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Fear of Crowd

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I was able to have my daughter Effie seen by a Child Behavioral Development Doctor but was not satisfied with the result. She just asked me about the condition I was when I was pregnant, some details regarding Effie's school. She did not ask my child to do something that she may evaluate her after (like for instance build blocks, write or read the alphabets or letters, sing or dance, or even ask questions). She's always directing questions at me. I remembered her saying that she is very advance in her cognitive skills but she just based it from the answers we, my sister and I, gave to her questions.

She advised us to strictly impose to our child to mingle with her age group since this is what's good for her. She even said that she have been very manipulative thus her teacher asks her to do things she likes to do (like set placemats before recess time, or stamp stars on her/her classmates palms) instead of giving the responsibility to other students. I believe the teacher do this since she knows that Effie bores easily after doing repetitive tasks that she knows already. Have I been right in sending her to that doctor?

Also Dr. Sandhu, Just this October, I have a hard time sending her to school. She doesn't feel like going already. Also, she hates and cries being in a crowd, even with relatives she know already. Is this connected to being gifted?

A: A child behavioral development doctor is quite different from a child psychologist, whom you should really see for your concerns. Developmentally, Effie appears to be doing well, hence the evaluation by the doctor. The doctor's advice to get Effie to mingle with her age group is clearly on a developmental point of view, which is fair. Perhaps, the word that should have been used is "encourage" and not "strictly impose". What the teachers are doing is fine, as they have a better idea on how to help her learn simply because they are in a position that allows them to constantly watch her progress at school. As long as Effie and the teachers are not complaining, there should not be a concern.

Schooling for a child who may not be very socially adept may pose a problem. But before that, you must ask yourself if she is socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively ready to participate in a daily, structured, educational program with a group of other children? This may not be related to giftedness as it can be the case for any child. In this case, you need to find out the reason, especially if this is a sudden change. Speak to the teachers and monitor her behavior. Request her teachers to give her a little more attention.

You also mentioned that she hates being in a crowd. Perhaps Effie feels anxious about crowds, and this is very normal. This is a sign that her development is on the right track as it is part of a child's cognitive and emotional development. Although you may feel that she has been better before (less anxious), this is because as she matured, she becomes better attuned to her surroundings. This in turn makes her react to stresses that she was perhaps barely aware of a few months ago.

However, pleasing her by allowing her to have it her way is not a solution. You may need to slowly encourage her to mingle a little more. Take her to the park or other places with people (outdoor places with a lot of space) to help her be more comfortable in a crowd. After some time, you will see that she becomes more and more comfortable in crowded places. Prepare her when she sees new people and help dispel her fears. Say, if you are visiting a relative or going for a party, prepare her with the familiar people she may see. Describe them, maybe mentioning that that person will be wearing a very nice dress, maybe something related to Effie's favorite color. When Effie realizes that this person is not wearing what you had said, you could get that relative/friend to play along saying that some sauce had stained it or just create a story and you will be surprised that with time Effie would join in the conversation.

Lastly, take it slow. Gifted children may somewhat find it more difficult to adjust in school due to their sensitive and perfectionist nature. So, allow her to develop as naturally as possible with a lot of help from yourself and some from her teachers. This fear is indeed perfectly normal for young kids and will almost certainly fade as they mature and begin to gain more control over their feelings.


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