• Ask a Behavior Psych

  • Michelle Valdivieso

    5 July 2021 at 21 h 15 min

    Hi everyone and happy summer! My name is Michelle and I’m a school psychologist and district wide social emotional/behavior specialist. If you have questions about anything and everything Behavior than send it my way!

  • Amanda Rao

    13 July 2021 at 8 h 34 min

    Hi there,

    My name is Amanda, and I am a first year psych. I was hoping to pick your brain on behaviors that also overlap with mental health needs ( i.e. anxiety). I was wondering how you would typically assist/address a students needs when the student refuses exit the car to attend class/enter campus. This is a first for me.

    Any thoughts?

  • Michelle Valdivieso

    17 July 2021 at 0 h 56 min

    Hi Amanda.

    Great question. It really depends on understanding the function behind the behavior. Do you know why the student refuses to exit the car and step into campus? How often does this happen? Do you have an idea of environmental triggers or other precipitating factors? What has been tried before with the student to help ease them back into school? If you give me more information I can try to steer you in the right direction.

    • Amanda Rao

      20 July 2021 at 0 h 43 min

      Hi Michelle,

      The student reports feelings social anxiety in crowds and also wanting peers to view the student as male (student is transgender male). In terms of frequency, the refusal is occurring 2x per week on average. We began to have staff greet the student upon arrival to school, and also allowing the student to transition to class/on to campus when the crowds died down. This did not seem to help. During the times when the student did exit the car, he would act like he was going to class but would not show up and tried to hide out some where on campus (staff would then search for the student).

      • Michelle Valdivieso

        21 July 2021 at 1 h 49 min

        Hi Amanda,

        Thank you for the additional information.

        Sounds like this student’s motivation for school refusal is reactive, meaning they find something in the environment threatening, uncomfortable, or aversive. Interventions and supports should enhance positive motivation for attending school. Is there anything this student finds pleasurable, nonthreatening, and/or motivating when they do attend school? Is there are way to help the student explore ways to add activities that would be nonthreatening and motivating so they decrease the incidents of refusal or elopement?

        Has a formal Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) been completed? You want to create an intervention support plan to address the function of the behavior, eliminate the reinforcement derived for school refusal behavior, and to enhance skills necessary for anxiety management and problem solving. Examples of intervention support may include modeling, role playing, cognitive restructuring, and exposure-based practices to reduce anxiety during evaluative situations and to refine social and performance skills. In addition, contingency contracts can be designed between the student and parents to increase appropriate incentives for school attendance as well as disincentives for absenteeism. You can also incorporate daily report cards or home-school notes to monitor progress and promote home school collaboration.

        Does the student have a peer support system in the classroom or on campus? Can you set him up with peer partners to greet them and provide peer support throughout the day? This will help establish social reinforcement for attending. Are there school supports in place for LGBTQ youth?

        For the mental health
        aspect of the behavior, can the student access counseling support at school
        with the psych or school counselor to work on the mental health side of the
        problem? In counseling the student and specialist can work on CBT activities to
        reframe stressful and aversive thoughts about school, promote positive
        self-talk, use mindfulness and other anxiety reducing techniques, and systematic
        desensitization strategies. This is more of tier 3 SEL support since I would
        likely work 1:1 with the student. If this student is not at the level of tier 3
        counseling support, perhaps there is a Tier 2 group that focuses on anxiety and
        fear they can participate in. Or if the
        issue is social anxiety, perhaps there is a social skills group they can

        There is an article by NASP on school refusal. Its titled School Refusal: Information for Educators. I would attach it here, but I don’t think the attachment feature exists. If you google NASP school refusal it pops up as a downloadable PDF.

        I hope this information is useful. School refusal is hard and takes time and consistent implementation of supports.

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0 of 0 posts June 2018