I was one of those children who was anxious about everything from age 4 on. In third grade, I had a math teacher who would hold my work up (with mistakes) as an example of what not to do. So, I decided not to go back to school for quite a while. I eventually returned, but I pretty much flunked third grade!
Math anxiety like I have seems to be very prevalent in adult preemies – at least the ones I have met through blogs. As soon as I hear the word quiz or exam, I still get anxious. Today, the solution would have been to put me in a math class that taught math in a different way. However, that didn’t exist back then.
Like many other preemies, I am a creative thinker and do better at visual based learning tasks. I prefer a visual description of objects to a list of words. It’s funny but maps don’t work well for me. I get overwhelmed and have no idea if I am facing North, West, etc. It’s even funnier because my husband of 40 years is an M.D./Ph.D who thrives on lists of words, facts, exams, etc. – So it could have been a coping mechanism to marry someone who excelled at what I did not. It’s worked out because I provide the empathy and heart. A Win! Win!
For parents of preemies with similar school challenges, I would recommend talking to the teacher or principal with your child. Most schools want your child to succeed. Changing teachers may be an option. I also had some tutoring later in life, when I was an adult and went back to school. Tutoring is another great option because the tutor can slow down and spend more time on teaching the concepts behind the problems. However, it’s the exam that I don’t do well on.
I am going to be honest and say that I still try not to get into situations that make me a little panicky. At age 65, a test or competition against others is stressful. For example, we have friends who like to play card games. I always decline to play unless I have a partner. I find it too stressful and anxiety provoking because I fear that I won’t do well and I don’t find it fun. So, I have decided that there is no shame in saying, “I’d rather watch”. It’s really not MY problem to explain why. Some may see this as giving up, but I consciously decided that it’s not my “job” do what everyone else wants if it makes me unhappy.
I believe most preemies excel at being a survivor, creative thinking, focusing on a task, and relentlessness. These are such important traits to have to get anyone through the road blocks in life that do appear. A preemie’s ability to persevere, when others can’t, is a true gift! However, I think children are happier when they can focus on their strengths and not weaknesses.
I hope some of these suggestions are useful. Feel free to email if I can answer any questions.
Laurel – Preemie from 1953 2lbs. 4oz – 3 months in an incubator