9.02.2012

School phobia, sypmtom of healthy brain

Photo Credit: arcticpuppy
Picture the old commercial in which the egg hits the frying pan. This is your child's brain on…school? According to Dr. Judy Willis, neurologist and middle school teacher, "Healthy brains protect their owners from perceived threat.

In her July 18, 2010 Psychology Today blog post, "What to do when your child hates school," Dr. Willis wrote that rather than experiencing the joyful, memorable learning experiences they need, for many children school feels more like a feedlot, force-feeding them facts without the time or resources to make them relevant.

The pressure of the feedlot -- or "School is Prison" -- atmosphere may feel stressful and threatening to children, triggering the natural "fight or flight" instincts. Dr. Willis noted that the dropout rate is higher than ever -- "For a child in high school now, it is more likely that his or her parents will have graduated than it is that the student will graduate high school."

Blake Boles, author of College Without High School, encourages students to drop out, or "rise out," of high school and replace it with something better.

Dr. Willis explained that boredom also causes stress. Boring, seemingly-irrelevant lessons, as well as test and grade pressures, cause children to react, "act out," fight, flight, or freeze ("zone out"), rather than think about the academic material. These reactions typify healthy neurological functioning, not attention or other "special needs" neurological disorders.

When I first encountered the "school phobia" dx, I thought it sounded ridiculous. I mean, duh, various aspects of school can feel scary and unpleasant (i.e., academic pressure, peer pressure, crowds, bullies, restrictions on autonomy...)

Dr. Willis, neurologist and middle school teacher, believes that the "acting out" and "zoning out" that children so often do in school -- fight, flight, or freeze -- actually typifies a healthy neurological response!?

I was reminded of the School-Survival.net, "It's okay to hate school: There is nothing wrong with you." So relax, if you don't like school, it doesn't necessarily mean you have "Oppositional Defiant Disorder," "Attention Deficit Disorder," … or "CHILD Disorder."

FYI: A fixation on healthy eating also has a psychological dx: Orthorexia. The creative psychologist brain can categorize any set of symptoms into a syndrome.

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