It’s no secret that most teenagers don’t want to go to school–but for some teens, it’s much more than that. Some adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) get hit with a jolt of anxiety and fear at the thought of climbing onto that bright yellow school bus and heading to school; this anxiety and fear compels them to come up with an excuse to stay home. This is called school refusal.

For parents, it can be difficult to tell the difference between usual teen defiance and school refusal. This confusion can cause the issue to go unnoticed and possibly even worsen over time.

Causes of school refusal

Problematic behavior around school, such as skipping school to hang out with friends, doesn’t come from the same place that school refusal does. Actions like skipping school to hang out with friends usually comes from a place of teen rebellion. School refusal is entirely different and has nothing to do with feelings of rebellion.

School refusal often comes from a place of anxiety and fear. Those emotions can derive from issues having to do with separation from their family or issues connected to the school itself. Separation anxiety, trauma, and other underlying issues can cause a child with autism to be too afraid to attend school out of fear of something happening to a loved one while they’re gone.

Issues at school–particularly bullying–can make a teen very hesitant towards going to school. Because teens with ASD struggle with expressing themselves, this can make it harder to get a grasp on what’s really happening and why your teen is acting a certain way.

Recognizing school refusal in teens with ASD

As I said before, recognizing school refusal isn’t always an easy task for parents of teens with ASD. In order to make this easier, here’s a list of symptoms of school refusal to watch out for:

  • Clinging behavior when it’s time for school
  • Extreme tantrums when forced to go to school
  • Freaking out at just the idea of going to school
  • Frequent complaints of headaches/physical ailments to avoid school
  • Obsessive school avoidance

As a parent, there are options if your child with ASD is struggling with going to school. If you believe that something may be wrong, it’s critical to reach out to a professional for guidance.

Seven Stars helps with school refusal

Seven Stars is a program that combines residential treatment with adventure therapy to create a multifaceted, effective program for adolescents, ages 13 to 18, struggling with emotional and behavioral issues as a result of their neurodevelopmental disorder.
We embed the objectives we have for each student into daily activities and teach emotional wellness skills such as conflict resolution, problem solving, social skills, academic skills, self-efficacy and prosocial behaviors. At Seven Stars, we strive to help our students develop the skills necessary to live full, productive lives.
For more information about treating school refusal at Seven Stars, contact us today at 844-601-1167.

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