Anxiety re: school — The Bump
Special Needs

Anxiety re: school

I really need help/direction with this.

DS 4 years & 9 months old and he is on the spectrum - mild/Level 1. He was diagnosed last Feb at just shy of 4 years old - after 2+ years of what we thought was severe separation anxiety. We had awful time separating, especially in group settings like school. He cried hysterically, often threw up. In Sept, dev pedi added ADHD and GAD to the mix.

He started therapy last March and we saw an immense improvement at school. Still wasn't great but much calmer. Our best guess is that a lot of the anxiety was sensory issues and OT helped. Since Sept, he is in an integrated classroom receiving all his therapies (PT, OT, speech and psych) in school. September was difficult - new class, no therapies for a few weeks over the summer, etc. But he progressed well and November was awesome.

We have seen a lot of regression since Thansgiving. December was hard but he was coming back to normal by end of December. But January has been terrible. 12 days of no school and therapies has taken him back to Sept. He doesn't want to go to school. Cries a lot over it. Participation in class is gone down.

He won't tell us what is wrong. Not sure he won't or can't - he is still learning to identify emotions. The teacher has mentioned he covers his ears a lot (started in Dec). So early Jan we added a private session of OT for sensory integration (vestibular work helped in the past). He gets OT in school but they are not equipped with a sensory gym.

But its the anxiety that's bothering me. He is constantly fixated on whether it's a school day or not. First thing he asks in the morning. Asks constantly in teh evening. Wakes up in the middle of the night & asks if it's a school day. I can see his body react to the stress when he finds out it is a school day - his heart rate rises, his breathing becomes shallow. He is terrified.

Any thoughts on what else I can do? If it is sensory, OT should help but it will take time. But we don't know that it is. It could be psychological. Would adding private psych session be a good idea? Something else?
I am open to ideas.

TIA!!
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Re: Anxiety re: school

  • Thanks auntie. I'm suspecting it's psychological as well. Calling his dev pedi today to get recommendations for a child psychologist.

    I have talked to the teachers a few times when he started resisting school in December. They have not seen any bullying or issues getting along. The big thing they noticed was covering his ears and start to panic/run away when another child cries or yells or screams. And in a room of 8 special ed children, that happens a lot. We see this at home as well - he is with my mom and SIL after school and runs to grandma's room if my 9 month old nephew cries at all.

    He only gets one half hour of psych therapy at school so additional would be good.

    And yes, we are due for his annual review from CPSE next month and his teacher and I will be pushing for summer services because of the regression. He didn't get any last summer since there was no way to prove regression (we did OT and speech through insurance). We have plenty of experience to back it up this time.

    Thanks again auntie!
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  • I'm sorry. I thought I'd respond since my son is also ASD with ADHD and GAD. He's closer to 7, though. We dealt with the extreme anxiety around school when he was in preschool, around age 3.5 to 4. It was awful. I remember being up for hours on end on Sunday nights as school loomed on Monday. At some point he just got over it. We're lucky in a way that since DH and I work fulltime, it's never been something that is optional. He has to go to school/daycare/release day care, whatevs. As he has gotten older he expresses his displeasure more in certain things, and we're learning which things to push and which things to let go. He doesn't want to go to summer day camp for a week this summer. I may allow him to miss it because it's a lot of skits and singing and crafts that he has always disliked. But I'll make him try an engineering camp or something else so he is continuing to try new things.

    DS does suffer from anxiety over schoolwork and has crying meltdowns whenever something doesn't go his way. We tried seeing mental health therapists for awhile but they didn't offer much that was new to us. We saw a psychiatrist who immediately recommended meds. Long story short, the ADHD meds made a great improvement immediately- it made his anxiety issues more acute and identifiable. He could articulate that he was afraid that his handwriting wasn't "good enough" and that is why he cried when given assignments. So we added anxiety meds but we have had a harder time finding a good dosage. We've tried two different meds and are still waiting to find some real improvement there.

    I would like DS to add a psychologist to the mix- his psychiatrist meets with us for 30 min usually every 6 weeks; she talks with DS alone for 20 minutes and then me for 10. It's not enough time to get everything in. DS loves her though- she is so kind and uplifting. She has therapy dogs, too, which DS loves. I think more than DS talking to someone we need to see a family therapist together. I don't think he has the bandwith to get a lot out of a protracted convo with a doctor. I need someone to see DS melting down and counsel ME on how to respond to it. His meltdowns are 50/50 emotions vs. "crying to get my way." His teachers agree wholeheartedly on this point as well. We did try family therapy with a MSW but it was a bust; I think a psychologist might offer more pointed advice.

    Good luck- none of this is easy!

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