A University of British Columbia researcher has developed a two-question test for parents to screen kindergarten-aged children for future anxiety disorders, the most commonly reported mental health concern among children.
The questions, which ask parents about shyness, anxiety and worrying in their children, were found to be 85 percent effective in identifying children who went on to be clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, said Lynn Miller, Ph.D. Miller is an associate professor at the university who presented the research at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting in Vancouver.
“When children enter kindergarten, they are screened for hearing and vision problems and difficulty reading so that these issues can be identified and treated early,” she said. “It only makes sense to screen for anxiety at this age too.”
The two questions found to be effective in identifying anxiety disorders in children are:
- Is your child more shy or anxious than other children his or her age?
- Is your child more worried than other children his or her age?
One in 10 children are affected by a mental health disorder and the majority are anxiety disorders, Miller said. “The good news is that anxiety disorders are among the easiest to treat and the best way to treat these disorders is when kids start school,” she said.
She said parents and teachers can show children how to cope with anxiety in four steps:
- Children are first taught to identify when they’re feeling anxious;
- They are taught a variety of techniques to cope with anxiety and learn which techniques work best when they feel scared or frightened;
- They are taught to evaluate what makes them anxious;
- And then are taught to begin taking steps to face their fears.
“We don’t talk about mental health disorders in children of this age but it is the best time to intervene and prevent future problems,” Miller said. “Anxiety has a tendency to masquerade as other things. Children who are anxious don’t have to suffer.”
Source: University of British Columbia