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social anxiety in 7yo - help!

(18 Posts)
zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 17:41:13

I'm so worried about my DD. She just freezes like a rabbit in headlights when confronted with groups of people, even good friends of hers. She's basically ok at school - though she enjoys her own company, she has friends, is happy, plays with friends at most playtimes. People seem to like her! But she is very passive - she rarely initiates contact, is often so quiet people don't even notice her, and doesn't at all join in with chatty hellos etc at the school gate. At her weekend music school she has barely said a word to anybody in the two years she has been there. Today we went to a new after-school activity. There was a friend of hers there (somebody who has been to our house many times), who greeted her with a loud hello when she joined the group, and my dd half-smiled in recognition but then ran off to stand right at the other side of the hall!

I'm worried that her anxiety is really holding her back from making good and reciprocal friendships. Because she is so passive, at school I feel that she is at the mercy of who happens to want to play with her, which is not always the person she would necessarily choose to play with. Because she's a good playmate once she gets going, she isn't isolated, but it's hardly an ideal setup. She's also missing out from meeting likeminded people in other settings, like music school.

I have wondered in the past about ASD, but it doesn't really fit. She is enormously perceptive about 'unspoken' subtle undercurrents in social interactions, very happy with sarcasm, word-play and suchlike, and not at all set in her ways, obsessive or unhappy about change. Her behaviour is fine at school and home. She is perfectly happy playing with her two siblings, with friends one on one at home (though finds it hard to assert herself), and with very selected groups she is happy in a 3 or a 4. She doesn't show other signs of anxiety, except for finding it very hard to get to sleep at night. Things are noticeably worse in the winter.

I would really appreciate any pointers with how to deal with this - resources, experiences etc. It doesn't help that she has totally picked up on my own anxiety about the issue, and now refuses to talk about it at all with me. (Her dad she is a bit more open with). Although in some ways she is much better than she was a few years ago, in other ways of course the greater relative social sophistication of her contemporaries makes her stand out more. I'm worried she'll soon be labelled as the odd loner. She's such a funny, imaginative, lovely child, but it's hard work for her friends to see it, as they have to do all the legwork initiating contact!

zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 17:42:54

Oof, that was epic! sorry for the essay!

Mynd Mon 18-Jan-16 18:19:01

You say things are noticeably worse in winter... Have you looked into her hearing?

Only saying this because you've pretty much described my 4yo DD. She had severe, persistent glue ear for her first two years, and now has hearing loss on one side due to a perforated eardrum. She's very sociable in small settings, though mainly with adults and animals. She hates big groups and unpredictable or noisy behaviour. She's about to be assessed for an auditory processing delay, because she seems to take a bit longer to work out what's happening during typical fast-paced dialogue amongst children. She just can't keep up with the conversation, so she withdraws. Having said that, she's very popular at school. Kids invite her to play all sorts of games but she rarely takes them up on their offers.

She's worse in winter because her ears clog up again. She finds rough play miserable because she has difficulty locating the direction of stampeding feet and gets knocked flat. But put her on a climbing wall and she's scuffing her knees with the best of them, so she's not against scrapes, more the unpredictability.

Just wondered if this rang any bells....

zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 20:26:29

Thanks mynd, that's very interesting. It's just odd, you know - like your DD, it doesn't feel like common or garden social ineptness, if that makes sense, even though it occasionally manifests that way!

It's not immediately clear that she has hearing loss though, I must admit - her brother does have glue ear and it is very obvious to us when his hearing is impaired. Having said that, the auditory processing delay does ring some bells. My DH is very similar, in that he is a pretty socially adept person one-on-one, but falls apart in social groups, because he says he can't process what people are saying and reply fast enough to keep up with the conversation. I don't know if it's a hearing thing though for him, it does seem more neurological. Most things I have (just) read about auditory processing disorder also suggest that it tends to have an impact on early speech and academic performance, though (and glue ear certainly had that impact for our DS), which isn't the case for DD.

Can I ask how you're going about getting your DD assessed?

Mynd Mon 18-Jan-16 21:31:38

My DD comes across as highly imaginative (invisible friends galore), very adaptive to different situations, excellent at drawing, handwriting etc, loves learning to read, good at making plasticine models etc... She's awful at group games, where the leader says "I'm going to say X and you all need to do Y or Z" - she's about 3 or 4 seconds behind everyone else and ends up just copying someone next to her. Doesn't happen with music games such as musical statues, only ones involving talking. Academically, she's doing very well (she's 4.5 and keeping up with the 5-6 year olds in her class). Early speech was virtually nil until 2. Now it's still very behind her classmates, and she struggles to pronounce new words clearly. She can't get lyrics in songs too well - Old MacDonald Had A Farm has stuck at being Almost Donald...

From what I know, auditory processing disorder is neurological. From what I've learned (and I could be wrong) it's akin to my own problem with vision. I'm very shortsighted but wasn't given glasses until 14 because my mother believed shortsightedness was laziness. So even though my vision is now corrected, I can't see detail. My brain just never learned to process that information. I THINK that's what's happening with my DD - she can hear much better, but her brain has had a lot of time without auditory input so its struggling to make sense of the information piling in 24 hours a day.

She's getting a standard hearing test at school in 2 weeks, and once I have the feedback from that, I'm going to take her to her GP and ask about options. I'm not experienced at this, but I think that given her past history, she'll be given an appointment with a consultant to talk over possibilities. It's a learning curve for me. I got her grommets fitted 2 years ago after several hearing tests at the hospital, but haven't done anything since then except watch and hope she's improving!

Not sure how much of this is relevant. I just wanted to put as much info in as possible in case it helped you in some way!

barnet Mon 18-Jan-16 21:39:40

I don't think there is anything wrong with your DD at all, from your description. Maybe she is an introvert, about a third of people are. It is okay not to want to be in groups, and be quiet.

Mynd Mon 18-Jan-16 21:42:35

Oh, and DD is the Lip Reading Champion, and has been since a very young toddler. To the point where my whole family were convinced she was fine and I was inventing stuff. Because they tended to sit opposite her and she got a good view of their faces.

In reality, she couldn't locate a mobile phone ringing next to her. She'd wander around my flat crying for me, and couldn't hear me say 'I'm coming, sweetheart'. It turned out she was almost completely deaf.

Just adding this because deafness doesn't always show up, even when it's quite severe!

Mynd Mon 18-Jan-16 21:44:13

Barnet is right - I'm rubbish in groups too! And odd kids do make for interesting adults (the entertainment industry is built on this fact!).

zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 22:25:08

Oh I'm totally with you on the introvert front. I'm a huge introvert, as is my DH, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it does seem extreme in DD. Introvert is one thing, but barely acknowledging a friend who you've known for four years, whose entire family you know well, and vice versa, is beyond the bounds of your average introverted nearly-8yo, no? Or not making friends or even acquaintances with the children at saturday music school who - again - she's been in lessons with for years? Maybe my expectations are skewed? They may well be! I had a solid best friend by age 4 who I've kept for all the intervening 36 years, so my own childhood experience was very different.

But all the same, in the case of the friend at the club this afternoon - she loves this kid, when they get together they play amazing games together and get on like a house on fire. But only out of school. In school, as far as I can see she barely talks to most of the kids she gets on best with, because she doesn't dare initiate contact. She ends up playing with those who solicit her attention, who are often the children who she doesn't have so much anything in common with. If she was totally happy with that, I'd let it be, but I do think there's anxiety involved, which makes me more inclined to want to help her with it. Also the winter thing. I wondered about SAD, but from Dr google that doesn't really fit either.

Thanks for all the detailed information on your DD mynd, it's hugely helpful. Some of it resonates and some doesn't - DD was an early talker and is particularly good at song lyrics. At your DD's age she did struggle hugely with instructions in group games, looked like she was on another planet grin, but she's fine now. I don't think she can have serious hearing problems, partly because she plays the violin bang in tune, which I think would be extremely hard to do without fairly finely-tuned hearing. But of course that's very different to hearing in a noisy environment and the possibility of a processing disorder. So maybe I need to push that further.

Sorry, I'm rambling again! - it's been hugely helpful to think aloud about this based on other people's experiences.

rhetorician Mon 18-Jan-16 22:48:23

this sounds like my DD (7) - she likes and seeks out social contact (so isn't really a classic introvert) but is almost completely unable to manage the bits and pieces that oil the wheels (greetings, small talk). 1:1 she is a pretty good conversationalist, good at give and take, but more or less unable to say "hello" or "goodbye" to children and adults that she sees every single day

LongDivision Mon 18-Jan-16 22:49:00

Is it possible that she didn't recognise the girl at the aftet-school activity? I've struggled with facial recognition (prosopagnosia) throughout my life, and it can make it very difficult to initiate interactions with people.

zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 23:08:59

Yes she did recognise her - I can imagine struggling with facial recognition must be hugely stressful when socialising. I think its more that she 'freezes' when she is anxious. (And to be fair, it was a new class. All the more reason though not to flee from the onky person there you know if have thought, but thats me with my piffling adult logic!) She's better than she was at saying hello and goodbye, but still manages to be inadvertently hugely rude to her friends on a daily basis. She gets special treatment to an extent - her friends are very accepting - but more and more she just isn't high enough on anybody's friendship list to be invited to play or to parties as they get older and stuff like that is less mediated by adults and more by the kind of casual playground chat that DD doesn't do.

zoemaguire Mon 18-Jan-16 23:11:30

Or rather, doesn't initiate! Friends ask to come to ours, but she doesn't ask back...

GnomePhone Tue 19-Jan-16 10:14:59

Have you read up on Selective Mutism at all? It sounds like she may have a degree of this in certain situations, the 'freezing' you describe sounds very like it, as well as finding it difficult to initiate. Saying 'hello' and 'goodbye' is particularly difficult for SM children.

Re having friends round, it sounds like you'll have to organise this for her together with friends mums. I've found it makes a huge difference to have friends round regularly (my DD is SM) - it seems to be a LOT easier to form genuine friendships on a one-to-one basis, then they have something to build on in school.

GnomePhone Tue 19-Jan-16 10:22:25

Also, don't be discouraged if some play dates don't seem to come to anything, it's all good familiarity-building, and some kids will just click with your DD much better than others. Might be worth asking her teacher if there are any children she thinks your DD might get on well with one-to-one.

lostforinspiration Fri 15-Apr-16 16:23:08

This was really interesting to me - OP you could have been describing my DD7, except her behaviour is terrible at school. Socially she sounds very similar: she is popular and other children initiate contact with her but she doesn't with them. I came across this thread by searching for prosopagnosia/face blindness because I have suddenly realised that this is more than likely her problem. She is great 1:1 and in small groups but lost in big groups unless everyone is focussing on the same thing. She never seems to notice people in the street and seeing someone out of context throws her completely. I think I have been guilty of thinking her rude but realise now there may be something more going on. She did have very severe glue ear which wasn't diagnosed until she was 5, and there was a big improvement in her social skills when she got grommets but she's still slightly off. She is very bright and plays up at school because she is bored, but possibly now I realise because she is also very socially anxious in her noisy classroom and massive school. Sorry, I have added nothing, and realise this is an old thread, but so interesting to read of others like DD (who has been described by the EP as a 'one-off').

rwilkinson84 Mon 18-Apr-16 17:06:16

You said it gets worse in the winter? Have you tried a daylight bulb in the light in her bedroom? They're ridiculously bright but apparently I was like this as a kid and it helped a lot. It was to do with the whole circadian rhythm being more out of whack in the winter.

strangerjo Tue 19-Apr-16 23:42:45

At that age I was exactly like that. In fact, my school reports always mentioned it. I once spoke to a psychologist about this and she said that's perfectly ok - some people are introverts and just don't like groups and have to learn to be ok with them which, over time, I have done. My previous jobs have involved lots of group stuff and public presentations and I've coped with it and am quite good at socialising with groups but I don't particularly enjoy it. It's a mix of shyness, over analysing everything and self-censoring. I make friends very easily now. I think building confidence might help. I found drama classes helpful as a teenager. Good luck x

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