6 year old refusing school!! Help!! - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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6 year old refusing school!! Help!!

greenteamilk profile image

I first want to say that this board is so supportive and helpful. You guys are amazing.

Secondly, our 6yo is refusing school, wrecking the house, kicking and screaming, being physically and verbally violent. He says he just wants to stay home. I work full time and am the breadwinner. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and he is having the worst time.

What to do? Picking him up and forcing him to get into the car him sounds like a bad idea.

It is only the second day of school by the way…

18 Replies

What things are you doing to help your son? Therapy, medication, etc.? How were things different in the summer? Have you gotten any feedback from his teacher? Is this his first year in a formal school setting?

A parent teacher conference or a visit with the Pediatrician might be good places to start, depending where you are in the process of ADHD diagnosis/management.

greenteamilk profile image
greenteamilk in reply to JJMom16

He was on guanfacine and will be starting Concerta soon and ditching guanfacine. He is in behavioral therapy as well and we are working on getting him an IEP. No feedback from teacher yet and this is his second year in formal school setting.

Instrongly encourage ( before it gets worse, I have been there) you to get a psychiatrist to help with medications...Sometimes children need to be on 2 medications. The reason is stimulants help with impulsive control only. Non stimulants help with everything else. They also work very well together, but I am no doctor.

I just have many years of knowing what works for us.

The child psychiatrist can write a letter to support an IEP.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to greenteamilk

Did he have this reaction previously, since this is his 2nd year? Did he have this reaction the first day of school also (has he ever made it to school this fall)?

Some ideas:

- Set up a way for him to meet the teacher (Zoom, in person at the playground before/after school, etc.).

- After meeting with the teacher, see if she/he can give your son a tour of the classroom and talk about what a day at school will be like.

- Talk to him when he is in a calm mood. Maybe while snuggling on the couch between dinner and bedtime. Ask him why he doesn't want to go to school. If he can't answer, you will have to play 20 questions with him and ask him yes/no questions. Did someone bully him, is he worried about the other kids, does he like the teacher, is he worried about not doing well in school, etc. You may have to ask the same question in different ways in order to find out what is really going on.

Has he ever exhibited signs of anxiety before? If so, how did you handle it before? Has he exhibited signs of learning disabilities (like dyslexia or dysgraphia)? Was he ever teased or bullied for having ADHD?

After you get what info you can out of him, directly address any issues that came up.

But you're going to have to tell him that it's not OK to skip school because there are laws about that. Most kids think that it's up to the parents. You will have to tell him that after a certain number of missed classes, the police show up to talk to the parents and the parents get in trouble.

Ask him what it would take to get him to try school for a day, a week, etc. Use rewards, but make him earn them. A piece of candy or a sticker when he gets in the car without fighting. 15 min of extra computer time for walking to the classroom, etc. You need to get him over this hump - regardless of what is causing it.

Watch the Daniel Tiger episode (or a similar show) together about a kid's first day at school. Or read a book about a kid's first day at school. Ask him if he thinks that's how it will be for him. If he says no, ask him how it will be different for him and why.

Does he have any friends in this class or school? If so, maybe have a playdate at the school playground before class and then walk to his classroom together.

Ask the teacher and the principal for ideas. Get the school counselor involved - they can at least have a Zoom meeting with him.

The night or day before talk through all the steps needed to get to school. Make a list with checkboxes (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth + hair, etc. Get in the car, walk from the car to the classroom, etc. Ask him if any steps are missing and then add them in. Ask him which steps will be easy for him and which steps will be hard. Ask him why the easy steps are easy. Ask him why the hard steps are hard.

Be creative! You're fishing for information. And then coming up with creative solutions.

jolinn profile image
jolinn in reply to Aloysia

But you're going to have to tell him that it's not OK to skip school because there are laws about that. Most kids think that it's up to the parents. You will have to tell him that after a certain number of missed classes, the police show up to talk to the parents and the parents get in trouble.

In my opinion this is a terrible idea of something to say to a child. First of all, it is not true. Homeschooling is legal and is an option for parents. It also will disempowers his parents in his eyes. Additionally, it could cause a great deal of anxiety. There are other ways to handle this situation. In my opinion, this is a very negative one.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to jolinn

It is true unless the parents are willing to sign up for and actually do homeschooling. Even if homeschooling, they actually have to do the school work. Since they did not mention that they are considering this (maybe they can and maybe they can't), sometimes kids need to understand the laws and the consequences. These are different then the rules and consequences that parents set up in their homes - which have more leeway. My kids thought that I had control over whether they could go to school or not. I gave many ideas of things these parents could do and in my opinion, they will need to implement several of them at the same time. Only the parents of this child will know which ideas we suggest will be best for their child. My kids needed to hear this particular message because one of my kids was accusing me of "slavery" for having him do school (any type of schooling) against his will. It did not cause anxiety in my kids to explain the basic rules of society (although they were surprised and wanted to know who made these rules). And if the basic rules of society cause anxiety in your child, then you need to get them professional help for that level of anxiety first and deal with the ADHD second.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to Aloysia

I should add that in our area, the truant officer is a police officer. But maybe that is different in other areas. Regardless, they are essentially police for the schools. There are also documented cases (although extreme) where parents were arrested for not getting their kids to school enough.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to Aloysia

Also I recommend that you get a note from your pediatrician to excuse your child’s absences thus far (due to extreme anxiety). And maybe for next week too as you work towards a solution. You typically have a certain amount of time to get the note in before they turn in to unexcused absences. Things like the amount of time to excuse the absence and the number of unexcused absences allowed and the number of absences in a row before needing a doctor note vary by state. But you don't want to deal with hitting the limit because your kid gets a few colds later in the year. Or deal with needing a doctor note even for 1 day of being out sick (my kids have hit this limit several times and it sucks).

jolinn profile image
jolinn in reply to Aloysia

Ultimately, the parents decide how to school/teach their children (either to send them to school or to homeschool), not the "rules of society". Rules of society say that parents are responsible to make sure their child has an education. How this is done is up to the parents.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to jolinn

Yes, the "rules of society" are that the kid needs to be schooled. Many physically go to a school, some do homeschooling. Either way, our society enforces that it happens and that certain things are learned. I'm really not sure where the disconnect is here. But it doesn't really matter at this point.

You have some great suggestions here, and I’d probably try these first. But I wanted to throw one more, slightly less conventional, idea into the ring. A lot of kids with ADHD struggle with the formal school setting. No matter how great a teacher you have, it’s impossible to make the classroom and the work match the needs of these children. And at worst, some kids get ridiculed and have their confidence destroyed. All this to say, have you considered homeschooling? You say your husband is a stay at home dad, so he could potentially handle the education. I pulled our son out of school and it has been amazing how much more he is thriving in a homeschool environment. I assure you all the myths surrounding homeschool are just that, myths! You don’t have to be a trained teacher to teach your child. They get tons of socialization. And homeschool kids have equal or higher rates of graduation and college attendance than traditional schoolers.

I was one of those people who said I could never homeschool, but here we are and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Same goes for my son. Just a few months after starting, he asked “Will you homeschool me until I move out?” I’m happy to answer any questions about this!

Hi greenteamilkSchool refusal at 6 years old is a tough situation. I hope your family is able to find the rhythm that works and creates harmony in the home. Finding what is the secret sauce for your family may take a lot of trial and errors. I can say my own child who was diagnosed with ADHD had some of that when he was in preschool. It turned out when we switched schools it all went away. In fact he was look g forward to school. What ended up working for our child was putting him in a school with loads of time for movement and outdoor exploration. It just so happened that the school we chose was a Waldorf School. There are tons of non Waldorf schools that may have similar philosophies. All the outdoor time learning in nature, not constrained to a desk for large swaths of time was our secret sauce.

Please let us know what works!!! It sounds like he had an amazingly supportive family🙂

My grandson had an IEP with modifications in the classroom for him. HE was at the back of the class, was aloud to get up and stand by his chair to help with his impulse control. He is now a sophomore in high school and he still complains about not liking school. I tell him as an adult there are things about my job I don't like but I have to just go with it. Also tell him it is the law and he does not get a choice. We have never had luck with one medication alone doing the trick and he started on meds in kindergarten. Hope your psychiatrist can help, also behavior modification therapy is a plus. Good luck

Great suggestions Aloysia!! I would just add that another strategy for the morning check list is photos or drawings, including child’s drawing of himself doing each step. Sometimes a child w/adhd cannot visualize steps in future, so transitioning can feel like walking off a cliff of unknown. My grandson has same problems at start of every school year. Doing some brief and regular meets with next years teacher has helped. Like helping current teacher by running a note over to next years teacher. It helps the future class feel more familiar.

Also if these things don’t help him learn transitioning I agree that homeschool is good option for many. I work at a public charter school. Good luck!!

I feel your pain. My 6-year-old was behaving the same way. We were being called to pick her you from school frequently due to aggressive, disruptive, refusal, and eloping behaviors. Things just got really bad and her self-confidence and tolerance of challenging tasks plummeted. We haven't started the school year yet but I'm dreading it. I know she is, too.

If you haven't done so already, send a printed, signed, and dated request to the Child Study Team in your school district asap requesting the full gamut of evaluations. That's what I did for my daughter at the end of last school year. Over the course of the summer she received a psychological evaluation, functional behavior analysis, psychiatric evaluation, occupational therapy evaluation, and a learning assessment. We found (and I had already suspected) she has sensory processing issues and potential dyslexia in addition to her ADHD. She has sensory-seeking behaviors and emotional dysregulation that were not being addressed and impacted her behavior in class. The OT evaluation was particularly helpful and contained lots of recommendations for helping her in class. I haven't seen them reflected in her proposed IEP document, but hopefully the child advocate I'm working with will help us get those recommendations included.

I'm hoping to catch her up to speed, but she did so much better and was so much happier and more confident when we were doing remote schooling and I had more flexibility. If I could homeschool her, I probably would. That could be a possibility worth exploring. (Check out the book, "Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?")

My daughter is on long-acting transdermal methylphenidate. I think it helps with her impulsivity, but I guess we'll see how it goes when she returns to school. I keep hearing other people recommending a psychiatrist and all I can wonder at is how they found one? I have not found many psychiatrists that work with children. And those who do are not covered by or do not accept insurance and cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. :(

Hugs. This is hard. Let us know what you end up trying. I hope you see light at the end of the tunnel soon.

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to mrl12

Our psychologist referred us becuase a single dose of medication was not enough. Our psychiatrist changed our lives through medication trials and us knowing there was better for our son. Once we started a stimulant and non stimulant and got the dosing changed ( he needed a higher dose) it was a very welcome change. Middle school was.rhe worse for us and now high school has been ( even though it's still a struggle to get his 504 plan) the teachers are wonderful and really work with him. My fingers will be crossed but just know " if it's not working.. its not working and there is better".

Big hugs

penn_adhd profile image
penn_adhd in reply to mrl12

Our counselor is through Children's Hospital. We haven't talked to their psychologist yet. There's also an organization in PA called PEAL that helps advocate.

Oh this is hard! It also sounds like anxiety. I deal with school refusal for my daughter which started in middle school. We took her to a psychologist who is specifically trained in school refusal. There are many out there.

After you believe you have medication figured out, working on the anxiety is important. First steps to get back into the school are:

1. Tell the school that you are going to work with him to get him back fully into the building within the next two weeks. Baby steps every day (so that they can work with the absences). Get them on board with the plan and that you’re in the process of beginning work with a psychologist. This will give you the respect and leeway you need to do all this.

2. Baby step 1. Tell him that you’re going to try something new. Tell him that tomorrow you’re going to wake him up for school and he’ll get ready but won’t go. Everything up to the point of putting shoes on and going out the door. Then he stays home.

3. The next day tell him you’re doing everything from step 1, plus you’re going to get in the car and drive past the school then come home.

4. The next day add this step. Tell him you’re going to drive to the school and park and get out of the car but not go in.

5. Next day - Add the step of going into the front office. (Make sure the staff knows what you’re doing ahead of time).

6. Next day - Add the step of going back to the counselors office (have the appointment set up ahead of time).

7. Next day - Add the step of having him attend for 1-2 hours (having the school on board and all pre-arranged).

8. You get the idea. Grow his day slowly to the point where he is back full time. At this point set rewards for completing a day, a week, etc.

This was the plan the psychologist gave us. The most important part of this whole plan:

DON’T ASK HIM TO DO MORE THAN YOU ORIGINALLY ASKED HIM TO DO (Don’t add things on at the last minute).

For example: On the day you park out front, don’t say “hey, you’re doing so great, let’s just go in.” That’s a big NO NO. Doing this eliminates his trust in you.

My psychologist was highly in line with this book from another psychologist in my area. I highly recommend it:

Anxiety-free Kids: An Interactive Guide for Parents and Children by Bonnie Zucker

There is a section on school refusal that mirrors the plan my psychologist had us do. It works!

I’ve been there - when they won’t get out of bed / refuse to go out the door / have a great morning then refuse to get out of the car once there / and eloping. I feel the depth of your bewilderment. There is hope!

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