school refusal

Last reviewed 01/2018

School refusal is classified as a childhood emotional disorder and describes children who are not able to attend school because of anxiety, characterised by the irrational fear of school attendance.

This fear may represent a fear of leaving parents or the home (separation anxiety) or a fear of something in the school situation.

Peak ages for the incidence of school refusal are 5 years, 11 years and 14 to 15 years, ie the times of school transition or adolescence. It occurs in about 1% of children.

The condition presents as either an open expression by the child to attend the doctor with physical symptoms of tension and anxiety eg stomach ache, headache.

The child is normally keeping up with work at school. Occasionally it is associated with anxiety and depression in the parents.

Treatment - is to take the child to school. The child may be accompanied initially by his parents to school, and perhaps at school for a limited period. If the child becomes anxious then treat the anxiety.