Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Panic Disorder: How Teachers Can Help the Anxious Child

A few weeks ago, I wrote about anxiety and panic disorders in children. You can read that article here.  I promised a follow-up post with ideas of how teachers (and parents too!) can assist the anxious child to feel more secure, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and optimize learning in the classroom. So here is my list, which in no way is a definitive one, but it provides a good start.

Ways Teachers Can Help the Child with Panic Disorder
  • Create a structured environment with predictable routines and the day's schedule posted for the child to see. Depending on the child, it may be beneficial to alert the child a few days in advance to any changes in the routine.  Or, if you have a child like mine, telling them in advance may cause more anxiety.  Up until just a few months ago, my son would worry, fret, and obsess over any changes I told him of in advance.
  • Provide frequent brain breaks, recess, play time~ as much as possible.  At home this means my child works on a task (such as his math homework) and then gets to take a 5-10 minute break before beginning the next assignment.  At school, even allowing the child to get up from their desk to get a drink from the water fountain can help.  As teachers, we know that brain-based research shows that even 15-20 minutes of exercise each day increases concentration for all children.  For the anxious child, it can also help the child with Panic Disorder to learn coping skills, such as releasing negative thoughts through play and relaxation.
  • Teach the child to replace negative thoughts with healthy thoughts:  "I can" instead of "I can't".
  • Provide a time-out area, a "safe place" for the child when they are feeling especially anxious.  When panic starts to increase, may children (and adults) get an intense urge to flee the situation and return to their place of security and comfort (usually their home).   Allowing the child to retreat to the reading or library section of the classroom where there may be pillows and carpeting  is an example of a designated safe place.  Here, the child can escape for a few moments while they work through their panic.
  • Teach the child deep breathing exercises and perhaps visualizing techniques to calm themselves.
  • When possible, allow the child to work by themselves since social interaction can be a major stressor.  We often think that all children enjoy working and socializing with their peers, but this is not so for the anxious child or for students with Aspergers or Selective Mutism.
  • Many teachers arrange their classroom using small groups of desks, pods, or tables.  This is a great strategy to use not only for instruction, but also for the anxious child who may feel too overwhelmed when the teacher has students seated at desks in rows and/or uses primarily whole class instruction.
  • If all else fails, have a plan for the child to visit the nurse or guidance counselor when the panic and anxiety gets to be too much.

This list is just a start!  There are many other techniques and strategies you can use to individualize healthy coping mechanisms for the child with Panic Disorder.  In fact, I wrote about specific strategies in an article I wrote for The Educator's Room.  You can read that article here.

Have an idea to share?  Please leave a comment!

On another note, please knowI am so very thankful for you, my sweet followers, and wish you a joyous, blessed, and restful Thanksgiving holiday vacation!

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Gift of Reading Blog Hop Stop #11

Welcome to Teacher Mom of 3. You have arrived at  


At each blog stop, you will be gathering Reading gifts and freebies.  In each post you will find a picture of a snowman with a letter on it.Collect all of the letters to solve the mystery quote to enter the giveaway. Record all of the letters on your recording sheet and follow each blog along the way so that you can enter the amazing giveaway at the end!

The hop is set up as a loop, so you may start anywhere along the hop, but if you would like to start at the beginning you may go to A Day In The Life of A Title I Teacher's blog.  This is also where you will go after you finish the hop to enter the giveaway!!

Indeed reading is a gift! My fondest memories of a child are of my mother reading to me, reciting poems, and singing songs.  She sparked a passion in me for reading that has lasted 46 years!  As a teacher and mom for 25 years, my life-long mission has been to inspire a love for reading in children, whether they are my own sons or my students. Reading instruction, despite curricular mandates, should be lively, fun, interactive, and inviting for children. Reading opens doors, opportunities, and offers an escape from our own lives. To help a little one "crack the code", learn to read, and identify themselves as a reader brings me much joy and is the impetus for why I have been involved in education for a quarter of a century!

My gift to you is my holiday-themed graphic organizers and stationery sheets for informational reading.  With the CCSS' emphasis on informational reading for even our littlest readers, I like to use organizers to help scaffold students' reading and comprehension, make it more visual, and offer an alternative to question worksheets.

I have included a variety of organizers to help students identify main idea and details, cause-effect, vocabulary, author's purpose, and more.  Like most of the products I create, my packet is designed for small groups, whether it is Guided Reading or a reading intervention group.  However, these organizers can also be used whole-class, in a literacy center, as an assessment, or used for homework.  They can be used for any informational text!  So as you are reading about holidays around the world, animals, or Christmas, you can add this little packet to your lessons. Click the picture below to download your FREEBIE from my TpT store!

My secret letter is...

Thank you for stopping by my blog today! I hope that you enjoyed your gift and learned something new. If you would like to be the first to know about new posts, giveaways, and blog hops, follow me on Bloglovin' by clicking the image below.

Don't stop now! Hop on over to Big Time Literacy to pick up another amazing reading gift! Happy Holidays!

If you get lost along the way download the Hop Map here to easily pick back up where you left off! 


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Sunday, November 17, 2013

More Top Ten Thanksgiving Books for Kids & Graphic Organizers FREEBIE

Earlier in the week I had the opportunity to guest blog over at my friend's Tasha's blog. I shared my Top Ten Thanksgiving books for kids.  Click the button below to read my post:
A Tender Teacher For Special Needs

I am here today with a second helping of Thanksgiving books!  Whether you are looking for a new picture book, nonfiction selection, or poetry, I've got you covered. I have included my favorites and ask followers on Facebook page to share theirs as well. 

Click the pictures below each title to see the listing on Amazon, to take a peek inside the book, and to read a detailed summary and review. Most of these books are available at the local library and through Scholastic Book Clubs as well as on Amazon.

Ten MORE Thanksgiving Books for Kids!

  •  Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne~Jack and Annie go back in time to celebrate the first Thanksgiving.  They even get to help prepare the feast!

  • A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman~The townspeople of Squawk Valley need a turkey for Thanksgiving. They come up with a creative plan to lure a turkey into their town.

  • Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas~Based on a true story, this story from American history tells the story of Squanto and the spiritual background of the first Thanksgiving.

  • Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes~A sweet picture book perfect for toddlers up through first grade.  Written in a simple and predictable text pattern with vibrant pictures and a message of how important family is.

  • Balloons Over Broadway  The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet~ A fascinating account of Tony Sarg, the inventor of the famous "upside down" puppets.

  • Pete the Cat  The First Thanksgiving by James Dean~Pete is starring in the school play about the first Thanksgiving! A "lift the flap" book, this cool story is sure to be a hit with preschoolers and older.

  • How Many Days to America?  A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting~ A beautiful story of a family who must flee their home on a Caribbean island and set sail for America.  A Thanksgiving story for any time of the year!

  • I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson~ No list of Thanksgiving books is complete without this classic story! Rhyme, repetition, and a humorous story of traditional holiday foods!

  • T is For Turkey  A True Thanksgiving Story by Tanya Lee Stone~An alphabet book done in rhyme that tells the Thanksgiving story.  Preschool and kindergarten students will love it!

  • 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving~ by Dave Pilkey~ Modeled after the classic Christmas story, this Thanksgiving story tells the story of how a group of children saved the turkeys.  A great comparison to Natasha Wing's The Night Before Thanksgiving.

In case you missed this, I have developed a sample-pack FREEBIE for you to use with your students as they interact with a text, respond to their reading, or for you to use as an assessment.  Click the picture below to download a few of my Thanksgiving themed reader response graphic organizers. They can be used with any fiction text!

You can find the complete set of Thanksgiving graphic organizers for fiction in my TpT store here.  I also have organizers for Thanksgiving nonfiction/informational reading  here.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Anxious Child and Panic Disorder

Childhood.  Just the mention of the word conjures up visions of carefree, winsome children playing with friends and siblings at the park or in the backyard, while laughter and singing echoes around them. Sadly, as teachers we know the reality that not all children experience such an Utopian childhood.  For many, there are daily struggles and challenges that they face both at home and at school.  For ten percent of Americans under the age of 18, anxiety disorders plague their daily life.  Chances are you have a student in your classroom right at this moment who is suffering from anxiety.  You may be the parent of an anxious child.  And chances are that some of your little ones may also be suffering from Panic Disorder.

What is Panic Disorder? 

Do you often suffer from the "Sunday Blues"?  You know, that feeling of dread that you must return to work on Monday and that your hectic pace and schedule begins again?  Do you have a lingering feeling of dread that may even start on Saturday night, that remains, brews, and grows on Sunday?  Does the thought of returning to work the next day cause headaches, stomach aches, and other physical symptoms?  Do you fret and worry about how you will get everything done that needs to be accomplished in the upcoming week?  If you can relate to any of this, then you have a small glimpse into what anxiety and Panic Disorder is like for an afflicted individual  Like the child it affects, you may like your job, like school, but you cannot stop the barrage of overwhelming feelings of uneasiness and worry.

Panic Disorder is marked by recurring panic attacks and persistent worry that they will happen again.  A panic attack is "an episode of intense fear and unease, comprised of physical symptoms and a number of fearful thoughts" (The Child Anxiety Network)

Characteristics of Panic Disorder
  • Numerous, unpredictable panic attacks and feelings of imminent death, a heart attack, and a disconnection from reality
  • Chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, tingling and pain in the arms
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • An intense urge to flee the situation
  • Fear of losing control
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Sobbing, crying
  • Intense worry

Many people who suffer from Panic Disorder avoid locations of previous attacks, especially if they could not escape easily and quickly.  Panic attacks may occur in public places, but they may also strike during a relaxing time at home. Some children and adults avoid leaving their home alone and some may become housebound. They are unpredictable and present with both physical and emotional symptoms, as illustrated in the list above.  

Although Panic Disorder is rare in childhood, it does affect children as young as three years old. However, most often, Panic Disorder manifests during adolescence. My youngest child suffers from an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism.  In addition, he also suffers from panic attacks and has since he was three years old. At the time, I thought that he was going through a phase, the "tumultuous threes".  The doctor that diagnosed him with Selective Mutism, helped me to understand that my child was also having severe panic attacks.  His inability to speak in public places and even at home was caused by anxiety.  But so were his temper tantrums, episodes of intense crying and sobbing, meltdowns, anger, difficulty falling asleep and awaking during the night, and his reluctance to leave the house.  It is common for panic attacks in children to be mistaken for tantrums or oppositional behavior.

Some children refuse to attend school.  For my own child, even now that he is almost seven years old, there are times when his anxiety will intensify and I will have to hold him, get him dressed, and soothe him as he cries uncontrollably or lashes out in anger over having to go to school.  Often, he will complain of headaches, stomach aches, have diarrhea, and verbalize his obsessive worries.  If left untreated, children with anxiety disorders may fail academically, have difficulty with relationships, suffer from substance abuse, or develop agoraphobia ( a fear of open spaces).

If you suspect that your child or student may have an anxiety disorder, it is imperative that a physician is consulted.  This is especially important if there is a family history of anxiety disorders, Bipolar Disorder, and/or depression, as they are risk factors. In addition to a genetic component, profound stress and life changes can trigger anxiety and/or Panic Disorder. A general practitioner doctor, a pediatrician, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment.  Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be effective.  In some instances, the child may be prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications.

For my own son, we have not sought to treat him with medication, but have used a variety of strategies here at home. I wrote about the different techniques I implemented at home in an article published in The Educator's Room, an online magazine.  You can read that post here.

Next time, I will discuss specific strategies that can be used in the classroom by teachers to help ease the anxiety for these precious little ones.  In the meantime, if you have ideas and techniques that you have had success with, please share by leaving a comment!


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Monday, November 11, 2013

MIA and a Few Freebies for You!

Lately, I have been everywhere but here on my blog.  I have a few posts I'm working on for the rest of November and am busy preparing for the next blog hop! I have been spending a lot of time on my Facebook page where the November Frenzy is still going strong!  You have all day to visit teachers' pages and download incredible FREEBIES!  Click the picture below to visit my Facebook page.

Photo: The ship sets sail at 8am EST and will pull into dock at 8pm on Monday November 11th!  Be sure to fill your luggage with tons of treasures!  There are 6 hops going on at once!  Link to all the maps in the first comment!

In other news, I had the opportunity to guest blog over at A Tender Teacher for Special Needs.  I shared my Top 10 Thanksgiving Books for Kids and have a FREEBIE for you as well!  Just click the picture below to read the post and to download your graphic organizers.

To all the Veterans, past, present, and future, I thank you and appreciate your sacrifices!



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