Cognition and Escape
Intact cognitive processes enable young people who are afraid to attend school to elude the very situation in which they are expected to learn or acquire knowledge. The quality of the young person’s escape attempts varies with developmental level and so must therapeutic statements. Furthermore, school phobic children and adolescents tend to be more painfully aware of their cognitive dilemmas than the over- or underachieving youngsters. They avoid that specific environment in which they have ascertained that important learning is possible and in which they have actually learned in the past. More than the overachievers and underachievers, they are aware of the self’s capability to understand. Unlike underachievers, school phobic youngsters do not shut down cognition in order to avoid learning — precisely the reason they feel they must avoid school. And, unlike overachievers, school phobic young people do not consistently attribute a special positive meaning to school learning. If they identify the learning process with the growing up process, they reject both processes because, unlike the overachiever who reaches for learning because he wishes to grow up, they are often afraid of growing up. To illustrate the dilemma school attendance creates for them, I present the treatment narratives of three school phobic young people: Caroline, a 17-year-old college student; Robin, a 6-year-old first grader; and Maisie, a 41/2-year-old who became phobic in nursery school about attending kindergarten.
KeywordsSchool Attendance Developmental Level Nursery School School Learning Important Person
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