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After the intense examination, the paediatrician ruled out autism — which Susan says was a relief — but confirmed that Sam was painfully shy Natasha Gunter, a nurse from Edinburgh, moved her son, Yasin, to different schools no fewer than three times in an attempt to ‘cure’ his shyness.Yasin, now 12, suddenly became, in her words, ‘unbelievably shy’ at four.She says: ‘If you’re a gregarious person with many friends, then the idea that your child doesn’t have many friends can seem alien and very upsetting.‘But if you’re a quieter person who enjoys their own company and only has perhaps one good friend, you won’t react the same way or see your child’s shyness as something terribly negative.‘A parent’s view of shyness can be based on their own personality, not just on their child’s.‘Often, parents say their child is outgoing and then notice a change later on.

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Susan admits: ‘Shyness is hardly a medical diagnosis, but I felt so relieved professionals were taking it as seriously as I was.

They agreed it was best to do something now before Sam’s shyness crippled him.’ If you’re a gregarious person with many friends, then the idea that your child doesn’t have many friends can seem alien and very upsetting - Dr Rachel Andrew, clinical psychologist who works with children But Dr Rachel Andrew, a clinical psychologist who works with children and young people, says parents are not always the best judge of whether their child’s shyness is actually a problem.

When the therapist couldn’t provide a solution, Susan’s next port of call was her health visitor who did a one-to-one session with Sam at pre-school — and after watching him quietly playing alone, deemed that the little boy was deliberately choosing to isolate himself from others.

They referred Sam to a speech therapist in the hope it might help him to become more vocal — even though there was nothing wrong with his speech Her recommendation?

I hoped it was just a phase and that perhaps he was finding “big” school a bit difficult.‘But as the weeks passed, he became more withdrawn.

On one occasion Yasin cuddled up to me and said: “Mummy, nobody plays with me.”’He explained that while the other children played in groups at lunchtime, he would wander around on his own.‘I asked him who his friends were and he replied: “Nobody”,’ says Natasha.‘I put on a brave face for him and told him he’d make friends in time, but that night, when he was in bed, I broke down.‘I imagined him walking around all alone while everyone else played.It was more than upsetting; it was devastating.’A few weeks later, Natasha spoke to Yasin’s teachers.Online message boards are filled with tales of parents seeking help for perceived excessive shyness — with some mothers even claiming their shy child is actually autistic (rather than admit that little Tabitha is just reluctant to put her hand up in class).Nowadays, with popularity measured in hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’, some painfully shy children have attracted their own clinical label: ‘social phobics’.I felt sick — if he was like this in the comfortable world of pre-school, I wondered how he’d manage at big school.‘I’d often see party invitations handed out to other children — all except for Sam. ‘Joe had been a shy child, too — and he told me I was being overly concerned. But I had a gut feeling I had to do something to help Sam before it got worse.‘I found myself envying mothers whose kids went happily into social situations,’ she said.

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