What Is School Refusal Behavior?

It’s natural for teens to sometimes want to avoid going to school. For some young adults, however, the desire to avoid school is so strong and pervasive that it can seriously damage their academic performance and social life, and will sometimes even manifest in their feeling physically ill when it comes time to leave a parent or go to class. When avoiding school reaches the point of causing serious problems in a teen’s life or performance in school, it can be classified as school refusal behavior.

Causes of School Refusal Behavior

School refusal behavior can be caused by several factors. One of the most common causes of school refusal behavior is depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. While most parents don’t like to think that their children could be affected by psychological issues, teens can be just as susceptible to these things as adults, especially after traumatic or unsettling events such as a parent being seriously ill, divorce or death in the family, moving to another city or school, or bullying by other children.

Another potential cause of school refusal is an undiagnosed learning disability. Teens with dyslexia, ADHD, or other similar issues can become overwhelmed by the stress of struggling to succeed in an academic environment, eventually reaching the point where they try to stop going to school altogether.

Can School Refusal Behavior Be Treated?

When teens who display school refusal behavior are given proper treatment and attention, the rate of remission for the disorder is very high. Treating school refusal behavior mostly entails finding and dealing with the underlying cause (anxiety disorder, learning disorder, bullying, etc.), as well as using behavioral reinforcement to get teens to go to school. Behavioral reinforcement can be positive (giving rewards or special privileges for attending school) or negative (taking privileges away for not going to class).

While behavioral reinforcement at home is important in treating school refusal behavior, it must be combined with action to treat the underlying causes of the behavior. If your teenager is displaying school refusal behavior (meaning that their avoiding school has lasted for at least 4 weeks straight, or has seriously damaged their standing and performance in class), there are several steps that should be taken:

  • Speak to your teen’s teachers about possible underlying issues they have noticed that may be causing the behavior.
  • Seek out help for your teen from a counselor, psychologist, or other professional who can provide an expert opinion on any behavior or mood issues that are causing the behavior.
  • Talk with school administrators and teachers about finding ways the school can accommodate your teen’s emotional and psychological needs in order to treat the underlying issues.
  • Consider transferring your teen to a therapeutic school environment.

Therapeutic schools such as Sage Day specialize in creating an environment where young adults who struggle in the classroom can succeed in their personal and academic lives. For more information on Sage Day, and the benefits of therapeutic schooling, contact us today at 877-887-8817.

School refusal behavior

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