Managing Anxiety for Children with Special Needs

Managing Anxiety for Children with Special Needs

10 year old boy having anxiety

What Causes Anxiety in Children?

Have you noticed a change in your child’s demeanor? Or perhaps they exhibit a behavior that seems to be causing them great distress? Just like adults, children are susceptible to anxiety, and unlike adults, they are less aware it is happening to them. In our fast-paced lives, we may not realize how much we put on them. Children, especially those with special needs, can have anxiety triggered by the following:

  • Changes in routine
  • Over (and under) stimulation
  • Social situations
  • Worry and frustration
  • Stress coming from a number of other areas
  • The extent of the impact can come from genetic/biological, and/or environmental factors.

What are Commons Signs of Anxiety in Children?

No matter the age, each of us is unique, and that is especially true when we are dealing with stressors. That said, common signs of anxiety in children, which may present themselves in any number of ways, including but are not limited to:

  • Poor sleep quality
  • Stomach or headaches
  • Repetitive question asking
  • Not responding to logic
  • Outbursts, crying, or tantrums
  • Withdrawal, avoidance, or isolation
  • Requiring excessive coaching through basic tasks
Above all, remember that these are not signs of a child being difficult and certainly not a bad person. Rather, they are opportunities for you, your child, and your support network to study what is happening around them and why it is becoming more challenging to have the type of communication that you are used to with them. In the midst of any one of the above, do your best to remain a calm, open, and safe presence for your child.

How Can I Help Manage My Child’s Anxiety?

At home, begin by looking at routine activities.
  1. Assess the nutritional and physical movement habits of your child. Having balance in these areas can provide a good foundation for other changes, and it’s a great place to start with positive engagement with your child in the home. 
  2. Consider keeping a log of daily activities and behaviors displayed so you can see trends and have a better sense of anxiety triggers. This information will also be incredibly helpful to partners in your child’s education and health in building a 360-degree view of how to best support their development.
  3. Find ways to monitor your own stress levels when assisting your child through a difficult moment. They can certainly sense your energy, and it can either be calming or escalate the situation. If you need to take 5 minutes to yourself for a reset, that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
At school, begin by understanding your child’s day.
  1. What kind of classroom environment and type of individuals surround them? Ask about collaborative strategies in physical, sensory, communication, and health aspects. Make sure you are able to train with specialists on any techniques you should be continuing in your home environment.
  2. Find out how additional stressors can be eliminated from your child’s day. Ensure they are able to get a high level of attention from their teacher and support staff. Minimize massive changes in their environment by wrapping speech, occupational, and physical therapies into their school day rather than additional appointments.
  3. Know that their confidence is being built in the classroom by developing skills for life, work, and recreation at a pace that works for them. This can include adaptive physical education and art, social skills coaching, and job sampling.

The staff at Harbor School would love to get to know more about your child. Schedule a tour or reach out by phone using our contact page.

amy brandon principal Harbor School

Harbor School a private special education school in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Our mission at Harbor School is to help all of our special needs students with learning, social, language, behavioral, and other disabilities. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student reach their full potential.

We would be more than happy to discuss your child's specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.544.9394, or request a tour at Harbor School in Eatontown, NJ. We are located just minutes off of the Garden State Parkway at exit 105 and conveniently located off of Route 35 and Route 36 in Monmouth County, NJ.

Amy Brandon, 
Principal-Harbor School, Eatontown, NJ