Teaching students with social anxiety disorder (SAD) can be challenging. School can be difficult for students with SAD. If you are a teacher of a student with SAD, knowing how to encourage and foster a good environment for learning is key. Below are some tips to help you structure your classroom in ways that will encourage the student with SAD.
How to Treat the Student with SAD
- Promote self-esteem by offering praise for small accomplishments and rewarding participation even if the student gives a wrong answer.
- In your interactions with the student, speak softly and calmly.
- Help the student confront feared situations with gentle encouragement.
Programs and Education
- If you haven't already, implement a program like the "FRIENDS" group program in your classroom or school. This program is designed to prevent anxiety and depression for children ages 7 through 16.
- For younger children, read storybooks about shyness, self-esteem and bullying. For older children read novels or watch movies with the same content.
- The student with SAD may require social skills training or instruction in relaxation techniques delivered by a special education teacher or other team member.
Promote Relationships in Class
- Pair students for activities rather than allowing students to choose pairs, to prevent the student with SAD from being left out.
- For younger children, make the child with SAD your special helper to give her a role in the classroom.
- Encourage friendships between children with SAD and friendly, outgoing classmates.
- Allow the child with SAD to sit with classmates that she is familiar with or is friends with.
- Assign a "lifeline" peer to the child who can help answer her questions if called upon in a group setting.
- Ensure that you have a zero tolerance rule for bullying and discrimination of any kind.
- Have punishments in place for students who embarrass or humiliate other children to prevent this behavior in the classroom. For example, during speeches, any child who snickers during another student's speech would have marks deducted from his own grade.
Collaborate With Parents
- Regular meetings between parents, teachers, counsellors and other school staff are important for planning classroom strategies for the student with SAD.
- Allow the student with SAD to arrive late if it makes the transition easier.
- Identify a "safe place" that the student can go to if feeling overwhelmed; have a signal and exit strategy for these situations.
- Modify instructional methods if necessary, such as explaining an assignment one-on-one with the student.
- If a student misses a lot of school due to social anxiety, allow gradual reintroduction at a pace that the student is comfortable with.
- Have a pre-set time each week that the student can talk with an adult about how he is feeling and his fears.
Massachusetts General Hospital. School-Based Interventions: Before You Begin. Accessed June 21, 2010.
Massachusetts General Hospital. Social Phobia: Interventions at School. Accessed June 21, 2010.
Shyness and Social Anxiety Treatment Australia. Children and Social Anxiety. Accessed June 21, 2010.