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Understanding Social Anxiety at School

Social Anxiety Disorder Information (NHS ADVICE)

Social anxiety disorder can also be referred to as social phobia and is characterised by intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social situation. Social anxiety disorder is common amongst children and adults of all ages. It is important that children suffering with social anxiety disorder are given the help they need to understand and deal with their anxiety within a school environment. 

Understanding social anxiety disorder is important within an educational establishment such as Slindon College. Our teaching and support staff recognise the importance of helping children by providing them with effective techniques and support so that they can continue to learn and feel supported when in their learning environment. 

Is social anxiety a mental illness? 

Social anxiety is a mental health condition that can affect sufferer’s lives in many ways but it is not considered a serious psychological issue. Those dealing with social anxiety disorder often find work and education present difficult challenges and can be affected as a result. 

What is the cause of social anxiety disorder? 

Though there has been extensive research into social anxiety disorder, the exact cause is unknown. There has been some evidence to suggest that it could be caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. 

It is also suggested that negative experiences also contribute to the development of the disorder, including: 

  • Bullying 
     
  • Domestic conflict 
     
  • Physical abuse 

It is not unusual for anxiety disorders to run in families though the exact link between genetics and mental health illnesses is relatively unknown. Some research suggests that mental health disorders such as social anxiety can develop in family situations where children learn the behaviour of a parent who has an anxiety disorder.


Diagnosing Social Anxiety Disorder

Some parents are left wondering if their child has social anxiety disorder. There is no medical check available to diagnose social anxiety disorder though suitable healthcare providers will be able to support a diagnosis from a description of your symptoms and their experience and knowledge within mental health support cases.
If you recognise the symptoms in your child, you will need to discuss these symptoms with your GP to effectively diagnose and support your child. Common symptoms of social anxiety disorder are:

  • Fear of social situations 
     
  • Fear of humiliation or embarrassment 
     
  • Anxious or panicky behaviour before social interactions 
     
  • Irrational fears 
     
  • Persistent day to day anxiety surrounding normal activities 

 

Teaching Students with Social Anxiety Disorder in Slindon College 

School environments can be extremely difficult for children with social anxiety disorder. It is important to evaluate your child’s learning environment as often there are schools available with a broader range of support facilities to ensure your children’s education remains as unaffected as possible by mental health conditions such as social anxiety. 

Our teachers here at Slindon College encourage and foster positive environments for all our children to learn and grow within. Alongside this, our educational support facilities and staff provide a structured educational programme tailor-made to the requirements of all of the children. 

Advice for teaching students with social anxiety 

It is important that children with social anxiety are given access to the best learning environment with teachers that understand social skills training and relaxation techniques will be required to assist the child. 

  • Promote self-esteem with praise and rewards for participation and accomplishments. It’s important that these techniques are followed even if the child does not give the right answer to a question.
     
  • Promote a calm and relaxed classroom environment that builds trust within the child. It is important that they feel safe and comfortable for them to be able to learn properly.
     
  • Help the student with gentle encouragement to tackle obstacles.
     
  • Pair students for activities rather than allowing children to choose pairs as this may prevent children with social anxiety from being left out.
     
  • Encourage and nurture classroom friendships between children with social anxiety disorder and outgoing classmates. 


Extra help for children with social anxiety

It is especially important in classroom environments that include a mixture of children with special educational needs and without that certain accommodations are made to completely support all of the children in the classroom. These can include:

  • Introducing a child with social anxiety to the class when it suits them so they do not feel under pressure in a new environment.
     
  • Modify instructional methods to make sure all children understand what is being discussed. This could involve one-on-one support with the student.
     
  • Introduce a session each week to give children with social anxiety the opportunity to discuss with an adult how they are feeling, about their work in the classroom and any fears they may have.
     
  • Communicate with the parents of children requiring additional support in the classroom to plan appropriate classroom strategies and teaching methods best suited to them.

5 ways to help students struggling with social anxiety 

The NHS recognises that it is normal for children to feel worried in certain environments. But for some children, anxiety can severely affect their behaviour, personality and thoughts every day. It is this type of anxiety in children that could be a result of social anxiety disorder and require professional help and guidance. Below you can find 5 ways to help anxiety in children when they are in the classroom: 

Take the classroom environment outside 

Being out in nature can help calm an anxious brain and help a child with social anxiety focus on learning and building good relationships with their peers. Outside environments provide a focus away from worries and allow children to concentrate on something outside of their normal routine. 

Praise and positivity 

Children respond well to praise and positive reinforcement. Especially children who are anxious to speak up for fear of embarrassing themselves. Teachers should encourage praise amongst peers and actively praise children for trying even if they did not get it right the first time. 

Encourage active environments 

Exercise is an important contributing factor to supporting mental health. Endorphins act as a calming influence to anxious minds, whilst the physical exertion provides a welcome environment for children to ‘burn steam’ and release any built up tensions. 

Story time 

The act of sharing a story is something that can be especially powerful to capture the imagination of all children. By encouraging those with social anxiety to listen and share stories amongst their classmates, friendships will blossom and confidence will start to grow in all parts of the classroom. 

Understand 

It’s important that the teaching staff involved in your child’s education understand their social anxiety disorder. With the right knowledge and patience, children with anxiety can flourish in the classroom. 

Social Anxiety Disorder Support at Slindon College 

Slindon College provides a range of support and learning environments tailored to the specific requirements of the boys studying with us. Our school provides a welcoming and tranquil setting for boys that may have struggled with mainstream education settings. 

Find out more about Slindon College here.