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  #1  
Old 09-03-13, 11:13 PM
depinso depinso is offline
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Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Hello,

I really don't know where to go or what to do. My step daughter really hasn't gone to school in almost a year. She is supposed to) starting high school this year. Getting her to go to school has always been very difficult. There have been daily fights and even the principle has had to help drag her out of the car when she was younger. A lot of the reason stems from anxiety. We've tried to take her to the hospital prior, but kaiser I've felt has always been behind the ball. As of November 2012 she has pretty much decided she's just not going anymore. We are trying to be more aggressive with kaiser for help, but we have two main road blocks.
1. they really push group therapy
2. she refuses to go period.

I am really at a loss of what to do. I come home and she is ever only in front of the computer or the tv. I really want to take them both away.... I just don't know what's the right thing to do. Also worth mentioning she has the largest fits I've ever seen. We have a broken door and broken electronics, lots of screeming(lots), all it ever takes is of her to be disturbed from what she is doing. She has mostly not been violent, but there have been a few times if she is not getting the reaction she wants she steps it up. She has been currently diagnosed with add depression and anxiety... I don't know what to do, Kaiser really doesn't seem to offer much help, we live in the state of california, I've thought of calling up and seeing if they have any services available.
thank you for anyone with any suggestions.
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Old 09-03-13, 11:23 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

She should be old enough to home school, there are very good programs for distance learning have you checked into these?

School can be a very nasty place and she may feel it's simple self preservation.

What does her psychiatrist say? Have her meds been adjusted?
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Old 09-04-13, 03:26 AM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

This has to be very draining, for you and for your daughter as well.

When it is this difficult, you have to "choose your battles" - and to do that, you have to have a very clear sense of what is most important and why. AND, almost as importantly, a very clear sense of what is NOT important, and why.

What people sometimes neglect to mention is that "choose your battles" really means "choose to lose a lot, so you have the strength and resources to win when it really counts". Be realistic; you are going to lose A LOT of battles. You have to be willing to just let them slide, because there will be a few battles you absolutely must win. Do your best to predict what those will be. Save some energy for them.

Listen to what your daughter is trying to say. She will say it in ridiculous, circular, exasperating, nonsensical, defensive ways - but do your best, because despite her strangeness she's not stupid. The world is an unimaginably scary place for her, compared to how it is for you. It's not easy to be her. (Not easy to be you either, I know - but you don't have the same constant fear that bombards her.)

Keep breathing. Learn all you can about ADHD. Don't blame yourself, and don't blame her either.
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Old 09-04-13, 10:51 AM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

It comes down to how important school is in your family rules, morals and character. If school is a priority and there is no option and she is refusing, then eveything else comes to a stand still. No computer, no going out, no car, no phone, whatever it takes for her to get the message that this is not an option.
First it's school and then what's next? Has she expressed why she doesn't want to go to school?

Get any assistance you can from the state, make sure it's not a medical issue or some other underlying reason that we are not aware of.

If you choose to go the tough love route, be prepared to go the distance and prepare yourself for the possibilites. She may want to leave, she may get out of control to the point where you need to call the police. If you decide it's that important and not going is not an option, then you stick to that and don't give in. Let her know you love her and you will always be there for her, but you cannot accept the decision she has made regarding school.

In Florida it's a crime to refuse to go to school up to a certain age. Parents can actually get in trouble for not trying to get their kids to attend.

The tantrums will continue and get worse if you give in. At some point you are going to have to draw your line in the sand and stand your ground. Discuss it as a family, set the rules and standards, and then stick to them to the best of your ability.

In a sense you are fighting for the quality of your daughters life. She may not understand or like it now, but one day she will thank you and hopefully raise her daughter with the same morals and values.

This is just my opinion based on past experiences working with delinquent youth and underprivlidged kids.

With younger kids I have actually put them in the car and took them to school in their pajamas because they flat out refused to go to school at age 10! I would bring a change of clothes with me in the car and 10 times out of times they would agree to change clothes and go to school..
I know it sounds cruel but you can't have children forcing a decision on us adults that could affect them negatively for the rest of their lives.

My thoughts are with you and your family!
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Old 09-04-13, 12:04 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

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Originally Posted by Tmoney View Post
It comes down to how important school is in your family rules, morals and character.
Yes, except... sometimes a family has to realize that some of its rules, morals, and character are wrong. Some people, when put into a tough situation like this, find out that their real priorities are nothing like what they used to say.
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  #6  
Old 09-04-13, 10:54 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Ginniebean has good suggestions.

Does she ever express what it is about school that scares/bores/frustrates/upsets/bothers her so much? That may be hard to pry out of her, if she doesn't volunteer it willingly. But it may be key to fixing the problem:

- Needs more support due to disability? --> Initiate request for evaluation/services/IEP/504 Plan or meet to change them appropriately.

- Bored? --> See if she can fit some interesting electives or extracurricular activities into her schedule.

- Peer problems? --> Consider social skills training, intervention for bullying, and/or alternative school placement.

- Internet gaming addiction? --> Consider using website blockers and getting counseling for that.

- Depression/fatigue/anxiety making it impossible to concentrate? --> Investigate change in medication and/or therapy to help resolve mood/anxiety issues and associated stresses, and meanwhile consider homeschool or alternative school placement.


I'm sure you've tried or would try many of these things, and I understand Kaiser may not be the easiest to work with.... (About 10 years ago, despite a long, documented history of psych service use, their "gatekeepers" actually wouldn't let me see a psychiatrist...)

Also consider contacting mental health service agencies (non-profit organizations) in your area -- some are general mental health organizations, and some may be nominally faith-based but open to all comers (such as Jewish Children's and Family Services).

Best wishes in this difficult situation (from a former school refuser).
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Old 09-04-13, 11:05 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Quote:
Originally Posted by depinso View Post
Hello,

I really don't know where to go or what to do. My step daughter really hasn't gone to school in almost a year. She is supposed to) starting high school this year. Getting her to go to school has always been very difficult. There have been daily fights and even the principle has had to help drag her out of the car when she was younger. A lot of the reason stems from anxiety. We've tried to take her to the hospital prior, but kaiser I've felt has always been behind the ball. As of November 2012 she has pretty much decided she's just not going anymore. We are trying to be more aggressive with kaiser for help, but we have two main road blocks.
1. they really push group therapy
2. she refuses to go period.

I am really at a loss of what to do. I come home and she is ever only in front of the computer or the tv. I really want to take them both away.... I just don't know what's the right thing to do. Also worth mentioning she has the largest fits I've ever seen. We have a broken door and broken electronics, lots of screeming(lots), all it ever takes is of her to be disturbed from what she is doing. She has mostly not been violent, but there have been a few times if she is not getting the reaction she wants she steps it up. She has been currently diagnosed with add depression and anxiety... I don't know what to do, Kaiser really doesn't seem to offer much help, we live in the state of california, I've thought of calling up and seeing if they have any services available.
thank you for anyone with any suggestions.
Don't punish her for the illness i have a son at this point - without backround that's here in old posts - i reccoo asking her what she wants - GED program? Vocational Rehab is in EVERY public school in USA If you live here ask guidance for help. They will pay all assessments and refer and pay for adhd strategizing therapy and you can relax a bit. If you're in the us - this is all i know about it. Best of luck.
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Old 09-05-13, 10:34 AM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

I have an 8 year old version of your daughter. Really.

I like what Tmoney had to say. I think althoug the disability is hard and priorities do change in life, morals and values do not. I don't get why she still has a computer, or TV. I'm not judging you, I have been in the mini version of that deciding whats right and when. But heres whats important, you need to Lay out what is important to you and your husband, then explain the rules and tell her that there are consequences for not following those requests. And like tmoney said... everything goes to a standstill if she does not comply. This will be 300x's harder now that shes been allowed to get away with it without consequence than it would have been from the moment you realized it was a problem.

I know that its sometimes hard to tell the disability apart from the bad behavior, but this sounds like a child without much regard because she isn't expected to have standards. Do you and the dad attend counseling? I highly suggest this. We have been making progress more when WE see our daughters therapist than when she does because we get very helpful tools. Hope this helps.

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Old 09-05-13, 02:45 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

If your social life at 16 in high school sucks its not likely to improve for the remainder -- the cliques are set. (My two best friends moved away and I had a very lonely last two years.). I would look into other options such as online school, charter school, and getting the GED and starting community college early, then ask your daughter for input on what she'd like to do instead of attending her current school.
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I highly recommend:
Lost at School and The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene
http://www.livesinthebalance.org/walking-tour-parents -- video
Essential Ideas for Parents by Russell Barkley (video on youtube)

Parenting Children with ADHD by Vincent J. Monastra
Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson
Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy by Peter Wright
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
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Old 09-05-13, 03:18 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Take away the tele, the ipod the computer and tell her : "stay home if you wants. There some sadwhiches in the fridge. THE LEAVE AND DONT TURN BACK. Get in you car and drivie to work and onky take calls from her but dont make them. Let her control her own sh*TTY CHOICES.
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Old 09-29-13, 09:36 AM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

I gain the impression you could perhaps use some support with your parenting, and perhaps a parenting skills program or parenting advice would help?

It is important to identify if she is being bullied at all at school- even if she does not talk about it. If she is being bullied then this may be the #1 cause of the anti-school problem. If she is being bullied, then this issue MUST be addressed.

Also while medications are important you can't medicate away all problems.

If you eliminate bullying as a cause of her behavior, then you need to set consistent but reasonable consequences to her actions.

For example if she is not at school, do not let her use the computer or tv- especially within school hours. Give her some books to keep her occupied and make sure she is not on the internet or playing any games on any device.
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Old 09-29-13, 06:28 PM
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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Just came across this article on the Great Schools website:

Quote:
School refusal: when kids say no to school

Morgan Smith won't go to school. It’s not a whim or simply bad behavior. School refusal, which experts say is one of the most common childhood behavior problems, is wrenching for kids and parents alike.

By Connie Matthiessen
It was the middle of a typical school day at Midway High School in Waco, Texas, and the hallways were packed with noisy clusters of teens laughing and jostling and clanging locker doors, slowly wending their way to class.
But Morgan Smith wasn’t part of the clamor. The fifteen-year-old was in the restroom, hunched in a bathroom stall, frantically texting her parents over and over: “Please, please, please, you have to come get me!
Morgan, who qualifies as a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) student, is articulate and self-possessed. She’s never been bullied and has lots of friends. So why does she dread school so much? She hates the constant noise and crowding. She isn’t crazy about some of her peers, either, many of whom she says are privileged and supercompetitive.
But Morgan’s reaction to school is about more than likes and dislikes — it’s a sensation of total panic. “As soon as I got to school, I would start worrying about having a panic attack and that would consume everything,” she recalls. “I’d sit in class and it would feel like something awful was going to happen if I didn’t get out of there. I was terrified. I’d shake and start freaking out. It was the worst feeling in the world.”
The panic made it impossible for Morgan to concentrate. “I’d get home and have no idea what the homework was,” she says. “I wouldn’t remember anything the teacher said in class because I was worrying so much.”
Many kids don’t like school, but for Morgan it was unendurable — every single day. “Sometimes it was worse in the morning, sometimes it was worse in the afternoon, some days it was bad all day,” she says. “I never had a day at school when I felt like, ‘I’m fine.’ The fear never left my head.”

Yes, there is a name for it
Morgan’s problem has a name: it’s a behavior known as “school refusal” — and it’s more common than you may think. In fact, school refusal is one of the most common childhood behavior problems, according to Chris Kearney, who directs the School Refusal and Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Kearney estimates that eight to 10 percent of all school children exhibit school refusal behavior — and miss school as a result — at some point during their school career.
If you add the many kids who resist going to school but ultimately make it in the door, the number shoots up to 28 percent. “Some of the kids we work with show up at school, but they are complete terrors before they get there,” says Kearney. “They throw tantrums, they run and hide, they refuse to get dressed — getting them to school is miserable for their parents, but they show up at school and are marked as present.”
School refusal is hard to define precisely because it shows up in very different forms depending on the individual child. Kearney distinguishes “school refusal” from “school phobia,” which is fear-based and linked to fear of a specific object or situation at school, like the fire alarm or the class snake. School refusal is a sign of broader anxiety — separation anxiety, social anxiety, or general anxiety. Sometimes kids with school refusal complain of physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches, but not all kids who refuse school have physical complaints. Some kids throw tantrums before school every morning; others make it to school but have trouble staying in the classroom. Some kids refuse school after a disruption or crisis at home — a move, divorce, illness, or death in the family, for example — but in many cases, school refusal behavior has no obvious trigger.
To some, school refusal may sound like a fancy name for a standard-issue schoolkid whine — A kid who doesn’t like school? So what else is new? — one that a little tough love and smart parenting could easily fix. But the behavior is often a symptom of a more serious condition, and simply laying down the law and forcing the child to go to school is likely to make the problem worse.
School refusal isn’t just an invented pathology among over-indulged American kids, either. Kearney says he gets calls from educators and practitioners from around world. “We’ve heard from people in Japan, China, Sweden, Denmark, Canada,” he says. “School refusal seems to be pretty universal.”

Why kids say no to school
Why a particular child develops school refusal can be difficult to untangle. The causes can include psychological, developmental, and external factors like bullying — either alone or in combination. According to Kearney, most cases appear around the beginning of middle school. “Kids are going through the upheaval of puberty at the same time that they’re facing bigger challenges, both academically and socially. It’s a perfect storm,” Kearney says.
But younger kids refuse school, too. According to educational consultant James Dillon, a former elementary school principal and author of No Place for Bullying, the reason for school refusal in the younger grades is typically developmental. A number of his students began refusing school at the age of nine or 10. “That’s the age when kids start figuring out that their parents have separate identities and that bad things can happen to people,” Dillon explains. “Some kids become overwhelmed with fear that something is going to happen to their parents when they are at school. They panic and cling to their parents and don’t want to go to school.”
Dillon says most of the students who developed school refusal weren’t unpopular or emotionally fragile. “These were kids who had a generally positive school experience,” he says. “Their parents would say, ‘What did I do wrong?’ But school refusal doesn’t have a single cause. It isn’t necessarily linked to a divorce or other problems at home. It just happens, and trying to identify a specific cause isn’t particularly productive.”
However, external circumstances at school, particularly bullying, can also trigger the problem — and in that case, it's essential to get to the bottom of the issue. Dillon points out that for some tweens and teens, school refusal may be a rational reaction to an intolerable situation. “If a child is suffering peer abuse and bullying every day — and I don’t think adults realize how painful that can be — the best way for that child to protect himself is to not go to school.”

Santa Claus, space aliens, and school phobias
For many kids — in as many as two-thirds of cases, according to Kearney’s estimates — school refusal signals an underlying anxiety disorder. Morgan Smith, for example, has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and she has always been tormented by fears. At age three, she was so worried about “that fat man coming down the chimney” that her parents had to tell her that Santa Claus wasn’t real. E.T., the friendly space alien, terrified her so much that she wouldn’t walk into a movie store if there was a poster or cardboard image of the character on the premises. She worries about germs and other contaminants and questions her mother before dinner every night about what she’s serving and how it’s been prepared. But of all her fears and phobias, her dread of school has been the most debilitating — and has had the most bruising effect on her family.
Since she started resisting school in sixth grade, Morgan’s parents have tried many alternative education paths, including private school, homeschooling, and online school. Last year, Morgan spent just three days at her new high school; she was so unhappy that her parents pulled her out and enrolled her in an online program. Her parents later found out that the program was difficult to navigate. Morgan fell behind but was afraid to tell her parents until it was too late. When her mother went to the site to see why Morgan had difficulty, she found the program confusing, too — and more appropriate for mature, self-motivated learners than for a teenager trying to learn on her own. Now, Morgan has to repeat 9th grade.
Morgan makes it clear that refusing school isn’t a matter of stubbornness — or even a matter of choice. She regrets all the school she’s missed, and her mother says the teen feels terrible about all the time and talent she’s wasted. “She told me that she wouldn’t wish this situation on her worst enemy,” her mother says.
School refusal takes its toll on families as well, as Morgan's mother makes clear. “I spend all my time worried and stressed. The situation becomes your only focus, all you can do, all you can think about. Everyone in the family is affected.”

Super-stressed teens
Clinical psychologist and parenting expert John Duffy has his own theory about why so many kids refuse school, based on the many students he sees in his therapy practice in an affluent Chicago suburb. Although he’s been practicing in the area for 15 years, he’s seen a sharp increase in school refusal over the last five years.
"The high schools in this area are very high pressure,” says Duffy. “What I’m seeing is a lot of perfectionistic teenagers who are anxious about not doing well. They push themselves and their standards are very, very high. Some of these kids hit a wall emotionally and refuse to perform. Some kids show up at school but don’t try very hard. Others stop going to school altogether.”
One of Duffy’s patients blames her many school absences over the last few years on a variety of physical symptoms — even though her doctor has given her a clean bill of health. “She’s opting out,” says Duffy. “Her school is very challenging and she has older siblings who excelled academically, and I think she’s choosing not to participate. She doesn’t articulate that, she insists that there is something physically wrong with her that her doctors haven’t found yet, but many of the kids I work with do. More than half the time when I work with a teen who meets the diagnosis of school refusal they’ll tell me, ‘School is just too hard; there is too much pressure on me. I can’t do this.’”
School refusal is just one of the manifestations of teen anxiety that Duffy sees in his practice. Others include depression, drug abuse, and eating disorders. “These kids have hours of homework every night, ACT prep starts freshman year, they are supposed to be involved in tons of clubs and activities, they worry about getting into college, then finding a job after college,” says Duffy. “Fear and anxiety are driving our parenting, and we’re putting so much pressure on kids — some of them are buckling under it.”

What works?
Whatever the individual circumstances, experts agree that it’s important to take school refusal seriously — and to deal with it immediately. “The longer a child doesn’t go to school, the harder it is to go back,” John Duffy says. “Once you lose that habit for weeks on end, it gets harder to reestablish.”
The stakes are high. Even gifted students, like Morgan Smith, are likely to fall behind academically if they miss enough school, putting them at risk of staying back or dropping out of school altogether. And if a child has an anxiety disorder, it’s important to treat it early so the problem won’t grow worse.
“We consider school refusal an urgent situation,” says Kearney. Instead of approaching the issue with the more leisurely pace of traditional therapy, Kearney says his therapists treat school refusal as a crisis. “We meet with the family right away. And then we talk to the child every day on the phone, and we sometimes talk to the parents, too,” he explains. “We operate in an intense, compressed time frame to get the problem solved.”
Treatment of school refusal varies, depending on the child, but usually includes cognitive behavior therapy to help the child learn to manage anxiety. Kearney also works with families to establish routines, increase incentives for going to school, and minimize incentives for staying home (not allowing screen time on school days, for example). John Duffy says that, if a child's anxiety is so severe that it inhibits therapy, he will often recommend that the child be evaluated for medication.

How schools can help – or hurt
Schools play an essential role in getting kids with school refusal back into the classroom. As an elementary school principal, Dillon worked closely with the school psychologist and with parents in school refusal cases. “In all the cases I dealt with, the parents needed a tremendous amount of support,” Dillon says. “Their kids would act so desperate, so needy, it would pull at their heartstrings. As principal, I was an authority figure, so I could tell the child, ‘This isn’t your parents’ choice. You have to come to school.’ I’d be the bad guy and take the burden off the parents. When the kids saw it wasn’t a choice, things would gradually get better.”
Duffy and Kearney both say that effective treatment requires the cooperation of teachers and school administrators alike. Treatment often includes gradually increasing the child’s time in school. For example, the child might start by dropping in at school for 10 minutes one day, then attend one class a day, and very slowly increase time at school. It also helps if school administrators enforce in-school suspensions for misbehavior, so kids won’t act out in order to be sent home. “School refusal is a cry for structure,” says Duffy. “It lends structure when adults talk to each other and make it clear that, ‘We support you, we’re working together.’”
It can be a problem if school administrators are too strict — or too lenient. Duffy worked with one teen whose school was so rigid and punitive that the boy’s attitude was, "I’m not going to pass anyway, so why go?" But in the case of the teen with the multiple physical complaints, Duffy believes her school may be too accommodating. “With the best of intentions, they’ve gone out of their way to let her catch up with her work. So she hasn’t seen any real consequences for refusing school,” he says.
Duffy and Kearney both say that when parents, school officials, and practitioners work together to create structure and consistency for the child, treatment is usually effective.
In cases when a child is refusing school because of bullying or other threats at school, avoiding school may be the healthiest and smartest response to an untenable situation. If there are signs of bullying, it’s essential to make sure your child is safe.

New year, fresh start
For some kids, leaving traditional school may be the best and only solution.
Last spring, when it became clear that Morgan Smith would have to repeat 9th grade, she and her mother, Kim, thought they’d run out of options. Morgan was working with a tutor, but it was putting a financial strain on the family. Whenever her mother mentioned going back to high school, Morgan broke down in tears.
Then Kim heard about a charter school that had small classes and a flexible schedule. She took Morgan to see the school over the summer, and it seemed like it would be a good fit. The principal welcomed the teen, and assured her that she could leave the classroom whenever she felt overwhelmed. Morgan was hopeful that she could make it work at the new school and that she could catch up with the work she’d missed.
But by the second day of school, Morgan knew she was in the wrong place. Most of the other students seemed to have discipline problems. It was a rough crowd, and Morgan felt intimidated and out of place. One boy taunted her for being a “good girl.” When her mother went to pick her up that second day, Morgan was waiting for her at the curb. “She put on a brave face at first because we all wanted it to work so badly,” her mother said. “But we both knew she wasn’t going back.”
Then Kim heard about a homeschooling co-op that would allow Morgan to follow a prescribed curriculum at her own pace. Now Morgan accompanies her mother to work every day at the beauty salon where she has a spray tanning business. There, Morgan works on her schoolwork for half the day; her mother checks her daily assignments, and the teacher who organized the homeschooling co-op makes sure she stays on track. Morgan is hoping to catch up on the 9th grade work she missed over the course of a few months and, if she can, graduate from high school in two years.
It’s only been a month, but so far the new arrangement seems to be working. When her schoolwork is done for the day, Morgan helps out in the salon answering phones, updating the salon’s Facebook page and Twitter account, creating business cards — she even modeled for a recent photo shoot. She is also pursuing her music passion, taking weekly voice and piano lessons.
Morgan’s panic attacks have stopped and her mother says she enjoys the conviviality of the salon, which caters mostly to older women who’ve been getting their hair done there for years. “She’s around people all day and she likes it,” her mother marvels. “Every day someone different comes in, and she gets a new spin on the world. I call it the ‘school of life.’”
Her mother believes that therapy has helped Morgan, as has the anti-anxiety medication her therapist prescribed. But she is convinced that if Morgan went back to high school, all the problems would start up again. “It would be a setback. She was so down on herself then, and now I’m amazed by how her confidence has picked up. Just the other day she told me, ‘I never thought I was going to be better. I never thought I could heal myself.’ It’s the first time I’ve seen her happy in a long while.”
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Natural Alternatives are worth investigating. They can and do work for some people. Dietary intervention (especially the elimination of chemical additives such as artificial colors, artificial flavors, and certain preservatives) has been very effective in helping to control adhd symptoms in my child.


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Re: Child Refuses Help and Won't Go To School

Good post...
Thanks for sharing that. I'd never heard of it before...
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