Students in the classroom

While most people can relate to experiencing anxiety and stress at some point in their lives, children with learning differences can experience these feelings much more frequently. Anxiety and stress can detrimentally impact how we feel, interact, perceive the world, behave, respond, and more. Understanding the differences between the two and how to successfully help children with learning differences recognize, manage, work through, and overcome these obstacles can be life-changing.

What is the difference between anxiety and stress?

International Dyslexia Association (IDA) describes anxiety as a state of worry about what might be and describes stress as a reaction to what is. Stress is often a response to an external cause (such as too much work, struggling to meet a goal, an argument with a friend, etc.) and anxiety is generally triggered by an internal, persistent feeling of fear or dread about something in the future. Furthermore, stress usually dissipates after a concern has passed, while anxiety can be known to linger for long periods of time.

What is the connection between anxiety, stress, and learning difficulties?

Children with learning differences are more likely to struggle with anxiety and stress for a number of reasons, which may seem obvious but are worth taking the time to really understand. Some of these reasons include:

  • They recognize that they experience unique challenges compared to most of their peers.
  • They may already be struggling to focus or pay attention in current circumstances.
  • They learn and think differently, which can often cause self-concern or self-doubt.
  • Relationships and friendships can be hard to establish and build, leaving a sense of loneliness and the pressure to not put those that exist at risk.
  • They can become easily confused when faced with new or difficult circumstances, also feeling overwhelmed or lost.
  • Their learning differences can cause them to be fearful of making more mistakes.

When a student is learning how to learn and how to manage his or her learning disability (whether it be ADHD, dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, or another executive function or learning difference), they may already feel stressed with the reality at hand. The unknowns of their future and their uncertainty about many things they hope to achieve can increase the anxiety they feel on a daily basis.

How can you help your child de-stress and decrease levels of anxiety?

At The Janus School, our teachers and faculty members take a whole-child approach to learning and engage with students every day, hearing about their personal feelings, observing their actions and reactions, and interacting with them to ensure they feel heard, understood, and hopeful. Below are five of the many different ways that you can help to provide an even more positive and encouraging environment for your child with a learning difference.

  1. Educate: Educate your child on the impact that his or her learning difference will likely have on daily tasks, while also talking about the ways to become his or her own best advocate in all situations.
  2. Think Proactively: Encourage your child to think ahead and be proactive when able, anticipating problems that could arise when facing new challenges.
  3. Exercise: Physical activity can help reduce stress, so incorporating more exercise into everyday activities can be helpful and create an outlet for releasing energy and regaining focus afterwards.
  4. Reduce the Threat: Create an environment, or get others involved who can help, where your child feels safe to try new skills, make mistakes, and try again.
  5. Provide Opportunities for Frequent Success: Encourage the feeling of accomplishment for your child by providing them with opportunities where they can experience success. This gives your child a chance to replace self-doubt with hope and a positive outlook on current and future tasks they experience.

Helping children learn how to recognize the causes of stress and anxiety, and how to manage these powerful emotions, can have a transformative impact on how they feel about and perceive themselves, others, and the world around them. At Janus, our mission is to help every child thrive in and out of the classroom and beyond graduation, while also encouraging every child to become his or her own best advocate.

“We can teach children that they are strong and they can meet adversity and challenges and the feelings that come with them,” Jay Keener, social worker at The Janus School, said. “We can reframe stressful situations into positive experiences and see them as a chance to grow, strengthen, and learn. Sharing positive reminders, such as ‘You can handle this. I believe in you.’ and ‘I know this is hard, but you can do hard things!’ can also help reframe a child’s view of stress and anxiety.”

Have questions about anxiety and learning differences?

Want to learn more about The Janus School? Reach out to our team.

If you’re looking at private schools for learning disabilities, contact us to learn more about Janus’ mission to empower students in grades K-12 with learning differences (a language- or math-based learning disability, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), executive function difficulties (EFD), nonverbal learning disorder, or auditory processing disorder) to become lifelong learners and problem solvers by giving them the skills, strategies, and confidence to achieve academic and personal success. Our campus sits on 40 acres in Mount Joy, PA, and our students come from 33 different districts across seven different counties: Cumberland County, Dauphin County, Lebanon County, Berks County, Lancaster County, Adams County, and York County. See how students’ lives are changed every day and read Janus’ student testimonials and success stories.

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