Tag Archives: anxiety

Kathy Hoopman on teaching children with ASD in the classroom

readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann

Do you have children with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom and wonder how best to cater to their needs? Do you have friends with Asperger Syndrome, or maybe have it yourself? This week’s guest Kathy Hoopmann has a wealth of suggestions to help you understand, appreciate and enjoy the complex syndrome that is known as ASD.

Combining her knowledge of Asperger Syndrome with her teaching background, Kathy has written over twenty books for children and adults.  She is best known for her photo-illustrated books that deal with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety.  The simplicity, charm and insight of these books has made them must-haves for children and adults around the world.

Kathy has won and been shortlisted for many literary awards including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award, and she has four times been awarded a silver Nautilus Award (US).  Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and sell widely in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East.

The books help children and adults with ASD recognise that they are not alone and provide support to carers, teachers and other professionals working with people with ASD.  In any home, school or classroom library Kathy’s books would help everyone learn to understand and support each other.

Welcome to readilearn, Kathy. Over to you.

The boy crawled under a table, his cap pulled low.  All eyes were on me to watch what I would do.  I was the relief teacher, or ‘light relief’ and the class was eager for a good show.  But I had been a relief teacher for too long to take the bait.  Besides, I recognised the behavior.  The boy displayed many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder and frankly under the table was the very best place he could be, for his sake and mine. 

‘Miss?’ a child ventured, ‘Billy’s under the table and he’s wearing a hat indoors.’

Continue reading: readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann – Readilearn

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Don’t fence me in

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia.

The following statements taken from the Mayo Clinic website explain agoraphobia as:

“a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.”

“The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape or seek help if intense anxiety develops.”

“Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to fear another attack and avoid the place where it occurred.”

“Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears.

Sometimes, as Charli says, we can face our fears head on and defeat them with the choices we make. Other times we may need support to help us overcome them. Sometimes therapy and medication may be needed to help those suffering the debilitating effects of anxiety. I will not be discussing those paths in this post. Nor am I going to talk about the anxieties of children with Asperger’s or Autism. There are others who do a much better job of it and are much more knowledgeable than I, such as Sherri Matthews and Shawna Ainslie.

school cropped

However, it is not uncommon for a child to occasionally feel anxious and stressed by situations that occur at school. The incidence increases when children are placed in situations that are inappropriate to their development and don’t respect their needs. Sometimes the anxiety and stress is manageable and alleviated by more appropriate circumstances outside of the school environment. But sometimes the distress to the child and family can increase to a level at which more help and support is required.

A school environment more suited to children’s needs would reduce the number of anxious and stressed students, parents, and teachers. Creating a nurturing and supportive school environment requires a firm understanding of child development and a belief in their ability to learn. It also requires that children are respected and appreciated for who they are, and that they receive timely and appropriate feedback, encouragement, and support.

last child in the woods

 

In recent posts I have mentioned the importance of play, and of time spent in, and learning outdoors, in nature. In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv espouses the importance of nature to the development of healthy children, as well as to the physical health and well-being of adults. Perhaps more time in nature would provide the calm that is needed to combat the hustle and bustle of modern life and pressures of formal, test-driven classrooms.

In fact, it is not just “perhaps”. In his article The School of Nature Louv provides evidence of benefits to learning that nature-based and place-based education can bring. He says, “greening schools may be one of the most cost-effective ways to raise student test scores.

earth in mind

David Orr agrees. In his book Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect, he also stresses the importance of learning about, from, and in nature.  He says, that, “all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded we teach students that they are part of or apart from the natural world.”

It is easy to talk about the failings of the school system and suggest ways it could be improved. It is more difficult to make the desired changes happen. While the majority of teachers work hard to create warm, supportive, nurturing environments for children, there are many situations over which they have no control. It is important then to have strategies for dealing with anxiety and stress if they occur.

stress can really get on your nerves

I recently came across a book that may be useful if your child tends towards anxiety.  Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves aims to provide children with strategies for coping with stress. Written by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick, it is published by free spirit Publishing as one of a series aimed at helping 8 – 13 year-olds “get through life rough spots”. With Trevor’s fun, cartoon-like illustrations on every page, the book promises to turn stressed out kids into “panic mechanics” with a toolkit of suggestions for reducing their own stress levels. I’d have to say, they’re not bad strategies for anyone’s toolkit.

I first heard about the book on the free spirit publishing blog in a post by Trevor in which he explains how drawing helped him cope with his learning difference. Trevor may be an outlier, but his story certainly provides inspiration for those who struggle in the traditional classroom.

cropped forest

I think time outdoors, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the natural world is a great antidote to stress. I may no longer gambol in the grass, but I can sit in stillness and quiet, appreciating the beauty around me as I unplug from technology and reconnect by grounding myself in nature. I’m not sure how that works for agoraphobics with a fear of open places though. Perhaps having more time in nature as a child and learning techniques for coping with anxiety and stress could work as a preventative. But it’s only a thought. I am no expert.

This brings me back to Charli Mills and her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a response to an agoraphobic moment.  I have used the Mayo Clinic’s broader interpretation rather than the “narrow” definition of “fear of open spaces”. (I’d rather not be fenced in!) I hope my story portrays a recognisable response that could occur in a variety of circumstances. Please let me know what situation you think of as you read, and whether you consider my attempt successful.

Confrontation

She could hardly manage to chew, let alone swallow, the morsel of cereal occupying her mouth.

Her vacant stare and stifled moans alerted him.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m trying,” she mumbled, and squeezed her hands between her quivering knees.

“You’ll be fine. You haven’t had an attack for months. And, you’re prepared.”

“I know.” She pressed her arms against her gurgling belly. “But …”

He waited.

Finally, she looked at him. “But …”

He sponged her clammy forehead.

She looked away. “What if they don’t like me?”

“They won’t like you. They’ll love you. Come on. I’ll take you.”

What did you think of as you read? I wrote the piece about young teacher about to meet her first class. Did you pick it?

While anxiety about school is more commonly thought of as presenting in children, it is not uncommon for teachers to suffer from school anxiety as well. We accept that teaching is a stressful role, but for some it can also cause anxiety.

I think there are few who are immune from anxiety. We need to be more open in talking about mental health in general. Recognition, acknowledgment and supportive discussion are important factors in helping to overcome the effects of anxiety.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Don’t gloss over glossophobia

 

Many crepuscular animals freeze when caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. With vision more suited to dark than light, they are temporarily blinded by the brightness. They become confused and, not knowing which way to turn, freeze. Others, like the Australian kangaroo, may panic and move erratically with unpredictable changes in direction. Any large animal on the road puts itself and any unwary motorist in danger.

Freezing in fear is a reaction not exclusive to animals. Humans are just as likely to freeze in fear, or perhaps panic and behave erratically unsure of how to respond. Some people find being “put in the spotlight” quite unnerving and exhibit similar responses to animals caught in the headlights.

While Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch was talking about a real deer caught in the headlights this week and challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health, I decided to apply the challenge to a human situation.

Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is quite common. Many people suffer mild symptoms of reluctance, “butterflies” or sweaty palms. Others suffer more severe symptoms including total avoidance, panic attacks and other forms of physical distress.

Being called upon in class can be distressing for some students, particularly if they have been singled out or ridiculed for not knowing the correct answer in the past. Helping a student to overcome this fear requires patience and understanding. It may require an approach from many different angles and the support of a variety of personnel, as well as a desire by the student.

The student will require support to develop self- esteem and self-confidence as well as knowledge of the subject. A sensitive “not yet” approach by a teacher who offers support, and encourages other students to be supportive, will contribute greatly. It may take time for improvements to be noticeable as changing an established mindset, from “I’m a failure” to “I’m learning”, takes effort.

In her post Charli included a quote from the Tahoma Literary Review which included the suggestion that rescuing a deer and nursing it back to health may be used as a “metaphor for the protagonist’s desire to rescue his/her life by rescuing another’s.” It is not too big a stretch to think that, for some teachers, “rescuing” their students could enable them to “rescue” themselves; improving the lives of others improves their own through the ripple effect.

I have chosen this “rescue” as the theme of my response to Charli’s challenge: a breakthrough for Marnie in the development of her confidence and willingness to have a go in a class where students are developing a growth mindset under the guidance of a sensitive teacher.

Like a deer in the headlights

Like a deer in the headlights she was immobile. She’d dreaded this moment. Although she’d tried to fade into the background, she knew she couldn’t hide forever. The room suddenly fell silent, all eyes on her. Would she fail?

“Marnie?” prompted the teacher.

Her chair scraped as she stood. She grasped the table with trembling hands attempting to still her wobbly legs. They waited.

Marnie squeaked.  Some looked down, or away. Some sniggered. Jasmine smiled encouragingly. Marnie cleared her throat, then blurted the answer.

“That’s right!” congratulated the teacher.

The class erupted. Marnie smiled. Their efforts had paid off.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.