{a mom’s view of} heartache: the day my child with {adhd} refused to go to school

One day last week I received a series of texts from my daughter Natalie’s special education teacher. Nat wasn’t feeling well. She didn’t have a fever, but she had a nasty headache. She rested in the nurse’s office for a while, and that’s just not like her. She didn’t even feel like making a turkey out of cookies, chocolate frosting, and candy. She was crying.
So, mom to the rescue. I picked her up and brought her home early. And, over the course of the next couple of hours she made a dramatic recovery. She was definitely going to return to school the next morning, I thought.
But when I woke Nat up for school the next day, she just wasn’t herself. I let her go back to sleep, and thought I’d re-evaluate later in the morning.
An hour or so later she was up for the day, and it became clear that she was perfectly healthy. Healthy enough to eat a good breakfast. To play Mario Kart on Wii. To want Mom to entertain her. Okay, I decided, this child needs to go to school. Time to get her into the shower. That’s when the truth came out.
“I’m not sick. I’m just not going to go to school anymore. I’ve had enough of kids being mean to me. My decision is made—no discussion! I’m done. I’m not going to school.”
Natalie has been having a lot of problems with social interactions at school. In fact, run-ins with various kids have been making her miserable throughout the school year, and have been the impetus behind every single incident where she’s lost her temper, had a tantrum, or somehow fallen apart at school.
A series of blow-ups both at school and during her Taekwondo after school program had reached crisis proportions just the week before. Her special education teacher actually said that she might not be able to keep her in her classroom any more. That scared me enough to realize it was time to call Nat’s psychiatrist and talk about a change in medication. We raised her dose of Risperdal. For a couple of days Nat seemed to be doing much better. Then came the day that Natalie pretended to be sick, and announced that she was done attending school.
There had been some small incident on the playground that day, which both a friend and a teacher’s aide had witnessed. All reports were that Natalie had handled the situation beautifully; her teacher was proud. But even though Natalie didn’t escalate and become aggressive during the incident, it was the last straw. She’d had it. She was never going back. Well, she’d go on Thursdays for band practice and her clarinet lesson, but then she’d come home right after that.
I did manage to get her to school by about 11:00 that morning. Bribery did the trick. And the next day she got ready and went to school with no problems. But nearly every day something happens that causes her to struggle. Yesterday she threw rocks at kids at recess, refused to go to the special ed room when her teacher asked, and “took herself to the office” and stayed there during lunch. She was squirrely during our appointment with her psychologist; she basically wouldn’t talk.
The only thing I can think of to do is set up a meeting for me, the special ed teacher, and psychologist to brainstorm and compare notes. In the meantime, I feel helpless. My heart just aches.
What will I do the next time Natalie refuses to go to school? Worse yet, what will happen if the day comes that the school will no longer take her?
(sadface.jpg from highqualitypic.blogspot.com)

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories.” Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family,” for ADDitudeMag.com.

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adhd and outbursts, adhd and school, adhd and social problems, ADHD medication, ADHD stress, anxiety, caregiver stress, General ADHD, Kay Marner, parenting ADHD, school behavior, school refusal ·

About the author

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book "Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories." Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, "My Picture-Perfect Family," for ADDitudeMag.com.

One Comment

  1. Ann Lewis says:

    I am so sorry:( I can’t say I have been in your shoes because I don’t have kids yet, but at 27, adhd has given me plenty of hardships. It has negatively impacted my jobs as I have been terminated so many times due to inattentiveness. It’s effected my relationships, my past school performance, heck I have been in countless car accidents due to inattentive driving:( when I was your daughters age, I was the brunt of all the bullying and it really took a toll on me. the fact that your daughter is fighting back is a good sign. Although it’s not the most constructive, at least she is not cowering done. Kudos to her:) she won’t be remotely as ruined by the time she reaches my age:)

    Reply

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