Use mobile apps to help students tackle back-to-school anxiety

Just as the summer routine starts to feel familiar to students, it’s time to head back to school and adjust to a new environment and schedule.

The change in routine and added academic pressure can cause students to experience increased anxiety.

Mobile apps or extensions are simple tools that teachers can introduce at the beginning of the school year and continue using throughout the year to help students learn how to reduce anxiety, said Kindy Segovia, assistive technology coordinator for the Kent Intermediate School District in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Consider this list of apps and extensions that teachers can use with the whole class or individually with students:

1. For breathing or calming down:
· Stop, Breathe, Think
· Breathe2Relax
· Calm
· White noise apps or Pandora

Tip: First, recognize that anxiety can manifest differently in children. “We see it in obvious ways such as nervousness, but also in more inconspicuous ways with hyperactivity, fatigue, fidgeting, irritability, or stomachaches,” said Leslie DiChiara, assistive and instructional technology specialist for the North Bellmore (NY) School District and founder of the blog Where it’s A.T. “You need to find the root of the anxiety,” she said. Are they anxious because of changes in the routine? Are they overwhelmed? Are there home issues trickling into school? Have teachers model how to use calming apps on their own devices, Segovia said. If you expect a student may be self-conscious about using one of these tools, consider introducing it to classmates first, DiChiara added.

2. For introducing movement breaks:
· Move IT (Chrome extension)
· GoNoodle

Tip: Set the timer on Move IT to provide a scheduled break during a classroom activity, Segovia said. “After the timer goes off, the app provides a prompt for a random movement break, such as, ‘Stand up and march in place for 10 seconds.'” These prompts can help students learn quick movements to help release their anxiety during a stressful activity, Segovia said.

3. For creating predictability:
· Choiceworks
· Time Timer

Tip: “Some students have anxiety that comes out of a lack of routine or unpredictability,” DiChiara said. Apps can help create visual schedules for specific situations and provide the student with options for how to respond. “[Visual schedules] can also reinforce coping activities,” she said. For instance, a teacher can create a visual schedule that lists several strategies that the student can use to relieve a feeling of anxiety, DiChiara said. Visual timers can also be helpful for students with anxiety, Segovia said. Time Timer provides a visual depiction of how much time is passing. “We use this in the classroom if there’s a difficult task that might produce some anxiety for a student. They can visually see how long it’ll be before the task is over,” she said.

Jennifer Herseim covers Section 504 and education technology as it relates to special education for LRP Publications.

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