Dr Pooky Knightsmith

Keynote Speaker, Author & Advisor

February 27, 2023

DOWNLOAD: Anxiety Exposure Ladder

If your child is motivated to do a thing that scares them, an anxiety exposure ladder can be a good way to move from paralysing fear, to engaging with the feared thing.  It’s a simple process of taking things step by step and allowing our body to get used to being exposed to the thing that fears us whilst learning that it’s actually safe and we will be okay.  This is quite a common approach and was especially well explained in ‘My Anxiety Handbook’ which inspired this resource. 

Supporting Notes


Working up the anxiety ladder is hard and scary so the aim needs to be one that the child is motivated by. Try to make the aim clear and concrete so you know exactly what you’re working towards and you’ll know when it’s been acheieved.


Start by defining your start point and then brainstorm what concrete steps you can take to get from the start to your aim. The steps should be about slow, steady progress, we never leap or run up ladders! You may need more or fewer steps than in this printout, in which case, you could sketch out your own ladder.

Fear Rating

Give each step a fear rating on a scale of 0 to 10 – this will help you to determine if you’ve got the steps roughly right and will also help the child see the progress they’re making as they work their way up the ladder- ‘Well done! You gave that a 6 out of 10, and you did it!’

Moving up the ladder

When we expose ourself to a feared situation, our body starts very, very scared but as time passes, we begin to feel a little calmer, especially if we do things like calming breathing or listen to calm music. The idea here is to be in the feared situation until fear is down to about 2/10. This might mean sticking with it for up to an hour or trying more than once. Don’t move up the ladder prematurely – slow and steady wins the race!

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