Helping Your Child Understand and Overcome Shyness

What If She's Not Just Shy

In this era of paranoid parenting, we're hyperalert to everything that could possibly herald a developmental disorder. Usually, a shy child is just a shy child, but sometimes what initially appears as shy behavior may warrant a closer look from a pediatrician or psychologist to rule out a more serious problem. Things to watch for include:

  • Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder

    Watch for: Excessively shy behavior that lasts for more than six months and severely limits a child's ability to engage in day-to-day activity (refusal to go to school, inability to participate in class).
  • Selective Mutism

    Watch for: A child who understands language and speaks normally at home or to a few select individuals, but refuses (or is unable) to speak in many social situations.
  • Asperger's Syndrome

    Watch for: Inability to read social cues, ready attachment to adults but little to peers, an abnormally intense preoccupation with a particular interest, inflexible adherence to rituals, or unusual and repetitive movements.
  • Autism

    Watch for: Reluctance or refusal to meet anyone's gaze (including primary caregivers), delayed language, or an apparent inability (as opposed to reluctance) to use language to communicate with others.

KJ Dell'Antonia, coauthor of Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos (Sourcebooks), is a writer in New Hampshire.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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