Special Needs Children and the Spectrum of Stress
The differently abled and oriented among us have taught us that human behavior exists on a spectrum, rather than in binary boxes. This applies to stress, as well. Not all stress is bad. It is not all good. Teaching this to children with learning disabilities will better prepare them for life's challenges.
We teach our students how to solve problems. We want them to feel confident. To achieve both, it is important they learn about stress: good, bad and everything in between.
What is good stress?
The proof that good stress exists lies in our body's ability to process it. Special needs children have a stress response system, just like you and me. It is known as "fight or flight" mode. When they solve problems or tackle challenges, they feel good. More importantly, they remember the feeling of success. Most importantly, they love that feeling as much as anyone. This is how we prepare them to face challenges.
What is bad stress?
The last thing we wish to do is undermine the confidence of our students. They may question their ability to take on challenges, but there is no need to encourage this. We can only give them the tools to cope. Without them, there is bad stress.
Children with special needs face ongoing challenges. The fear of failure constantly lingers. Without relief, this creates chronic stress. Life becomes a matter of survival, something to escape. No one wants this for our children. However, we cannot teach avoidance. We can, however, teach tolerance.
What is tolerable stress??
Tolerable stress is what lies between the good and the bad. We want our children to be able to look back at success when they face new situations. This will sustain them while they are experiencing stress. It will build confidence. They will not know what lies ahead and neither will we. The one gift we can give is this two-word phrase: "I can."
What does this mean for parents and teachers of children with special needs?
Their belief is based on our support. When faced with new challenges, their minds will reference similar ones, but they will also feel the presence of those who were by their side every step of the way. We must be able to recognize common stress factors. This is how we know when they are struggling. It is how we anticipate future struggles and form strategies for handling them. One day we may not be at their side. When that day comes, we must be sure they will be self-aware and navigate the road ahead.
About RKS Associates
Since 1980, RKS Associates has been a leader in providing the needs of special education students and helping children grow to their fullest potential. Each of our schools seeks to empower each student with skills for life, work, and recreation; we believe that every individual possesses the dignity and potential to contribute to a better world.
As part of the RKS Associates Network of schools in New Jersey, the goal at the Gateway School is to assist all students in becoming as independent as possible and help them get ready for the future. Located in Carteret, NJ, we serve individuals throughout Central and Northern New Jersey. Contact us at our main office at 732.541.4400 with any questions or schedule a private tour of the Gateway School today.