07/09/2022 16:40

Another just thinking out loud post, but have you asked him if he wants to swap schools?
It might help pin down whether it is general anxiety about secondary or if it is specific to his actual school. Sometimes it's very hard to say aloud what the problem is.

I am sorry you are going through this. I have a very anxious child and can imagine being in a similar position.

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 21:05

yes but swapping schools might be extreme. This is our catchment, all his primary school friends go, our neighbours. The move to a new school with no friends and in a non familiar area would surely be worse?

the online school thing is something I really hope I don’t have to resort to, how would be socialise? The thought of himself in my flat all day while I go to work makes me want to cry!

OP posts:
JanetandJohn500 · 07/09/2022 21:14

Break it down for him. Think about what causes the anxiety when he wakes up, when he gets ready, when he has his breakfast, when he leaves the house... travels to school... arriving etc, etc and come up with strategies for each scenario.
Even if he's not going in, do the drive/walk to school with him and unpick how he feels on it and then bring him home.
If you get a part-time timetable, make it certain (as in, if he's having a 'good' day, he still comes home at the pre-planned time) and make it so that he goes in for 'green' lessons first before building up to 'amber' lessons and 'red' lessons rather than starting at the start of the day and building up- he needs to go to lessons with staff he trusts.
I would say that he also needs a 'soft-landing' in place every day so that a member of staff can talk him through any alterations for the day. Certainty and calm will work for him in building back up.
Having said all of this, don't underestimate the impact of this on you and be kind to yourself too xx

schoolissues1234 · 07/09/2022 22:40

@JanetandJohn500 this is such good advice thank you, I will take this on board

OP posts:
littlemisslozza · 07/09/2022 23:12

Yes, I've been through this with DS 13. Probably one of the most stressful and upsetting times due to the sheer helplessness and not knowing what each morning would bring. Needing to get to work myself and drop other DC off.

Happily, he got through it. Still has the odd wobbly day when tired, usually at the beginning of term, but he is fully integrated and happy and we have strategies to get through it.

For my DS, he has always been a slightly anxious child but the COVID lockdowns caused the 'refusal.' He was so overwhelmed with school life when they returned last March. He has to be driven to school due to location and he would freeze and not be able to get out. All sorts was tried and in the end we found that a reduced timetable, which gradually increased up to the full one, worked. He also had a safe space at break which he eventually grew out of the need for. This space had games, biscuits, a sofa and he was allowed to invite a friend. There were others who also used it and it is a real success story.

There has been the odd set back, usually at the beginning of term, but he has got through them and the school have been extremely supportive. Initially he was referred to CAMHS and that was a total waste of time as they would only see him if he was threatening to harm himself. We were lucky with the school and the fantastic SENCO as external help was very hard to come by.

Good luck, I hope you can get through this soon.

schoolissues1234 · 08/09/2022 06:23

Thank you.

OP posts:
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.