“No!” my student replied, when I gently told her we needed to go outside for the fire drill. She was just frozen. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with her, but I knew she felt worried.
We had done all that I had expected us to do, given her headphones, warned her about the drill and even had her do the drill from my classroom instead of her general education room. We had helped her prepare and had collaborated with her to make all of the decisions about how the drill would happen. And, before it happened, she had said she was ready.
However, when it came to the actual drill, her anxiety took over and she just became overwhelmed with stress. I was hard for me to understand because, I myself, have never experienced severe anxiety. However, it was clear to me that something was happening with my student and that I needed to help her learn HOW to deal with her worries.
Later that day, we discovered that she had been worried that her stuffie that she kept in my cupboard, would get burned in the fire drill. We hadn’t had a strategy for her at that moment.
I thought a good starting place might be to read the book "Bella Gets Worried” from "The A-Team Presents..." series of books for learning key social skills. I wasn’t sure if she could relate to the book, as a first grader. But the minute I started reading it, she exclaimed, “that’s like me!” She even stated, “I like Bella because she gets overwhelmed too.”
We read and stopped to talk about the strategies that Bella was using in the book. My student really liked them! Then, she asked if she could make a happy book. We spent the next day looking at pictures that made her smile or laugh. She even wrote her own little story in the happy book to remind herself about what she can do when she is worried. Now, she likes to carry the book around with her and when she starts getting worried, she looks at it. It has been an exceptionally helpful strategy for her. It reminded me how powerful it is for her to feel like she's not alone - like she's not the only one who gets worried, anxious and overwhelmed.
The great news about this book is that there are TONS of different strategies that fit many types of personalities.
Another student of mine uses the “lock box” idea shared in the book and feeds his worries to a “worry monster.”
A 5th grade student of mine likes using the be prepared strategy and talking to an adult. She always asks for her daily schedule and makes notes if there are any changes. She then has a card she can use to put on the teacher’s desk to have a little worry time chat with her teacher if she if feeling anxious.
I’m confident you too can find strategies to use with your students to help them learn how to manage their worries and anxieties with the help of this book!
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