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Dr. Bowers press release explaining new technology to address social skills difficulties. 

Pediatric Psychologist Releases Social Skills App for Aspergers Syndrome

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September 20, 2011 · 11:46 am

Pediatric Psychologist Releases Social Skills App for Aspergers Syndrome

Pediatric Psychologist Releases Social Skills App for Aspergers Syndrome.

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Sōsh: Using the Shredder to Eliminate Unwanted Thoughts

Sōsh™ is the new word in social skills development. It is also a mobile application designed to help ‘tweens, teens and young adults improve social skills. Sōsh is especially developed to be used by individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Mark Bowers, a pediatric psychologist, in conjunction with a counseling psychologist, developed the application – moving social skills training into the high tech, mobile app world.

In this video blog, learn how to Relax using The Shredder to eliminate unwanted thoughts.  It is a fun and effective way to relieve stress.  The Shredder is available as a standalone app from the full Sōsh app for a fun and effective way to relax and reduce stress.

This approach to social skills has not been available until now.  Individuals using the app learn to: practice conversation strategies, relax, pursue social opportunities, recognize feelings, make successful transitions, journal progress, eliminate negative thoughts, monitor behavior, and regulate speech volume, to name some of the many features.  In fact, Sōsh contains over 60 well-designed and engaging screens of exercises, strategies, and practical information to improve social interactions.

With exercises, strategies, and a wealth of practical information regarding social skills, Sōsh will assist the user every step of the way. The Sōsh app is available in the iTunes app store. Visit mysosh.com for a full review of the app’s potential to improve social skills.

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Social Skills: Balance Your Schedule of Activities

Dilemma: Summer is fun for kids and adults alike, and often a time for vacation and rest.  It is also hot and there is plenty of unstructured time which can lead to concerning behaviors. 

Everyday Solutions(s): Have at least some sort of structure to each day.  Rest or down time is important and you need not structure all times of each day.  The goal is to have a framework but also work with kids on learning to entertain themselves.  Sometimes having a list of possible activities to choose from during free time can avoid boredom or reports of “nothing to do.” 

Sōsh Approach: Use the Sōsh mobile app Interest Log.  It is important to NOT spend too much time on any one activity (especially if that activity is done alone). The Interest Log provides you with a template to track your interests and the amount of time you engage in your interests (e.g., INTEREST: Play Video Games; TIME: 4 Hours). The more varied your interests, the more likely you will connect with a variety of people and make new friends.Too much of anything is never a good thing!

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Social Skills: Summer Play Time

Dilemma: Summer is fun for kids and adults alike, and often a time for vacation and rest.  It is also hot and there is plenty of unstructured time which can lead to concerning behaviors. 

Everyday Solutions(s): Have at least some sort of structure to each day.  Rest or down time is important and you need not structure all times of each day.  The goal is to have a framework but also work with kids on learning to entertain themselves.  Sometimes having a list of possible activities to choose from during free time can avoid boredom or reports of “nothing to do.” 

Sōsh Approach: Use the Sōsh mobile app To Do feature so that the child knows his or her schedule for the day and can carry it (on an Apple device) and check in on the list instead of asking you what there is to do! Just take a few minutes to set up the list at the beginning of each day and save yourself lots of arguments and suggestions of how to fill the time that day.

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Dr. Bowers Releases Sōsh™ Daily News

The Sōsh™ Daily News is a new publication from Dr. Mark Bowers that is published each evening (usually around 5 pm EST) and combines the latest news and articles about social skills and autism spectrum diagnoses.  You can read a recent issues by clicking the link below.  If you like it, you can subscribe on the Daily News page.  Or, you can follow Dr. Mark @MYSOSH on Twitter or click on the tweets feed to the right of this WordPress page.  Enjoy the Sōsh™ Daily News!

http://bit.ly/lOSq5X

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Social Skills: Screen Time

Dilemma: Your child loves to play video games, portable game systems, use the computer, and/or watch television shows.  Transitions away from screen time are difficult and create arguments. 

Everyday Solutions(s): Limit daily screen time to 1-2 hours per day.  Providing structure and alternative, physical activities helps to naturally limit screen time.  Summer is a great time for swimming, camps, and other outdoor activities.  You may also consider using a token box that can be purchased from Family Safe Media.  This device attaches to the game console and allows electricity to the game system depending on the amount of tokens the child inserts into the device.  You control the tokens and use them as rewards.  Thus, completing a daily chore might be worth one token, which “buys” the child 15 minutes of game time.  When the time is up, the device shuts off, which teaches the child to use his or her time wisely.  It’s tough to argue with a machine when it is time to transition. 

Sōsh Approach: Use the Sōsh mobile app Transition Timer.  As stated above, the incidence of argument is substantially lowers when a timer rather than a caregiver makes the transition announcement.  The child can also be encouraged to log his video game activity in the Sōsh Interest Log and can be rewarded for staying within your screen time guidelines or transitioning without incident.  Further, having a child journal his or her strong feelings about transitions (once calm) can help to increase emotional awareness and self-control during future transitions.  For an in-depth explanation of these and other effective transition strategies, check out this book.  

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Social Skills: Interrupting

Dilemma: Your child talks over others or otherwise interrupts what they are saying.

Everyday Solution(s): Correct the behavior in the moment with a verbal warning (e.g., “You need to wait your turn”), use a method such as 1-2-3 Magic to count instances of interrupting up to three incidents before giving the child a consequence, practice/role-play turn-taking (and turn the table so that you interrupt the child for perspective-taking practice), or read a story/write a social story about interrupting and its effect on interactions.

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Sōsh Approach: Use the mobile app to video record the child engaging in the behavior (i.e., interrupting) and then ask him or her to monitor how often it occurred using the Regulate >Tracking page of the app. Finally, open the Recognize > Feelings page of the app to document and archive the effect of the interrupting on the other person so that learning can generalize. 

To learn more, visit www.mysosh.com.

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Dr. Bowers Creates Mobile App and Releases Book to Help Children & Teens Improve Social Skills

Sōsh is the new word in social skills development.  It is also a new mobile app that helps young people improve their social skills “in the moment.”  Dr. Mark Bowers, a pediatric psychologist and app co-creator released the Sōsh app today– moving social skills training into the high tech, mobile app world.  In addition to real-time, portable tips and tools for individuals with social skills difficulties, the mobile app also provides activities and feedback to parents, teachers, and therapists for guidance and review.  For individuals ages 9 to 22 years old, difficulty with social interactions is a leading cause of stress and one of the most common calls for help.  With exercises, strategies, and a wealth of practical information regarding social skills, Sōsh will assist the user every step of the way.  The app is available in the iTunes app store.  Visit www.mysosh.com for a full review of the app’s potential to improve social skills.

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Sōsh for Social Skills

Welcome to the Sōsh blog dedicated to helping individuals improve their social skills.  Stay tuned for weekly content updates.

Sōsh is an approach developed by Dr. Mark Bowers, a pediatric psychologist, that divides social functioning into five areas essential to social skills development and success: Relate, Relax, Reason, Regulate and Recognize.   These “5R’s” serve as a road map for individuals who want to be social, but may have faced obstacles in the past; and also serve as a guide for parents, teachers, and therapists hoping to encourage and assist individuals with their social goals.  

The Sōsh mobile app is available for “in the moment” social skills help and Dr. Bowers has also published his book: Sōsh: Improving Social Skills with Children and Adolescents.  Visit www.mysosh.com for more information on these exciting developments.

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It’s Been Awhile….

I see that it has been about 6 months since my last post.  I have some exciting developments that I will be sharing soon and I assure you that the past six months has been spent working tirelessly on some rather time-intensive projects geared toward helping improve social skills in the lives of children, teens, and young adults.   I can’t wait to update everyone and I hope that it will be worth the wait.  More to come…

–Dr. Bowers

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Too often we give our children answers to remember instead of problems to solve.

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May 28, 2011 · 3:01 am

Give the Gift of You…

The coolest present you can give your child is time spent at your side.

By Carolyn Buchanan | December , 2010

What does Owen want for Christmas? That question begins arriving in my e-mail inbox every year right around this time from well-meaning relatives and friends. They’re looking for a suggestion of what to give my son to make their holiday shopping list more manageable. But they also want to find something he’ll get a kick out of. (The same sort of question pops up around his birthday, too.) This year, I’m trying a new answer: “Owen doesn’t need any more things. How about if you give him the gift of . . . you?

I’m suggesting to friends and family that they spend an afternoon with my son, sharing a hobby, an interest, or a talent of theirs that will make the day memorable and unique. “The gift of time is always the most important thing you can give to a child,” says Mark Bowers, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at the Ann Arbor (MI) Center for Development & Behavioral Pediatrics. “When children look back on their childhoods, they’re much more likely to remember events than objects.”  In this article is a guide to offer to relatives and friends that they can use for connecting with your child. (You can also use it yourself with your nephews, nieces, or other children.) All of the suggestions we offer are budget-friendly! As always, it’s important to coordinate any plans with the gift-receiver’s parent in advance.

Read entire article here.

 

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Lies, Truths, and Your Preschooler

My recent contribution to a WebMD article for those parents raising a toddler.  Thanks and kudos to Jennifer Soong for really covering all the bases eloquently on this topic.

How to help your preschooler learn the difference between lying and telling the truth.
By Jennifer Soong
WebMD Feature

When Dylan Bocanegra was three, he blamed the family’s cat, Bamboo, for practically everything, recalls his mom Eva-Marie Fredric, a producer in Los Angeles.

Crayon scrawled all over the living room walls? Bamboo did it. Plastic bottle flushed down the toilet? Bamboo did it. Smoke rising from the TV set? Yup, it was you-know-who.

“Like most toddlers, Dylan had a vivid imagination and told tall tales,” Fredric says. “Our cat became the scapegoat for everything he did.”

That was years ago — Dylan is now a teen. But some things never change — plenty of preschoolers, then and now, do like he did and stretch the truth.

True Lies

Preschoolers (aged 3-5) are learning to grasp the line between reality and fantasy. Telling a fib or tall tale is not an unusual way to explore this boundary at this age. Parents are often hardwired to react hotly to what they see as a lie, but this may not always be the best way to handle the situation.

“At age 3, it’s often when parents will say, ‘Gosh, my child is lying. I don’t know what to do,” says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers. “But it’s a fuzzy line between what’s real and what’s in their imagination.”

Let’s say that your 3-year-old spilled milk on the floor. You ask, “Who spilled it?” and your child says, “Not me.” It’s not that your child is lying, Altmann says. She may wish she didn’t spill it, or if the spill took place an hour ago, she might not even remember spilling it.

Anyone under age 5 is too young to understand what a lie is, says Mark Bowers, PhD, pediatric psychologist in Ann Arbor, Mich. They don’t have the same cognitive capacity as a kindergarten-age kid who begins to learn the difference between right and wrong.

“You don’t have a future criminal on your hands because your child’s not ‘fessing up to spilling the milk in the kitchen,” Bowers says.

Laying Down the Ground Rules

If you catch your child drawing on the walls, you may be tempted to confront her: “Are you the one who did this?” Chances are she’ll say “no” because she doesn’t want to make you mad or get in trouble.

It’s better to state what the rule is and offer a solution, Bowers says. For example, “We have a rule in this house that we only draw on paper. So why don’t we get some soap and you can help Daddy clean it up.”

To avoid accusations, he advocates a Columbo approach, or playing dumb. Within your child’s earshot, you can say: “Oh, I wonder how this milk got spilled? It would really be nice if somebody could help me clean it up.”

After your kid comes over and helps you, give him a high five for helping out.

“These are teaching opportunities to show your child what they should do in the future,” Altmann says. “Unless it’s really serious, stay away from punishment and turn it into a learning opportunity.”

Superheroes, Disneyland, and Tall Tales

Creativity is at a high point from age 3 to 5, Bowers says.

Imaginary play is part of a child’s natural growth and development. You start to see imaginary friends, superhero fantasies, wishful thinking, and talk about places your child has never been, like Disneyland. You can help nurture your child’s imagination while teaching them the importance of honesty.

Don’t worry if your child details a fictitious trip to Disneyland. Simply respond by saying, “Well, you know, we haven’t been to Disneyland yet, but if we did go, what would you want to do?”

“Whenever possible, have fun with them,” Bowers says. “Join them so they can pursue what’s in their imagination.”

Preschoolers often stretch the truth to get your attention. You can encourage your child to tell the truth, says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

One way she suggests is saying to your child: “You have such a wonderful imagination and when you say A, B, or C, I can’t always tell if it’s your imagination or if it’s real. The thing that is most important, that makes a person feel safe between two people, is when we tell the truth and always say what’s real.”

Be Positive, Don’t Judge

“It’s very important to be able to gently, without judgment, put accountability where it belongs,” Walfish says. “You have to bust your child in a nice way.”

Use language your preschooler can understand. For example, you might say: “It’s hard sometimes to tell Mommy that you did it. You say the cat did it because you’re worried about Mommy being mad at you. But you and I both know the cat can’t do it. I’m the kind of Mommy that wants to hear that you did it and then we can talk about other ways you can get my attention.”

Altmann recommends using positive phrasing. “Say ‘it’s important to tell the truth’ instead of saying, ‘Oh, you lied.’ I would urge parents not to say that,” she says.

Stay away from the negative stigma of calling your child a liar, Walfish says. It labels the child, makes her feel bad and that she has to hide things from you.

“You want to keep the connections open so that your child can tell you anything,” Walfish says.

You don’t have to wait for these types of situations to crop up. Bowers suggests reading books together that encourage honesty, such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

How did Fredric get her son, Dylan, to stop his fibbing? She used a cat hand puppet and a different voice to get him to ‘fess up to the truth.

At the puppet’s prompting, he admitted to things he did, apologized, and gave his mom a big hug. “It actually made him feel safe to tell the truth,” Fredric says. “He didn’t worry about getting in trouble.”

SOURCES:

Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, FAAP, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers.

Mark Bowers, PhD, pediatric psychologist, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Fran Walfish, PsyD, child and family psychotherapist; author,The Self-Aware Parent.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Children and Lying,” November 2004.

Reviewed on October 19, 2010
© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

©2005-2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Adam: A Movie Review (Asperger’s in the Movies)

With all of the much-deserved praise going around about the Temple Grandin movie (15 Emmy nods and 7 wins), I wanted to take a moment to review a less well-known movie titled, Adam. I recently had the opportunity to watch this film, and I loved it. The following description is taken from Wikipedia: Adam is a 2009 comedy-drama film written and directed by Max Mayer, starring Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. The film follows the relationship between a young man named Adam (Dancy) with Asperger syndrome and the woman of his dreams, Beth (Byrne).
What I appreciated about the film was the manner in which the actor playing Adam approached the character. It was refreshing to see a film about a person living with Asperger’s syndrome that was not sensationalized in the way in which Hollywood tends to portray individuals in movies. Instead, Adam offers the viewer a window into the inner world of an individual with Asperger’s in a respectful and accurate fashion. For example, during one scene Adam has climbed outside the window of Beth’s apartment to clean her windows for her. She does not expect to see him out there and yells due to being startled. Adam asks her why she yelled. She did not expect him to be there. He knew he was there all along, so why wouldn’t she? It’s rare to see a movie attempt to tackle Theory of Mind.
Although every person with Asperger’s Syndrome is unique and Adam’s character does not represent all people with Asperger’s, it is nice to see how this particular character copes with young adulthood, independent living, and romantic relationships. The music in the film is also very well done. In sum, if you have any interest in Asperger’s Syndrome then this would be a great film for you to watch. Feel free to post your thoughts on the film if you have seen it.

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Protecting Self-Esteem Among Children and Teens

This is an area that is important regardless of a child’s developmental history, socioeconomic status, gender, or race.  As parents, we watch as our children are generally so carefree and assured, with the slightest compliments effectively reinforcing their every move.  Then we have to let them go at some point; to go away from the safety and comfort of our homes, and enter into the land of school.  We now don’t have any control over who they will meet or how they will be treated.  We must simply wait and pick up the pieces as we try and put on our best ‘poker face’ listening with angst, guilt, and anger (among other emotions) to our child recount being teased earlier that day.  I used to believe, perhaps hope, that self-esteem was not at risk until the junior high/middle school years, or what I like to call: “the years in which all kids should either hibernate or be allowed to stay home until maturity sets in.”

Unfortunately now I know better.  Self-esteem is at risk the moment a child enters preschool or daycare.  It just looks different.  Kids as young as preschool age can be heard telling each other, ‘I don’t want to be your friend,” or “I don’t like you.”  I recently listened to one of my colleagues recount how when her son was younger he came home one day and told her, “Johnny told me that he didn’t want to be my friend!”  She recalled how she bit her lip and was ready to give him a big hug as he was surely on the verge of tears.  She put her ‘poker face’ on and asked her son, “What did you say?”  Her son responded in a matter-of-face tone, “Who cares!?”

There has to be something to that response.  Some kids are simply born with a suit of armor that can repel these meaningless comments while others are devastated at the very thought of anyone not liking them.  Self-esteem begins to be chipped away each day in school whether a child is having a difficult time with math, or reading, or friendships, or basically anything that the child begins to internalize as making them ‘defective’ or ‘flawed’ in any way.  This is the same reason why the notion of a child being deemed ‘lazy’ by their teacher is ridiculous.  Kids are absolutely devastated when they cannot keep up in class, don’t answer a question correctly, take longer than their peers to complete an assignment or test…the list goes on and on…  You tell me how that is lazy.

So what is self-esteem and how can we help our kids achieve and maintain it?  My favorite definition comes from a pioneer in the field of psychology, William James.  He defined self-esteem with the following equation: Self-Esteem = Success/Pretensions (or Success divided by Pretensions).

Pretensions are viewed as goals, purposes, or aims, whereas Successes constitute the perception of the attainment of those goals.  Thus, we essentially decide in our own minds when we have achieved success based on our own expectations for that success.  When self-esteem begins to suffer is when an individual comes up short in his or her perception of reaching a particular goal, especially when the individual compares his or her achievement of a goal against the achievement of others.   So, for the child who either tells himself (or hears it from his parents) that he must get straight A’s and then gets a ‘B’ in gym class only to be outdone by one of his academic rivals, self-esteem has just taken a ‘hit.’   Whereas the child who really struggles in gym class and has lower expectations but eventually achieves a ‘B’ in the class may have a rise in self-esteem.

The bottom line, which is as important for adults as it is for kids, is that we have to have multiple ‘columns’ or ‘pillars’ of support to our self-esteem.  If we rest all of our esteem on how well we do in school and then do lousy on a test, then we are in trouble.  This is why I strongly encourage kids to pursue a variety of interests beginning in middle school even if they only end up liking a few things.  I don’t expect that they will like everything they try, but having at least a few new interests to add to the old can insulate them down the road if just one of their previous interests does not go well.

Imagine that I, a pediatric psychologist, enter a contest and win the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game.  I practice a little so that I don’t embarrass myself on the big day and then the day arrives.  I step up on the mound, try a bit of a wind up, and throw a wild pitch that sends the catcher scrambling and draws jeers from the fans.  It’s all in good fun and I laugh it off.  Why don’t I hang my head and beat myself up about this?  Why hasn’t my self-esteem suffered?  Well, for starters I am not a trained professional pitcher so why should I be expected to throw an accurate pitch from that distance?  But what if I were and I performed the same way?  Then my self-esteem might be in jeopardy because my pretensions are different.

The young boy I discussed earlier comes to mind.  As a psychologist, my reaction to my wild pitch can safely be “who cares?”  There are plenty of other things I do well and my pretensions for throwing the ball well were low.  As a result, not achieving success was okay.  This is exactly why we need to have multiple pillars of support.  If my entire self-concept is tied up in how knowledgeable and helpful I am as a psychologist, and a child comes to see me that I can’t seem to get through to, then I might beat myself up and question my competence.  However, if I go home to my family that night and watch as my daughter runs to greet me and play with me, I am reminded that there is more to me and my self-concept than what I do at work.  Adults as much as kids run into this problem and it gets them into big trouble.  The workaholic father, for example, who is so angry with his family every night because he can never truly be successful at work due to his extremely high pretensions.  His goals are too lofty and as a result he cannot find happiness in other areas…work is his only pillar of esteem and he has little energy left for much else.  Kids need to be reminded multiple times each day of their lives to find successes in what they do and increase the chances of that by doing a variety of different things.  A bad day at school is only devastating when the pretensions of how school should go are set too high.

Often what I worry about with the kids I treat is that they have suffered too many losses of esteem and don’t like the feeling anymore.  As a result, they fall into the cycle of avoidance.  Indeed, in their minds they think: With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation.

So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities; a fraction of which our pretensions are the denominator and the numerator is our success: thus…

Self-Esteem = Success/Pretensions.  Self-esteem is ultimately increased by increasing our successes in life while also decreasing our pretensions.  I would strongly encourage all of us to keep our pretensions realistic and not depend on too much success in any one particular area of our lives.  The more we spread it out, the safer we are or the more intact our self-esteem remains.  Keep your options varied and open and don’t lose sight of what you are good at, even when you have a bad day and one of your columns of support happens to collapse on that particular day.

Dr. Mark Bowers is a Licensed Pediatric Psychologist at the Ann Arbor Center for Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

© 2009 Mark Bowers, Ph.D.



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The Anxious Child

All children experience anxiety.   Anxiety in children is expected and normal at specific times in development.  For example, from approximately eight months of age through the preschool years, healthy youngsters may show intense distress (anxiety) at times of separation from their parents or other persons with whom they are close.  Young children may have short-lived fears, (such as fear of the dark, storms, animals, or strangers).  If anxieties become severe and begin to interfere with the daily activities of childhood (such as separating from parents, attending school and making friends), parents should consider seeking the evaluation and advice of a child psychologist.

One type of anxiety that may need treatment is called separation anxiety. This includes:

  • constant thoughts and fears about safety of self and parents
  • refusing to go to school
  • frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints
  • extreme worries about sleeping away from home
  • overly clingy
  • panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents
  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

Another type of anxiety (phobia) is when a child is afraid of specific things such as dogs, insects, or needles and these fears cause significant distress (i.e., more than what would be expected for a child of the same age).

Some anxious children are afraid to meet or talk to new people.  Children with this difficulty may have few friends outside the family.

Other children with severe anxiety may have:

  • many worries about things before they happen
  • constant worries or concern about school performance, friends, or sports
  • repetitive thoughts or actions (obsessions)
  • fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
  • low self-esteem

Anxious children are often overly tense or uptight.   Some may seek a lot of reassurance, and their worries may interfere with activities. Because anxious children may also be quiet, compliant and eager to please, their difficulties may be missed. Parents should be alert to the signs of anxiety so they can intervene early to prevent complications.  It is important not to discount a child’s fears.

If you are concerned that your child has difficulty with anxiety you should consult a child psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.  Severe anxiety problems in children can be treated.  Early treatment can prevent future difficulties, such as loss of friendships, failure to reach social and academic potential, and feelings of low self-esteem.  Treatments may include one or a combination of the following: individual psychotherapy, family therapy, behavioral treatments, medications, and consultation with the school.

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