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Supporting children and students with anxiety

This page outlines how education staff, care services, parents, guardians, and health professionals work together to manage a child or student with anxiety in education and care settings.

About anxiety

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. While anxious feelings are a common response to a stressful situation, they usually pass once the situation has passed, or the stressor is removed. When anxious feelings don't go away, happen without any particular reason, or make it hard to cope with daily life, it may be a sign of an anxiety condition. 

Find out more about anxiety including:

  • signs and symptoms
  • treatments
  • support strategies.

Health support plans and agreements

If a child or student has anxiety, the education or care service should refer to health support planning for children and students in education and care settings to ensure that the appropriate plans and agreements are in place. This is in addition to the anxiety-specific plans and agreements listed on this page. 

Support plan

A sensory overview support plan – HSP431 (DOC 389KB) may be developed by education and care staff in collaboration with the child or young person and their family. This can provide an understanding of the sensory issues and support the development of strategies to minimise sensory seeking or avoidance.

Behavioural support strategies

Regulation scale to identify behaviour

The regulation scale – HSP432 (DOC 182KB) is a tool that education and care staff can use to help children to identify: 

  • what is happening around them that is impacting on their anxiety
  • what signals their body is giving them
  • ways to respond to their body’s signals that will help them manage their anxiety. 

The regulation scale guide – HSP432a (PDF 500KB) supports the development of the regulation scale. It can be used with interoception activities to help the child develop meaningful interoception skills. 

Some examples of completed regulation scales include:

Wellness questionnaire for children and teachers

The wellness, stress and distress questionnaire – HSP426 (XLSX 264KB) is an emotional and behavioural questionnaire for children and young people. The tool can capture the perspective of children and young people and their teachers.

The 25 items in the questionnaire comprise 5 scales of 5 items each, covering:

  • emotional symptoms
  • conduct problems 
  • hyperactivity or inattention 
  • peer relationships problem 
  • prosocial behaviour.

The questionnaire can be used for various purposes, including clinical assessment, evaluation of outcomes, research and screening. 

Understanding student behaviour

The understanding behaviour template – HSP433 (DOC 456KB) helps to identify why behaviours are occurring how to change it. 

The template can be used to:

  • identify possible triggers for the concerning behaviour
  • document what is happening when the behaviour is most likely to occur  
  • compare when the behaviour is least or most likely to occur 
  • help you identify the purpose of the behaviour 
  • identify teaching environments best suited to the young person.

Educational adjustments

Educational adjustments support students on an individualised basis. Adjustments should be determined by the parents and education and care service and documented in the health support agreement. 

Examples of adjustments may include:

  • working on difficult concepts in the morning
  • developing creative presentations of course material
  • having games that develop working memory as part of the daily routine
  • interoception activities in the daily routine, especially prior to complex tasks.

Visit classroom accommodations to help students with ADHD  to learn more adjustment strategies. 

Training for education and care staff

Children and young people with ADHD may have low levels of interoception, which means they are unable to understand or connect with their bodies in ways that would enable them to self-regulate. It is important teach interoception to help children and young people develop skills in this area. 

Learn more about interoception and how it can be applied in the classroom including:

  • benefits of teaching interoception 
  • interoception tools and resources
  • models of interoception in the classroom.

Friends Resilience have developed a range of age specific programs for education and care services to guide the social and emotional development of children and young people through teaching them resilience. 

Anxiety awareness

The Centre for Emotional Health provides resources and questionnaires that may assist education and care services to support children with anxiety, including:

How parents and caregivers can help

Parents or guardians must:

  • notify the school, preschool or care service if their child has depression
  • complete health care plans and agreements with their health care professionals and provide them to the school, preschool or care service
  • provide required medication to the school, preschool or care service.

If a medication agreement is in place, parents and caregivers must fulfil the roles and responsibilities outlined on the medication management and care page.

How health professionals can help

Health professionals support schools, preschools, care services and families by helping to develop the care plan and any supporting medication and care agreements.

Contact

Disability and Complex Needs Team

Phone: 8226 0515
Email: education.health [at] sa.gov.au