A programme that helped teachers modify their interactions with students based on an individual's temperament has been found to help shy children to become more engaged in their class work, and in turn, improve their math and critical thinking skills.

"The needs of shy kids are important but often overlooked because they are sitting quietly, while children with behavioural problems get more attention from teachers," said senior study author Sandee McClowry, a professor at the New York University in US.

"It is important to get shy children engaged without overwhelming them," McClowry noted.

Although their academic skills and intelligence may match their peers, shy children are often at risk of poor academic achievement because they are less likely to seek attention from teachers and engage with peers.

"Our study supports creating an environment that makes shy children feel safe and respected in order to support their development," lead author of the study Erin O'Connor, an associate professor at the New York University, explained.

"We need to reframe our understanding of these children, because for the most part, shy children are not just going to 'come out of their shell," O'Connor noted.

For the study, the researchers designed a programme to help teachers and parents match  demands according to an individual's personality.

Nearly 350 children and their parents across 22 elementary schools were followed during kindergarten and across their transition into first grade.

Shy children who participated in the programme had significant growth in critical thinking skills and stability in math skills, compared to their shy peers in the control group who declined in both areas.

The findings appeared in the journal School Psychology Review.

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