Julie is a 15 year old high school sophomore. She and her mother were on the way to school when she could feel it happening again. Her heart rate was rising, her palms were becoming sweaty and it was becoming harder for her to breathe. As her mother’s car got closer to the school, her symptoms began to intensify. By the time they were two blocks away, Julie was in the middle of a full blown panic attack. She screamed for her mother to stop the car, and when she did not, Julie attempted to open the door while the car was still moving.
This had become a normal occurrence for Julie and her family. For the past two weeks, Julie had not made it through one complete day of school. She would either refuse to go, have a panic attack on the way, or she would get through one or two classes and then go to the nurse to be sent home “sick.”
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, school refusal describes the disorder of a child who refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems staying in school. Children with school refusal may complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to leave for school or repeatedly ask to visit the school nurse. If the child is allowed to stay home, the symptoms quickly disappear, only to reappear the next morning. In some cases a child may refuse to leave the house. Anxiety-based school refusal affects 2 to 5 percent of school-age children. It commonly takes place between the ages of five and six and between ten and eleven, and at times of transition, such as entering middle and high school.
GenPsych in Bridgewater has launched a Summer Wellness Program that strives to ease the transition back to school after a long summer break. Programs utilize empirically tested, theoretical approaches and progressive techniques that are well received by today’s children and teens. Treatment modalities such as DBT, CBT, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Pet Therapy and Yoga are implemented to treat school refusal, along with depression, anxiety, self-harm, video game addiction, internet addiction and substance abuse.