Answers to Questions Teachers, Counsellors and Parents need to know!





School Refusal (School Phobia, School Can't, School Attendance Problem) is a debilitating condition in which children and teens experience extreme anxiety or panic attacks when faced with everyday school life. Young people's experiences of school refusal can range from mild to severe, with some students able to attend school but unable to complete work, while others cannot attend school at all and exhibit signs of severe distress (flight, fight, freeze, shutdown). Mild experiences include expressing reluctance to go to school, reports of feeling unwell, anxiety before the school week, persistently late to school and/or may miss several days of school each term. Severe experiences often persist for more than six months with some children unable to leave their room or home. Symptoms might include labile mood, aggression, avoidance, atypical sleep patterns, clinical depression or severe anxiety. Parents also report mild cases quickly escalating to threats and instances of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. 

Despite its increasing prevalence, it is poorly defined, understood and managed. How schools respond is pivotal as everyday counts. The longer the child is away from school, the more difficult it is to resume normal school life. When poorly managed the impact of School Refusal is far reaching and life changing. Some students fail to return to school full time and some never return at all.  All experience serious disadvantage across the lifespan including, but not limited to: poorer health and mental health, poor relationships, low academic attainment, early school leaving, social difficulties, loss of income and greater rates of unemployment.


This topic can be presented on demand as a keynote or in-house workshop for teachers, counsellors and parents alike.


"The longer a child is away from school, the more difficult it is to resume normal school life."

Presented by

For over 30 years Joanne Garfi has treated and consulted to teachers, counsellors and parents in a manner that is easy to comprehend, devoid of the jargon and theories, and gets results in Overcoming School Refusal. As a psychologist who has worked extensively across primary and secondary schools Joanne has provided treatment, support and specialised training to whole school communities for many years. She has a special interest in the treatment of Anxiety and Panic Disorder and is well known for her work with school refusal, childhood anxiety, behavioural disorders and developmental issues. She also runs a busy private practice and is the author of Overcoming School Refusal: A practical guide for teachers, counsellors, caseworkers and parents.




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