David was referred to me (Dr. Sinclair) by his pediatrician after his parents frantically called their doctor reporting that David was refusing to go to school. David had missed the first few weeks of the new school year, saying that he was terrified about attending because he was worried that he would be made fun of by his peers.
Every morning when his parents prepared him for school, he cried and begged them to let him stay home.
At first, they felt sorry for him and decided to give him a break by letting him stay home. But as the weeks went on, it became increasingly difficult to persuade him to go to school. His parents were terrified by his refusal to attend school but were unsure about pushing him to go, given his level of distress.
During therapy, David and his parents said that he had been uncomfortable around his peers for about two years. Described by his parents as a shy boy from the time he was very young, David told me about how in the past few years, he often worried when he was with his peers that he would make a mistake, say something “dumb”, or otherwise appear foolish.
David was paralyzed with fear about an upcoming class presentation he had to give.
He said that when he talks to his peers, his heart races and his voice shakes, which make it even more difficult to successfully have a conversation. He was terrified to ask friends about making plans for the weekend, and he turned down invitations to parties.
It was clear that David had significant social anxiety , and his family was willing to try anything to help him.
I worked with David’s parents, the school counselor, and the principal to create a plan that helped David get back into school.
I showed David some basic skills he could use in social situations or any time he gets anxious. David discovered that if he tried to live his life without making a mistake or possibly appearing foolish, he would miss out on a lot of great opportunities.
David felt proud of his progress and became much more comfortable and confident when interacting with his peers.
He knew that he might make a mistake or say the wrong thing from time to time, but he discovered that this is not as big of a deal as he first thought! As he learned this, he started to have more and more fun with his peers. He joined the Magic Club at school and began participating in after-school basketball. He made several new friends and enjoyed the rest of the school year. David’s parents were so happy and relieved to see their son’s renewed social life.
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