Shyness is pretty common, according to Barbara Croft Terry, a clinical social worker in Salt Lake City. Terry says 10 percent of all adults report feeling shy all the time. Eighty percent say they've felt shy at some time in their lives.
If the majority of perfectly normal people have it, then why is Terry speaking about shyness at the Rivendell Children and Youth's conference on "The Diagnosis and Treatment of the Emotionally Disturbed Child and Adolescent"?Terry will be speaking on "Shy Children, Shy Adults, the Nurture/Nature Debate," to an audience of school guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, parents and teachers.
"What I want to explore with other professionals is the fact that there are people who are different, and we should make allowances for them in our treatment. Shy children are not pathological, they are a normal variation of people - who require different handling."
Terry continues, "Most of the treatment techniques we've developed came through working with children who are aggressive and act out their problems. We may not be effective with children who withdraw."
Terry says recent findings by Harvard researchers suggest shyness is, at least in part, genetically determined. The research indicates some infants simply have a more sensitive nervous system than do others. Even in mildly stimulating social situations, they act as if they were in a threatening situation.
"People can adjust to this inherent brain chemistry, though," Terry says. "All children need a lot of nurturing. It is especially critical for shy children."
Our school systems and treatment facilities are designed to control children, Terry says. They aren't what shy children need. "Shy children grow up overly conscientious about rules and obedience anyway. They need to learn to trust their impulses more and to expand, not limit, their behavior."
Terry says parents, teachers and counselors need to give shy children two messages: "You are OK, even though you are shy or scared. But it's also OK to try new things."
The conference will be Oct. 21 at the Salt Lake Hilton, 150 West 500 South. It's free and open to the public. For more information call 561-3377.