Miss M used to have severe anxiety. A big part of that was the diet - a side effect of eating the wrong diet when you have Fructose Malabsorption is that tryptophan isn't absorbed well. No tryptophan, body can't effectively make serotonin. Imbalance in serotonin = mood issues (depression/anxiety/rage).
So she had a pretty bad case of it, tilted toward anxiety. Turned into a little zombie when people talked to her. It was so bad that at the early intervention assessment, she couldn't even close her hand on a toy. Just sat on my lap staring straight ahead. Kinda scary, actually. The home visit with the psychologist was no better. Sat on my lap, couldn't speak, couldn't move. Wah!
But the diet change helped tremendously. Funny that! In four days, she was a new person. But she still had a baseline anxiety issue.
The psychologist was great - not the least being great with the parental side of things.
She asked (seeing M all catatonic) if we took her out places. No, really, we'd cut back on all activities that caused her to shut down.
Good job, mom. You guys have done a fantastic job at step one of the process - protecting your child from harmful situations.
And now, step two. Step two is giving her the skills to safely and comfortably participate in life, including situations that she 'naturally' finds stressful. Time to give her the skills to participate in and enjoy the things that right now are 'too scary'.
It was nice to hear that we'd done so well at step one, even though I knew we'd pretty much skipped step two at that point. Didn't even realize there was a step two!
I think a lot of parents don't think about step two. We're so media trained to worry about safety, to fret for the dangers, to be wary, that we don't even think about coaching the skills for enjoying uncomfortable and 'scary' situations. Sure, we coach for survival (what to do if a stranger approaches you inappropriately), but what about just 'nervous'? What about just being around strangers with your parents? What about all the other skills for handling unknown or uncomfortable situations?
Once we knew there was a 'step two', we kicked into gear on coaching, prepping, practicing, giving alternatives to try, and being backstop/safety net. Told her where we were going, what we'd do there, who would be there. Reminded her of her skills for talking, playing, and asking for help when she needed it. Let her bring her big stuffed shark to church (where it could add a layer between her and 'people'). Explained the rules for parties, set expectations, talked about events before they happened, gave her a job or role for the event...
And it has worked. Still works, and we still use it. Birthday parties are now fun, and nobody knows she has that much baseline anxiety. Most people would guess it is Miss R who had the big scary fear of people and events. Miss M? She's off into the puppy pile, racing ahead, in charge of herself, certain of what she's doing, knows how to handle the emotional discomfort.
She's becoming an old hand at working step two.