On top of this there is also the social difficulty of trying to deal with those friends and peers who really can’t get their heads around why your child is suddenly not able to go to school when he apparently looks OK. It was also very hard trying to get people to understand how we were unable to leave the house and do things as a family due to my son’s agoraphobia and ASD. Even worse for me were the busy bodies at the school gate who, learning that my son was no longer in school, were curious to find out why. As my younger daughter also attended the same school as my son, I could not avoid going up to the school (as much as I wanted to) so I deliberately avoided the school crowd and the potential for awkward questions. I was not comfortable discussing my son’s mental health issues on top of his ASD to people other than close friends and family and I certainly didn’t want my son to become playground gossip. Not surprisingly, I found myself feeling excluded from the school community.
Aside from the emotional stress of caring for your child and trying to work with the authorities, there are also the more practical arrangements of caring for your child. If you are working how do you combine this sudden demand for full-time care with bringing in an income? Quite simply it is really difficult, particularly if, like me, you have a child who finds it very difficult being with other people and cannot cope with childcare. I was fortunate though that at the time I was a home-based student and occasional voluntary worker so it was easier for me to pick up the care of my son without having to resort to childcare. We were also fortunate that we could manage on my husband’s income. And I guess I am lucky that through this neat division in labour our family could function but unfortunately such a division can create resentment. I have to admit that as the main carer of my son and the main negotiator with the professionals I sometimes felt overwhelmed and exhausted and during those times I also found myself a little bit jealous of my husband’s freedom to leave the house for his job. Wouldn’t I have just loved to have escaped the confines of my home? I didn’t feel this all the time though, just the times when things were really bad and my son seemed not to be making any progress and the authorities appeared not to be listening to me. It didn’t help though when I had to turn down a job. However, there was never any question of putting my child’s needs before mine though to turn down a job in the difficult times that we are living in is not good news for my future employment prospects. Of course I remind myself that I am a lucky woman and have a supportive partner. How difficult must it be for single parents who also find themselves in a similar situation of having to suddenly care for a school refuser?
So you can see that school refusal can have a massive impact on family life and to anyone going through this at the moment, you have my total sympathy. It is one of the toughest times I have had to experience with any of my children, the effects of which are still with us today.