Melanie W., a New York mom of three boys, vividly remembers the day her middle son refused to go to school. John*, age 8, was a social, bright, and athletic kid who had just started third grade. But when he woke up on that November morning, he was not himself.
“He looked terrified and didn’t want to leave my lap,” Melanie remembers. “He would literally cling to me if I walked from room to room.” Out of nowhere, he voiced overwhelming fears: What if she didn’t come to pick him up at school? What if his dad got into a car accident going to work? He also complained of a sore throat. Melanie shook him off long enough to rush to the bathroom and call his pediatrician, but the doctor was blasé and didn’t feel the need to even schedule an appointment.