Anxiety can usually be put into three different categories: primary anxiety, secondary anxiety, and a combination of both. Children with primary anxiety usually are naturally anxious children. From a very young age there have been signs of them being more hesitant to try new things, more worried about being separated from their parents, etc. (See more signs). Secondary anxiety usually occurs as a result from specific stresses that are placed on a child. For children with dyslexia (and ADHD) academic struggles at school create chronic stress, both at school and often at home. Of course, students with primary anxiety can also have secondary anxiety as well.
Students with dyslexia are four times more likely to have anxiety than their non dyslexic peers. Up to one third of children with dyslexia and ADHD have significant anxiety symptoms. Parents of severely dyslexic students report over half of their children experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Anxiety alone can greatly impact learning. When combined with dyslexia and/or ADHD, the effects can be tremendous. Additionally, the emotional toll is significant.
So what can be done? Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an empirically validated treatment for primary anxiety. It is also useful for addressing the underlying thought patterns and behaviors with secondary anxiety. However, treating secondary anxiety due to dyslexia can be more complex and requires more support systems be put into place both at home and at school. An integrative approach is especially important.