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Can Extreme Shyness Impact a Preschooler's Readiness for Kindergarten?

Step into any classroom and you'll find a whole range of personalities, from outgoing kids to those who are so introverted that they just want to be left alone. While parents may worry that their overactive children might have a hard time succeeding in school, a new study suggests that extreme shyness can actually impact academic success as early as preschool.

That's because that shyness can cause problems with engaging and learning, which can hinder development of academic skills, according to the study by University of Miami researchers. They found that "children displaying shy and withdrawn behavior early in the preschool year started out with the lowest academic skills and showed the slowest gains in academic learning skills across the year," according to a university press release.

"Preschool children who are very introverted tend to 'disappear within the classroom,'" study co-author Elizabeth R. Bell, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology, said in a press release for the study, which was published online in the Journal of School Psychology. "It appears that while these children are not causing problems in the school, they are also not engaging in classroom activities and interactions, where almost all learning occurs during this age."

And that can impact a child's social-emotional development, which is just as important as academic skills when it comes to being ready for kindergarten, researchers said.

Researchers studied teacher assessments of more than 4,400 low-income preschoolers, aged 3 to 5, who attended Head Start programs. The children were assessed three times during the school year on their academic progress and for emotional and behavioral characteristics.

The researchers note that more boisterous and outgoing students may do better than their shyer classmates because they may be more likely to attract a teacher's attention. That's why Rebecca J. Bulotsky-Shearer, the study's principal investigator and an assistant professor of psychology, is hoping the study results may prompt the development of classroom interventions to help all types of children.

"There are many classroom-based interventions for children that are disruptive and acting out in the classroom," Bulotsky-Shearer said. "I think the children who show an extreme amount of shyness and are withdrawn are most at risk of getting missed."

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