School Refusal

When going to school is a no-go 🙁

Even though it is recognized that children learn in any social and exposure setting, learning in a structured educational environment continues to provide the highest potential for academic success. Yet, many factors influence school attendance, from frustration and difficulties with learning to complex mental health challenges.


School attendance is a fundamental expectation and foundational competency for children and adolescents. Youths who complete high school, a critical developmental milestone during adolescence, are more likely to experience tremendous success at social, academic, occupational, and economic aspects of functioning in their lifetime than youths who do not complete high school.

Conversely, youths with problematic school absenteeism are at risk for lower academic performance and achievement, lower reading and mathematics test scores, fewer lit­eracy skills, internalizing and externalizing behaviour problems, grade retention, involvement with the juvenile justice system, and eventual dropout. In addition, short-term consequences of school absenteeism include significant child stress, declining academic status, social al­ienation, increased risk of legal trouble, family conflict, severe dis­ruption in a family’s daily functioning, potential child maltreatment, lack of parent supervision, and financial expense (Kearney, 2016).

School erfusal diagram

Perceived Risk Factors

Various risk factors have been researched as an indicator for school refusal. Here are a few of the most common indicated factors.

  • Various incidents of unexcused absences or tardiness Perhaps unrelated, thus incidental
  • Difficulty in considerably returning to school after a holiday or illness Including prolonged perceived challenges such as a runny nose
  • Absences particularly during days when a test, presentation or the lesson of a specific subject is taking place A clear pattern of avoidance behaviour during recurring events
  • Increasing number of visits to the school counsellor For no reason OR for specific reasons such as performance anxiety
  • Increasing psychosomatic symptoms Headaches, stomach aches, poor sleeps, decision fatigue, etc.
  • Contacting home continuously during the school day Continued helplessness

Reasons For School Refusal

Even though children demonstrate quite a variety of school refusal behaviours, in essence, the reasons for this refusal can be summarised into four significant reasons, including anxious and defiant behaviours.

Our Approach

We use a mixed CBT and NVR approach to school refusal, consisting of an interview and assessment phase, followed by treatment in the form of parent training.

Assessment & Action Plan

A good indication of the severity and persistence of refusal behaviours is needed before an action-plan can be constructed


Schedule FREE Intake Session

I strongly believe that no one should be pressured to decide whether or not they want to work with a therapist before meeting them. I will see you (and your child) at no charge to make sure we are a good fit for each other. Every therapist works in their own unique way so I want you to be certain you feel comfortable with the way I work. The initial meeting is not a therapy session; it’s designed to be low-key and low-pressure with no “hard sell” at the end.

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