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Helping Rose to bloom;Parting shots;Friday's child

Something's gone wrong with Rose. She hates school. It is not that she is bored or lazy; she is frightened of it.

The writing has been on the wall for a couple of months. First it was headaches she had to see the nurse about. Then there was a spate of being sick before class. Her mother got used to being called to be told her daughter wanted to be sent home.

The nasty virus theory sounded plausible to begin with, but two weeks was stretching it. Then, in a meeting with her form tutor, her mother described the morning screaming and tears of a pubescent girl whose emotional pain was locking her into a cycle of desperation.

The picture was a far cry from the child the tutor knew. The poor mother worried about her daughter's physical and mental health and about taking so much time off work.

She got an early referral to a child psychologist from her GP. The psychologist was quickly able to exclude bullying, but it took many sessions to work out that her problem was more complicated.

Six months ago, her aunt was killed in a car crash. Her three children were at school when it happened. It was a watershed in Rose's perception of life - now she sees the potential for disaster every time her mother goes off to work in her car.

At first, she tried to resist the catastrophic thoughts that came into her head, but fears that something terrible will happen to her mother have come to consume her. Her strategy for controlling events is to stay with her, to keep close.

And it has been successful, to some extent. But she also knows the price she is paying is high. She is becoming socially alienated. Although she is where she wants to be, she finds slipping away from the outside world uncomfortable.

Reintroducing her to school will be a slow process. She understandably balks at pressure and threats. The psychologist, school counsellor, mother and form tutor will be in regular contact over strategies and progress, as consistency is important. But so is compassion, which means letting Rose know their priority is to make her feel better. Hopefully, with time, she will accept their help and co-operate with it.

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