If you have any questions about addressing anxiety in special education, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.

Symptoms of Anxiety

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), outlines a six-part assessment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Firstly, it involves persistent and excessive worry across different situations. Secondly, this worry is uncontrollable. Thirdly, the anxiety is accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Fourthly, the anxiety significantly impairs daily functioning. Fifthly, the anxiety isn’t attributable to substances or another medical condition. Finally, the anxiety isn’t better explained by another mental disorder like social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or trauma.

Common Causes of Anxiety in School

Parental Influences

Anxiety often runs in families due to strong genetic factors. When parents experience anxiety, it can significantly influence their children to develop similar tendencies. This discussion doesn’t focus on clinical anxiety as defined in the DSM-V, but rather acknowledges that in today’s fiercely competitive society, parents naturally worry about securing a successful future for their children.

Parents recognize that achieving in school typically translates to success in one’s career. To alleviate their concerns, they increasingly urge their children to perform better academically. This pressure is exemplified by the implementation of the Common Core, a demanding set of national educational benchmarks for elementary and secondary education, which reflects societal apprehension. We frequently encounter calls to strive harder, achieve success, and acquire the skills essential for future employment. Consequently, living amidst such intense expectations, it’s commonplace for children to experience anxiety, with some individuals struggling to manage overwhelming stress.

School Safety

Schools once offered a comforting and secure environment, but that has changed. Following incidents like school shootings, public schools have transformed into fortified spaces, equipped with locked doors, metal detectors, on-site police presence, and regular lockdown drills. This shift from a nurturing setting to one driven by fear not only reflects anxiety about the future but also contributes to a fear-based learning environment.

The personalized care and individual attention once provided by teachers have waned amidst the emphasis on physical security measures. In the past, teachers engaged directly with students in their classes, assessing their progress based on the curriculum taught. Today, we are in an era dominated by nationally standardized, high-stakes tests, which have diminished the student-teacher connection. Consequently, the sense of safety and support derived from this bond has been eroded.

The State of Society as a Whole

America experiences a pervasive climate of fear, some of which is a natural response to shootings and other tragedies. However, a significant portion of this fear has been deliberately fueled by politicians who recognize that heightening fear among the public enhances their own influence.

What should be done about this?

Children experiencing anxiety often manifest their distress in different ways. Internalizers tend to withdraw inwardly, resulting in feelings of depression and sadness, sometimes leading to thoughts of self-harm. For them, avoiding school becomes a necessary coping mechanism as attending exacerbates their fears and intensifies their emotional pain. Unfortunately, schools often overlook their struggles until they reach a crisis point requiring hospitalization.

On the other hand, externalizers express their anxiety through outward behavior. They may engage in disruptive actions, turn to substances like drugs or alcohol for relief, and influence peers towards antisocial behavior. These children find little value in attending school, as it only heightens their discomfort and seems irrelevant to their needs.

The remedy for fear lies in safety, and for anxiety, it resides in reliable, unconditional support. Given the widespread societal fears, schools have limitations in directly alleviating each student’s anxiety. However, establishing schools as secure sanctuaries where students feel valued regardless of conformity to norms could be the most effective response to the increasing issue of anxiety-driven school avoidance.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or to schedule a free initial consultation today.