Children with Anxiety
While everyone experiences anxiety at some level, children with generalized anxiety disorder have excessive worries and preoccupations. They may have persistent thoughts of self-doubt and constantly criticize themselves. These children are typically unable to explain what is bothering them or to stop the worrying. For a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, these symptoms must have at least six-month duration and affect the child all through his day. Unlike social phobia, separation anxiety, or panic disorder, symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may be experienced internally and not seen.
We know at St. Anthony’s that anxiety can literally “freeze” the brain and immobilize the student. For example, when a child refuses to follow directions, the reason may be a symptom of anxiety, rather than one of opposition or defiance. Accommodations or modifications may be necessary within the classroom. Late arrival times may be useful, or a shortened school day may work on a temporary basis.
Irritability and sleep problems may accompany the disorder. Students with an anxiety disorder often have difficulty transitioning from home to school, leading to late arrival times, tearful morning drop-offs, and tearful episodes at school. Their tendency to self-criticism and low self-esteem often leads to avoidance of academic and peer interactions.
Classroom Meeting Increases Social Competence
Our “classroom meeting” held each morning before the school day begins has been useful in increasing social competency. For the student displaying physical symptoms, a calming, alternative activity may be employed. One on one time with our therapists has proven to be beneficial, as well. St. Anthony School teachers strive to foster positive peer interactions and to build their confidence.
Anxiety Disorder and Medication
For those children whose symptoms do not improve with psychological intervention, there are medications used for generalized anxiety disorder. While not approved by the FDA specifically for use with children and adolescents with this disorder, antidepressants have been effective in reducing symptoms. Proper treatment requires taking medicines daily as prescribed, allowing adequate time for the medicine to take effect, and monitoring for both effectiveness and side-effects. The staff at St. Anthony’s are extremely knowledgeable regarding the use of medications. We will contact physicians by phone or email to keep them apprised of student progress. If you have questions about how we help children with anxiety, please contact us.