A high percentage of neurodivergent children and young people experience school distress, and this can lead to attendance difficulties at school (Heyne et al., 2019; Adams, 2021). School distress can also lead to engagement problems while in school, meaning that it can impact on the ability to achieve in school (McDougal et al., 2020). Anxiety is a mental health condition that is thought to underlie school distress (Adams, 2021). Anxiety impacts all children, but the prevalence of anxiety is especially high in neurodivergent children and young people (e.g., Hollocks et al., 2019). Understanding the impact of anxiety at school has never been more important, as evidence suggests that children and young people are experiencing heightened anxiety after the pandemic (Hawes et al., 2021).
In my research, I aim to use a mixed methods approach to explore who experiences anxiety in mainstream schools, the factors that lead to school distress, and what might help. The voices of neurodivergent children and young people will be central to my research, and I will work alongside my collaborative partner, Investing in Children, to create a youth advisory panel who will shape this research from the outset.
This project is supervised by Dr Mary Hanley and Professor Debbie Riby at Durham University