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Photo Credit: @dmey503

7. A Needs-Based Approach

Creating an inclusive, accessible, equitable, and individualized environment for students with mental health disabilities, including school phobia is a critical component of disability rights, human rights, safe schools, and inclusion.

Respondents reported the following:

  • Staff often are unaware of how to support children with mental health struggles including “school phobia”; and attendance is often taken more seriously than the children’s actual needs and feelings.
  • Whether students have professional documentation on school phobia and mental health disabilities, a student’s experience of school phobia and diagnosis of mental health disabilities, their educational, psychological, emotional, and learning needs must be accommodated.

Trauma-Informed Education:

There are many trauma-affected students in classrooms, and we need to understand the effects of birth, life and intergenerational trauma and incorporate that awareness into teaching and learning practices. Adverse childhood experiences can negatively impact students and influence their feelings, thoughts, and fears about accessing and managing an education. Universal trauma-informed and social-emotional practices benefit all children, building critical skills like self-awareness, emotional regulation, compassion and an openness to teamwork and cooperation.

Needs-Based Recommendations from Parents:

Suggested Support:

  • 363 (of 519): Education Support Teams
  • 338: Small class sizes
  • 253: Reduced class load
  • 161: Small school
  • 141: Pre-school responsibility (job in the office, library) to get students focused on responsibility and not fears and concerns
  • 78: Pre-school program (Social Emotional Learning, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach)
  • 54: Bussing
  • 41: Boarding school with structured living and school supports

Parents support of supporting strategy

Helpful Strategies by parent support: 

  • 71%: Education Support Team
  • 66%: Small class sizes
  • 49%: Reduced class load
  • 32%: Small school
  • 27.5%: Pre-school responsibility
  • 15%: Pre-school program
  • 10.5%: Bussing
  • 8%: Boarding school

Small Class Size

There was overwhelming support for small class sizes for all students of all ages.

Education Support Team

There was overwhelming support for the development of an Education Support Team for students of all ages.

Small school size

Parent respondents were more in favour of small class sizes (66% of respondents) than small school size. (32 %).

Pre-School Program

Most support for a pre-school program was for children aged five and six– interestingly the age when school phobia signs and symptoms became evident.


There was not a lot of support for bussing, except for two important transitional times: the beginning of school at age five and middle school at age 12.

Pre-School Responsibility

The strongest support for pre-school responsibility for their children was for children aged five. Other age groups ranked below 50%.

Boarding School

Support for a boarding school approach was strongest for children aged five years old and for teenagers aged 17 and 18.

Reduced Class Load

Reduced class load could mean fewer classes, fewer expectations, half-day school, or fewer assignments. There was a lot of support for a reduced class load for students with school phobia mental health disabilities. The support was stronger with students aged 12 years and older.
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