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Encourage shy boy to reach out

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Question: My husband and I have a 6-year-old son who is very sensitive to noise. For instance, he doesn't like to have "Happy Birthday" sung and hates the applause that follows. He used to scream and get angry; now he just runs off.

He is shy and very resistant to trying anything new. When he was 3, we put him into a tumbling class once a week. He cried for the first month but eventually grew to love it. Now we have put him in Cub Scouts and are going through the same problems. He cries and doesn't want to go, but when we come home he says it was fine.

We are hoping that he will gain self-confidence by trying new things, but it seems painful for him — and for us.

Please advise if we should continue to push him to try new things. — C.C., Harvey, La.

Answer: Good for you. You are teaching a child who is auditorially hypersensitive how to gradually accept a world that is difficult for him to handle because his hearing is so hyperacute. I can understand your son's feelings because I have a degree of this sensitivity myself and have had to learn to cover my ears in noisy places — and, even better, to avoid them.

Tell him that you understand this problem and let him know that he's not alone. He can overcome it to some degree and can learn how to manage it — without having to run away.

Your efforts to get him involved in new activities are wonderful, but be sure to support him and let him know that you understand how hard these are for him. Choose groups or activities that aren't too overwhelming or noisy.

I would also suggest getting him together with another child his age who is shy. If the two can become comfortable with each other, they can try some of these activities together. Entering a group of noisy, active kids is infinitely easier when you have a friend by your side. If he can do this, your son won't have to feel so "different."

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