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Social Phobia

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I have a Kindergarten student who was recently diagnosed with social phobia disorder. She has never spoken a word to any adult at our school in the last 2 years that she's been here and will only speak with one of the parents with whom she lives. Parent indicates some trauma between the student and the other parent. She will speak with other students, but if an adult sees her, she will stop speaking. I'm stumped as how to help her, since I can't get her to communicate with me. She's very cooperative when she is with me, except for the speaking and will at least nod yes or no when "pushed" for an answer. Any thoughts/ideas?

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These kids are so tough! I've worked with a handful over the years and I've never really found any interventions that seemed to help significantly. It seems kids like this just decide in their own time when to start interacting, speaking, and socializing with adults and others.

Thankfully the student is cooperative and you can squeeze a simple yes or no out of them. That is usually the first step, getting nods for yes and no. After that, you might try adding on more motions or gestures like shrugging shoulders for "I don't know", pointing, raising hand, etc. And/or you could try to get the student to verbalize the words yes and no when nodding. If you are able to push them for nods, perhaps you could push them little more for a verbal yes or no as well.

It's likely going to be very slow progress with little steps like above, until the student just decides to give more one day. Some times other interventions can help, like letting the student wear a hood they can pull over their face when they talk or answer, having the student respond to their neighbor while the teacher stands near enough to hear, play therapy where the student uses a doll or whatever to speak through (maybe holding it up in front of their face and speaking from behind it), having the parents record the student talking to them at home, then sitting down with the student to watch it with them, etc.

Some of these interventions may help somewhat, but it's not likely any of them will produce dramatic results. Think long term and small steps, and just hang in there. Maybe someone else on here has some different and better thoughts and ideas... anyone?

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Thanks so much for the great suggestions! Working with kids takes time, its just that sometimes there's not enough of it!

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Have you tried allowing the student to point to a picture to communicate their needs, wants, etc? That might help them communicate in a non threatening way. 🙂 Good luck.

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Great idea! You could even make a series of pictures they would use throughout the day for common tasks, questions, etc, and put them on a ring they could carry around and refer to.

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A great way to get students to go to class is to use the "good cop/bad cop" method.
Get parents to bring the student to school and then if they won't come into class, give them the option of either going with someone they don't know (custodian/ computer tech/ school psychologist), or go back to their familiar classroom. Most of the time we have tried this the student chooses familiarity.

It's also important for everyone to keep emotion out of the equation (anger or sympathy). If you can communicate matter of factly that attendance is mandatory, that also helps.

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