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1006035 tn?1485579497

Shyness and Social Anxiety

My daughter is 3.5 and I just recently started her in Preschool. She is an only child and has not spent much time around other children. I've been sick and working a lot. My husband and I have just been trying to get by. My husband is also deathly shy. My sisters and I didn't start Preschool until we were 4 so I figured it would be ok to start her a little earlier so she can get socialized. Well we are having some problems. She won't talk when she is at school and she would rather play by herself. She has been throwing temper tantrums, but that is getting much better. It's turning out to be hard for her to adjust. The directors of the school think that she is having social anxiety and perhaps may be gifted. She likes to direct and lead the other children instead of play with them. I know she's not autistic so don't even mention that please. I had her tested when she was younger. It makes me anxious that she is having a rough time, I wanted everything to be perfect for her. I know that's not realistic and it's time to cut the apron strings. It's just really hard. I know she'll come around in her own time when she is ready. Is there anything I can do to push her along?
10 Responses
973741 tn?1342346373
It is hard when little ones have a tough time with something that is suppose to be FUN!  I have two boys and one had not an issue at all and the other was a different story.  When my son started preschool this past Fall, I heard his teacher tell a mother that she was concerned because her daughter wasn't interacting at all.  Well, by Christmas she was just fine.  So shyness tends to wear off eventually (spoken from a shy person as well).  Social anxiety is different and is a psychiatric disorder.  When my son was just a little younger than yours, he started preschool.  He had some articulation issues with speech which made things difficult for him.  If people couldn't understand him, he didn't want to speak.  It made casual conversing difficult.  We had our son evaluated by an occupational therapist and he was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder.  This is an issue with the nervous system.  He tried to boss people around too but it had much more to do with trying to control the environment for his own comfort level than anything else.  Now, my boy is super smart and met every developmental milestone on time or early and has always been above his peers academically.  But preschool was very hard for him and he stood out from the crowd.  We did some basic things that helped.  Now he is 6 and blends in just like everyone else in school.  He's doing really well.  

So, how is your daughters speech?  If she has any issues-----  that will have an affect on her peer social experience.  If she does have an issue----------  looking at why can tell you what direction to go.  By the way, my son has never done speech therapy as his issue was sensory and motor planning related.  We worked on his sensory system and his speech got better.  I spoke slowly to him and had him watch me when I spoke.  

Anyway, I have lots of things to do with speech as we did work on it in occupational therapy and a million behavioral strategies (especially geared to preschool) if you are interested.  Hope you are feeling better.  
Avatar universal
She won't talk when she is at school and she would rather play by herself. She has been throwing temper tantrums, but that is getting much better.  --  your words

Your words above do not indicate shyness but social anxiety.  The main difference is function - shy people function in social situations; those with social anxiety do not.  By the way, "not speaking" in public is one of the main indicators of selective mutism - a severe form of social anxiety.  You might also ask your daughter's teacher if she is able to eat food and use the washroom at school.  These are common issues with children suffering from anxiety (as is poor sleeping habits and tantrums at home).


Is there anything I can do to push her along  -- your words

Yes, there's lots you can do - and your daughter's age is perfect to begin.  Intervention and/or over-socialization is the best place to start - lots of playdates with friends - one at a time at first (even if she won't speak), trips to the local parks or olaygrounds or McDonald's or the mall, classes as Sunday School or swimming or gymnastics etc.  One of the best sites on the internet for selective mutism and/or severe social anxiety is "selectivemutism.org" and if you look under the heading "resources", you will find lots and lots of informaiton.  Two books - "Easing School Jitters for the SM Child" and "The Ideal Classroom for the Selectively Mute Child" are excellent (perhaps your school might consider purchasing these for you to borrow).  Your public library system might also have some of these books for you to borrow.  In addition, there are many articles and other information to download and read.

One thing I do know is that if your child suffers from anxiety - it will not go away nor will she outgrow it.  But, anxiety is highly treatable and the prognosis excellent for early intervention.  It might be wise to also discuss this issue with your daughter's pediatrician; he/she might have additional ideas which might be of assistance.  Please write if you think that I might be of more help ....
1006035 tn?1485579497
To specialmom, I would love to hear any more strategies you have. Maybe you can message them to me? Thanks for the advice.

To JDTM, I'm not sure where you are coming from. I have thought she has selective mutism, but I know it is something she can overcome. I also know she can overcome the social anxiety. Because, well, I did! I was so shy when I was little. All I wanted was to go home and be with my mom. I never said a word to people I didn't know and preschool was hard for me. Today I am very social and talk a lot. She has mostly been exposed to many different adults. We hardly know anyone with kids. Another thing she did at home was she just started talking in sentences, she pretty much skipped the stage where kids learn single words. She is clearly very smart, it just seems like she doesn't know what to do with herself. Her dad is very much the same way, even to this day. But no one took any time to help him until I came along. I know she'll be ok given some time. Also, you don't need to label my words, I'm well aware of what I wrote. :)

I'm just worried. She is my one and only child and I don't want anything to go wrong. My mom tells me its ok and she just needs time. I trust what my mom has to say because she raised 3 girls and nannied many more. She knows her stuff.
Avatar universal
I restate your words so that you know exactly to what part of your posting to which I am referring.  I am a retired teacher - sorry if I come across a bit patronizing - not meaning to be so - perhaps I gave you too much information too soon.  Now, I going to copy and paste one of your sentences  (please do not be offended) .....

To JDTM, I'm not sure where you are coming from. --  your words

I really don't understand what you mean.  I am a member of a support group for teachers and parents of children with anxiety disorders.  Our child was severely social phobic when young - so I'm not trying to upset you but only give you the benefit of my expertise.  In addition, our group was instrumental in research expertise to the point where the treatment of anxiety in children has been changed.  Our child could not overcome her sm without assistance (we did not seek help until she was six years of age and her older age made her recovery much longer than if we had started a year or two earlier).  The fact that both you and your husband have anxiety issues probably will mean that your daughter will be more severe than either of you (and yes, I suspect strongly she is selectively mute and socially phobic).  Intelligence is not an issue (not sure why you mentioned this).  One more thing - most children with anxiety usually have co-morbid sensory issues, so the advice from "specialmom" will be very valuable.  Actually, if you deal with the anxiety first,  the co-morbid sensory issues usually disappear.

Selective mutism can be overcome (it took our child four years); however, the anxiety a person feels will be displayed in other ways rather than "not speaking".  Anxiety is not the result of life's experiences but an inherited trait obtained at conception.  As I said, when the voice surfaces, the selective mutism might end, but the anxiety does not.  The anxiety will always display itself in other ways as nervousness, or hyperactivity, or avoidance, or another anxiety disorder, etc. - depends upon the person and/or situation.

The books I mentioned have many, many ideas on how to work with children suffering from anxiety.  Most of the ideas are socially based.  Again, I am sorry if I upset you - I was only trying to help because "we've been there".  Our road could have been shorter and easier with better information delivered sooner.  I wish you the best ...

973741 tn?1342346373
I'd be happy to offer suggestions here or via pm.  Let me know what types you'd like-----  behavior, classroom tips or speech.  You can let me know via pm as well.

jdtm, in my opinion, does know her stuff about the challenge of social anxiety.  As I said above, shyness usually improves but social anxiety is a psychiatric disorder.  If your child does turn out to have social anxiety, you would want to address it for her sake.  She does sound like she is talking some in terms of your comment that she is trying to direct the class.  I agree about socializing.  My son had some social issues (as many sensory kids do)-------  and we worked hard on it.  If we went to a park-----  we'd round up other kids to play with and I led the games for him to interact (starting at 3).  I scheduled play dates with peers as often as possible. It does help give a child some comfort level in playing with peers.  For the majority of kids, social skills come naturally but for some like my son, they do not.  I had to teach them to him.  

It will be okay Diva.  Your daughter will be okay.  Maybe a few things along the way to help her but she will be okay.  good luck
1006035 tn?1485579497
Her school finally got a hold of their development counselor and she basically told them not to worry and just be persistent. It's normal for children who have never been to daycare to have some problems adjusting to Preschool. She has 2 years before kindergarten and that is plenty of time for her to come along. Apparently her teachers have been letting her run free without trying very hard to hone her in and calm her down. They've been told they need to work on that. Her school is great and are doing everything they can. I'm glad they calmed down and are figuring out what they can do to help her. It makes me feel a lot better!
973741 tn?1342346373
Sounds like you have your daughter in a good school.  I'm glad they are trying to make her feel more comfortable.  Let me know if you want any ideas for anything.  I've spent a lot of time trying different things and reading whatever I can.  It is my pet interest these days!  good luck
1006035 tn?1485579497
I should probably add to this that was I was very nervous to send my little girl to school. I was afraid that the teachers would not like my baby and would judge my parenting. I have had a lot of that because I am a somewhat young mom. I knew it was important that I face my fear and let her go because I know she won't grow unless she is around other children. After the counselor talked to the school my daughter had a much better day at school. I walked in and the teachers were playing with her and I was told she gave them a lot of hugs. She's coming along pretty well now!
Avatar universal
I am her aunt and I have to say that I understand why my sister was worried about how the teachers would react to her.  I hate to say this but phobia is not always there from conception. I am an adult scared of the dark and I wasn't scared of the dark when I was a kid.  In fact I loved the dark. I truly believe that anything can be over come, including social anxiety.  If a specialist isn't worried, than I wouldn't be either.  I think this was more a a vent rather than a "Help me."  No one here no my niece expect my sister and I.  You think that because you have been through something similar you know what's going on.  Different kids are different, and we can't forget that.
973741 tn?1342346373
good luck.
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