Children with anxiety disorders frequently struggle academically and socially at school. They may worry about being called on in class to give an impromptu answer that would cause them to stutter and stammer much to their extreme embarrassment. Or, even worse, asked to solve a math problem on the blackboard with 22 pairs of beady little eyes fixated on them.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that schools can do to help ensure a child’s success. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), you have a right to ask for suitable accommodations regarding your child’s disorder.
The first thing is to open the lines of communication with school personnel about what adjustments or modifications may be needed. This includes the principal, teachers, and counselors. Although they may be aware that your child has some anxiety issues, they may not know the symptoms are caused by an anxiety disorder. You may even want the teacher or counselor to speak directly to the psychologist or therapist you are working with for a better understanding of your child’s disorder.
While each child and situation is different, here are a few suggested accommodations that may help an extremely nervous child cope better in the classroom:
Anxious children often have trouble transitioning from one activity to another – especially when it’s without warning. Their refusal to comply may appear to be defiance when it’s actually panic over making the switch. Ask the teacher to give the child a “heads up” beforehand and allow extra time for making the transition.
Children who suffer from anxiety really and truly dislike being the center of attention in the classroom. One way to get around this is to have the teacher give the child advance notice he will be called on so he can be prepared. Simple yes or no questions will help the child become accustomed to answering in class before moving on to more complex questions. Also, ask the teacher not to call your child up to the blackboard to solve problems until they are feeling more comfortable in the class. They can still test your child’s knowledge on paper or after class.
Almost everyone gets nervous when speaking in front of a group of people. For a child with an anxiety disorder, it feels more like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Some would even prefer that to speaking in front of their twittering classmates. A couple of alternatives would be to have the child videotaped doing their presentation, or give the presentation to the teacher privately.
If there is anything that will have an anxious child ducking back under the covers in the morning, it’s the fear of getting in trouble at school. In front of everyone. Ask the teacher to seat your child away from the more “energetic” children (a/k/a troublemakers) so that she can focus on her work with fewer distractions. In the event the teacher does need to speak to your child about an issue, make sure they know to do so privately.
Time pressure is one of the most common events in school that increases anxiety. Kids worry about being able to finish within the allotted time frame, or they panic when they see other children finish before them. Ask school officials and teachers to allow extra time to complete tests and assignments to lower your child’s stress level. It may also be advantageous to let your child complete his test in a different, quieter location. Another consideration is to have the teacher use material with word banks or multiple-choice questions rather than “fill-in-the-blank,” which often causes an anxious child to go blank.
These are just a few accommodations that can be made at school for children. In “School Accommodations for Anxious Children – Part 2,” we’ll discuss additional modifications that will also include accommodations for social anxiety at school.
Thanks for stopping by. We hope the information was helpful. For tips that you can use to help your child at home, please read the article, “Helping Your Child Cope With Anxiety.” And, if you’re unsure if your child is suffering from anxiety disorder, please read about the red flags to look for in, “Is Your Child Too Anxious?”