Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School: Part 2 - Help Teachers Handle Students with Anxiety

Many teachers do not understand anxiety and need some basic information before they understand saying "Just relax" or "Calm Down" will not help. If students had the skills to do this they would. Anxiety is often confused with other issues like ADHD, willful behavior, and school avoidance. Teachers often blame the caregivers, and although they may play a role in making the anxious behavior worse, they are not the cause. Teachers can provide parents with strategies for preparing the child for school and the classroom. At our school we invite students we know are very anxious to visit the classroom before the regular Open House so they can have a few minutes to meet the teacher and get a feel for their new class privately. This has helped many students feel more confident on the first day of class.

Particularly at the beginning of the school year, or after a long break from school, students with anxiety are going to frequently show signs of increased stress. What helps anxious students can frequently benefit all students: provide a warm and inviting classroom environment, establish clear routines at arrival, give students movement breaks, go outside whenever possible, play relaxing music, dim the lights for a quiet time after lunch/recess, practice mindful breathing. Students with anxiety need an organized and predictable routine and warnings when there will be changes.

Teachers can use help identifying common triggers of anxiety like morning meeting when students are expected to give eye contact and greet peers, assessments, large assemblies, the cafeteria,  presenting in front of class, and substitutes. The teacher should also know what helps a particular student gain a sense of control and calm (such as a pass to go get a drink). Many students with anxiety benefit from having a list of 3 "safe persons" that they can go to for a break or help, especially when the regular classroom teacher is not available.


Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8: Strategies for Relieving Distress and Trauma in Schools and Classrooms (2015) by Barbara E. Oehlberg

Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children 2nd Edition (2016) by John Dacey, Martha D. Mack, Lisa B. Fiore 

On line

This site does a good job of explaining Anxiety in the Classroom

Some students with an anxiety disorder will be eligible for a 504 Plan. Some of the common accomodationsor modifications requested are described on these sites

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