But what's really going on? "It turns out, after an evaluation, that he is off the charts for social anxiety," reports Dr. Jerry Bubrick, director of the Anxiety & Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. "He can't tolerate any—even constructive—criticism. He just will shut down altogether. James is terrified of being embarrassed, so when a boy says something that makes him uncomfortable, he has no skills to deal with it, and he freaks out. Flight or fight."
James's story illustrates something that parents and teachers may not realize—that disruptive behavior is often generated by unrecognized anxiety. A child who appears to be oppositional or aggressive may be reacting to anxiety—anxiety he may, depending on his age, not be able to articulate effectively, or not even fully recognize that he's feeling.
"Especially in younger kids with anxiety you might see freezing and clinging kind of behavior," says Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, "but you can also see tantrums and complete meltdowns."
|Scooped by Sharrock|
It is important to consider this possibility, especially because of the power of labels. People have a tendency to write-off others when they diagnose them as oppositional or emotionally disabled. It's like they think the child is beyond their responsibility or expertise once they have a special education classification. Not that anxiety is any better as a label. We might make the mistake of handing the anxious child off to the school psychologist or social worker.
Nevertheless, it's helpful to understand that the kid isn't actively working to sabotage instruction.