Q:

Does anyone have any advice about 'school refusal'? My child, aged 14 hasn't been in school since Dec 2020. How can we help breakdown the barriers and help them return to school?

O T

O T
Family with ADHD, ASD, dyslexia
03 Mar 2022
Watched by 6

A: SenseCheck

  • 2 Yes
  • 0 No
  • 3 Other

Newest Answer Oldest Answer

  • 19 May 2022
  • Yes

    Complex

    As other contributors have indicated, my first question would be whether the child has an Education, Health and Care Plan. If an EHCP is not in place, then, depending on the reasons for the school refusal, an Education, Health and Care needs assessment may be a good place to start. This would involve obtaining advice and information from a range of professionals including an Educational Psychologist.

    Polly Sweeney

    Polly Sweeney
    Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP

  • 1 Comment

  • 22 Mar 2022
  • Other

    Simple

    Can't answer yes or no.:

    I really like Jon Tilley's answer.

    I'd add to it, that it may be worth trying a Three Houses approach.

    Three houses are a way of getting views of youngsters (often in relation to safeguarding) as part of something called the Signs of Safety approach. Read the first 1.2 pages of this https://www.wakefield.gov.uk/Documents/schools-children/safeguarding/signs-of-safety/signs_of_safety_guide_for_parents.pdf

    Then, it just gets tweaked - instead of houses, make it three schools:

    1. School of Worries
    2. School of Good
    3. School of Dreams

    This could be done as three spider diagrams rather than 3 building shapes - it depends on how mature your child is.

    If you can do this, it might help inform how you approach any of Jon's suggestions.

    If your child wouldn't do it with you, it might be that it's something done by someone from the school if they come out to visit. But, of course, please take this suggestion and balance it against what you know about your child. If you think it's going to make them further withdraw, it's not always worth the risk.

    Aaron King

    Aaron King
    9000 Lives SEND Consultancy

  • 1 Comment

  • 22 Mar 2022
  • Yes

    Complex

    Hi, The most useful strategies in my experience is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy combined with Graded Exposure Therapy: Anxiety: Situational exposure (health.wa.gov.au). For example: A very gradual reintegration to school starting with a member of school staff coming into the child's home to talk about their anxious feelings about school, what they miss about school and hopefully to cover some school work, if the child's anxiety levels are manageable. Then you gradually move this work with the child outside, i.e. the next week going to the park, library and/ or a museum with the familiar member of staff from school (likely a TA). Then, depending on the success of the first steps, you add an hour per day in school for one week (accompanied by the same member of staff). Creating a Graded Exposure Plan based on the above link would likely be helpful too, as it means that you slowly are working up towards the child's biggest fear - returning to school full-time. Graded Exposure Therapy helps a child to re-condition a learnt behavioural response which means that the child slowly finds new associations (emotionally, mentally and physically) to the previously conditioned fear stimulus, which in this case is attending school. 

    I hope this is useful but full disclosure: I am training towards becoming an EP (currently studying towards an MSc in Psychology), and I work for a Local Authority SEN Department but by no means am I qualified to make recommendations in this area at the moment. This is based on my anecdotal experience of what I have seen work for some children whose school's I have worked with in my job role and from reading some of the psychological research in this area.

    JT

    Jon Tilley
    Birmingham City Council

  • 1 Comment

  • 22 Mar 2022
  • Other

    Complex

    Can't answer yes or no.:

    I've not had much experience in this area, but there will be lots of help out there through IPSEA, SOS!SEN and other charities. Do they have an EHCP? If so, are their needs being met within that?  In addition, really trying to get to the bottom of what's causing them not to go to school and working with the school on reasonable adjustments to help them go back into that environment - whether it's just one hour a day to start with, different start or finish times, safe spaces to go when it gets too much, etc.  Seeking professional advice is clearly important here from Educational Psychologists and others.

    Liz Chappell

    Liz Chappell
    Support SEND Kids

  • 1 Comment

  • 21 Mar 2022
  • Other

    Complex

    Can't answer yes or no.:

    Have you sought educational psychology advice? This may assist in working out the best way forward. You could contact the council to assist, if there is an EHC plan in place or seek independent educational psychology input

    Guv Samra

    Guv Samra
    Shoosmiths

  • Comment