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Social anxiety in 6 year old boy

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Since DS1 was three I've gone through times of thinking we should seek a diagnosis yet then things improve a lot so I think I'm being overly worried about him and he's just quirky. He went to two preschools and both suggested that there was something "not quite right". The first was a bad fit and in the second he improved so much that in the end there didn't seem to be a need.


He's highly creative, a bit clumsy and loud and although he loves to have friends and has some good friendships, he finds social interaction in groups quite difficult and can put kids off as he sort of misjudges situations. He's also very cautious and anxious but fun-loving too. He can be aggressive and explosive but is very repentant after and generally very loving and empathetic. He often is so focussed that he can't hear people talk to him. He's also incredibly distractable too and it takes him forever to get simple tasks done (like getting dressed).


It's like he has an on/off switch. When he's on, he's bright-eyed, fun and wonderful to be with. When he's off it's really hard to communicate with him and he's very volatile.


The other thing that worries me is that he is completely unaware of his bodily needs. He will hang on forever when he needs to go to the bathroom, then dashes there in a blind panic. Right now he has a constantly runny nose and he is completely oblivious to it. He also tends to use too much force - his hugs can knock me over!


We also have a five year old and a 6-month old baby and I'm finding DS1 to be really stretching my patience now. It took him two hours to fall asleep tonight and he needed one of us to be with him. I'm exhausted!


So, I'm now wondering if a lot of this stems from social anxiety. Looking back I think that the problems have gotten worse when he has had a difficult social situation to deal with. He started a new school a few weeks ago and he's quite intimidated by some of the kids. It's a small, alternative and very nurturing school, so I feel he's in the best place. However, he is finding the social aspect overwhelming. The school is open to parents so we spend a lot of time with him there.


Both my dad and my older brother were/are very socially anxious and possibly Aspergers, so there's certainly some of this in the family.


We live in a country where there isn't a great understanding of any of this and not many resources, so I just don't know where to start.


I would like to see a professional with him, but what kind of professional should I be looking for? How do you explain that to the child without it seeming that they have a really big problem? Has anyone any suggestions about alternative therapies that we could pursue together for his anxiety?


I'm feeling at the end of my tether right now and getting really frustrated with him. I just want to understand him and help him be happier but I have so little energy left after baby and I don't know where to begin.


I would really like to hear others' experience with anxiety issues.

post #2 of 7

Has he had an evaluation from an occupational therapist?  Does he have sensory issues beyond the ones you described.  You could be describing my almost 6 year old except for the explosiveness piece.  He has sensory processing and regulation issies as well as dyspraxia which makes any new situation difficult for him.


http://dcd.canchild.ca/en/DCDFAQs/faqsparents.asp?_mid_=2918#  This website explains the clumsiness, anxiety, and general nuttiness of my son.  Maybe it will help you too.


I've been thinking about seeing a child psychologist who specializes in young children with anxiety as well to try and determine if there is a bigger issue.  Also, have you considered a developmental neurologist if you are concerned about autism spectrum disorders like aspergers.  They could also talk about dyspraxia.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks Petriescz,

I'm going to check out that link.

post #4 of 7
Wow, you are describing my younger son (5 y.o.) to a "T"!!!! Petriecz that was an awesome link, I cannot say thank you enough. I have been searching for help for ds for a long time. I recently had an IEP where they thought he might have PDD-NOS, but I think they just threw it out there as my older child has autism. Thank you agin, so so much.
post #5 of 7

Wow @Mama Feliz, the way you describe your son is so very similar to mine, including the aggression / explosive episodes. My son is 4 and a half. He has been diagnosed Aspergers (and that is also in our family). His evaluation was done by a child psychologist. I was told diagnosing these disorders in young children is difficult because many of the disorders overlap in their presentation, so an experienced child psychologist is probably your best bet. If your son receives a diagnosis of social anxiety alone or a diagnosis on the spectrum, I would bet that one of the therapies will be guided play therapy (where I live in the US it is done in the public schools) and this actually teaches social skills, giving concrete tools and boosting confidence. For alternative therapies, the two I know of for spectrum disorders are gluten / casein-free diets and homeopathy (we have not tried either yet).


My son has some classic Aspergers traits that you do not mention and I just want to point them out because if your son has these, too, it might lend more support for you to try and get him evaluated. 


--My son wants to interact with other children, but the way he initiates play is often not productive. He might initiate play by taking a toy away, or by hugging a kid he's just met. He is actually more comfortable initiating interaction with adults. We just visited Santa and he literally jumped into the lap of an elf without warning.


--He plays with toys in unconventional ways. For example, he might pretend a spoon is a train engine even though he has a real toy train engine within reach. He sometimes lines toys up in a line or makes patterns with them.


--He has some sensory sensitivities. He doesn't like loud noises and is very sensitive to bright light.


--He is super smart and has certain interests that are intense, like geography. He knows the names and shapes of all the countries. He can read already. 


Good luck!

post #6 of 7

This also sounds very much like my now 7 year old son. We really noticed issues when he was 4 and started at a small preschool then it was even worse in Kindergarten where it was large, a long day with too much noise/stimulation. He actually had panic attacks in the morning and threw up in class often from anxiety. We eventually removed him to be home-schooled. During that time, we had him evaluated by a private psychologist where we discovered he had ADHD - inattentive type, separation anxiety and some LD such as very poor working memory. He should also be re-tested in a year for possible PDD-NOS. This said, we worked very hard with him in all areas - one on one play therapy, social skills groups, private swimming lessons (just getting him to separate, adjust and take part was huge!),  diet changes - organic, eliminating processed foods, dyes, etc. Omega 3 vitamins and Probiotics just to name a few things we did.


Now, one year later he still does have issues - angry outbursts at home, little patience, negative thinking and can not fall asleep alone yet BUT he now attends a general ed. class of 26 students all day and has adjusted. He does have an IEP, I walk him into his class every morning to do the transition which is now easy - no tears or hanging on and he is learning whereas before the anxiety hindered his learning and overall functioning.  


We are still not certain whether it is the ADHD causing the anxiety or the anxiety causing ADHD like symptoms but just knowing what we are dealing with has helped a lot at home and in school. The school seemed to think it was bad behavior/poor parenting but now with the right teachers and a DX it makes all the difference in the world. The preschool teachers could never really put a finger on what was "Off" just that they thought he just didn't fit into the usual boxes of Aspergers which I mentioned or other things I threw out there.  Getting a diagnosis is key in my opinion as you will better understand what you are dealing with and how you can best help him. 

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your input. It's really helpful to hear others' experiences. I've never met another child quite like mine -  good to know there are some out there!


So, the last week or so he has been really bright and cheery and has made big strides in his relationships at school. He was adjusting to the new school so I think he has relaxed now that he seems to be finding his place. Everything has suddenly got a lot easier. I do think it's the social situations that stress him and then he just lets it all out with us. I've also been making a huge effort to stay very calm with him and I think that has really helped. So, I'm going to take it easy for the moment and see how things go.


This is actually quite typical - every six months or so I get very worried about him, then he does a major turnaround and I don't worry for another six months or so. He has a minor surgery scheduled in January, so I'm going to give it a couple of months after that and see how it all feels then.

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