An Anxiety Over Schoolwork Happens Fast
A recent study by Learning Success found that about 85% of struggling students experienced symptoms of low self-esteem and high anxiety. Symptoms such as
- Expressing that they feel stupid
- Getting emotional or procrastinating over school or schoolwork
- Has more difficulty under stress
- Difficulty attention
Beyond this, what was even more troubling was that almost as many showed signs of extreme emotional stress. These were emotional symptoms such as:
- Hiding their problems
- Emotional sensitivity
- Mood swings
- A strong sense of justice
Many exhibited physical symptoms as well. Symptoms such as:
- Stomach aches, nausea, headaches, or vomiting
- Unusual heavy or light sleeper
- Unusual sweating
The trouble here, beyond the fact that these children have to experience this, is that it will dramatically worsen the learning problem. When there are anxiety issues this leads to the higher processing centers of the brain actually shutting down. This actually makes learning academics. nearly impossible. Of course this is a downward spiral. Learning difficulties leading to anxiety. Anxiety leading to more learning difficulties. And so on. Until the child finally just gives up entirely.
It's not a story with a happy ending
The Symptom Becomes The Problem
Because anxiety can decrease learning ability dramatically, the anxiety itself becomes the bigger problem. The difficulties caused by the anxiety far out shadow the difficulties caused by a specific learning disability.
This anxiety can spiral out of control. Causing more and more learning challenges. Causing more and more bad behavior and making everything far more difficult. Soon the effects of anxiety are a far bigger issue than anything else. Performance will suffer and even worse, learned helplessness can creep in.
But there is an answer. There are many techniques for quieting anxiety. Mind-body and proprioceptive exercises are very effective. There are systematic approaches to making sure anxiety never happens at all. Approaches that use kaizen practices to create many small learning wins. This creates a positive feedback loop of learning progress. Additionally, Building confidence will eliminate anxiety because at it's root anxiety is a physical expression of fear.
Anxiety is simply fear felt in the body. So to stop it we have to realize what the cause of the fear is.
Children understand at a very fundamental level that they need adults to survive. It is built into their biology. So any threat of abandonment, to them, is a threat of death at a deep down biological level. Now, of course, this is unfounded. Parents are not going to abandon their children over bad grades. But the child's primal brain doesn't know that.
Part of the answer is helping them build a growth mentality. This means speaking in ways that help them realize that mistakes are just a part of learning.
There are methods to help them develop a love of learning (which they likely don't have now). This can be done by ensuring that there a lot of little wins in the learning process and by celebrating those wins. This neuroscience-based approach helps them develop into a child who loves learning. It also builds grit, the desire to keep going when things get difficult.
Once a love of learning and grit are developed then a child is unstoppable. They develop a passion that will get them through anything. This is the secret behind many people who suffered from specific learning disabilities but went on to become wildy successful.
Anxiety Is Physically Felt Fear
A Chicken Or Egg Problem
Sometimes children interpret things in unusual ways. Something small may get turned into something large and out of control. In the case of making an interpretation about their own intelligence, they may easily make a wrong assumption and assume that they are not intelligence. Being embarrassed about this they may try to hide it. And this embarrassment and anxiety can actually then lead to a learning difficulty.
Anxiety can mimic a learning disorder. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or other times a small difficulty gets blown out of proportion, with the same result. Regardless of the reason for the anxiety, what happens is that the anxiety is then the problem. Anxiety creates difficulty in learning.
So, whether there is an actual specific learning disability or not the first thing to handle is the anxiety. And that can be done with a little skill. It's up to us, as adults, to learn those skills so we can help children develop the grit they need to live happy productive lives.
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