Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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School Refusal vs. Truancy

My daughter has mental health issues and not only does the school staff want to send her home. She will be so depressed and will not get out of her bed. I have had several consequences for her these are not doing any good. What would you suggest?

Thank you,


Hi L.,

First, let’s make a distinction between truancy and school refusal-

School refusal:

· The kid is unreasonably scared of going to school.
· The kid might pretend to be sick or say he or she doesn't want to go to school.
· The kid usually wants to stay home because he or she feels safe there.


· The kid chooses not to go to school.
· The kid skips school and doesn't tell his or her parents.
· The kid may have antisocial behaviors such as delinquency, lying, and stealing.

Kids with school refusal are scared to go to school. They may be so scared that they won't leave the house. School refusal is most common in 5- and 6-year-olds and in 10- and 11-year-olds, but it can start at any age.

The problem might start after a kid has been home for a while, such as after a holiday, summer vacation, or brief illness. It also might happen after a stressful event, such as moving to a new house or the death of a pet or relative.

Kids who won't go to school often say they feel sick. They might wake up and say they have a headache, stomachache, or sore throat. If they stay home from school, the "illness" might go away, but it comes back the next morning before school. Some kids may have crying spells or temper tantrums.

Kids with school refusal may worry about the safety of their parents or themselves. They may not want to be in a room by themselves, and they may be scared of the dark. They also may have trouble falling asleep by themselves and might have nightmares.

Kids who are truant (or "playing hooky") are not scared to go to school the way kids with school refusal are.

Take your kid to the doctor. Anxiety or a physical illness might be causing the problem. You also should talk to your kid's teacher or school counselor. Your kid's doctor will be able to rule out any illness that may be causing the problem.

Unreasonable fears about leaving home can be treated. Parents must keep trying to get their kid to go back to school. Your kid's doctor may want your kid to talk to a psychologist, social worker, or kid psychiatrist. The doctor also might prescribe medicine to help with your kid's anxiety.

The longer your kid stays out of school, the harder it will be to return. The goal of treatment is to help your kid learn ways to reduce anxiety and return to school.

Kids who do not go to school for long periods may develop serious learning setbacks or social problems. Kids who do not get professional help might have emotional problems such as anxiety when they get older. Early treatment of this problem is important for your kid's well-being.


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