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July 22, 2011 / Tara

Why My Child Doesn’t Go to School Some Days

If you have a child with an emotional disability, you probably can relate to this.  Your son or daughter doesn’t want to get up and they can’t really give you a great reason, just “I don’t feel well”.  To moms like us, that’s code for “emotionally I’m struggling”.  And in the beginning, I didn’t get it.  I really just thought my daughter was not physically feeling well.  She’d suffered from reflux and had frequent tummy issues so that’s what I chalked it up to.  But then it kept happening.  And because she didn’t say “I’m depressed.” or “I feel like I’m going to have a panic attack.”, I just didn’t get it.

And I don’t feel that bad about that.  Because the so called “experts” definitely don’t get it.  When my daughter’s issues first really came to a head about 2 years ago, the school adjustment counselor (and not the one I’m on a first name basis with) said “Well unless she’s got a broken arm or something she needs to be in school.” That was the last conversation I had with her!

After a few hospitalizations as we were seeking SPED services for her in the public school, the Team Chair for her IEP said to me over the phone, “Well if she’s not on a doctor’s note excusing her medically she needs to be in school.”  When I explained she had just come home from the hospital after having been there for several weeks due to suicidal ideation and other issues and she didn’t feel ready to come back to school.  That I didn’t want to push her for fear she’d hurt herself.  Her response was pretty cold, “Well if she’s that unstable she needs to be back in the hospital.”  Oh good, so you’re paying for that then?

That phone call sealed the deal for me to hire an educational advocate.  It’s amazing how much nicer people are when you have someone who knows the law on your side.

Luckily, she did make it through that year and the next.  The teachers have been slow to catch up and I have had to now go into the school weekly to meet with her team in order to make sure she is not falling behind when she accesses the SPED services instead of going to her regular classroom.  But there was a month long period when she did not go to school this past year.  And again, I was dealing with explaining why my daughter wasn’t in school.  Not only to the school but to family and friends.  My daughter isn’t a bad kid.  She actually likes the academics of school.  It’s the social aspects that drag her down.  But when a child doesn’t go to school for anything but an obvious medical reason, people just assume it’s bad parenting or the child is “one of those kids”.  Of course it is frustrating for the parent who really wants their child to succeed in school and knows they can do so if they can only get to the building.  I admit one day, I had her clinician come out to my car and talk to her because she refused to get out and go in to school.  It worked.  And the world didn’t end.

Do I think this year will be easier?  I hope so.  We have a better plan in place with more services but controlling the behavior of other people is one thing I cannot do.  I am sure there will be days when my daughter does not want to go to school and there are going to be days when I just let her stay home.  Encouraging her to overcome her obstacles is an ongoing process.  Fighting the ignorance that we have come in contact with is another process.  Only time will tell if we will be successful!

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