Anxiety? JGS Students attain success without stress
A normal part of healthy development, every child goes through phases where anxiety is developmentally appropriate (and even beneficial!). A phase is temporary and usually harmless. Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder, however, experience fear and nervousness to the point that they their daily lives are affected and they avoid places and activities.
Puberty can bring on additional stressors and feelings of self-consciousness that add to anxiety. Anxiety in the teen years can arise from identity confusion, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure. Frustrations and repeated difficulties in social relationships and school performance can lead to increased anxiety about being embarrassed in front of peers, as well as fears about letting down parents or teachers. Though these feelings are all normal, if they don’t subside over time and instead escalate or begin to interfere with their normal activities, there may be cause for concern.
Research shows that left untreated, children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk for performing poorly in school, missing out on important social experiences, and engaging in substance abuse. In addition, anxiety disorders often co-occur with other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), which put them at further risk of having difficulty at school.
While recognizing anxiety is the first step in helping a child to manage and overcome it, this can sometimes be difficult. Anxious kids can also be rather quiet, shy, cautious and withdrawn. They may be very compliant and eager to please adults. On the other hand, anxious children may “act out” with tantrums, crying, and avoidance. These behaviors may be misinterpreted as, “difficult,” when in actuality, they may be anxiety-related.
It’s important to be aware of the ways severe anxiety can show up in children, so that parents are able to intervene and get help early. With the right treatment and support at home, children can learn how to successfully manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, enabling them to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Children with anxiety disorders are obsessed with future events — real or imagined. They invest significant effort ruminating about events and incidents that will, almost certainly, never occur.”
—Richard Lavoie, acclaimed author and special needs education expert
How JGS helps children with anxiety disorders
At JGS, students who struggle with anxiety find a small, structured, supportive environment that allows them to feel more in control than in other schools and educational settings.
Our staff is sensitive to the needs of students with anxiety, creating an atmosphere in which children can feel confident about themselves and their abilities, where questions can be addressed without embarrassment or fear of repercussion, and in which students feel comfortable participating in classroom discussions (but are never “forced” to do so).
There are many other ways in which JGS accommodates kids with anxiety disorders. For students with test-specific anxiety, for example, exams can be taken independently of other students, additional time can be given, or other accommodations can be made depending upon the student’s needs.
Unstructured time at school can also cause anxiety for some students. In our small school setting, students are able to form strong bonds and develop friendships early-on, helping to ease the stress of these unstructured times. The Jones-Gordon team works hand-in-hand with parents and other professionals in the student’s life, including psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors to ensure that the educational experience is a positive one. A student with anxiety can feel assured that all of the JGS staff and teachers, including our full-time social worker and school psychologist, appreciate their feelings and are willing to listen and support him or her through times of stress. Students have the freedom to express themselves, and are given the chance to be both academically and socially successful within our supportive, nurturing learning environment.
We teach and strengthen social and emotional skills in real time using the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER and components from other highly-effective programs. Evidence shows that RULER decreases anxiety and depression, in part by empowering kids to identify and label their own feelings of sadness and anxiety.
Another JGS program feature particularly useful for helping to ease anxiety is our school wide implementation of mindfulness. JGS students practice the techniques of being mindful on a regular basis. This practice allows students to feel content, be “present,” and to recognize the thoughts and feelings without judging them. In addition to a host of other benefits, mindfulness empowers kids with stress reduction tactics and tolls for dealing with frustration.
Lastly, our four-legged and slithering friends (including Kenai, our yellow Lab; Basset Hound, Zoe; a corn snake named Roger; Tank and Olaf, our Russian tortoises; along with several beautiful lizards) offer students sessions of calming pet therapy when needed!
The school is like a family with each child cared for in a way that you would care for your own.