School constitutes a large part of an adolescent’s existence. Difficulties in almost any area of life often manifest as school problems.
Particular school problems include
Fear of going to school
Absenteeism without permission (truancy)
Between 1% and 5% of adolescents develop fear of going to school. This fear may be generalized or related to a particular person (a teacher or another student—see Bullying Bullying Many children and adolescents occasionally have physical confrontations with others, but most children and adolescents do not continue violent behavior or engage in violent crime. However, children... read more ) or event at school (such as physical education class). The adolescent may develop physical symptoms, such as abdominal pain, or may simply refuse to go to school. School personnel and family members should attempt to understand and address the reason and encourage the adolescent to attend school.
Adolescents who are repeatedly truant or drop out of school have made a conscious decision to miss school. These adolescents generally have poor academic achievement and have had little success in or satisfaction from school-related activities. They often have engaged in high-risk behaviors, such as having unprotected sex, taking drugs, and engaging in violence.
Adolescents at risk of dropping out should be made aware of other educational options, such as vocational training, graduate equivalent degrees (GED), and alternative programs.
(See also Introduction to Problems in Adolescents Introduction to Problems in Adolescents For most children, adolescence is a period of good physical health. The most common problems during adolescence relate to Growth and development School Childhood illnesses that continue into... read more .)
Causes of School Problems in Adolescents
School problems during the adolescent years may result from a combination of
Rebellion and a need for independence (most common)
Mental health disorders, such as anxiety Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, worry, or dread that greatly impairs the ability to function and is out of proportion to the circumstances. There are many types of anxiety disorders... read more or depression Depression and Mood Dysregulation Disorder in Children and Adolescents Depression includes a feeling of sadness (or, in children and adolescents, irritability), and/or loss of interest in activities. In major depression, these symptoms last 2 weeks or more and... read more
Sometimes, inappropriate academic placement, particularly in adolescents with a learning disability or mild intellectual disability Intellectual Disability Intellectual disability is significantly below average intellectual functioning present from birth or early infancy, causing limitations in the ability to conduct normal activities of daily... read more that was not recognized early in life, causes school problems.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is poor or short attention span and/or excessive activity and impulsiveness inappropriate for the child’s age that interferes with functioning... read more (ADHD) and learning disorders Learning Disorders Learning disorders involve an inability to acquire, retain, or broadly use specific skills or information, resulting from deficiencies in attention, memory, or reasoning and affecting academic... read more , which typically begin earlier in childhood, may continue to cause school problems for adolescents.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In general, adolescents with significant school problems should undergo a complete learning evaluation and a mental health evaluation. A professional counselor may be needed to help support school participation.
Specific problems are treated as needed, and general support and encouragement are provided. Changes in the learning environment and sometimes drug therapy can also be of great help to struggling adolescents. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools evaluate and provide appropriate services for students with learning disabilities and others who are not living up to their academic potential by providing individualized education plans (IEPs).
The following is an English-language resource that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Comprehensive information on how the IDEA provides for a public education to eligible children with disabilities and ensures special education and related services to those children