Stress and kids who learn and think differently

By Gail Belsky

At a glance

  • All kids experience stress. But kids who learn and think differently face challenges that can add to that stress level.

  • They may feel extra stress at home, at school, or in social situations.

  • Frequent stress can take a toll on kids. But there are ways to avoid triggers and help kids cope.

Imagine this scene. It’s time for the class to take an important math test. Many kids are a little stressed. But the ones who are prepared and usually do OK on tests dive in. Some even feel energized to do well.

What about the kids who often don’t do well on tests? Or who study, but don’t remember or understand the material? That’s the case with many kids who learn or think differently. And they can feel more than just a little stress.

Kids who learn and think differently face all the typical stress factors other kids face. But they have additional difficulties that can add to their stress level. 

Some react to stress like other kids do. But depending on their challenges, others may have much stronger reactions. For example, kids with tend to feel emotions more intensely than other kids. They also have a harder time managing those emotions.

Frequent stress can take a toll on kids. But there are ways to build their self-esteem and avoid the triggers — at home and at school.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.