School Refusal

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SCHOOL REFUSAL

Most people can recall the scene in the movie “Farris Bueller’s Day Off” where he concocts and entire story and set up just so that he can stay home from school that day. His mother buys the fake fever induced by a hot blow dryer and the automated puking sounds coming from the bathroom, however there are parents who deal with these hysterics almost everyday. A case study that I found in an article by Nicole Setzer, Ph.d., and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW at the University of Child Study Center summarizes a young girl named Rebecca’s school refusal case. Rebecca is eight years old and has always had some issues about going to school. She is now in third grade and after only two months of school so far this year her problems have significantly worsened. Almost everyday she will try some sort of tactic to stay home from school whether it be throwing a fit so that she is late for the bus, or after arriving at school constantly complaining about a stomach ache or a head ache. The study goes on to say that her mother picks her up from school about twice a week, Rebecca is taken home where she usually spends the rest of the day watching TV or playing with her toys. (Kearney and Silverman 1993) This is not considered truancy from school but however the growing trend of developing school refusal behavior.

As much of 28% of school aged children in America refuse school at some point during their education. (Kearny and Silverman 1993) There were several things that I thought I should consider when I reviewed this research like: sex, socioeconomic status, age and family life. In the present paper , the terms school refusal, school avoidance, or school phobia will be used to describe the signs or anxiety a school-aged child has and his/her refusal to go to school. I will discuss some facts about school refusal, how to spot some of the signs and symptoms, diagnosing the problem as school refusal and ruling out other things like depression, how to manage a child who is refusing school, including the best steps to take in understanding a child with school refusal tendencies and lastly some treatment options for the child. The following pieces of literature will allow me to express my points.

School refusal was first termed “school phobia” in 1941.(Fremont 2003) A new form of this term was used in Great Britain, “school refusal” to describe children who did not attend school because of emotional distress. This emotional distress may include anxiety, temper tantrums, depression, or somatic symptoms. This term was the adopted by the United States to better describe children with school phobias. (Fremont 2003) Some facts that I was able to gather in the articles were things like, school refusal is the third most common cause of children missing school, 50% of children with school refusal also have other behavioral problems, 25% of parents with a child who has school refusal have psychiatric problems, children are often depressed and that there is usually a strong bond between the parent and child causing some separation anxiety when leaving for school. (www.cincinnatichildrens.org 2007)

For many parents it is hard to distinguish between a child with school refusal and a child who just does not like school and wants to stay home and play. The items that I looked at all had many things to look for in your child to determine whether or not the situation could be serious. As I said earlier the main thing that children with school refusal will do is complain of some physical symptom to stay home, also the child may just come out and tell you that some situations at school cause them extreme anxiety and make them feel uncomfortable, another thing that children often do is throw tantrums including crying, screaming, threats to harm themselves etc. (Fremont 2003, www.cincinnatichildrens.org 2007, Paige 1996) There are different levels of school refusal and are listed by levels of severity: initial school refusal...
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