HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My Child Won't Speak Up in Class

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist


My child is 7 years old and in first grade. Her grades are all great. The thing that she doesn't do is talk in class. It has been very hard all year to get her to participate in class.

I feel that she is almost there, but she is also very stubborn. She speaks everywhere else but not in school. What else can her teacher or I do to encourage her or to give her the confidence she needs to speak up?


I would recommend having your daughter evaluated by a child psychologist who specializes in the treatment of childhood anxiety. A psychologist could help determine whether your daughter's refusal to speak in the classroom is related to anxiety or some other cause.

To make this determination, a psychologist will have to speak with you, your daughter and your daughter's teacher to get a better sense of the nature of the problem. If a psychologist does determine that your daughter is suffering from anxiety, there are very effective treatments available for helping her. Specifically, cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) is a short-term and highly effective treatment for childhood anxiety. CBT involves teaching children skills for coping with anxiety and giving them the opportunity to practice these skills through exposure to feared situations.

Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.


Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I am going through the exact same thing, my 6 year old is currently in counseling to rule out ADD, but just recently the teacher told the counselor that she hasn't talked at all. Which infuriates me, because I have met with her teacher 6 times in the last 2 months and she has never mentioned it to me. But nonetheless, her counselor is great and has recently told me she thinks she has childhood anxiety, so we will continue counseling, and I am praying it will help her with her self esteem so she can speak up. "