Anxiety in Students with Learning Differences

Studies show that students with learning and attention difficulties are at a greater risk for anxiety. Students with dyslexia may feel anxious because they don’t understand why reading is so hard for them. They see other students reading with ease and feel embarrassed because of their inability to read fluently. Fear of reading in a group or fear of other students seeing their writing/spelling is intense and very real. Self-loathing can eat away at their self-esteem.

Many of my students exhibit anxiety to a certain degree. The amount of mental energy that they put into our tutoring sessions is tremendous. They sometimes leave exhausted. Imagine how they feel after a full day of school. Patience is necessary to help these students. We sometimes miss the signs of anxiety and think a student is just “acting out” or “being stubborn”. So, let’s examine how anxiety may manifest itself in students with learning differences.

The following are some of the signs you may find in students with anxiety:

  • Frequent complaints of headaches or stomachaches
  • Change in eating habits
  • Refusal to eat lunch or snacks at school
  • Restless, Fidgety, hyperactivity, or easily distracted
  • Tense muscles
  • Cries often
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Moody
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Refusal to do homework
  • Avoids social situations

It is important for our students to experience success. Celebrate every success, every improvement, and every effort they make. Understand that their success, improvement, or effort may look different from other students, but are no less valuable. Help students find their strengths and gifts so that the focus is not always on their learning difference.

In my next post, I will address how anxiety effects learning.

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