District Keynote series: “Reducing Anxiety in Children” – Sept 18

Above: Jessica Minihan’s books on challenging students described grappling with children’s anxieties. This month, she’ll share her advice with parents who attend the first of this year’s school district Keynote presentations. (images from Minihan’s website)

The Northborough – Southborough School District is continuing its series, bringing in experts to help parents and teachers. Up first this fall is an expert on reducing students’ anxieties.

The presentation for parents will be held on Monday, September 18th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm in the Algonquin auditorium, 79 Bartlett St, Northborough.

[Editor’s Note: Parents may also want to mark September 19th for an expert presentation hosted by Fay School: “The Opposite of Spoiled” on teaching children about money. I’ll post more details next week. In the meantime, click here to learn more.]

The district’s Keynote presenter is Jessica Minahan. She is a licensed and board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), author, special educator, and consultant to schools internationally. Minihan co-authored “The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students”. One chapter focuses on anxiety, describing it as:

an invisible disability. . .teachers can’t look at a student and know what is going on internally.

The authors explain how anxiety can interfere with even basic tasks and communication between teachers and students. And they offered advice on handling it. It’s a topic Minihan followed up with in the book’s Companion Guide:

additional guidance for creating and implementing successful behavior intervention plans (“FAIR Plans”) for the students teachers worry about the most: those with anxiety-related or oppositional behaviors.

Minihan will more thoroughly explore dealing with children’s anxiety when she works with our school district. The district’s announcement explains:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that one in four thirteen to eighteen-year-olds has had an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Without intervention, these children are at risk for poor performance, diminished learning, and social/behavior problems in school. Understanding the role anxiety plays in a student’s behavior is crucial and using preventive strategies are key to successful intervention. Effective behavior plans for these students must avoid the reward and punishment-based consequences from traditional behavior plans and focus instead on the use of preventive strategies and on explicitly teaching coping skills, self-monitoring, and alternative responses

Assistant Superintendent Greg Martineau confirmed that in addition to giving the parent talk, Minihan is working with district teachers. (They have a 5 day contract with the expert.) Their announcement shared more details on Minihan’s expertise: 

Since 2000 she has worked with students who struggle with mental health issues and challenging behavior in public school systems. She specializes in training staff and creating behavior intervention plans for students who demonstrate explosive and unsafe behavior. She also works with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, anxiety disorders, or high-functioning Autism. Her particular interest is to serve these students by combining behavioral interventions with a comprehensive knowledge of best practices for those with complex mental health profiles and learning needs.

She’s a blogger on The Huffington Post, the author of The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, with Nancy Rappaport (Harvard Education Press, 2012), and author of The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors (Harvard Education Press, 2014).

She holds a BS in Intensive Special Education from Boston University and a dual master’s degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from Wheelock College. She has a certificate of graduate study (CGS) in teaching children with Autism from the University of Albany and received her BCBA training from Northeastern University in Boston. She is sought-after internationally to speak on subjects ranging from effective interventions for students with anxiety to supporting hard-to-reach students in full-inclusion public school settings.

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