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Lindsay Gasparovich, B.A. What educators need to know about anxiety. Photo used with permission of Crystal Leigh Sheann.

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Presentation on theme: "Lindsay Gasparovich, B.A. What educators need to know about anxiety. Photo used with permission of Crystal Leigh Sheann."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lindsay Gasparovich, B.A. What educators need to know about anxiety. Photo used with permission of Crystal Leigh Sheann

2 “Everyone feels worried sometimes…But some worries don’t go away…Kids who have trouble with worries find that their worries get stuck. Even if their mom or dad is always there to get them off to soccer practice, even if they aren’t due for a shot at the doctor’s office, or even if they have had fun with the sitter in the past, the worries just go on and on” (p. 14-15) Huebner, D. (2006). What to do when you worry too much: A kid’s guide to overcoming anxiety. Washington, DC: Magination Press.

3 Participants in this seminar will be able to:  Describe anxiety and its subtypes  Identify the signs and symptoms of anxiety in the school setting  Learn techniques to prevent or manage anxiety in the school environment

4  Begin with a case illustration  Review vocabulary and acronyms that will appear throughout the presentation  Provide an overview of anxiety (and some of its subtypes), related problems, and contributing factors  Research review  Explore effective techniques to prevent or manage anxiety

5 Please see handout: Case Illustration I

6  Three main factors:  Biology  Genetic predisposition  Cognitive-emotional influences  A person’s experiences, level of self-confidence, and ability to handle stress  Chronic stress (Brantley, 2008)

7  Behavior commonly associated with anxiety:  School avoidance or truancy  Lower academic performance  Irritability  Social withdrawal  Acting out/general disruptions  Inability to cope with stress or certain situations  These behaviors range from major to minor rule violation.  Behaviors may also go undetected (Bourne, 2005; Morris, 2004)

8  Anxiety disorders are the most common disorder to occur in childhood and adolescence (SAMHSA, 2008).  13 of every100 children and adolescents (ages 9-17) is currently dealing with an anxiety disorder (SAMHSA, 2008).  “Test anxiety affects children of all academic achievement and intellectual levels” (Sarason et al., 1960 as cited in Beidel, Turner, & Taylor-Ferreira, 1999, p. 631).

9  Anxiety Disorders – mental illnesses that involve excessive worry; can range from feelings of uneasiness to immobilizing terror and fear; upset normal functioning  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – approach to therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and beliefs  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) – Manual of mental health disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. It provides mental health workers with descriptions and criteria of mental health disorders. This manual is used to officially diagnose mental health disorders Definitions retrieved from SAMHSA's Mental Health Dictionary and Kerr and Nelson's (2006) text companion website.

10  Positive Behavior Support (PBS)– strategies used to change behavior; Punishment is not used, instead PBS respects the communicative function of behavior and works to strengthen and teach desired behaviors  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) – national organization; provides relevant information and also funds or performs research  Universal Interventions – procedures, programs, or rules that apply to a classroom setting. Universal interventions may also be applied school-wide. Definitions retrieved from SAMHSA's Mental Health Dictionary and Kerr and Nelson's (2006) text companion website.

11  Generalized Anxiety Disorder  Worry about everyday life activities – excessive worry – especially related to school performance  Difficult to control the worrying  Worrying is unrealistic  Symptoms include:  Trouble concentrating  Irritability  Muscle tension  Multiple physical complaints (headache, etc.) (APA, 2000)

12  Separation Anxiety Disorder  Characterized by excessive anxiety concerning leaving one’s home environment or caregiver(s)  Symptoms include:  Preoccupation with thinking of reunion  “homesick”  “clinging” behavior  Physical complaints  Headaches, stomachaches, nausea (APA, 2000)

13  Panic Disorder  Marked by the presence of panic attacks  Persistent worry about having another panic attack  May be set off by “situational triggers” (p. 434)  Panic attacks appear to come from nowhere  Avoid situations/places panic attack may occur  Symptoms include:  Sweating  Dizziness  Shortness of breathe  Increased heart rate (APA, 2000)

14  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  Develop symptoms after exposure to a traumatic stressor  Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse  Natural disasters  Re-experience the trauma in various ways  Symptoms include:  Low startle tolerance  Flashbacks or intrusive recollections/memories of the event, nightmares  Repetitive play in children (relive trauma) (APA, 2000)

15  Academic Anxiety (Test Anxiety)  Can be observed by a gap between a student’s abilities and a student’s actual performance on exams (Peleg-Popko, 2002)  Student is preoccupied with level of academic performance (worry, negative thoughts)  Symptoms include:  Cognitive  Uncontrollable worry/negative thoughts about academic performance  Constantly comparing own performance to other students  Physical  Loss of appetite/ sleep  Panic, difficulty concentrating  Emotional  Panic, confusion  Feelings of nervousness and dread (Cornell University, 2008; McDonald, 2001; Peleg-Popko, 2002)

16  Indicators that might suggest a school might have concerns about the behavior:  Low academic performance  Academic performance gradually declining  Student is preoccupied with thoughts of academic performance  Poor attendance, skipping class  High level of irritability (talking back, aggressive)  Low self-confidence  Frequent statements of “I can’t” or “I’m not good at this”  Social withdrawal  Student frequently experiencing stomachaches, headaches, etc.  Student having difficulty concentrating

17  School avoidance  Students may skip school/class to avoid taking an exam or avoid social interactions  Low academic performance  Irritability  Easily angered by changes in routine  Increased aggressive feelings  Behavioral disruptions  These behaviors may be another attempt at avoiding exams, school work, or uncomfortable situations.  Behaviors may include walking out of the classroom, nervous tapping of pencil, etc. (APA, 2000; Bourne, 2005; Morris, 2004; Tomb & Hunter, 2004)

18  Social withdrawal  This may include little or no class participation or little to no interactions with teacher/peers  Interrupts social skill development  Physical complaints  Stomachaches  Headaches  Nausea  Sweating  Dry mouth  Muscle tension (APA, 2000; Bourne, 2005; Morris, 2004)

19  What may trigger or exacerbate anxiety?  Genetic predisposition  Adults in the student’s life set excessively high standards  Chronic stress/stressors  Life events  The student must suppress his/her feelings  Adults frame the world as threatening and dangerous  Restricts risk-taking in children (Bourne, 2005; Cleveland Clinic, 2008)

20 Some things to avoid when working with the anxious student:  Set excessively high standards for children  Implement only strict and rigid rules  Scream or yell at the student  Single a student out in front of the class if he/she is having behavioral difficulties or other anxiety-related problems  Give “pop-quizzes”  Making statements like “Look who decided to come to class!”  Enforce strict time limits during exams  Discourage the use of relaxation techniques or strategies  State directions once and refuse to review them  Punish the student for behaviors he/she may not be able to control (Bourne, 2005; Cornell University, 2008; Kerr & Nelson, 2006)

21  “Preventive interventions targeting anxiety in schools may reduce the onset of anxiety-related symptoms and, more important, promote healthy developmental outcomes” (Greenberg, et al., 2001 as cited in Tomb & Hunter, 2004, p. 88).

22  Anxiety disorders and general levels of anxiety have been shown to respond to preventative interventions and programs (Barrett, Farrell, Ollendick, & Dadds, 2006; Barrett & Turner, 2004; Farrell & Barrett, 2007; Tomb & Hunter, 2004; Wood, 2006).  Preventive programs and interventions include:  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  Universal interventions/Positive Behavior Support (PBS)  Relaxation strategies

23  “Teaching coping skills to children and adolescents as early as possible may help them develop effective strategies to deal with stress and minimize anxiety” (Tomb & Hunter, 2004, p. 89). Tomb, M. & Hunter, L. (2004). Prevention of anxiety in children and adolescents in a school setting: The role of school-based practitioners. Children & Schools, v. 26, 2, 87-101.

24  Praising students for positive performance has been found to be effective  Muller & Dweck (1998)  Performed a study that looked at performance vs. intelligence praise on exams  The study found those praised for performance “chose subsequent tasks that allowed them to demonstrate their ability” (Muller & Dweck, 1998 as cited in McDonald, 1991, p. 91).  Effective preventive programs:  Ready…Set…R.E.L.A.X. (Allen & Klein, 1996, as cited by Tomb & Hunter, 2004)  The Queensland Early Intervention and Prevention of Anxiety Project (Barrett & Turner, 2001, as cited by Tomb & Hunter, 2004)

25  Research also supports the role MODELING plays in teaching students positive ways to prevent or manage anxiety  Students, through observation, learn to use appropriate behaviors in similar situations  Modeling generalizes outside of the classroom (Fisak & Grills-Taquechel, 2007)

26 As explained, research has found effective ways to manage and/or lessen anxiety. These methods can be adapted for classrooms and used universally or on an individual basis.

27  In general:  Educate students about anxiety and effective ways to manage stress  Provide students opportunities to exercise these strategies  Teach and discuss positive coping skills with students  Allow students to share with the class the positive coping skills they may currently utilize  Provide opportunities for practicing positive coping skills

28  Positive coping skills are ways students can effectively manage levels of anxiety or stress without resorting to negative coping skills or behaviors  Examples of positive coping skills include:  Allowing students to use stress balls in class  Listening to music in order to lower one’s state of anxiety  Journaling  Exercise


30  Teach students to visualize success through mental rehearsals  Example: Taking an exam  Have the student envision each aspect that involves taking an exam positively  Learning new material  Completing class assignments  Reviewing material  Taking the exam, etc. The student envisions him/herself taking the exam in a relaxed stated and performing to the best of his/her ability. Continue to repeat this on a daily basis and prior to exams.

31  Academic/Test Anxiety  Inform students of upcoming exams in advance  Review test material with students  Allow students to study in groups  Ask the class if they are worried about any particular sections of information. If appropriate, review this material once more.  Allow students the use of stress balls, music, etc., during exams  Perform a relaxation technique with the entire class prior to exams (i.e. jumping jacks, focused attention, etc.)

32 Websites: Anxiety Disorders Association of America Children’s Disabilities Information Cornell University: Center for Learning and Teaching National Alliance on Mental Illness Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

33 Books: Brantley, J., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). Calming your anxious mind (2nd ed.) Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Bourne, E.J. (2005). The anxiety & phobia workbook. (4th ed.) Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Forsyth, J.P., & Eifert, G.H. (2007). The mindfulness & acceptance workbook for anxiety: A guide to breaking free from Anxiety, phobias, & worry using acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Huebner, D. (2006). What to do when you worry too much: A kid’s guide to overcoming anxiety. Washington, DC: Magination Press.

34 Please see page 7 of handout. Case Illustration II: Derek




38  Lindsay Gasparovich   Please contact me if you would like to use the information presented.

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