Anxiety disorders can sometimes interfere with your child’s success at school. Your child may be eligible for services, accommodations or modifications under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If your child has been found eligible, you might wonder what types of services/accommodations will be provided. Keep in mind that any accommodations should be considered based on your child’s individual needs. Even so, the following suggestions may help you create a list of what you think may help your child:
- Clearly stated and posted expectations and consequences
- Notice when any change in the routine is expected
- Seating near a door to help the child feel he can quickly escape or seating by the teacher where he feels safe
- Not requiring a student to read aloud or work at the board
- Not requiring student to answer questions aloud during class, asking only "yes/no" questions, give notice before it is the student’s turn to answer and ask questions based on the student’s knowledge
- Use positive reinforcement programs
- Presentations given in private to only the teacher or audio/video taped ahead of time
- Extended time for tests
- Write instructions on the board, use a signal to indicate when instructions or directions are being given
- Allowing tests to be taken in a quiet, distraction free environment
- Use a "cool down pass." Create two small cards - one for the student and one for the teacher - that are "passes" to leave the classroom for a drink, to calm down or to talk to a safe person. If the teacher notices the child becoming anxious and agitated, she can place it on the student’s desk, signalling it is okay to get up and leave the classroom for a little while. The student can also place a card on the teacher’s desk and then leave.
- Designate a "safe person" the student can talk to when anxious. This could be the school nurse, a resource teacher, the librarian. It should be someone who is understanding and provides a calming presence.
- Appoint a lunch/recess buddy. This is especially important for social anxiety, when children feel isolated and rejected. Use buddies during lunch, recess and other unstructured activities to alleviate feelings of anxiety during these times. This can be an older student mentor or a classmate.
- Provide alternate assignments, such as reports, in place of tests for those with extreme test anxiety.
- Have specific procedures in place for making up missed work.
- For older students, allow tape recorders to be used in place of taking notes
- Reformat tests to reduce anxiety, for example use multiple choice or allow tests to be given orally
- Provide written notes via email or on the web for students to review
- Provide notice for any upcoming tests
- Have more frequent, shorter tests
- Allow for extra time for tests
- Signal, such as clapping hands, before giving directions or instructions to the class
- During assemblies, allow for seating at the back, near the door or at the end of the aisle, depending on the student’s preference
- During field trips, assure that the student is placed in a group that will be supportive, such as the teacher’s group or with parents who understand anxiety disorders
- Set reasonable time limits for homework or reduce the amount of homework (such as every other question) if OCD is interfering with getting homework completed
Remember, this list of accommodations is just a sample of possible classroom accommodations. Work with your child’s school to decide which accommodations are necessary based on your child’s symptoms.
For more information:
"Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities," 2012, Staff Writer, University of Washington
"Anxiety Disorders at School," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Anxiety and Depression Association of America
"Classroom Ideas to Reduce Anxiety," Date Unknown, Kim Davis, Indiana University
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.