Anxiety is a rapidly increasing diagnosis, and often the most misunderstood in the school setting. While each child is different, five basic 504 accommodations for anxiety can go a long way for the child with this diagnosis. In addition, anxiety often parallels other learning challenges. For this reason, anxiety should not be left out of 504s.
This is often the greatest fear of a student with anxiety. Seating the anxious student away from kids who tend to need reprimands is one way to handle this. A classroom environment that fosters a calm approach to issues that arise is most helpful. While you cannot request one teacher over the other, your 504 plan can outline what type of teaching approach best suits your anxious student.
2. Class Participation Expectations and Presentations
These can keep students up at night, unless they are clearly prepared for these situations. Having to walk up to the board to answer a question can trigger a panic attack in some students. The 504 should:
- Spell out how a supportive culture will be developed
- What specific supports the child needs to be successful in class
Participation may need to be avoided at first to make the student comfortable; however, the end goal is to desensitize the student to the fear of failure in front of peers and to foster growth.
3. Testing Conditions
A testing area where a student cannot compare his or her pace to that of peers (and the format of the test itself), can make all the difference for a student who experiences performance anxiety. A 504 should spell out exactly what testing accommodations are offered and under what conditions they can be used. In this area, the goal is not to desensitize the student, but rather give him or her a stress-free place to demonstrate his or her learned knowledge.
4. Considering Other Environments and Special Events
The lunchroom, playground, and even restroom, can be sources of paralyzing anxiety for some students. 504s should not ignore these times of day, as they are part of the school experience. Small-group lunch bunches, not in the noisy lunchroom, are a popular solution that is implemented in many schools across the country. A special event can include a student being sick and feeling anxious about returning to school. Make sure your 504 plan outlines how to deal with any events that trigger anxiety in your child.
5. A Safe Person
Having a trusted person to check in with on a daily basis or throughout the day is the number one effective strategy for students with anxiety. A support person can:
- Measure the level of anxiety experienced from day to day or moment to moment
- Label the anxiety triggers
- Coach a student through planned and unplanned schedule changes like field trips, fire drills or lockdowns
This allows instruction of helpful strategies to happen when it is most needed. This safe person can also coach a student through planned and unplanned schedule changes, such as field trips, fire drills or lockdowns.
Check out WorryWiseKids.org for more specific accommodations.