Learning and Stress Can Be Related

Stress is a major factor for many students these days. Students who have a learning disability have to work harder than their typical learning peers just to keep up in the classroom. When a child has to struggle to pay attention, read, write or do math their stress levels can increase with the tasks. There is a term called “Learned Helplessness”. Learned helplessness refers to children who have failed repeatedly and now they give up without even trying. In other words, they learn to be helpless to avoid another failure.

What can be done to help these students? The first thing to do is identify the area that is causing the struggle. Next, develop a plan to build the needed skills and a strategy to help gain control over the topic (reading, writing, math). When children understand why they are struggling in school it is easier for them to change their thoughts from “I’m dumb and I can’t do anything” to “I have an auditory processing difficulty that makes reading hard for me and I can get a tutor to help me.” The information the child gains about his learning strengths and weaknesses allows him to change his thoughts from a global sense of failure to a specific area of weakness that can be strengthened. Helping children change their feelings from out of control to in control is important to the learning process.

Many students who have struggled for a long time or have a specific area of stress can benefit from the emWave Desktop, a computer program that teaches breathing techniques to decrease stress and anxiety.  I have found it very helpful in my practice with students with math, writing or test anxiety. It is simple to use. The student is hooked to the computer and a game is played that demonstrates the child’s heart rate. There is a range of heart rate that is called coherence, this range indicates that the child is calm and in control. Learning breathing techniques to help a student maintain coherence even when in stressful situations can help the child maintain focus and perform better on tests and assignments.

Here is a Youtube video of the program being used with some gifted children.

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