Anxiety can be a big factor in the lives of students with learning differences. As finals approach, many students have come wandering into my office concerned about how to study effectively while, at the same time, keeping their anxiety at bay. This is such a difficult balance to preserve as students worry about the possibility of summer school, outside pressures, and outside-of-school activities. On top of that, add on the difficulty of efficient organization, time management, and attention span that many children with learning differences experience.
It’s incredibly important that students learn how to budget their time by studying in increments, lessening their outside-of-school activities the week before and the week of exams if possible, and finding two to three things to look forward to in their day (whether that be a yogurt, shooting hoops with friends, or 10 minutes of fun screen time). A healthy diet and good sleep will also create a foundation for them to be their best self.
However, when anxiety gets the best of them, I have recently learned of a few helpful apps with great reviews.
- Settle Your Glitter aims at helping calm and control emotions and engages the student in deep breathing exercises so they can focus on learning. This app really works to engage the prefrontal cortex. (The prefrontal cortex is utilized mostly in working memory. As a person grows more stressed, not only does their blood pressure and heart rate rise, but their memory works poorly as they are overstimulated.)
- Another app, Breathing Bubbles, gives the user a choice whether to focus on a joy or to let go of a worry as you practice effective breathing with a friendly manatee.
- Mindshift helps with test anxiety, performance anxiety, panic, and worry (to name a few). Its goal is to work with students to change how they think about anxiety by teaching ways to relax and work on steps to reduce anxiety.
- Additional suggestions for reducing anxiety are to create a calm playlist to listen to during study breaks.
- Or, if your student likes art, purchase an adult coloring book.
Of course, the biggest relief comes when finals (or other stressful events) are over!
Stress will always to be a part of our lives, so the more we practice these skills, the better and quicker we can self-soothe. Encourage your children to use their personalized tools routinely.
Contributed by Dr. Caroline Ford, PhD, Director of Psychological Services, Fairhill School