Classroom accommodations for anxiety

Explore these classroom accommodations for anxiety. Download and print a list of supports to use at school — and even at home.

It’s not uncommon for students who learn and think differently to also struggle with anxiety. They might worry a lot or be withdrawn at school. They may hesitate to participate in the classroom, make frequent trips to the bathroom or the nurse’s office, or even refuse to go to school at all. All of this can get in the way of learning.

Here are some of the supports teachers can use to help students who struggle with anxiety. You can also download and print a list of these accommodations.

Classroom accommodations for anxietyPDF - 151.1 KB

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Providing emotional support

  • Encourage the student to use self-calming or anxiety-reducing techniques that a counselor or therapist taught them.

  • Allow the student to have a self-calming object or family pictures on hand.

  • Check in frequently for understanding and “emotional temperature.”

  • Build in “call home” breaks (for students with separation anxiety).

  • Let the student seek help from a designated staff member with mental health expertise when feeling anxious.

Classroom setup, schedules, and routines

  • Clearly state and/or write down classroom expectations and consequences.

  • Allow the student to sit where they’re most comfortable, like near a teacher or a friend.

  • Let the student sit near the back of the room or by an exit during assemblies.

  • Provide a “take a break” pass to let the student walk down the hallway, get a drink, or leave the classroom when needed.

  • Assign the student a designated buddy for lunchtime, recess, and/or hallways.

  • Allow preferential grouping for field trips so the student is with a teacher or friends.

  • Create a plan for catching up after an absence or illness (for example, excusing missed homework or having a known time frame for making up work).

  • Give advance notice of planned substitute teachers, changes in routine, or transitions.

  • Rehearse transitions in a private or low-stress environment.

  • Provide a signal before calling on the student and a signal for the student to opt out of answering.

Completing assignments and tests

  • Break down assignments into smaller chunks.

  • Use both oral and written instructions.

  • Exempt the student from reading aloud or demonstrating work in front of the class.

  • Let the student present projects to the teacher instead of to the entire class.

  • Give extended time on tests and/or separate test-taking space to reduce performance anxiety.

  • Allow word banks, notes, and fact cards for tests (for students who freeze or “go blank” during in-class tests).

  • Set time limits for homework or reduce the amount of homework.

  • Assure that work not completed in that time won’t count against the student.

  • Provide class notes via email or a school portal for the student to preview.

  • Give notice of upcoming tests (no “pop quizzes”).

When a student is being treated for anxiety, people who work with them at school should be in contact with the student’s mental health care provider. You can talk about strategies and make sure the accommodations are a good fit.

More resources

Do you have a student with anxiety? Learn more about school anxiety. And find out how to use compassionate curiosity to show students that you’re trying to better connect with them and their experiences.

Does your child have anxiety? Learn more about treatment options for mental health challenges.


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