An innovative research program offered by a Vancouver university is helping socially vulnerable children, ages 8 to 12, to reduce anxiety and change misperceptions.

Andrew R. Eisen, Ph.D., and his team of advanced doctoral students will lead group therapy sessions emphasizing the application of broad-based social skills.

Children withdraw from social activities and relationships for many reasons, including anxiety, fear of being embarrassed, or a history of negative interactions.

Whatever the reason, when social anxiety or withdrawal leads to poor peer relationships, there are often other difficulties involved.

For instance, children may not be socially savvy, may be easily distracted, or may struggle with learning issues.

Ultimately, these children may become socially vulnerable, which means they are ignored, excluded, or, even worse, actively rejected by their peers.

At the same time, most of these children not only are unaware of how their behavior alienates their peers, but also have great difficulty understanding why they are not accepted.

Socially vulnerable children frequently misperceive others’ intentions, misinterpret others’ remarks, believe that nothing is ever his or her fault, become easily frustrated , complain of constant fatigue, and insist on doing everything his or her way.

Often, children who struggle with anxiety or peer-related issues have some form of documented (or suspected) neurological conditions such as ADHD-inattentive type, learning disabilities or weaknesses, processing or memory issues.

The socially vulnerable groups consist of either 10 weekly group sessions emphasizing anxiety reduction and changing misperceptions or 10 weekly group sessions emphasizing the application of broad-based social skills.

Group assignments will be determined randomly. Both groups will emphasize specific coping skills to help improve a child’s peer relationships.

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University