Social communication disorder: A risk factor for social anxiety disorder in children

Social communication disorder (SCD) is a relatively new medical condition added to the fifth edition of the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) that encompasses a range of problems witnessed in children associated with difficulties in social interactions and communication, social cognition (the way people collect and interpret information), pragmatics (the way words can have multiple connotation), etc. It also includes impairment in the receptive and expressive language processing.

Children who display such signs are at an increased risk of developing social anxiety in a later stage. Therefore, several studies have emphasized on the need to integrate an effective training on social skills to narrow down the scope of developing social anxiety among children suffering from SCD. It is also known to occur alongside other conditions, such as:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Specific language impairment (SLI)
  • Learning disabilities (LD)
  • Language learning disabilities (LLD)
  • Intellectual disabilities (ID)
  • Developmental disabilities (DD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

As the prominent symptom of social anxiety disorder (SAD) include extreme fear of social interactions, children with SCD stand more vulnerable to the disorder than others. Oftentimes, they face dilemma and confusion while engaging with others, even if it is someone as close as caregivers or parents. They consistently fear being judged and scrutinized by others, which is one of the warning signs of SAD.

Usually, children with the problem of SCD display lapses in communication behavior due to sociocultural and cognitive problems that can manifest in the form of different body patterns as follows:

  • Difficulty in holding eye contacts
  • Hardship in processing facial expressions
  • Inability to comprehend body language

Social anxiety and social communication problems

A study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) was recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It is believed that social anxiety is linked with severe social and communication problems witnessed in developing children, especially those with the neurodevelopmental problem autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

It has been observed that the prevalence of social anxiety is quiet high among children diagnosed with ASD. However, since this link is still shrouded in mystery due to lack of evidence, the researchers of this study attempted to find concrete proofs to corroborate this association. This cross-sectional study entailed children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

The data pertaining to the participants of the study was collected based on the information on the difficulties and symptoms of social anxiety displayed by their children shared through the parent-reported questioner  known as Social and Communication Disorders Checklist. In addition, the participating children were of around the age of seven, 10 and 13 years. The major results of the study are as follows:

  • The higher instances of parent-reported social and communications obstacles were linked to heightened social anxiety symptoms in children of all ages.
  • Children, who reported of experiencing social and communication related impediments at the age of seven or 10, were more likely to develop social anxiety approximately three years down the line.
  • No interrelation was found between social and communications problems and general anxiety disorder (GAD).

The researchers believe that the findings of the study could possibly rally the cause of implementing social skill training while children are being treated for the symptoms of SCD. “Previous research using social skill interventions based on cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches have been effective at both increasing social skills and decreasing symptoms of anxiety in adolescents with ASD,” wrote William Mandy, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University College London.

Give wings to children

Even though SCD has been recognized as a disorder recently, it may be more common than one might think. However, is not easily identifiable due to the lack of awareness. Considering the link between social anxiety and SCD, the early onset of social communication problems in children may be an indicator of a major complication, such as anxiety disorders, substance use disorder (SUD) and other psychiatric disorders.

If you or your loved one is suffering from the symptoms of anxiety, contact  the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California to access the finest anxiety disorders treatment centers in California that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the anxiety treatment centers in California.

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