School refusal

School refusal can be described as a child refusing to go to school full time or at all.  According to latest government figures, school refusal has increased by 50% since COVID (DeE, 2023).   There can be several reasons for this including anxiety and it could be argued, a lack of mental health support in the community and school environment. 

Children with ASD/ADHD and OCD found returning to the school environment after COVID more difficult.   Individuals who are neurodivergent already suffer from higher anxiety levels and mental health problems than the general population; so it is no surprise that for many neurodivergent children, COVID was a difficult time. Sensory processing disorder, which is extremely common with neurodivergence, also increases anxieties around school and the school environment.

Anxiety around being in school can have many causes.  These can include social anxiety, fear of having a panic attack, fear of being sick, or seeing someone else be sick.  Some children may struggle with sensory overload with things like smells, noise and lights (sensory processing disorder as mentioned) lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and bullying.

Starting high school can be the first time a child complains of not wanting to go to school.  They may have moved from a primary school that was much smaller with fewer pupils.   Having to attend a much bigger, nosier school can feel very frightening for a young child.  The most difficult part of the school day can be the dinner hall or the corridors.   Younger children may worry about getting lost or even making friends or finding their friends in breaks. 

Unfortunately, many children got behind with their studies in covid because they found it difficult to engage online or had little or no support with study.  Consequently, once they returned to school they may have struggled with trying to catch up.  This can lead to low self esteem and confidence.  These negative emotions can feel so overwhelming for some children that they almost give up and don’t want to engage with school at all.  The school may interpret this as disinterest or bad behavior and punish children for not engaging in the classroom.  This then further decreases the child’s confidence and willingness to engage with school.

Many children and young people struggle to verbalise their difficulties, leaving parents feeling confused and angry.  This is where hypnotherapy can help.  Solution focused hypnotherapy is not a talking therapy and the trained child therapist can ask appropriate questions that require only a nod or shake of the head in the pre-trance talk, allowing the hypnotherapist to prepare a bespoke hypnotherapy session to increase confidence, reduce anxiety and allow the child to see themselves in situations at school or getting into school feeling and looking confident and relaxed.   

As science has demonstrated, the brain cannot tell the difference between something imagined or something real.  So hypnotherapy is a fantastic way to practice feeling and thinking confidently and positively.    With the help of a suitably trained hypnotherapist,  who can guide and add in positive suggestions and coping strategies in the sessions, the child can learn to think and feel more confident and positive automatically. The benefits will be even more enhanced if the sessions are recorded for the child to listen to for several weeks, enabling more long term change and neuroplasticity.