Back to school: supporting your child with 'coronavirus anxiety'

Written by: Professor Debora Elijah
Published: | Updated: 14/07/2020
Edited by: Robert Smith

For many children, heading back to school and starting a new academic year can be daunting as it comes with new challenges. With the coronavirus pandemic added to an already anxiety-inducing situation, children will need support.

children with book

The government is expecting all students and children to head back to school as of next term. We spoke to leading neuropsychologistDr Debora Elijah, to find out what factors fuel ‘coronavirus anxiety’ and feelings of nervousness about the prospect of returning to school. We found out the signs to look out for and how children can be supported during this time.

How do I know if my child is anxious about the coronavirus pandemic?

Chatting to your child and hearing them express their source of stress, worrying about health and safety, "germs", "people with germs".

Can returning to school be overwhelming for some children?

Yes, because we need to think that the children did not have a certain routine when lockdown was implemented. They do not know when they will return back to school, the feeling of uncertainty will increase anxiety.

The new "normal" at school i.e new regulations and rules at school, will be difficult to them to conform to and understand.

Why might this bring on anxiety or distress?

It can create feelings of uncertainty. Children also need to interact with others, as part of their social emotional development. COVID came so fast, the routine of the children changed without having time to prepare for this transition.

What signs should I look out for?

  • Constant reassurance seeking
  • Physical symptoms such as: stomach aches and headaches
  • Tantrums
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Diarrhoea

How can I help or support my child through all this?

We have three programs that are helpful for a child’s ‘coronavirus anxiety’ specifically:

  • Parent support groups
  • Social awareness behaviour sessions - the PROSCIG (c) intervention is designed around their thoughts and emotions, and creating strategies.
  • Transition back to school sessions - PROSCIG (c) program designed to prepare the child to transition back to school

PROSCIG© intervention; a program built on the basis of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Spence’s theoretical framework. The program creates new strategies for social problem-solving situations and follows three unique models – social perception, social solving problems and self-regulation.

Through this programme, we help create awareness by targeting specific behaviours and help show the patient how their behavior during this time can impact others and themselves. We also work with the whole family network, in a holistic and dynamic way.

For more information on intervention methods such as PROSCIG, you may like to book an appointment with leading cognitive neuropsychologist Dr Debora Elijah. Visit her Top Doctors profile today for more information on neuropsychological treatment.

By Professor Debora Elijah

Professor Debora Elijah is a highly esteemed cognitive neuropsychologist, practising privately at the Elijah Social Cognitive Skills Centre in North London. Professor Elijah attends to a range of age groups from 20 months old to young adults, specialising in building social communication skills, ASD, ADHD, self-regulation and anxiety. She is renowned for her holistic approach, treating everyone as an individual, offering treatment that is tailored specifically to that individual.

Professor Elijah graduated with a degree in neuropsychology from University Louvain La Nueve before studying and completing her PhD in Clinical Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology and Educational Psychology at Fernando Pessoa University. She was trained by Theo Peeters, a Belgian neurolinguist at the Centre for Training in Autism in Antwerp, Belgium. In Antwerp, she was the Joint Director of Tikvatenu, a centre for social communication skills. She also spent time in Brazil conducting research into structured and non-structured environments for autistic children and children with communication disorders, which was supported by the Brazilian Government. At the same time, she was a founder of CIAPEMA, a centre of research and intervention for young high functioning children with autism and related communication disorders.
She was also a lead researcher in the Process Cognitive Psychology group at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio Grande do Sul.

Professor Elijah returned to the UK in 2000 and has since worked in her own private practice and for two different charities. She developed a programme called PROSCIG©​, an intervention programme dealing with social perception, self-regulation and social problem-solving. She also works at Harley Street Family Centre as a cognitive neuropsychologist and HCPC registered educational consultant. 

Her work has been globally recognised and she has appeared in numerous news articles. Her book The Social Cognitive Mind in Promoting Psychosocial Competences in the Peer Group was published in Portugal in 2014. Professor Elijah also received special mention in the book Autism: How To Raise A Happy Autistic Child by award-winning The Times journalist Jessie Hewitson.

Professor Elijah was appointed as Professor in 2020 of Autism Spectrum and Alternative Communication, as well as being a social sciences coordinator, delivering lectures in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Increased Alternative Communication Module at the Fernando Pessoa University.

The graduatecourse at The Fernando Pessoa University enables trainees to deepen and practice specific knowledge, allowing the development of competencies that favour effective and quality care to this population and their families, according to the international guidelines of evidence-based practice.

Registration number: PYL32792

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