School refusal defined

School refusal is when a child does not want to go to school because of some sort of emotional distress like anxiety or depression. Clients with school refusal issues would rather stay at home than go out and do other things.

School refusal can be a sign that a child is being bullied or is struggling socially, feels unable to keep up in school, or is having trouble separating from a parent. Staying home can compound the problem, because the child becomes more socially disconnected and falls farther behind academically. Whatever the cause, it is important for children with school refusal to receive help.

School refusal may come with physical symptoms children experience before going to school everyday. These include: nausea, diarrhea, stomachache and headache. Most of the time, these symptoms disappear as soon as the child goes to school.

Parents who suspect that their children have school refusal issues should have their child get a comprehensive diagnostic test to determine what is causing these symptoms to occur. Common treatment for school refusal related issues includes cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps children work through their anxieties and is one of the most widely used treatments for school refusal related issues.

blueFire and school refusal

blueFire wilderness, a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 11 to 17, utilizes evidence-based therapies to help teens with school refusal issues, and many other struggles overcome their anxieties. These therapies include experiential therapy, equine assisted psychotherapy, recreation therapy, and eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR). Mindfulness practices allow blueFire Wilderness to individualize their programming to suit the needs of each client.

At blueFire wilderness, every activity and wilderness expedition scheduled is designed to help clients build confidence and overcome their anxieties and self esteem issues. Clients are pushed out of their comfort zone, which allows them to grow as individuals through their wilderness experience.


A 1974 study found that school refusal may be a precursor to disturbances later in life, and this effect is moderated by many variables. The severity of the behavior, the age it started, intellectual functioning of the child and time before treatment began are just a few variables that can affect the long term outcome for school refusal

Another study found that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment to get children with school refusal back in school. These students also tended to do better in school than ever before.

Contemporary articles

An article in the Daily Mail details the struggles of Amanda Egan and her son Ben with his fear of school. For almost four years, Amanda would sit outside of Ben’s school in her car in order for him to come out of school and visit her between every class. For the first three years, Ben would have half days. Eventually his psychiatrist allowed him fewer and fewer visits with his mother during the day. He finally got through full days without her and is now totally cured of his school refusal issues, with high grades to boot.

School refusal defined by…





Your Little Professor

Family Help and Wellness


School refusal, truancy, and adult neurotic illness