Back to School: Childhood Anxiety

Back to School: Childhood Anxiety

As a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), one of the most significant changes I have observed in the lives of the children and families entering this Center’s doors is that more “friends” are arriving with a medical diagnosis of anxiety, the youngest “friend” was three years old. 

As a college student, I majored in psychology while attending Emory University, assisted in research with my professors, and found my undergraduate studies to be valuable as I expanded into my graduate program in the field of Speech-Language Pathology.

As a pediatric SLP... Photo: CCC

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist ~ Photo: CCC

I strive to stay professionally informed and value my working relationships with colleagues in the fields of psychology, medicine, education, and of course my professional “siblings”, other ASHA certified SLPs and Audiologists (A).

We mutually understand that our combined efforts are in the best interests of the children and families who enter our professional arenas.

With that said, as adults, we may not always understand or appreciate the depth of the feelings, emotions, and behaviors of our children.

While anxiety may not be the “official” diagnosis, I often hear children described as: shy, introverted, a worrier, nervous, “acting ridiculous”, “just being silly”, “wanting attention”, [insert other descriptions].

Since the beginning of my SLP training I believed, “We are all aligned somewhere on the multitudes of continuums which determine our individuality.” And now, science adds support to what many professionals and families have observed. Read more here.

The question is, “Where did each of us land on the “gazillion” of continuums? This is answered, at least in part, by understanding the person we were, we are, and will become.

Parents who entrust their child to me will hear me say, “Each child comes to me with their own temperament and personality.” These factors provide me with a view into each child’s mind’s eye and often determines how we will travel our paths together.

It is a fact that as an SLP, many “friends” (but not all) enter their first visit less than happy and cheerful. In fact, they are often unhappy, frustrated, angry, nervous, anxious, and even depressed. These feelings are often related, to some degree, to their current communication/SLP challenges.

This includes toddlers who are challenged by their decreased ability to communicate effectively, as well as, college students who do not understand why their peer relations are unsuccessful.


Back to the continuums, it seems children with autism, attentional, and learning challenges, may be at a higher risk for anxiety. And, by the way, many of these children also have communication/SLP disorders.

I am a facilitator. I am an SLP Photo: ASHA

I am a facilitator. I am an SLP ~ Photo: ASHA

As you may imagine, my days are spent making changes within a wide range of communication/SLP needs. And, with that responsibility comes building confidence, enhancing self-esteem, developing a “love or learning”, facilitating an effective mode of communication, motivating, and as a colleague once said, “changing brains”.

I am a motivator. I am an SLP. ~ Photo: ASHA

I am a motivator. I am an SLP. ~ Photo: ASHA

It is imperative that you, the parent/caretaker, discuss any and all concerns regarding your child’s health, emotional state, or changes in behaviors, with your primary care physician and/or other healthcare or educational professional. Do not wait for “it to improve on its own”. And for those of us who observe these changes, it is our professional responsibility to act accordingly.

Again, it is important for those around our children to have a better understanding of childhood anxiety (and the continuum) in an effort to “see” it as it is, REAL.

Which leads me to the excitement surrounding the beginning of school and how our children have a lot on their minds as the first day approaches.

The possibilities are exciting but may also yield feelings of nervousness and for some, anxiety: New school, new teacher, new classroom, new schedule, entering middle or high school, new classmates, new transportation, and that’s just the beginning…

In an effort to provide you, the parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults in the lives of our children with some tools, I am sharing articles written by professionals who may be able to guide you and your child along the way. (The articles are not presented in any specific order.)

“Dealing with Anxiety in Children: How to Calm and Strengthen an Anxious Brain” and shared by Hey Sigmund.

“Is Your Child a Worrywart? Her’s How to Make Her Less Anxious”  by Melinda Wenner Moyer, shared via Slate.

“49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child” by Renee Jain and posted in PsychCentral.

“How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior” by Caroline Miller via Child Mind Institute. 

Also from Child Mind Institute, “What to Do (and Not Do) When Children are Anxious” by Clark Goldstein, PhD.

“At a Glance: What Anxiety Looks Like in Kids” and “Anxiety: Why It’s Different From Stress” by Peg Rosen shared via Understood.

An infographic from Renee Jain, via The Huffington Post, suggesting what not to say and better phrases for your anxious child, “5 Phrases to Avoid Saying to An Anxious Child (and 5 Alternatives)”

For additional reading, you can search this Center’s Facebook page with a key word such as “anxiety” or “mindfulness” for previous posts.

As you can see, there are many valuable online sources regarding this topic and ways to make positive changes. Surely there is no one way that is best, therefore, find what works for your family.

Most of all, remember that an in-person consultation regarding any and all concerns is best achieved with the appropriate professionals.

If only every child's emotions were as easy to discern as the smiles on these treats! Photo: PPW

If only every child’s emotions were as easy to discern as the smiles on these treats! Photo: PPW

We invite you to follow this Center’s Back to School Series and contact us with any questions regarding how Speech-Language Pathology services may be beneficial to your child and family.

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