Coping with anxiety at school

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For most people, going to school is probably a mild annoyance getting in the way of having fun or a place to go to see your friends, but for children living with anxiety, going to school can be a nightmare.

Between thoughts that I’m never good enough, being judged by everyone and keeping up with homework, revision, lessons, and socializing, so much brain power goes into appearing “normal” that there is little room for anything else.

One in four people lives with a mental illness. Teachers can play an important part in minimizing the symptoms of anxiety:

Offer an ear or even an empty office. Knowing that they have someone they can go to if feeling anxious makes a massive difference to children with anxiety. It helps to manage the anxieties and knowing that a teacher or therapist will listen to how they are feeling, and lifts a weight off their shoulders. It provides an escape and a place to hide when they need to. It helps to get away from the watching eyes of others and gives them the headspace needed to be able to talk themselves back to reality.

Be flexible. Children suffering from anxiety are not always able to make deadlines. Sometimes, they plan to do something but are thrown off. This might be because they are too exhausted to process thoughts, or because, in the time allocated to a particular piece of work, they ended up panicking. Knowing that they will be able to hand in a piece of work a couple of days late if necessary, reduces anxiety so much that even just knowing they have the opportunity to be late, can help to get work in on time. A flexible deadline takes away so much pressure. 

School is hard. Mental illness is hard. Put the two together and it’s like adding gasoline to a fire – too much and it will explode. If you’re a teacher, please take the wellbeing of your students into account before laying on the pressure. By being there for your students, you might just save a life.

If you’re a student, hold on. Be kind to yourself and take a day off if you need to. Find that teacher (or another adult) that you can open up to and who can help reduce some of your anxiety. There are people out there who want to hear your voice, you just have to find them. You might not be where you want to be, and you might not end up where you expected to be, but you’ll end up where you were meant to be. It’s okay to not feel okay, but it will be okay in the end. 


Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder


There are several kinds of auditory processing issues. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Children with APD can have weaknesses in one, some or all of these areas:

·         Auditory discrimination:

 The ability to notice, compare and distinguish between distinct and separate sounds. The words seventy and seventeen may sound alike, for instance.

·         Auditory figure-ground discrimination

The ability to focus on the important sounds in a noisy setting. It would be like sitting at a party and not being able to hear the person next to you because there's so much background chatter.

·         Auditory memory

The ability to recall what you've heard, either immediately or when you need it later.

·         Auditory sequencing:

The ability to understand and recall the order of sounds and words. A child might say or write "ephelant" instead of "elephant," or hear the number 357 but write 735.

Children with APD usually have at least some of the following symptoms:

·         Find it hard to follow spoken directions, especially multi-step instructions

·         Ask speakers to repeat what they've said, or saying, "huh?" or "what?"

·         Be easily distracted, especially by background noise or loud and sudden noises

·         Have trouble with reading and spelling, which require the ability to process and interpret sounds

·         Struggle with oral (word) math problems

·         Find it hard to follow conversations

·         Have poor musical ability

·         Find it hard to learn songs or nursery rhymes

·         Have trouble remembering details of what was read or heard


It's difficult to diagnose children with APD before age 7 or 8. Some of these auditory skills don't develop until then.[6] Getting a diagnosis requires finding a trained audiologist who can run electrophysiological tests. These tests record how the brain responds to sounds.

APD is when the ear hears, but the brain misinterprets what it hears.

If you want to find out more or arrange an assessment, please contact our speech therapy department:

Andrea Jennings 084 870 2699 or Jana Heath 072 961 8743


Early signs of Learning Disability


Early signs of learning disabilities can sometimes be overlooked and unfortunately, many students are not diagnosed until students have been in school for about two years.

There are often early signs of learning disabilities that parents and teachers may notice.  The June/July assessment period has passed and parents are frantically making enquiries and applying at schools for Grade 1. Some students will simply not cope if classes are too big and if the pace is too fast. 


1. Causes of Learning Disabilities are varied


Check the clinic card of students and know their background and history. The presence of risk factors may indicate a need to monitor for early intervention needs.

  1. Family history of learning disabilities;
  2. Parental pre-natal risk factors;
  3. Substance abuse;
  4. Poor prenatal medical care and nutrition;
  5. Prenatal brain injury or delivery complications;
  6. Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead or toxic mold;
  7. Developmental differences and delays;
  8. Poverty; and
  9. Abuse and neglect.


2. Observe the Child's Early Development for Signs of Learning Disabilities


Developmental delays in any of the following can suggest the potential for learning disabilities:


  1. Gross Motor - Large muscle movements such as standing, walking, or pulling up;
  2. Fine Motor - Small muscle movements such as grasping objects, moving fingers and toes;
  3. Communication and Early Language- Ability to understand words or to use speech;
  4. Cognitive Skills - Ability to think and solve problems; and
  5. Social/Emotional - Ability to interact appropriately with others and show appropriate emotional responses.


3. Watch for Delays in Reading, Language, and Maths


Children continue to develop at different rates in primary school years. By the third year, children should be able to read simple chapter books at grade level, write simple sentences, add, subtract, and begin to multiply. Students may not perform these tasks with complete accuracy. It is normal for some letter reversals and mirror writing to appear in their work. Most students will learn to correct these errors with instruction. A small percentage of children will continue to have difficulty and will develop learning disabilities.


4. Grade 3 is a Critical Year for Identifying Disabilities


Suspect a problem when the child:


  1. Does not connect letters and sounds;
  2. Cannot read grade-level text;
  3. Cannot understand what he reads;
  4. Cannot understanding number concepts;
  5. Cannot form letters or remember which letters stand for which sounds;
  6. Has difficulty following directions, even with help;
  7. Has poor memory;
  8. Cannot repeat information or copy items;
  9. Has difficulty following lines when cutting; and
  10. Has difficulty with attention or behavior.


Children with these types of problems may be referred for an assessment to diagnose or rule out a learning disability.


5. Where to Get Help for Assessment of Learning Disabilities

If you suspect the child has a disability, ask for an assessment. Do not adopt a “wait and see” approach. Go with your gut-feel. A late bloomer often wilts. 

Important Reminders

Welcome back to school!

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Sports Day - 27 Feb
End of term - 14 Mar




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