Friday, August 29, 2014

Strategies to Help Students Cope with Anxiety

     Anxiety in students can be a difficult behavior for classroom teachers to identify and calm. Anxiety comes in many forms and displays in many different ways. All students feel anxious at one time or another which is to be expected. Anxiety disorders on the other hand, and be described as a maladaptive emotional state or a behavior that is caused by excessive fears and worries whether real or imagined. Some students, suffer from anxiety that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities Some behaviors limit a child's progress in school due to the inability to actively engage in everyday activities and routines. Anxiety also can limit friendships which leads to isolation and loneliness.
   Anxious behaviors include by are not limited to: restlessness, irritability, trouble focusing, tires quickly, sweating, blushing, muscle tenseness, avoidance of an activity,non-compliance, destruction of property, fidgeting, talking out, cursing, disrupting classmates, obsessions, compulsions, extremely shy or introverted, in a daydream like state, agitation, disorganization, or extreme organization, anger, withdrawal, flight, worry, crying, truancy, frequent illness or injury, and/or school refusal.
    Suspected student anxiety that lasts more than a week should be shared with your school's mental health support team such as the school psychologist, guidance counselor, nurse, and social worker.. The observations should also be shared with the child's parents and/or guardian's. Parents and guardian's often have valuable information in regards as to changes in the student's home environment that can cause anxiety.
     As a special education teacher I encounter students with anxiety on a daily basis. All of my students have had team meetings where various strategies have been discussed. Knowing which strategy to use often comes from simply connecting with the student and knowing which strategy to use to help him/her cope with the anxiety provoking situation. Below, I've made a chart with sample situations that students face each day, and possible strategies that may help. Remember, consistency is key, and what may not work on day one may work on day five as long as the strategy fits the situation and the students and its use is consistent.  Students who are anxious work best in a calm, supportive, organized classroom with clear expectations.  Students work best with a teacher who is clearly in authority but uses positive rewards and reinforcement who respects and listens to  the student.

Anxiety Strategy Chart:


   *Remember, anxiety is a serious  condition. Please check with your school's mental health team and the child's parents and/or guardians before beginning ant type of formal strategy plan.

Sample Response Cards:   

Gimme A Break Box:

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:

    Today's book review comes from Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham in their picture book, Harry the Dirty Dog.  Harry, has been around entertaining children for over 50 years!  I chose to write about Harry because he has anxiety about getting baths!  So he does what a lot of anxious people do, he fled and avoids the bath altogether! He even hides his bath, scrubbing brush! In the process, Harry gets very dirty! His family becomes very worried about him when they can't find him! When they finally see Harry, they don't recognise him because he is so dirty! So, Harry overcomes his fear of baths in a desperate measure to reunite with his family! You will have to read the rest of this book or listen to my dear idol, Betty White to hear and see how happy one can become when overcoming their fears! 

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