Example of practice

Lata is a conscientious 10-year-old primary school student who is considerate of others and well-liked by her peers. Lata has a few close friends who she works well with – her confidence and participation increase when she is in a small group with them. Her teacher has observed that when with her friends, Lata has strong leadership traits. Lata is a high performing student – when she participates, she produces high quality work, and she is highly organised. She tends to check instructions multiple times, and if she is unsure about a task, she refuses to complete it and sometimes bursts into tears.

Lata has recently been diagnosed with generalised anxiety. Lata’s family reports that there are days where Lata is distressed at home and refuses to go to school. They share that they use a range of strategies (as recommended by her psychologist) to get her to school on those days. When she does arrive, she does not participate or communicate with teachers or peers for some time. After a while, she will speak to friends and teachers she knows well, but other staff and relief teachers have reported she does not speak at all to them. Sometimes she will answer a question during class discussions if it is not a ‘wrong or right answer’ question, but generally she does not communicate in front of her class, or when with a larger group of peers.

1. What are Lata's unique strengths and what has been helpful so far?

2. What is the goal and why is it important?

The goal:

  • The overall goal for Lata is to increase her confidence when speaking in front of the class or to new or less familiar teachers. The initial goals are for Lata to communicate clearly in front of a group of eight students in her oral communication project, and to respond to five teacher prompts in group discussions each week.

  • Confident communication with peers and teachers can support Lata’s engagement and participation, and are important building blocks for Lata’s ability to self-advocate or communicate her needs when anxious
  • Personalised learning and support will ensure Lata enjoys a rigorous and meaningful education

3. What evidence-based strategies can be used to reach the goal?

Lata’s teacher used the primary school students with anxiety guide to learn more about evidence-based strategies and resources. Using this resource, Lata’s teacher has identified some strategies that can be trialed in his classroom to build on Lata’s existing strengths and help her achieve the desired goal:

  • Lata is well-liked by her peers and has strong leadership traits when with her friends
  • Lata’s confidence and participation increases when working with a few close friends

  • Lata’s teacher will provide a range of ‘speaking’ activities throughout the eight weeks leading to the oral presentation, starting with simple activities that Lata is comfortable doing with her close friends, and extending these to include new peers gradually
  • As Lata’s confidence increases, her teacher will begin to regularly prompt Lata to respond to simple questions in bigger groups and, eventually, in class discussions
  • Given the start of the day can be particularly difficult for Lata, the teacher begins the day with students in pairs or small groups allowing Lata to be with close friends until she is settled

  • Providing Lata with clear visual instructions (for example; steps on a board) reduces her anxiety and need to constantly check-in
  • Lata’s confidence and participation increases when working with a few close friends

  • Lata’s teacher will develop a clear presentation schedule so that students know which day and time of day they will present
  • Clear instructions will be provided about the oral presentation, including a written copy, that provides step-by-step instructions about the task, and what will be expected
  • A modified assessment schedule will be developed, to allow Lata to present in front of a group of eight students (selected by her)
  • Lata will be given opportunities to observe others’ presentations first

  • When distressed, allowing Lata to access a quiet space helps her re-set

  • A short break and a safe quiet space for Lata to go to when feeling anxious will be provided
  • Breathing exercises will be used in class before and after tasks that require speaking in front of the classroom

  • Lata has access to a psychologist
  • Lata’s family help her to utilise strategies to manage her anxiety

  • Lata’s teacher will use a weekly email to communicate with Lata’s family and psychologist to share and monitor how Lata is going with her goals, and to encourage practice at home and during sessions
  • Lata and her teacher - with support from Lata's family and psychologist - will develop a brief form highlighting Lata's strengths, anxiety symptoms and preferred coping strategies, that can easily be shared with casual and new teachers