Monday, June 4, 2012

Homework, anxiety, and school performance

I read an interesting blog post today on anxiety and school performance. The author claims that one in eight students suffers from anxiety, that anxiety affects working memory, and that this affects school performance. I believe the author is right and that her ideas coincide well with mine. 

In my work, I talk about under-the-radar learning disabilities and how they affect homework performance. In fact, many homework-trapped children, who appear defiant, are actually anxious. They manage their anxiety through avoidant and rebellious behaviors.
Among the scales on a standard IQ test, working memory (one of the two major under-the-radar learning disorders I refer to) is the one that is most directly affected by anxiety. If a child is anxious, the child cannot focus.  He appears to have ADD. He comes home from school clueless, where he is pressured to do things he cannot do, increasing his anxiety.

The major difference between the writer of this article and me is that this writer appears to focus on treating the anxiety whereas I consider it important to reduce the pressure.  If the child remains under unrelenting pressure, anxiety reduction techniques will not help. First and foremost, we need to know that the child can do what the child is asked to do, and we’ll never get the answer until we limit the time of the homework session and step back to observe what the child does.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the The Homework Trap website

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