Refusing to go to School

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8th grader with OCD refusing to go to school

April 2009

My 8th grade daughter with obsessive-compulsive disorder won't go to school. Clearly, she must comply with the law, so we have to figure out a solution for her. While I wait to hear back from her middle school about any options they might have for us, I am reaching out to the larger community of parents to see if anyone has advice or a potential solution. Homeschool? Charter school? Private school for the next 9 weeks? OCD is a powerful disorder ... she is already taking medication and is in therapy, so please don't just respond with ''make her go.'' If you've lived through this yourself, and want to form a support group, I know I sure could use one! Mother of OCD sufferer

My son is now 16 and we've been dealing with ''school refusal'' since the fourth grade. This is a very hard thing to cope with -- even for the experts -- so please give yourself a break and treat this as an illness. You deserve the same amount of compassion you would if your child were suffering from something physical instead of physiological. Parents Helping Parents has helped me enormously over the years. Google Parents Helping Parents and see if there is a support group near you for OCD. Also, feel free to email me. My child doesn't have OCD -- he is bipolar -- but I understand all the feelings of isolation and all that ''must be bad parenting'' attitude that often comes when a child refuses to attend school. ann

Wow, sorry to hear that. I would talk with the school and figure out a way to finish the year, maybe at home??? If you are considering Berkeley High School for next year, there is Independent Studies that might work for her. I'm curious to know if she is doing Cognitive Behavioral therapy and who you see? My daughter has OCD also, but not as intensely. I haven't been able to find a good therapist when she's needed it. Can you ask the moderator for my email?

Thanks and good luck! anon

I feel for you. Our son is also not going to school but because of a different condition. Since your daughter has what could be considered a disability she is eligible for a 504 plan (Americans with Disabilities Act) which can provide accommodations for her. This can be done relatively quickly. Another possibility, a much longer process, is to request a special education evaluation so she can get specialized teaching if that's what she needs. (If her disability prevents her from attending school, the district must still educate her.) Also ask about something called ''home and hospital'' teaching from the public school. Good luck! anon

Dear Parent,

MY heart goes out to you. It is the law that youth are supposed to be in school. However it is diffucult for you and your teen to find a ''right '' and safe place to learn. Have you requested a pyscho- educational assessment and IEP, Indivudual Education Plan? If not request an emergency IEP meeting, in writing with proof of reciept, by the school district (with cc to the school psychologist, principal and others). Also request an AB3632 evaluation (this is for mental health services or placement) request the assessment even if you think you may not use the placement or services ( this hcan be valuable to you_. In that request document the therapy and medication already is part of your child's treatment.

Middle school is so hard for ''nuerologically'' different youth. Your soon needs a safe, small, structured, predictable place that can support him and stretch him ( the stretching has to be incremental and managable so he doesn't shut down as he now is). It needs to be comfortable enough that he can go, know people there and dare to try in school. all of which is diffiuclt for any middleschooler and so much more difficult for youth like your son.

You didn't mention the school district. If placement or plans are offered; make sure you are comfortable ith them before signing.

I wish you the best. VY

This program in the Berkeley High School System features one on one Independent Study -

I don't know if they would consider an early admission or if they have something for middle school that is similiar.

There are also many home study courses available online and a very strong community of home schoolers in Berkeley. I have known several families who opted for home schooling for many different reasons. Ask her therapist if have an environment she can control like her bedroom or a study - if you have a spare room, would be beneficial. Some things you just have to deal with the best you can.

Though this may mean you need to be home with her during the day or make those arrangements with someone reliable.

Good luck. sending my support