The school year was almost halfway through and Jayden*, an eighth-grader, had only attended one full day of school. By December, he had already missed more than 60 days of school.
In an effort to improve his attendance, Jayden received a modified schedule, after-school tutors, and a mental health counselor. But none of these interventions seemed to make a difference. Jayden complained of headaches and stomachaches but refused to speak with anyone who tried to help him.
As a last resort, Jayden’s school filed a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) application with the Juvenile Court. After meeting Jayden, the judge was concerned that the root of Jayden’s struggles was still unclear. She referred Jayden and his family to ACS for a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation.
At first, Jayden refused to talk with his ACS clinician, but she refused to give up. She carefully reviewed his medical and school records, interviewed his parents, teachers, and medical and mental health providers, and she then incorporated some specialized clinical tools to gain a better understanding of Jayden’s internal world.
This thorough and thoughtful process enabled Jayden’s clinician to pull together all of the pieces of Jayden’s life. What she discovered is that Jayden had been silently suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She learned that Jayden’s home was violent and unpredictable. His parents both struggled with substance abuse and when they fought, things often turned violent.
This exposure to frightening and traumatizing events is, unfortunately, a common experience of kids with school attendance problems. At least 70% of the kids we see have documented histories of trauma, though we know this figure to be higher because children so often suffer in silence.
Jayden’s clinician helped him find his voice. She then connected Jayden and his family to the immediate help they desperately needed and also provided the judge with specific recommendations for the family, going forward.
Jayden was placed out of the home in an intensive therapeutic setting where he could feel safe and his symptoms could begin to stabilize with the assistance of medication and trauma-informed therapy. He was also enrolled in a new school that could provide for his emotional needs.
Just recently, Jayden said to his clinician, “Can you believe I’m excited about school and want to talk about it when I get home?”
*To protect confidentiality, ACS does not use the names, photos, or identifying features of our clients.
“Can you believe I’m excited about school and want to talk about it when I get home?”