Meet Alice and Lisa, our latest Champions for Children.
Alice is a clinical psychologist at the RCH and Lisa is a teacher working at Travancore School. Together, they help run the In2School program.
The In2School Program is a research-based program in partnership with Travancore School, the Royal Children’s Hospital and Melbourne University that tackles school avoidance.
They sat down with us to explain what school avoidance is and why it’s important for teachers and mental health clinicians to work together to overcome it.
What is school avoidance and who does it impact?
Alice: Young people can experience severe difficulties attending school due to significant emotional stress. They often don’t hide their non-attendance from their parents. School avoidance typically impacts young people with mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression, and it can also impact young people who are neurodivergent.
Lisa: Caregivers have often tried a great deal to get their young person to school. School avoidance often leads to prolonged absences because the young person experiences emotional distress about going.
What is the In2School program and how does it work?
Alice: Young people are referred by their RCH Case Manager. It is a six-month intensive small group ‘wrap around’ program that includes a classroom program, therapeutic intervention, parent/carers sessions and support transitioning back to their enrolled school.
Lisa: In2School works with students aged between 10-15 years of age. During the six-month program, teachers run lessons based on the Victorian Curriculum with a focus on personal and social capabilities. We put student voice at the centre and advocate for students within their school setting, with the goal of students achieving full time attendance.
The In2School program is one of a kind, with teachers and clinicians working together to overcome school avoidance. Why is this approach important?
Lisa: We are very lucky to work in such a unique multidisciplinary team with education staff and mental health clinicians. We have a shared understanding of school avoidance and shared goals for our students all whilst working simultaneously with the students, families, and schools. In working together, we can support students, families and schools to get the best outcomes possible for our students.
Alice: The In2School program is a whole system approach that includes parents/carers, teachers, mental health clinicians, speech and language therapists as well as the young people themselves. Collaboration is important as we need a multi-disciplinary approach due to the complexity of school avoidance. It is so important that children and young people are included in problem solving as they know themselves best. We aim to help them feel supported by showing them that they have a whole team around them that is fighting the school avoidance with them.