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School Refusal Behavior in Teens

School Refusal Behavior in Teens

Turning Winds excels in offering an integrated education, therapy and behavior modification that is tailored to meet the needs of school refusal behavior in teens. The teenage years are challenging and many young people struggle with the issues and roles that the transition to adult life brings.  

Often this difficult period results in negative behaviors, substance abuse, or mental health problems. At Turning Winds, we offer teens treatment they need to manage themselves and overcome school-related anxiety issues.

School refusal issues can have lasting detrimental effects, including a high level of anxiety and distress. School refusal should not be confused with truancy which results from a teen who is defiant against authority or has no interest in pursuing an education. Teens who are suffering from school refusal issues often exhibit a range of signs and symptoms and their refusal to go to school typically has an underlying mental or emotional cause.

School Refusal Treatment for Troubled Adolescents

Unfortunately, this issue often results in teens dropping out of school and facing a bleak future. Early intervention is crucial for helping teens overcome their phobias and anxiety so they can pursue their education. At Turning Winds Academic Institute, we help teens and their parents who are dealing with these issues so the underlying cause can be found and properly treated.

We provide school refusal treatment for troubled adolescents through our therapeutic boarding school; centering around individualized education thus enabling teens to achieve success in school and thereby avoiding failing grades.

Recognizing the signs of "school refusal" issues in our teens is crucial for parents. With state compulsory attendance laws, parents often feel overwhelmed in understanding what to do for their teen so they can be compliant. Since failing to attend school can have profound and lasting effects on a teen’s social and emotional development, it is vital that immediate treatment is sought.

Studies have shown around 45% of those with school refusal do not complete high school. Through treatment intervention, involving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, teens can receive the help they need to overcome these issues and continue their education.

Understanding School Refusal

School Phobia, as it was first called, was first named in 1940. Since then, much research has been carried out on the subject. Though around 28% of school-aged children will refuse school at some point in their educational career, this behavioral issue is typically one that does not go away on its own. Research estimates around 8 to 10% of children have true School Refusal Issues.

Without proper treatment, teens suffering from School Refusal are at a high risk of dropping out of High School with around 40 to 50% being unable to continue until graduation. At Turning Winds, we understand the complex nature of this behavioral condition and strive to help teens and their families learn what is causing the anxiety and what treatment will be most beneficial. Through our therapeutic boarding school, we have helped many teens overcome their fears and realize their dreams for pursuing their education.


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School Refusal Causes, Signs and Treatment For Teens

Approximately 1 to 5 percent of all school-aged children have School Refusal; and although the rate is similar between boys and girls, teens who are exhibiting these signs may need intensive intervention to help reveal the root causes that are preventing them from feeling comfortable attending school. Some common causes for school refusal are:

  • Stressful events at home or school
  • Stressful peer relationships such as bullying (or being bullied)
  • Family dysfunction or parent divorce, and/or
  • Psychiatric problems

All these contributors can cause various signs or symptoms in children; however, the common red flags are:

  • Severe emotional distress about attending school
  • Showing signs of anxiety and/or depression
  • Experiencing panic symptoms, crying episodes, temper tantrums, and/or making threats of self-harm, and/or
  • Somatic symptoms (such as dizziness, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, shakiness/trembling, diarrhea, or chest pains)

Testimonials from Students Testimonials from Parents

Typical behavior of an individual experiencing school refusal is when a child will try to persuade parents to allow him or her to stay home from school; and when going to school, they might develop difficulties as they get closer to school, and are unable to proceed. These symptoms may actually begin after a holiday or even an illness.

Often, there is an underlying mental health issue such as depression, separation anxiety, or an undiagnosed learning disability for which to look.

Although it's common to mistake school refusal for a serious case of Truancy, or also what many call Emotionally-based absenteeism; the signs and symptoms listed above will tell the story. The good news is it is treatable. Our expert therapists here at Turning Winds recommends behavior approaches for the treatment of school refusal; these are primarily exposure-based treatments.

Examples of these are cognitive behavior therapy, systematic desensitization, relaxation training, emotive imagery, contingency management, and social skills training. Traditional educational-support therapy has been shown to be effective; as is parent-teacher interventions and family interventions.

If treatment is not pursued, the short-term consequences may include: poor academic performance, family difficulties, and problems with peer relationships; and more critical long-term consequences may include: not graduating high school, employment difficulties, increased chance of incarceration, and increased risk for psychiatric illness.

School Refusal Interventions

School Refusal Issues for Teens can cause a multitude of peer conflict in a home. Though this issue affects around 8% to 10% of school-aged children, it is one that most people do not talk about or even understand.

School Refusal is an actual behavior condition that has been documented back as far as 1940 when it was first named. Unfortunately, there is still a strong level of stigma attached to this condition so teens do not always receive the reparation they need.

These teens are often considered cast-offs from society with no one being able to fully come to terms with the level of excruciating anger issues they are suffering from. Turning Winds Academic Institute is striving to raise awareness regarding this condition and the school refusal interventions that are recommended for helping adolescent boys and girls from rising above it.


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Various Methodologies Exist for Treating School Refusal

While some experts recommend Behavior Modification Programs for School Refusal Issues in Teens, this is not always the most effective approach to treatment. At Turning Winds Academic Institute, we have found an array of treatment approaches is much more effectual in bringing about true change.

While behavior mod can be beneficial with some types of mental and behavioral health issues, there is often much more to school refusal than a simple problem with an unwanted behavior.

Through our work in helping troubled teens and their families, we have discovered many teens are dealing with more issues than they themselves are even aware of. Whether it be the dynamics of their home environment, bullies at school, or their own mental health issues or learning disabilities, our facility is prepared to find the underlying cause of school refusal so the right treatment plan can bring success in overcoming the constraints that are holding the teen back from pursuing their education.

Our approach to treating "School Refusal Issues in Teens" is to work with the teen and their family to discover the individual mental health needs that need to be addressed. The clinicians at Turning Winds use a variety of diagnostic tools, such as formal testing, so data can be collected and used in drawing up and implementing an individualized plan of care.

Our treatment team uses the acquired data to ensure the approach we use in treating the teen is appropriate and will bring about the desired outcome.

Unlike a traditional school setting, which can have classroom sizes of 30 to 40 students, Turning Winds offers much smaller teacher to student ratios so our students receive the full attention they need to address any issues that are preventing them from pursuing their education in a public school setting.

Since our students are residents, we are able to implement therapeutic approaches in every activity they participate in, most importantly their academics.

Our academic program is accredited through the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and the National Independent Private Schools Association (NIPSA). Accreditation assures the parents of our students that they are receiving a superior education that will be recognized across state boundaries and by colleges and universities located throughout the world.

School Refusal Behavior

Most people cannot imagine the symptoms true panic brings on a teen. School refusal behavior for adolescent boys and girls cause much more than mild nervousness. In many cases, teens with this condition can become physically ill. While parents mean well in trying to help their teen, punishments and reward systems rarely help with this condition.

If school refusal interventions are not sought early enough, the outlook for these teens being able to graduate from high school is grim with almost half of teens dropping out before they reach twelfth grade. Teens suffering from this type of separation anxiety can rarely overcome the chronicity of their symptoms without intervention. The staff at Turning Winds is committed to helping teens who face school anxiety on a daily basis. It is our goal to become advocates for teens from so their families and school officials understand the level of stress they are suffering from.


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School Refusal Anxiety Presents in 3 Different Ways

Until it is witnessed first-hand, most people have no clue as to what a teen and their parents go through on a typical school day. Unlike the typical household, where hectic morning routines are carried out without issue, the morning of a teen with school anxiety often becomes hell on earth. Parents are pushed to the brink of distress because they do not know what can be done to help their child. There are three typical “types” of school phobia presentations in teens:

Child one keeps their anxiety under control as they prepare for school. When they reach school, their stress levels begin to increase exponentially to the point they cannot go to class. These teens may end up calling home right when they get to school or may find themselves feeling ill enough to warrant a visit to the school nurse. Though these teens try to keep their anxiety hidden, entering the school begins the onslaught of anxiety and fear.

Child two expresses a high level of anxiety from the moment they are called to awaken for school. They may experience chronic bouts of unexplained illness such as headaches and nausea. Once allowed to stay home, these illnesses subside, only to reoccur the following morning. These children often become truant and their parents sometimes face charges due to the high level of absences.

Child three may be able to get up and get ready for school and even be successful in attending their classes. The struggle throughout the day overwhelms them to the point they are not learning and even experience difficulty remembering the homework that was assigned by their teachers. Some teens end up with poor grades, not because they do not have the level of intelligence to complete the work, but because their mind is so focused on “survival” they cannot learn.

You Cannot Simply Force a Teen to Attend School Without Consequences

Enrolling a teen in Turning Winds is not considered a means of “forcing” them to attend school. We work through Cognitive Therapy Programs for Teens, along with behavioral, humanistic, and narrative intervention approaches that seek to help teens rise above the causes of their school refusal so they can achieve success and gain the self-confidence that will fuel the continued pursuit of their academic career.

Turning Winds should not be considered a short-term intervention approach since the vast majority of our students stay in the residential program for around twelve months. In that time period, many of our students are able to complete two years of their education and the average GPA of our students is 3.5. We help teens who once failed at school, turn over a new leaf and begin to excel in learning.

Our staff implements an individualized learning plan for each of our students. This plan seeks to address the causes of school refusal issues, learning disabilities, and failing grades. This is something the public school systems are not always able to offer. In fact, even the best private schools in the nation can rarely offer the same results in such a short period of time.

Through our school refusal treatment program, teenage boys and girls learn to overcome the mental health conditions, behavioral concerns, and mild to moderate pain medication abuse/addiction that may be preventing them from living the normal well-adjusted life of a teenager.

When teenage boys and girls are taken out of their comfort zone and removed from negative influences and distractions, they are better able to focus on changing their negative behaviors and learning the skills necessary to make adjustments that improve their school prospects and their lives in general.

To ensure that no teenager falls through the cracks, we have a 5:1 staff-to-student ratio. Adolescents are continually engaged in beneficial activities facilitated by our highly educated and expert staff. Our staff facilitates individual and group therapy, adventure and outdoor recreation and adventure therapy (that takes place outside on our 150-acre campus), and academic classes in our nationally accredited school. This gives just a glimpse at our treatment facility, which has an exceptional rate of success with teenage boys and girls in crisis.


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Other Mental and Behavioral Conditions

Often, there are other mental and behavioral conditions that teens with School Refusal are dealing with. Our clinical staff seeks to uncover these underlying concerns so the right form of treatment can be provided. Through the approaches of experiential learning, reality/choice, trauma intervention, bibliography, psychosocial, and many other treatment strategies, we are successful in helping teens from develop a healthy personal identity and increase their level of independence so they can successfully acclimate back into society with a newfound inner strength they once did not possess.

School Refusal Strategies

Turning Winds Academic Institute (TWAI) is a superior School and Treatment Center directing struggling teenage boys and girls in who are wrestling with school refusal challenges as well as other emotional problems. In our calm but structured environment teenage boys and girls receive the understanding, help, and treatment they need to make positive changes in their life, and rediscover the person their family knew them to be all along.

For some teens, the thought of attending school brings on feelings of panic and even terror. It’s not that these kids are trying to skip school because they are defiant, they simply suffer from a real disorder that causes them to have difficulty attending school. While for some, School Refusal problems are related to bullying or learning disabilities, there is not always a cut and dry reason for the issue. For many teens, there is an unfathomable level of anxiety that results from being in school. Often, the teens themselves cannot even put into words why or how they feel the way they do.

School refusal issues for Teens can result in an agonizing daily struggle for both the teen and their family. Parents often feel torn between trying to remain in compliance with compulsory attendance laws and protecting their child from experiencing the excruciating agony school anxiety brings.

Typical School Day for a Teen Suffering

The typical school day for a teen suffering from school refusal behavior is one that often begins with a traumatic scene. Teens may throw tantrums, become overly angry, or may plead and beg to stay home. They may refuse to get dressed or even get out of bed. Many parents become exasperated because the condition is often misunderstood. Some parents view their child as being disobedient and even fully defiant. In the teen’s mind, they are simply trying to survive by doing anything they can to avoid school.

At Turning Winds Academic Institute, we hear stories about these taxing morning experiences on a regular basis. We have found the symptoms of School Refusal can vary according to the level of anxiety or phobia a teen is experiencing. Many teens in do not make it to school on a regular basis because of their overwhelming anxiety.

Those who make it to school frequently have panic attacks and find themselves seeing the school nurse or hiding out in a bathroom stall. Parents often receive call after call from their teen, begging to be picked up from school. This can be heart-wrenching for any parent to experience and places an extreme amount of stress on the entire family.


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