When Your Child Has School Anxiety, 'Just Make Him Go' Doesn't Really Apply


People will say, “just make him go.” And, “Let him know school isn’t a choice.” And, “He’ll get over it.” Maybe those words would help… if my child on the autism spectrum didn’t have anxiety and depression.

When your child is having a panic attack at the thought of going to school, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

When this happens on a daily basis, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

And when you do eventually every single day get him to school, “just make him go” doesn’t really apply.

Instead it is reminding your child to slow down. Reminding him of the friends he will see that day. Asking him what he is afraid of. What is behind all that anxiety. And hoping today he will have the words to tell you.

Because often the anxiety is just a wordless, nameless “I just can’t face it” feeling.

And behind it all?

You know that once he is at school he does well. He has supportive teachers who just love him and care for him and will give him the space he needs when he needs it. Who meet him where he is at and don’t pressure him to be someone he isn’t. Who understand his anxiety and depression and ASD and work with him and give him loads of support.  And who report all the great things he did each day, all the smiles, and friendships, and fun.

Slowly, with hugs and reassurance that he will be OK, my son gets ready for school. We discuss bringing a stuffie from home in his backpack for reassurance as he gets dressed. His body slowly relaxes. His face shifts from fear to calm. We pack things up for school, put on shoes and jacket, get into the car.

Another brief moment of anxiety: “Idon’twanttogo. I don’t want to go.”

Reminding him that the day is short and then it will be over. Going through the routine of the day.  Reminding him of the stuffie he has in his backpack if he needs it. He gets in and buckles up. We get to school and walk to the lines.

I walk him over to his teacher. There is a “routine” to our hand-offs. My son needs predictability. He thrives on it. Two hugs and two kisses for Mom. Then he gives a hug to his teacher and holds her hand for a while. The teacher gives me a silent questioning look: “How did it go this morning?” I give her a shake of the head. We have a silent conversation. But he’s fine now, with his teacher.

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Thinkstock photo by tatyana_tomsickova

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