How to spot internalized signs of student anxiety

By: | July 9, 2019

Parents and teachers grow concerned when younger students fail tests, act out in school or miss class. However, these academic and social struggles can mask mental health disorders.

An elementary-age child having difficulty acquiring language fluency isn’t necessarily depressed, but adults should at least ask the question, says Keith Herman, a professor of educational, school and counseling psychology at the University of Missouri’s College of Education.

Not making friends is another common risk indicator of depression and anxiety, Herman says.

“If a child has competency issues and skill deficits early in development that are not addressed, they can develop more distorted beliefs about themselves,” he says.
Social-emotional learning approaches are essential if teachers are going to spot problems and intervene, whether that means offering support themselves or referring students to counselors.

Educators, despite pressures they feel to constantly boost student achievement, also need to be more mindful of the subtle messages they send to children who are having academic or social troubles. Teachers and parents should strive to focus on these students’ strengths rather than harping on their shortcomings, Herman says.

“Adult attention is really influential, especially in elementary school,” he says. “Kids may be getting lots of reprimands and very little attention when they succeed. We know that is damaging to development.”

Read main story: Educators attack anxiety in all grades