Involving school in getting her to school

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by idohope, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. idohope

    idohope Member

    My difficult child has issues with school refusal. The school has some idea from last year that we she has a hard time some mornings (she is getting out of the car with a red face instead of coming on the bus). But they do not know the extent the tantrums etc. She is usually fine once she gets into the building and functions thru the day.

    Our therapist suggested that we let the school know how difficult it is to get her there. therapist said she would write letter etc. therapist thinks school should set up consequences such as missing recess to make up work missed in the morning etc.

    I have mixed feelings about this. difficult child clearly has anxiety and this approach is not addressing it in my humble opinion. She does respond to school consequences so this may motivate her but she also over-responds to them. So, for example, if she forgets part of her HW at school it will be a meltdown as she panics about not getting all her HW turned in (a flip from years of refusing to do HW). So consequences for being late may motivate her but may also trigger more anxiety about getting to school.

    difficult child will not admit she has a problem, resists therapy, is not on medications. I am working towards a neuropsychologist evaluation to try to better figure out what is driving the behavior. therapist thinks it maybe good to push her with school consequences since difficult child does not acknowledge her behavior (tantrums, refusing to go to school) as a problem.

    I welcome any thoughts on getting the school involved in this and what role the school might take. We are supposed to meet with her teacher, Principal, and school SW, which is partly triggered by the principal speaking to husband when he dropped difficult child at school late yet again.

  2. Babbs

    Babbs New Member

    What about some sort of positive reinforcer? Something she gets every day in the car or on the bus if she doesn't tantrum and gets going to school?
  3. idohope

    idohope Member

    We currently do a point chart that focuses on the morning routine. Points for getting out of bed, getting dressed etc. thru getting to school on time. Points can be accumulated for big rewards or cashed in daily for small rewards, but that would occur after school. So maybe some other small concrete immediate reward...
  4. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    Facing a consequence at school for being late would make it even harder for my anxious child to go to school.

    I would possibly tell the teacher or principal about what is going on and what you are doing to work on it. That might end up with them making consequences, though.
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Have you figured out why your difficult child is anxious about going to school?

    I agree with Hope -- facing consequences at school would make it harder for me to get my anxious child to school every morning. I have to believe the carrot will work far better than the stick in this situation.

    When we were having a hard time getting my anxious child to school, we identified a safe staff member (in our case it was the school counselor) who would meet her at the front door, walk her in and help her transition into her day. For my daughter, separation and transitions were driving her anxiety.

    If your difficult child doesn't like that idea, does she have a friend you could pick up in the car along the way to school who could help ease her anxiety about entering school every morning?

    I don't think there's anything wrong with letting the school know about the problems getting your difficult child to school, but I think you should approach it as finding a way to solve the problem together, not as punishing your daughter because she's having a hard time getting to school.
  6. idohope

    idohope Member

    Not exactly sure what the issue is. She is very bright and does well academically. School neuropsychologist testing several years ago found considerable sub test variablilty which perhaps points to some processing issue but they determined there was no educational impact. She is above average in all subjects. She viewed herself as stupid in math last year when they focused on a timed test for math facts but this year she voluntarily joined the math team and seems confident in her math and her reading abilities. She has expressed to me in a rare quiet moment that she "just cant do it" referring to school and that they expect you to be perfect in school.

    If we can get her onto school grounds she seems fine and will pretty easily walk in so long as she does not think you can tell she has been crying. It is getting ready that is the hard part.

    This morning she was excited about something happening this afternoon and willingly got in the car with her brother to go to the bus stop. When the bus arrived she said that she needed a book and would get in trouble if she did not have it. So the other kids got on the bus including easy child 3 and she went back to the car. The bus driver was holding the bus for her and she told me to tell him to go and that we needed to get the book and drive her to school. So I tell her that is fine and I tell the bus driver to go. As soon as the bus pulls away she is screaming and crying that she needs to take the bus and that she has to take the bus on Friday and can not be driven on Friday. We go home and get the book and we catch the bus on a stop on the way to her school and she gets on. Whew!

    Earlier in the week it was clothes. She could not get dressed and said that she is not allowed to wear shorts to school and has no pants and it is my fault because I did not do laundry. She was screaming and crying and locked me in her room and was pulling my hair. I finally got out and put some clothes from the washer into the dryer. When these were dry I gave them to her and she put on a pair of shorts and husband drove her to school 1 hr late. (She wears shorts almost everyday to school;no such rule that I know about). The next day she wore a pair of shorts that had been available the day before but she refused to wear.

    I know it seems like more preparation the night before would help but if you ask her to pack up her bag and make sure she has what she needs she refuses. Same with picking out an outfit. She refuses to pick one out or could refuse that outfit the next morning. Or it could be that the snack is not right or ...

    We are focusing this year on trying to not pressure her in the morning. So we agreed that we would be fine to drive her if she did not make the bus. Once she starts to get upset then trying to resolve it when the bus will be here in 10 minutes or 5 minutes definitely just escalated everthing.
  7. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    It sounds a lot like what I go through with my youngest, who has a significant anxiety disorder. medications and weekly psychotherapy have helped, although I have to admit we still have some morning and evening meltdowns that emanate from pressure she puts on herself. You are right that keeping the home environment as calm as possible is the name of the game.
  8. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Just a thought - may not fit since you state she is not on medications.

    My difficult child took a PRN each school mornings to help ease the anxiety. He stated that it took the edge off of his fears.

    Once school refusal sets in, the kid can continue to work themselves into a deeper set of anxiety. They do not always recognize a reason - my difficult child had no reason to fear going to school - his anxiety just overtook him and he just could not face it. His PRN of alprazolam took the deep fear away.

    A morning routine to set the day may work. Have as much ready the night before so there is no rush to find clothes, homework, ect. Allow time to relax - read a book, play a game, whatever. I work very hard to keep those morning problems that crop up and take away our time stay at bay - to get the kids out the door without any of us feeling rushed. I do think down time in the morning to help wake up is a key.

    medications may not work - but maybe something to have as an option if need be?
  9. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    It sounds like they are trying to use the typical strict behavior modification (rewards and consequences) as the solution. I would not be surprised at all if that did not work and I assume that's why your gut tells you to be leary of it. I would suggest you talking to the principal or some higher-up at the school, filling them in on the anxiety and so forth, then seeing if you can have an informal "conference" with your difficult child. We tried this with my son and it worked miracles. We called it "problem-solving" and the conference was to give my son a chance to discuss what was bugging him. I did this after reading The Explosive Child, so by that point I figured he didn't need another lecture about the importance of going to school- he knew that and that wasn't the problem. Anyway, he expressed a couple of concerns and the proncipal proposed some simple solutions and all started turing around. Mind you- it isn't really the proposed solutions that made a difference- it was difficult child feeling like he was cared about and listened to at school. And, it went a long way in getting the sd staff to change their attitude toward difficult child.
  10. idohope

    idohope Member

    Thanks for the responses

    husband and I had a phone conference with principal, teacher and school SW. We are in agreement that it seems to be an issue of general anxiety and not test anxiety or some specific school trigger. difficult child seems to do fine once she is in school.

    They think we are doing things right (reward chart in morning; no pressure to get bus).
    We did discuss what will happen if she absolutely refuses to go. Call principal which could trigger visit from school resource officer (police). The plan is to lay this out to difficult child at a calm moment so she knows what the plan is and these steps are not brought up in heat of the moment if she is tantruming.

    SW will be starting a "worry group" at school and will invite difficult child. Not sure how that will go. difficult child may refuse.

    If difficult child is late they do not want a parent walking her up to the classroom (we should only bring her to the school office) but they can identify someone else in the school to walk her up. (Felt that having a parent walk her up feeds the concept that there is something to be worried about; needing a parent with her)

    The school SW also wants us to sign a release so that they can communicate directly with therapist. I have mixed feelings about that. I want to provide school with information that will help but I dont know that they need to have access to all that goes on with difficult child outside of school.

    Any thoughts?
  11. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    It looks like you are on a track of finding some answers for this situation. I understand the reluctance to give permission to the school to talk directly with the t-doctor. You should visit with the T-doctor about your concerns and try to get a feeling of how much/what info the T-doctor usually shares with schools.

    My instinct is that the therapist will not discuss specifics of behaviors or situations but may help the school understand how/why your difficult child reacts to certain treament plans (or discipline plans) the school may want to try.

    Presenting the plan to difficult child in a calm time is also the best thing to do. (You are doing GREAT!) You may want to write it out for her to post in her bedroom. Try to come up with a positive heading such as "Ways to help difficult child reach her goals of getting to school". (Give her some ownership in this plan)

    Ask her what she does to make herself feel good and try to incorporate one of those things in the morning. Would making a Good Morning call to a grandparent or someone who lifts her spirits help? How about a special book to read every morning? A walk around the block with you? Something to help her focus on a good feeling?

    My difficult child had extreme anxiety at age 11. We went through the school refusal (his needed medication to help each day) so I do understand how hard it is on everyone. As you stated, there is no specific reason, it is all about anxiety. That one is super hard to help them overcome. We can't go into school and stop a bully or work with a teacher on a homework issue or anything else that is common stress some kids go through. Anxiety doesn't give us anything "material" to fight.

    My difficult child is now 13 years old. That nightmare seems so far behind us. He is now so independent - no more taking alprazolam every morning - wants to ride the bus home from school - no anxiety of going to school, ect. I have the feeling that the new school may not really believe how intense our struggles were. He is basically a easy child at school now. So, there can be a good outcome. Try not to get caught up on thinking about the future as I did (I have the bad habit of basing today's behaviour on the future's outcome - if that makes sense). Just because this year is difficult, doesn't mean every year through and beyond graduation will be.