Do's and don'ts of dealing with phobias

19th January 2007 at 00:00
Do

* Let school phobics visit the toilet as often as they want.

* Acknowledge the effort it takes for them to come to school.

* Inform all teachers about the problem and give them appropriate advice.

* Explain the problem to the class in a basic and matter-of-fact way so they become understanding and tolerant.

* Think carefully about what is said to school phobics because they will be hypersensitive to any criticism, real or perceived.

* Lower expectations for school phobics. For example, they may not want to join in with PE or class assemblies.

* Intervene immediately if there is any bullying.

* Try to anticipate the child's needs and smooth over any fears.

* Try to include the child in group activities, as social isolation will compound any problems.

* Educate school phobics in the school's special unit if the problem becomes severe.

Don't

* Send school phobics home if they complain of being ill without first verifying the symptoms. If you do, they may mistake their panic symptoms for genuine illness.

* Punish them because they do not conform to expected behaviour.

* Blame the school phobics or their parents or carers.

* Make a joke at the expense of the child, or say negative things about their behaviour.

* Ignore the child's hand if it is raised for the first time.

* Let pupils choose teams for games. If the child is unpopular, this could make them feel even worse about themselves.

* Force school phobics to take part in sports day or school trips, or make them feel bad for not taking part.

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