Connections’ Family Services Worker, Sarah works in the School Attendance Support Project (SASP). Mid last year, Sarah received a complex referral to support Michael*, a child in Grade 6 with severe anxiety issues. Michael had only attended school for 1.5 days at the time of referral.
Sarah developed strategies to manage Michael’s anxiety particularly around him leaving his mother. Sarah reinforced a team approach in his return to school with him included in discussions.
Sarah started with driving Michael from home to the school and parking outside the school gates. As his trust grew, Michael progressed by exiting the car and walking around the school oval and eventually meeting with the principal and his class teacher.
Within a month, Michael started attending school for a one hour block with Sarah providing support the entire time in the classroom.
Together, Sarah and Michael discussed and monitored his anxiety levels and provided ongoing positive encouragement when small goals were achieved. Michael talked through and challenged his negative thoughts enabling him to participate in a return to school plan.
Open communication continues with the school to ensure all parties are aware of the return to school plan. The school principal and reception staff continue to provide positive affirmations when Michael attends school.
Since becoming involved with SASP:
- Michael initiated social catch ups with friends for the first time in two years.
- Michael participated in a sleep over at a friend’s home and continues to develop positive peer friendships.
- Michael is wearing his school uniform.
- Michael attended his Grade 6 graduation and transitioned to secondary school.
- He attended Year 7 camp – his first camp ever.
Michael recently advised Sarah, “My long-term goal is to finish school and go to university and do [sic] social work like you because I would also like to help kids like myself when I grow up. Because I know how awful anxiety can feel. I would be good at helping kids like you do.”
The School Attendance Support Project aims to increase school attendance, facilitate school connectedness, and support community integration. Service delivery is aimed at supporting vulnerable families through intensive outreach family support and addressing blockages to education.
If you would like more information about this program, please contact the Pakenham office on 03 5945 3900.
*Names have been changed