If your experience has been anything like mine, you find out in a short time who the kids are that have anxiety issues in the classroom.  Often times it presents very differently from us adults.  We often see kids who act out that have underlying anxiety issues.  Or we see kids who avoid certain things, who don't like to speak in front of the group, or who are isolated but say they just don't want care about making friends anyway.

As a school social worker, I would often consult with parents to let them know my concerns and perhaps trying to make an outside referral.  Unfortunately many parents are strapped - they have no resources to pay for outside counseling (and there is no quality free or sliding scale providers close by), they are single parents working full time and are unable to take the child to an appointment or perhaps they currently lack the ability to get to the counseling session.  So my choice was to ignore these anxiety issues or work on them at school, knowing that if you make some headway on the anxiety, the child's overall functioning in the classroom would improve.

As I had mentioned before, my last gig was supporting an autism program in a  special education cooperative.  We had a wide range of functioning levels and therefore, I had to work with a variety of ages and abilities.  My itty bitties, or my kindergarten and 1st grade kiddos, tended to have a high level of anxiety, resulting in inflexibility to the max!  Having ASD, being afraid of change and the unknown, along with irrational thoughts was the perfect storm for significant anxiety.  So I went to town and searched and searched for the best Anxiety Prevention program (wanting a cognitive behavioral approach) that was researched based for children on the autism spectrum proved difficult.
At last, I found something!  But low and behold it was made in Australia.  Well, I ordered it, paid for air shipping and within a month or so received it.  I was extremely happy with it!  COOL KIDS, by Macquarie University, had the research and the format I was looking for.

The Cool Kids Program, by Macquarie University
The Cool Kids ASD Program, by Marcquaire University

The only draw back to the program, was it was a bit boring.  The pages were black and white and there sure where a lot of words on each page.  So, as I have done for all my other groups, I modified it.  This meant a lot of time in Power Point.  Additionally, I purchased on Ebay 2 puppets that represented the 2 characters in the program.

Austin is the anxious alligator
Calvin is the calm and cool crocodile

My students absolutely loved the puppets.  And actually, these guys (Calvin and Austin, the puppets) could run the group.  My kids would listen to them and behave for them.

Here is the one of the first lessons I did with my kiddos after we learned, "what are feelings" and then more in depth about the feeling of being "anxious" or "worried".  Feel free to download it!  Next post we will talk more about getting the group going and coming soon, the PARENT GROUP that I run for the kids in my Anxiety Prevention groups!

 Introduction to Calvin and Austin for COOL KIDS anxiety group
Click on Calvin to get your free download of my lesson

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