Long shot....social anxiety in a toddler? — The Bump
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Long shot....social anxiety in a toddler?

ETA: This is way longer than I thought....


Most people think I am crazy to think there is ANYTHING to even mention about my DS, who is almost 4, but I am trying to figure out what, if anything is 'different' about him.  Is he just shy?  Or is it something more?  He's the most loving, engaged, kid, but has SUCH a problem in any new/social situation.  A bit of background...

AJ has ALWAYS been a quiet kid and was in speech therapy at 2 years old because he only had about 2-4 words.  The therapist pretty much discovered that he was just so ..... well, mellow, that he never felt the need to talk.  The fact that I knew his every need just exacerbated that.  So, we made some adjustments and sure enough, within six months he was right on track (and still is).  So, we solved that problem, but have never been able to solve the other......what I call his 'social anxiety'.

AJ is NOT ok in any new situation with new people or places.  It takes him much much longer than the average kid to warm up to new places and people.  It took him three months to say more than a few words in preschool. Now he runs in and plays with two or three kids that he calls his 'friends' but won't talk to most of the others unless he has to.  He also will never talk when he is 'called on' in class (things like yelling out your name in a song, etc).  He also won't talk to our neighbors, etc. when they ask him 'how old are you?', etc.  

Today, there were some kids playing next to us at the beach and they had bubbles, which he loves.  He actually went over to the VERY outskirts of where the bubbles were floating (away from the other kids, but this is a HUGE improvement because normally he won't leave my side to venture to a new situation).....but then completely freaked out when he realized what he had done and was inconsolable.  He kept saying 'I didn't want to play with the other kids!!'.  I kept telling him it was fine, he didn't have to do anything he didn't want to (as I always do) but he really freaked himself out.  

None of this really affects him in the day-to-day.  He loves preschool, loves his friends and teachers there, etc.  They LOVE him there too and just say that 'yes, he is much quieter than the other kids...but he is a joy to have in class and really loves to be there.'.  He loves to help the teachers with projects, etc.

Also, it should be mentioned that he has a problem with noises.  He hates loud noises or things like blowdryers, running the bath, motorcycles, etc.  He always blocks his ears or I have to shut the door when I am doing any of that.  Even today, the tide had come in so there was only a little bit of beach and we were walking near the small waves and he was having a really hard time with it because the 'noise' scared him (even though his white noise machine is 'ocean waves').  He said he was scared.....he's scared a lot :-). 

Honestly, I don't know if I am crazy and maybe I just have a shy guy, or if I need to figure out how to work on the problem.   Because it's not affecting his everyday life too much, maybe it's ok and he will just be the kind of kid who has one or two friends and never joins a group.  He is pretty much unable to do sports or things of that nature because he will not go and join a group and freezes up if he is made to do it.  That will last for WEEKS, and then he will finally adjust and love it (I know this from sticking with things like group swim classes, music classes, etc).  But how can I expect the soccer coach to deal with him for weeks on end until he warms up to the idea?

Anyway, I've done tons of research and most of what I have found has been so much more severe than him, that it just doesn't fit.  Has anyone here dealt with this?? 

Re: Long shot....social anxiety in a toddler?

  • MY dd is 20 mos old. She's typically developing and has a vast vocabulary. She takes a llllllllloooooooonnnnnnnnggggggggg time to warm up to any situation she's unfamiliar with. She's shy. She's way more hesitant with men than women, but she shies away from women as well. She wouldn't let mil hold her, play with her, talk to her, etc until just a few months ago. She still won't hang out with fil and with DH... she tolerates him. She sees my ils about 4x a week and dh everyday. She does like kids though and doesn't take, but a little while to warm up to them. 

    Some kids are just painfully shy. Having said that, if you feel there's a problem, please don't hesitate to contact a child psychologist. He may like to have the outlet for his fears of new situations.  If nothing else, he'll be able to have someone to talk to. And if there is a problem, you'll feel better knowing you didn't wait and you got him the help he needs. 

    I hope that helps you some.  

  • Thanks for the responses so far.

    Auntie - I think that he would certainly not be able to be diagnosed right now, which is why I keep wondering if he IS on the spectrum,or not.  His preschool teachers all say he is not (he will work with other kids to do projects, eats lunch and does art projects just fine now, plays with all of the kids but won't seek out those that are not his 'friends', etc). But, that is because he has been going there for seven months now.  It took him about three months to be comfortable doing all of that once he got to know the kids.  It's also a smaller school with only about 12 kids............and I chose that size for a reason because I worried that throwing him in with 24 kids was not going to work for him.

    So, should I just wait to see if school IS a problem for him?  He still has about 14 months before he is supposed to go to real school.............and I was going to hold him back if I felt he wasn't ready since he only meets the cut-off by 10 days. Or maybe I should send him on time to see how he does since that might be where 'push comes to shove' and we figure out if he is just shy or has a real issue???

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  • ppantsppants member
    Long-Lasting Membership 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Photogenic
    He sounds alot like my friend's 3.5 yo DD.  She has SPD (sensory processing disorder).  She doesn't separate from her parents very well at all.  She also has a difficult time with new experiences, people, and loud noises.  They recently went to Disney World and my friend bought some sort of earphones for her DD to wear on the plane because she knew the noises would freak her out.  She likes to wear them quite often now.  I hope you find some answers soon.
    Wendy Twins 1/27/06. DS and DD
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