Helping Children with Special Needs Cope with Fears, Anxieties, and Worries: A guide for teachers and parents
Helping Children with Special NeedsCope with Fears, Anxieties, and Worries A guide for parents and teachers
This presentationis for adults who help childrenthrough their hard times;their anxiety, worries, & fears.
It is meant to be astand-alone presentationto help parents and teacherswork with children to copewith those feelingsthat interfere with daily life.
The ideas for this presentation Susan Hepburn, PhD come from years of experience in schools and community settings from Susan Hepburn, Judy Reaven, Judy Reaven, PhD and Audrey Blakeley-Smith; all Clinical Psychologists at JFK Partners, University of Colorado.Audrey Blakeley-Smith, PhD
Overviewpresentation for thisSigns to help determine if a child’s behavior is typicalor a concern.Strategies to help children cope with anxiety.Selecting the best approach.Words parents and teachers can say to help children.Ideas for prevention of anxiety, worry, or fear.
How do you knowif a child’s behavioris typical or a concern?
Signs of anxietyMany children experience anxiety, worry, and fear in theirdaily lives but are unable to verbalize their feelings.Instead, you might see some of these signs.Avoids new experiences Sleep problemsResists change Narrow focus of interestIrritable Difficulty concentratingDreads future events Withdrawn
Many of these signsare typicalsigns of anxiety thatmost children gothrough.Experiencing anxiety,fear, and worryis part of growing up.
The problem iswhen these signsturn into excessive,persistent, ongoingissues…
When anxieties,worries, and fearsinterfere with dailyactivities.
Anxiety is commonfor children withdevelopmentaldisabilities, especiallychildren with autism.
Most children prefer to avoidfacing their fears, worries, oranxieties.When a child avoids a difficultsituation, he or she does nothave the opportunity to learnto cope with that situation. Asa result, when facing with thesame situation in the future,anxiety will likelycontinue.
Understanding theCycle of Anxiety andteaching the concept tochildren with anxiety, willhelp them understandwhy it’s important toface their fears.
le e cyc ts her r st a The Cycle of Anxiety usually begins with physical reactions to fear, anxiety, or worry such as increased breathing, racing heart, sweating, or dizziness.AvoidanceThe cycle of
le e cyc ts her r st a Negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this!” or exaggerated thoughts like, “That snake is going to bite me!” when the snake is behind a glass window can take over. AnxietyThe cycle of
le e cyc ts her r st a Behaviors may become explosive suddenly, and irritation and upset may appear. AnxietyThe cycle of
le cyc ts her st a r e Children become distracted by the physical reactions, negative thoughts, & behaviors. As a result, there is decreased learning and coping and more anxiety if avoidance continues. AnxietyThe cycle of
How we can help Help children become awareAwareness that when children experiencephysical reactions, negative thoughts, or difficultbehaviors, it might be because they are afraid,anxious or worried about something.Increasing awareness helps childrenunderstand their feelings better.
How we can help Help children put a name to itMany times, children may need to name theirfear in order to understand it.For example…“I get shaky and sweaty when I see snakesbecause I’m afraid of them.”
How we can help Teach children to breathe slowly and deeply• Breathe in slowly through your nose.• Hold it.• Exhale through your mouth.• Feel your stomach go up and down as you breathe.• Repeat for at least 3 breaths.
How we can help Teach children to relax their bodyShake out their arms.Relax their shoulders.Let go of stiffness in their body.
How we can help Teach children positive self-statementsModel positive statements like, “I know you can do this.”Practice positive statements they could usein the future like, “This is no big deal.” “I can handle this!” “I’ve done it before, I can do it again!”
How we can help Find the teachable momentsAvoid teaching children how to cope better inthe moment of their fear, but instead wait fora time when they are calm to reflect on howthey might handle that same situationdifferently next time.
How we can help Encourage brave behaviorsProvide examples of how they could copewith their fear, anxiety, or worry next time.Coach them through practicing their bravebehaviors.
How we can help Reward brave behaviorsGive encouragement for their bravebehaviors.Use frequent, small, yet meaningful rewardsspecific to each child.
Brave Behaviors What are they?Brave behaviors are any attempt to face a fear,worry, or anxiety.They are different for every child and everysituation.
Brave Behaviors How to encourage themStart with easy tasks and move to moredifficult.Encourage partial success or attempts ofbrave behavior.Brave behaviors build confidence so the morethey try brave behaviors, the more confident
Brave Behaviors Example: Chris is afraid of cats. Easy Easy task – Look at pictures of cats. Less easy – Look at cat through window. More difficult – Look at cat 10 feet away. Moredifficult More difficult – Look at cat 5 feet away. Harder – Walk closely past a real cat. Even harder – Touch a cat. Hard Hardest – Pet a cat.
Brave BehaviorsAllow children to decide when to go to next task.Try brave behaviors daily in small steps.Encourage children to stay in feared situationuntil anxiety goes down.
How to Select the Best Approach Try strategies you think your child will best respond to. Ask your child what works best for him or her. Repeat coping strategies that work best will help children remember what to do under stress.
PreventionMake sure children get plenty ofexercise and sleep.Limit caffeine.Practice coping strategies with children.Narrate when you or others demonstratecoping.
PreventionPost schedules to increasepredictability.Identify heroes and how they cope withadversity.Identify when family members are coping.
Conclusion We hope this presentation has helped spark ideas you can use with the children in your life needing help learning how to cope with their anxieties, worries, and fears.
In Review Signs of Anxiety How We Can Words to Say PreventionExamples: Help Understand & teach Validate feelings Exercise dailyAvoidance Cycle of AvoidanceWithdrawn Avoid exaggerating Get enough sleepNarrow focus Help kids becomeIrritable aware of their Express confidence Practice coping skills reactions to anxiety &Cause for concern name it Provide realistic Identify when otherswhen signs are: assurances are copingPersistent Teach to relax body &Ongoing breathing Post schedule toInterfere with daily life increase predictability Positive statements Encourage brave behaviors Determine best approach
ResourcesKeys to Parenting Your Anxious Child (2nd Edition)Katharina Manassis, MD, FRCPHelpful websites:www.jfkpartners.orgwww.telecopes.orgwww.childanxiety.orgwww.myanxiouschild.comComing soon:Facing Your Fears Group Therapy for Managing Anxiety in Childrenwith High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders (Brookes Publishing)Judy Reaven, PhD, Audrey Blakeley-Smith, PhD, Shana Nichols, PhD, andSusan Hepburn, PhD
Photo AttributionPhotographs used in this presentation are from: Microsoft Office and Fotolia
AppreciationContent Experts:Susan Hepburn, PhD, Judy Reaven, PhD, Audrey Blakeley-Smith, PhD, all ClinicalPsychologists and Kristen Kaiser, Parent Liaison, JFK Partners, University of ColoradoSchool of Medicine.Grant funding supporting this work:TeleCopes: Telehealth for Families of Children on the Autism Spectrum withAnxiety, Health Services Resource Administration, Award #1R40MC15593, Sept 2009 - Aug2011.Training Clinicians to Deliver Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Children withHigh-Functioning ASD and Anxiety Grant, National Institute of Health, Award#1R21MH089291-01, Oct 2009 – Sept 2013.Produced by:Dina Johnson, Training CoordinatorJFK Partners, University of Colorado School of MedicineFeb/Mar 2011