Many young people struggle with school, associating their time there with negative emotions. Any school-aged child who repeatedly avoids attending classes due to anxiety, fear, or distress may suffer from school refusal. This type of disorder is also known as school phobia or school avoidance.

At Ascend, we understand that there are underlying concerns related to their desire to avoid school. If you and your child’s doctor believe that a higher level of care is necessary to address this situation, our treatment facility can make a difference.

Causes of School Refusal

Sometimes, school avoidance is simply an issue of a child entering a new environment for the first time. This is a normal type of school concern and can be related to their uneasiness about leaving their parental figure for long periods of time. After a child starts school and eases into the environment, their discomfort generally dissipates.

If your child’s issues with school refusal have to do with fear and distress, you may be looking at a more serious disorder. Some children experience fear about something bad that may happen to them at school, like bullying, mean teachers, or unsatisfactory grades. Another type of school-related issue that may be affecting your child could be associated with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. These added stressors may contribute to a child’s issues with school, along with a deep lack of motivation to participate in life and socialization.

A school refusal assessment can help parents and doctors discover which type of issues their child is facing. Finding and addressing the cause of a child’s fear and distress is the key to resolving school avoidance.

Signs and Symptoms of School Refusal

Every child is different, but there are some recognized behaviors that indicate your child may be struggling with school avoidance, including:

  • Complaining of illnesses to get out of attending school, like stomachaches or headaches.
  • Telling you of anxiety concerning specific situations that occur in school.
  • Life changes like a new school, new sibling, sick family member, recent move, or divorce.

Identifying School Refusal

Your child’s doctor may conduct a basic school refusal assessment with several questions to determine the scale of your child’s concern. You may also have the opportunity to work with a team to diagnose the condition. Your healthcare provider, school teachers and counselors, and your child will work together to rule out other health problems or concerns.

Managing School Refusal with Ascend

Learning what your child needs to overcome school avoidance is an incredibly personalized journey. Sometimes, returning the child to school with staff that understands the situation and supports them during school hours is enough. However, if your child isn’t responding well to simple interventions and counseling, it may be time to consider residential treatment.

Through our comprehensive and personalized treatment plans, we help your child process their fears, working with the entire family system to address concerns. When at Ascend, your child also has the chance to reset and move away from a rigid school environment before reintegrating into an academic program after confronting their concerns, learning coping skills, and gaining confidence in themselves.

If you think your child may benefit from time at Ascend, reach out to our admissions team today at 310.388.3713 to learn more.