anxiety · autism · HFA · homework · special needs · teachers

Help! Any ideas for school anxiety?

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As I wrote here, I had to work hard for D to be in a regular education classroom this school year. The district wanted to throw him directly into a class for children with behavioral/emotional disabilities despite his history of being a model student. I worked hard, I succeeded, and I am confident it was the right decision. He has two of the most amazing teachers in public education. These ladies are willing to go above and beyond to help D have a happy and successful year in the 4th grade. I am forever grateful for their willingness to help him. 
However, they are teachers and they are human. Without meaning to, they say things that D processes internally. During his processing, he determines himself to be either the one that the teacher is chastising or that because he has done something else, he will be thrown in a dungeon with plates full of spaghetti with extra meat sauce as his only meal. He is sure that the amount of torture he will endure is beyond anything reasonable. Therefore, his anxiety rises nearly to a point of no return and he begins to refuse to do things that are expected for fear of being subjected to those plates of spaghetti. 
Tuesday, August 30th, D was given his science text book to bring home from school. With the textbook came the lecture that every responsible teacher gives her students. “Boys & Girls, this text book costs $85. You need to take extra care of it. If you let anything, ANYTHING happen to it, your parents will have to pay for it. I will be very disappointed because I don’t know how long it will take you to get the new textbook and I know that you are capable of taking extra special care of something that is so expensive.” With that speech, D packed his science book in his backpack and headed home. What a good, conscientious little boy, right? 
He came home, started his science homework, and while flipping the pages accidentally tore one page. He began obsessing over the damage to that page and the anxiety began to gain unreasonable proportion. We moved on through math homework and the last problem was just too hard (in his mind, though it was mostly due to the anxiety preventing him from thinking clearly). He had a tantrum and during that tantrum took his anger out on the science book (among a few other things) and tore 2 pages out of the table of contents. That tantrum was, by far, the worse we’ve had since he has been home. Not due to the science book, but because of the magnitude in general. 
After the tantrum, once he had calmed down and things were back to normal, he realized the damage he had caused. He did not say anything about it Tuesday night, but Wednesday morning when we tried to get him to school, he started fighting. He kicked, screamed, refused, ran down the drive way, we put him in the van, but before we could get the door closed he was out the other side. It was awful. Finally, at the point Chad was 30 minutes late for work, we gave up and decided to process with him during the day and try again on Thursday. 
Thursday morning was a repeat. I called the teacher, I called the therapist, and I talked to the school psychologist. We decided the teacher would call him and let him know that she was not mad, but that if he did not go, he would have a therapy appointment on Friday morning. Friday came and he refused again, so we took him to the therapist’s office. He explained to her that he was terrified of the teacher’s reaction when she found out. The therapist offered him an excellent incentive to get back to school and he continued to refuse. 
By this point, my own anxiety was out of sight. I had no idea what else to try, we had offered bribes, I had offered to write a check for the book to be replaced, I had offered to fix the book (we kept the pages), we tried rationalizing the reality of the book being old and him not being in trouble, we had tried punishment (he even sat on his bed for an hour one morning because he would rather do that than face the teacher). We had asked what he thought the solution should be, but “Me not going back to school! You’re not in my brain, you don’t know how scared I am!” was not really a solution. I have tried finding a replacement book, but no luck.
Friday night the phone rang and it was his teacher. At this point, I still have no clue what she said to him, but he does say he is going back to school this week. I am worried that he is just saying that to make me happy, though. 
Please share your ideas for getting D back to school if he refuses again this week. We are all out of ideas.

One thought on “Help! Any ideas for school anxiety?

  1. Can you do an earned rewards chart? What does he likes best…tv, computer, etc? Write down what he has to do in order to earn them each day. This was the Autism specialists recommendation to us. Also, and this is probably super bad parenting, but I'm going to be totally honest…I have told K about the truant officer before and that has helped get her in the car. And it IS true….
    Also, K's teacher did something last year where if she came in to school w/out issue she got to choose something fun. She sat with the bcba and helped come up with some ideas, like going to the office to make copies, taking a walk, playing a game alone or with a friend, and even taking a ride on the elevator, since she loves that.

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