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School Phobia - 13 yrs. old.
Old 04-26-2010, 04:58 PM   #1
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School Phobia - 13 yrs. old.

Not sure if this is the right area. Anyone out there have any experience with School Phobia. Anyone know of anyone who has had success?

Been dealing with this situation for a year now. Very difficult.

Working with Therapists, Psychiatrists, parent advocate, School people, etc.

Seems no one really knows what to do.

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Old 04-26-2010, 05:39 PM   #2
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I'm not an expert by any means, but as an alternative education teacher for over 20 years I've had quite a few students that have been labelled with school phobia. While it can be a catch-all for a lot of behaviors, it is in some cases a serious emotional/psychological condition.

I can only say that my program, Independent Studies, where we work one-on-one with students has had pretty good success in helping students make progress in school, but I don't know what kind of long term affects we might have facilitated. Some kids will attend Ind. St. once they feel comfortable with the structure. But others won't participate, some even pretend to walk into the class and run out another way in order to try and fake us and the parents out. I fully understand that it is a very serious, tough problem. I feel really worried about some of the kids after they leave me.
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Old 04-26-2010, 05:47 PM   #3
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Do you know what the trigger was? Fear of getting hurt, fear of disappointing (school performance), etc...

When it comes to phobias of all types, I know that some people have had some success with cognitive behavioral therapy (exposure therapy) and some with hypnosis. It basically involves retraining the brain.
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Old 04-26-2010, 11:59 PM   #4
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Thanks for the inputs:

A few more details. Daughter enjoys school. Grades are good. Has friends. Is not shy. Tomboy. Adopted. Loves animals.

School Phobia, started end of 6th grade.

From what we can tell, it seems my daughter is a perfectionist, procrastinator. She worries about not understanding everything in class.

We have found one other parent who has a school phobia daughter. Very similar traits. We are trying to get together and compare notes.

It's very difficult locating other parents "who will talk".....

Any success stories will be appreciated.

Thanks again.
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Old 04-27-2010, 12:43 AM   #5
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From what we can tell, it seems my daughter is a perfectionist, procrastinator. She worries about not understanding everything in class.
That is the root of your problem right there IMO. I am the same way (perfectionist, procrastinator) and I have had issues with anxiety (which belongs to the same family of disorders as phobias). You have to help your daughter manage expectations. When your expectations are unrealistically high, you unintentionally set yourself up for failure sooner or later. For a perfectionist, failure is unacceptable. If you fail once, you could become fearful to try again (avoidance - hence the procrastination), because you can't deal with the possibility of failing again. Hence many perfectionists can become underachievers because the fear of failure is so strong that they'd rather not try.

Your daughter has to learn to cut herself some slack. It is OK to fail sometimes. It is OK not to understand everything the first time. It is OK not to be perfect.

Also is it truly a phobia, in the clinical sense of the term? Does she have full blown panic attacks when she goes to school, or does she just dislike school? You say that your daughter enjoys school... Yet phobia literally means morbid fear. It seems odd that she would enjoy and fear the same thing. Kids with school phobia will usually refuse to go to school. Period. They are so frightened of school that they'd rather avoid it altogether.
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Old 04-27-2010, 01:22 AM   #6
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Firedreamer:

She likes school. She's been homeschooled since Jan. However, she did go to school a couple of times at lunch time to see her friends.

We use the term "panic attack", My daughter says, " what if the feelings come back", when she goes back to school.

We don't think our daughter really know what is happening. Which is why she has a difficult time with the therapist and psychiatrist. They ask "why". How does a 12 now 13 year old know what is happening......

It would be nice if an adult who had "school phobia", could describe the experience and say what helped cure the situation.

I agree with your suggestions....lower her expectations...But the questions is ...

How do you do it? We and the therapist explain to her, it's ok to not understand everything. It's Ok to ask for help. It's Ok to make mistakes...no one is perfect..

How do you change one's thought process....my daughter is pretty stubborn when it comes to changing her thought process....which is why she has the problem...

AS adults, we all have suggestions...but how do you make it work.

Anyone one else out there have a solution.... a treatment plan that they have seen work for someone.

Thanks..
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:13 AM   #7
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She likes school. She's been homeschooled since Jan. It would be nice if an adult who had "school phobia", could describe the experience and say what helped cure the situation.
Sounds like you've already found a solution.

I stopped going to school after I got my graduate degree and I haven't missed it a bit. I certainly feel like your daughter whenever I'm confronting a deadline.

A more serious suggestion: If you haven't already, post this question to your favorite homeschooling board or to a parent in a local homeschool group. I'm always amazed by the insights they have into why school isn't for everybody.

A final thought: Now that a source of the stress has been removed, it's possible that your kid will grow out of this and move on. We've had periods of extreme concern with our kid where we went to Battlestations Parent, and six months later we've wondered what the heck we were worried about.
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Old 04-27-2010, 01:29 PM   #8
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Sometimes school gives you plenty to be phobic about. It has become worse each year. Those of us who have good memeories of school during our childhoods might be shocked at what today's children often have to deal with.

Get her away from the "helpers" and home school her until she really wants something else. You already know that they don't know what they are doing. They need to find (or create) pathology, without it there is no need for their jobs. After some home schooling she might be ready to start Community College, generally a much more respectful environment.

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Old 04-27-2010, 01:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolf View Post
Firedreamer:


It would be nice if an adult who had "school phobia", could describe the experience and say what helped cure the situation.

I agree with your suggestions....lower her expectations...But the questions is ...

How do you do it? We and the therapist explain to her, it's ok to not understand everything. It's Ok to ask for help. It's Ok to make mistakes...no one is perfect..

How do you change one's thought process....my daughter is pretty stubborn when it comes to changing her thought process....which is why she has the problem...

.
I am a parent of 2 year olds
I teach adults for a living
I coach kids in evening for soccer

Some kids do well with structure
some kids need less structure

adults are same way (some need structure, some need less and less structure).

Saying it and meaning it and doing it are all very very different things. Way different.

For example, when teaching kids soccer, it is really important to allow them to make mistakes. This means losing games, this means a kid might make a mistake which costs team game, this might mean playing a weaker player over a stronger player to get better.

Know what happens when a coach does that- they get fired. Seriously- I speak from experience.
So some parents can embrace what is trying to happen (sports wise), others will control it, and others will lead interference for their kids so they never see failure as best the parents can try.

How I could apply this to your situation (as a parent) and daughter's situation (as a kid) could be many...

For example, you have to find a way to let your daughter be spontaneous. Might be playing sports, taking dance classes, acting or something which cannot be scripted. As a soccer coach we call it a comfort zone- find something a player is comfortable doing, and challenge them to break out of the comfort zone (a little at a time). A soccer example would be I could ask a 12 year old to go in and play striker (offense) and they might tell me I have never played that before. That is breaking kid out of comfort zone.

In acting it could be playing serious roles, then changing character types (funny roles, shy roles, gender roles).

For dancing it could be changing from hip hop to ball room dancing- you get the idea?

Use her social desires and outside school interests to deal with basic comfort zone and self confidence. Might be social activities or sports... and encourage daughter to try new activities frequently. Better to try many than only be good at 1-2 in this situation I think.


The second point I will make is look at the adults which "run" these activities. You want adults which are passionate about them and follow thru on the whole comfort zone thing.

Then make analogies between the adults for the activities and the adults which are school teachers.

The school system cannot fail... no child left behind and similar- its a system which is built on principles of mediocrity and tests which prevent mediocrity, so the level we attain with those schools is just above mediocrity. This means if there is a child which has specific needs (your daughter) there is no guarantee anyone in the school system can do what is best for her- the system has its own goals, your daughter is just a number to them IMO.

Schools are built (public schools anyway) based on passing certain standardized tests, teaching to those tests and securing state and federal funding. None of those main goals deal with your daughter's problem.

This is why I pointed out making analogies between the teachers and the coaches or other child activity leaders. The teachers are trying to make sure the kids don't fail and the pressure is put on the kids not to fail.

In your daughter's case, failure will teach her some life lessons. The issue you have as a parent is finding things she can fail at which won't destroy her (her confidence or her future).

For example if daughter played soccer and was really bad at it
then tried volleyball and really liked it
would she put more effort into getting better at volleyball?
could you as a parent then make analogy to her that if she put same effort in at soccer, she would be better at it?

If daughter competed at a science fair and lost, would she strive to learn more about science, or turn to music, acting or another hobby?


I think competitive events for your daughter (in moderation) would be effective. She would need the passion to compete, and that passion can then be channeled into the fear of failure, the anticipation of a result, and dealing with many issues related to this.


With adults I see the same issues (learning) but with different outcomes. You know how many adults won't click a button on a computer because they weren't told to click it?

Adults have a much faster learning curve, but their fear is more of the scope of the project or the unknowns within a project. Dealing with changing deadlines as well.

Adults also skip fundamentals. If I teach you 3-4 basic principles which the software is built on, many adults will skip that because the fundamentals are not what gets a job done. They want very specific procedures which apply to their specific situations.

I point this out because going back to daughter... whomever is the "adult in charge" for various activities might not focus on the fundamentals, which most kids embrace.

It's also possible the adult in charge is focusing on an end outcome (desired result) instead of letting child explore themselves.

The best thing for most kids is to be in "non scripted" environments which have only a little structure to them, then let kids explore on their own and fail without consequence. Most of this will need to be outside the school system.
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Old 04-27-2010, 05:26 PM   #10
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Home schooling is associated with reinforcing the behavior. She needs behavior modification therapy and the sooner the better. Find someone qualified with experience and get her going. The longer it goes on the more entrenched it becomes. Kids do not grow out of it, typically. There has been pretty good success with techniques like relaxation, visualization, desensitization, and other cognitive therapies. Another thing is it also tends to run in families and is usually associated with other anxiety disorders and/or depression. I view it as serious. Not something that is going to respond to suggestions on the internet.
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Old 04-27-2010, 05:46 PM   #11
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Having been the really late bloomer my huge issue was middle-school and the dreaded group showers. Terrible times, my school day was centered around how I could get around or out of the required showers.
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Old 04-27-2010, 07:16 PM   #12
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Ronin:

WE do take the situation serious. I throw it out to the internet in desperation. WE are talking to the experts. Looking into specialized schools. You would be amazed at how "everyone" has the answer, But does not know how to make it work. The experts do not have an answer.

I should clarify...My daughter is in "home/hospital instruction". If you have a doctors note, MD, the school will send a teacher to your house for a hour a day to go cover school work and assign homework. My daughter will get a pass or fail, if she passes she can go to 8th grade in August.

However, we still need to solve the phobia. Pure Home school is our last resort.

Again, It would be great if someone who is an adult, who had school phobia as a child, or knows of someone who had it could offer a suggestion.
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Old 04-27-2010, 07:56 PM   #13
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Are you in a major metropolitan area? It sounds like the experts you have are not experts in the type of cognitive therapy that Ronin is talking about. They teach now, not ask why.
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Old 04-27-2010, 08:09 PM   #14
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In an earlier post you used the term "panic attack". Has your daughter been diagnosed with panic disorder? Our daughter (now 34) suffered from panic attacks from age 8. We tried a therapist who used behavior techniques that were of little help. By the time she was 12 she was so fearful that she was nearly house bound. We live in the D.C. area and I found a doctor at NIH who was starting a clinical trial of using medication on children that had been successful with adult panic attacks. The medication almost completely ended the panic attacks. Over the ensuing years newer medications with less side effects came along. Our daughter graduated from college and grad school and lives in NYC and works backstage on Broadway. She still takes medication but has only rare, mild anxiety attacks and lives a normal life. You should consider having your daughter evaluated by a child psychiatrist that specializes in panic disorder treatment.
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:24 AM   #15
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Again, thanks for the replies.

We live in the San Francisco bay area. Our Therapist is a PHD, tried CT therapy. Our daughter is resistant to therapy.

Also tried, deep breathing therapy, aroma therapy, So far, like "Grumpy" mentioned, therapy does not help my daughter. She is unwilling or cannot practice the therapy.

The psychiatrist she sees specializes in children. He tried Zoloft. After 6-7 months, changed to Citalopram.

We talked to a 2nd psychiatrist for a 2nd opinion. He said these are the usual techniques they use.

When our Psychiatrist asked my daughter the following questions in the past, these were her answers.

1. How come you did not want to see the Therapist.

Answer: Because it does not help.

2. How come you did not see your teacher.

Answer: Because sometimes I don't understand something.

Panic attacks are what we as "adults" are guessing my daughter has. Not sure if that is what she has.

Only thing for sure, is when school is brought up, she becomes very quiet.

Today, she refused to see her Therapist. Don't know why. Will have to ask my daughter when the time is right. Somedays, she will not see her
teacher during the week.

Very difficult to explain unless you've been through this experience.
Logic does not work.

One lucky thing, right now she is willing to go out. Beach, bike riding, movies, Costco. Loves her dog.

Grumpy: Thanks for your input. I'm looking for people who have experienced childhood issues and what helped.
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:28 AM   #16
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No helpful suggestions to offer, just my sympathy. I know anything that has to do with our kids can become so frustrating and consuming so wish you and your family the very best! Hoping you get the best care, information and support and that you all are able to find moments to relax and enjoy what is good.

If you live in the bay area have you posted your question on the Berkeley Parents network (and also just searched their archives)? they are usually full of people who are well educated and have a variety of experiences with various experiences with kids... you will get the gamut from the most crunchy holistic to the western medical advice - their website is http://parents.berkeley.edu
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Old 04-28-2010, 09:12 AM   #17
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Wolf,

We learned with our daughter that panic disorder has both a biological and a psychological component and both must be treated to be successful.

The hypothesis is that panic disorder starts with a chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance leads to physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweats, difficulty breathing, etc. The conscious mind apprehends those symptoms and reasons "I must be afraid because I feel the way I have in the past when I was frightened." That fear then becomes associated with whatever external environment the person happens to be in, such as school.

The sufferer then experiences fear in that environment and, like Pavlov's dogs, the physiological response is evoked even in the absence of the brain chemistry imbalance.

Even after treatment of the brain chemistry issues, the sufferer must unlearn the conditioned responses to the stimuli that have become associated with the panic attacks. This can be through progressive, gradual exposure to desensitize the person, through cognitive therapy, or other means.

At one point we feared that our daughter would be permanently disabled by her condition. While she still has some emotional issues for which she receives psychotherapy, she is living a happy and productive life.

Don't give up. Keep searching until you find the right doctor, the right medication and the right therapy.

Good luck.
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Old 04-28-2010, 06:24 PM   #18
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Sorry, don't mean to be critical or accusatory. This medium of communication is very poor in my opinion for serious topics. If we were sitting down together, it would be so much more efficient.

It seems you are doing all you can so far. I have nothing. I'm sure you've considered the possibility of PTSD from some kind of traumatic event at or relating to school. This is something that I've run into.

I have 2 or 3 school phobic kids each year. I'm pretty good at finding out what is going on with them. But to really help, can't claim any particular ability there, other than being there to care for them. I have 2 that I know about currently. One is a social anxiety case and the other depressed (although I sense an anxiety disorder from her more than depression, but that's what the shrink says). Lot's of school avoidance but that's usually a whole 'nother ballgame.

I truly hope for the best for your daughter.
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:25 PM   #19
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Bright eyed: Thanks for the web site. Lots of valuable info. Will look into program offered at Vallejo Kaiser, mentioned at the site. Only problem is we are to far away. (Santa Clara). Will see if our local Kaiser offers the program.

Grumpy: Thanks for the advice. You've been there. Funny, in talking to my wife and the therapist, I've used the same phrase "Pavlov's dog"....in describing my daughter's phobia.

I am glad your situation is working out. You know what we are going through.

Ronin: Thanks for your thoughts. Any thoughtful inputs are appreciated.
Nice to know you have heard of school phobia (school refusal). Surprisingly ,some teachers have never heard of the problem.

Thanks again to all
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