• Welcome to Spring Avenue School's Social Work Page!
    Spring Avenue Social Worker:
    Gail Weiland, LCSW
    (708) 482-2710

    1. What is School Social Work

    School Social Work addresses many needs of students and their families. Sometimes children don’t feel successful at school because they are having trouble making friends, they are struggling with schoolwork, or because of stress within their family. The School Social Worker can serve as a support person to the child and family as they work together with the school team to help the child become more successful. 

    2. What does the School Social Worker Do?

    1. Works with Teachers to design behavior plans and classroom management strategies. 
    2. Works with families on behavior interventions that can support the child’s school performance. 
    3. Helps families find support and resources in the community. 
    4. Works with children individually or in groups on issues from anxiety and bullying to self-esteem and social skills. 
    5. Goes into classrooms to do character education lessons on empathy, problem-solving, anger management and bullying. 
    6. Works with the other special educators in the building to develop plans that will help children succeed in school. 


    3. How to Access the School Social Worker

    1. You can talk with your student’s teacher about your concerns and she/he will contact the school social worker 
    2. You can call the school social worker directly and discuss your concerns, questions or needs . 
    3. The school social worker may contact you if they are made aware of or have observed something that concerns them. 

    **The Illinois Association for School Social Work and the Illinois Board of Mental Health have determined that a School Social Worker can meet with a student up to 5 times without requiring parent permission. Every effort is made to speak with parents and gain their permission prior to meeting with a student. There are times however, when there is an emergency situation and interventions are necessary to help the Teacher, the student or other students involved. If that is the case, parents are contacted as soon as possible after the situation has been diffused. Examples of this might be a child crying in the hallway, or a fight at recess. 

    Social Work Support and Information:

    What to Do (and Not Do) When Children Are Anxious

    How to respect feelings without empowering fears

    Clark Goldstein, PhD

    When children are chronically anxious, even the most well-meaning parents can fall into a negative cycle and, not wanting a child to suffer, actually exacerbate the youngster’s anxiety. It happens when parents, anticipating a child’s fears, try to protect her from them. Here are pointers for helping children escape the cycle of anxiety.

    1. The goal isn’t to eliminate anxiety, but to help a child manage it.

    None of us wants to see a child unhappy, but the best way to help kids overcome anxiety isn’t to try to remove stressors that trigger it. It’s to help them learn to tolerate their anxiety and function as well as they can, even when they’re anxious. And as a byproduct of that, the anxiety will decrease or fall away over time.

    1. Don’t avoid things just because they make a child anxious.

    Helping children avoid the things they are afraid of will make them feel better in the short term, but it reinforces the anxiety over the long run. If a child in an uncomfortable situation gets upset, starts to cry—not to be manipulative, but just because that’s how she feels—and her parents whisk her out of there, or remove the thing she’s afraid of, she’s learned that coping mechanism, and that cycle has the potential to repeat itself.

    1. Express positive—but realistic—expectations.

    You can’t promise a child that her fears are unrealistic—that she won’t fail a test, that she’ll have fun ice skating, or that another child won’t laugh at her during show & tell. But you can express confidence that she’s going to be okay, she will be able to manage it, and that, as she faces her fears, the anxiety level will drop over time. This gives her confidence that your expectations are realistic, and that you’re not going to ask her to do something she can’t handle.

    1. Respect her feelings, but don’t empower them.

    It’s important to understand that validation doesn’t always mean agreement. So if a child is terrified about going to the doctor because she’s due for a shot, you don’t want to belittle her fears, but you also don’t want to amplify them.You want to listen and be empathetichelp her understand what she’s anxious about, and encourage her to feel that she can face her fears. The message you want to send is, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this.”

    1. Don’t ask leading questions.

    Encourage your child to talk about her feelings, but try not to ask leading questions— “Are you anxious about the big test? Are you worried about the science fair?” To avoid feeding the cycle of anxiety, just ask open-ended questions: “How are you feeling about the science fair?”

    1. Don’t reinforce the child’s fears.

    What you don’t want to do is be saying, with your tone of voice or body language: “Maybe this is something that you should be afraid of.” Let’s say a child has had a negative experience with a dog. Next time she’s around a dog, you might be anxious about how she will respond, and you might unintentionally send a message that she should, indeed, be worried.

    1. Encourage the child to tolerate her anxiety.

    Let your child know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what she wants or needs to do. It’s really encouraging her to engage in life and to let the anxiety take its natural curve. We call it the “habituation curve”—it will drop over time as she continues to have contact with the stressor. It might not drop to zero, it might not drop as quickly as you would like, but that’s how we get over our fears.

    1. Try to keep the anticipatory period short.

    When we’re afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it. So another rule of thumb for parents is to really try to eliminate or reduce the anticipatory period. If a child is nervous about going to a doctor’s appointment, you don’t want to launch into a discussion about it two hours before you go; that’s likely to get your child more keyed up. So just try to shorten that period to a minimum.

    1. Think things through with the child.

    Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a child’s fear came true—how would she handle it? A child who’s anxious about separating from her parents might worry about what would happen if they didn’t come to pick her up. So we talk about that. If your mom doesn’t come at the end of soccer practice, what would you do? “Well I would tell the coach my mom’s not here.” And what do you think the coach would do? “Well he would call my mom. Or he would wait with me.” A child who’s afraid that a stranger might be sent to pick her up can have a code word from her parents that anyone they sent would know. For some kids, having a plan can reduce the uncertainty in a healthy, effective way.

    1. Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety.

    There are multiple ways you can help kids handle anxiety by letting them see how you cope with anxiety yourself. Kids are perceptive, and they’re going to take it in if you keep complaining on the phone to a friend that you can’t handle the stress or the anxiety. I’m not saying to pretend that you don’t have stress and anxiety, but let kids hear or see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, feeling good about getting through it.

    Websites with helpful information:  (copy and paste into browser)
    Take a look at these sites and see what will be useful to you and your family.  Sometimes I find that even the "experts" can disagree or contradict each other, so as you read, take away the information that makes sense to you and fits in with your existing values and beliefs.
    • Brainline.org:  Website for those coping with traumatic brain injury of a loved one
    • National Association of School Psychologists
    • Child and Youth Health

    Keep a lookout for information regarding programs, groups or other happenings with students and social/emotional learning!