Recently I participated in a professional development session where teachers discussed ways to support neurodivergent students by emphasizing their strengths, and I realized that this information was too important not to share with my readers! Highlighting the unique strengths of students with differentiated abilities doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom- helping students learn to identify and hone their natural strengths benefits them at home, in extracurricular activities, and even sports. Let’s boost their confidence by highlighting their strengths!
This blog post is the first part in a series that will focus on the strengths of students with differentiated learning abilities. Today I’ll be discussing ways to support students who experience anxiety.
Strengths of Students with Anxiety
Students with anxiety sometimes deal with challenges that affect their academic and personal lives, such as feeling overwhelmed in school or at social gatherings due to the crowds of people and high expectations. Students with anxiety might cope with their feelings by shutting down when called on in class, even if they want to participate. Or procrastinating with turning in homework because they want it to be perfect. While anxiety can cause challenges, it can also contribute to the development of certain positive traits and coping mechanisms. If your student experiences anxiety, they might display the following strengths:
Strong work ethic: Anxiety can motivate students to work harder and put in extra effort to meet their goals. Students may be highly dedicated to their studies and committed to their responsibilities.
Empathy: Some students with anxiety have a deep understanding of emotional struggles and can be highly empathetic towards others who are experiencing stress or anxiety. This empathy can make them supportive friends, classmates, and teammates.
Hyper-vigilance: Anxious students are highly alert and attuned to their surroundings. These students may notice details others might overlook. This heightened awareness can be an asset in situations requiring attention to detail, problem-solving, or creativity.
Preparation and planning: Anxiety can lead students to be meticulous planners. They may be excellent at organizing their schedules, setting goals, and breaking tasks into manageable steps. This can contribute to their academic success and support time management skills.
Empathy: Some individuals with anxiety have a deep understanding of emotional struggles and can be highly empathetic towards others who are experiencing stress or anxiety. This empathy can make them supportive friends, classmates, and teammates.
Creativity and problem-solving: Anxiety can lead to overthinking, but it can also fuel creativity and innovative problem-solving. Some anxious individuals are able to find unique solutions to challenges and think outside the box.
Encouraging and finding ways to highlight the strengths of students who experience anxiety can have a significant positive impact on their self-esteem, contributing to their overall success. Making students aware of their abilities and achievements helps increase their confidence and will help them overcome new challenges. For example, if a student has demonstrated a solid work ethic in the past and they are overwhelmed at the beginning of a difficult project, remind them how they persevered in the past, and talk about the successful strategies that helped them overcome similar challenges. Additionally, if a group is struggling to get started and there is a student who is a meticulous planner in the group, encourage that student to take the lead by reminding them of their past successes when building a plan. Encouraging this type of growth mindset by focusing on using their abilities through effort and learning will help students to be more resilient. And when a resilient student faces challenges, they can draw on their strengths to persevere through the difficult times.
In the next part of this blog series, we will focus on the strengths of students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Tiffany Verhoosel is currently a Computer Science teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Coming from a background of business she joined the Baltimore City Teaching Residency over ten years ago to make the career change into education and has never looked back. Her degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Science in Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology, helped propel her from Special Educator to her current teaching position where she teaches Kindergarten to eighth grade students how to code.