Written by Sillie Mugo
Clinical Review by: Jenny Ryan, LCSW-C
School avoidant behavior, also called school refusal, is when a school-age child refuses to attend school or has difficulty being in school for the entire day with no reasonable or justifiable circumstances for the absence. This can often look like severe emotional distress about attending school, anxiety, temper tantrums, depression, or somatic symptoms.
School avoidance is not a concrete diagnosis and looks different in every child. It can range from acute, where students miss a couple days of school, to severe where students don’t step foot in a school for an entire semester at a time.
According to the School Avoidance Alliance, 28% of youth display school avoidance behaviors at some point in their lives. This behavior tends to be more prevalent among adolescents than younger children. It can lead to academic difficulties, social isolation, and long-term consequences if left untreated. Early intervention and support from parents, teachers, and mental health professionals are crucial in addressing school refusal.
Recent studies have shown that school avoidance has become a crisis that has gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three main reasons that could be causing school refusal are anxiety or fear of attending school, a desire to avoid unpleasant situations at school such as bullying, and underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or ADHD.
What Can Parents Do?
Some steps parents can take:
- Understanding the reasons behind their child’s behavior and communicating with their child and school staff
- Creating a positive and supportive home environment with a structure and routine
- Seeking professional help if necessary.
If school refusal goes on for weeks or months, it’s time to take action. Getting an assessment can identify if their school refusal is coming from separation anxiety, depression, or some other cause. At Youme Healthcare, we have a dedicated team of licensed therapists who specialize in school avoidance and will complete a comprehensive assessment to determine the underlying cause of your child’s school refusal. Our approach often involves modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps kids learn to manage their anxious thoughts and face their fears.
How Youme is Supporting Schools
Youme Healthcare has partnered with local schools to provide tele-therapy during school hours by working with school counselors and administrators to help the children attend sessions virtually, because we understand that when your child is struggling emotionally – you want answers now. We have found most schools/school counselors are very supportive of having these sessions without having to leave school. Parents are able to also join the session virtually, which has helped to bring everyone together without interrupting work days as well. Our unique behavioral and mental healthcare model gives teens and their families greater access to care by making intervention faster, making appointments easier to schedule, fully leveraging Telehealth technology and by helping everyone understand that emotional and behavioral health isn’t something to be ignored.