School anxiety and learning disabilities

School anxiety and learning disabilities

di dott.ssa Flavia Di Caro

School anxiety concerns a particular fear and aversion to school that is accompanied by negative emotional reactions associated with some component of the school environment (classmates, evaluation, a teacher in particular). It involves 2% of the population and may also concern the most capable students or students with specific learning disabilities.

In particular, children with ASD, compared to their peers, have a more negative self-concept (Tabassam and Grainger 2002), they feel less emotionally supported and have low self-esteem, low self-efficacy (perception of their abilities to cope with the proposed tasks) and this leads them to experience greater anxiety than their peers.

On the one hand for the continuous and repeated school failures that lead them to feel inappropriate and inadequate, and on the other hand also for the loneliness they feel in the face of a difficulty that they themselves do not understand well and that unfortunately often not even those around them are able to understand. In fact, it is not unusual for them to be considered listless and negligent. All this leads to strong emotional suffering that can manifest itself on the one hand with anger and aggression, but on the other hand with an inner withdrawal and isolation.

The disorder is characterized by the following problematic behaviors and somatic symptoms:

· High anxiety reaction when leaving the house or arriving in front of the school, to the point of presenting panic symptoms;

· Manifestation of a wide range of somatic symptoms (dizziness, headache, tremors, palpitations, chest pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shoulder pain, pain in the limbs);

· The level of distress may be high from the night before and the boy may rest badly, sleep may be disturbed.

When it is observed that the discomfort persists, it is very important not to feel guilty and to request psychological support before the discomfort can compromise the social and relational life of the boy. The main objective of an individualized support plan must be to reduce the child’s anxiety, increasing self-esteem and encouraging independence, self-defense and the development of new skills.

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