One daughter’s SM success story

I wanted to share this email I’d received from a mother whose eldest daughter had presented with selective mutism and the efforts she made not only to help her daughter, but to help other children with selective mutism.  I rarely get blind submissions for products and books, I thought this one seemed worth investigating.  There’s a link to her site at the end, with her books and also some free resources for your SM toolbox.

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My first daughter was extremely shy and clingy. When kids are young we look at that and we try to push them forward.

     “Go, on, talk to the nice library lady. Smile!”

 I wanted to give her more chances to interact with others so I enrolled her in this pre-school a couple of mornings a week and she simply would not talk.

At first, we thought that maybe she was having trouble with English since I was talking to her in French at home. But after a month, she would talk to me in English when she got home. It kept going on for a while. Everyone said she was just shy, but eventually it became apparent that it was much more than that.

There was a huge disconnect between the person she was at home and the person she became in certain settings, school being one of them.

I kept trying to understand why this wonderful, bubbly, creative girl who was a chatterbox at home, couldn’t say anything to her friends at school. Why she couldn’t ask to go to the washroom or even say one word. Everyone I turned to would tell me the same thing, it will pass, she’s just shy.

And then came a defining moment. It was a sunny day and I had come to pick her up and she was playing in this sand box with the other kids. She was so happy, as only kids can be when they are having fun playing with dirt. I asked her to say goodbye to her teacher so that we could leave. She didn’t. I sat on one of those little red plastic chairs and did one of those horrible mommy things we sometimes do.

      I told her: “I am not leaving until you say goodbye to your teacher.”

There was a look in her eyes that I will never forget for as long as I live. Pure terror and panic. Fear. A dear caught in the headlights. It finally clicked for me. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to do it, she couldn’t it. What I had asked her was beyond possible.

I came home, I put on a Disney movie for her and started searching the internet. After half an hour, I knew exactly what my daughter had, thanks to someone else’s description of their daughter. Selective Mutism. They talked about years and years of therapy, of kids who didn’t talk at school until they were in grade three. I sat on the stairs and I cried. I felt as if I had broken my daughter, as if I had failed her.

If you don’t know me well, you might thing I’m someone who gives up easily, but I’m a mama bear. So like all these amazing other superhero parents out there, I put on my cape and I did everything I could to get my child the help she needed. As I was going through this process of learning what she was going through and how to deal with it, I realized something.

I was exactly like my daughter as a child (except for the mutism part). I was a very scared and anxious child. How did I deal with my own fear? I folded myself into non-existence. I became an origami, so small and invisible until I believed I was too small for the world to touch. I became a shadow of the person I could be.

So, as I lent my daughter my voice until she found hers, I realized I was doing a lot more than that. I was giving myself a voice too.

In the process of therapy and working with the school, I came to a harsh realization. There was very little material out there that was created for the child. There were a few books for therapists, a few for parents, and maybe one for a child. And the cover was so bad, I didn’t want to get it. My daughter didn’t want to get it. I realized she needed a friend who understood what she was going through.

So, within a couple of weeks, my first book, Lola’s Words Disappeared was created.

     When I read her story for the first time, she looked at me with her serious blue eyes and said: “She’s just like me, mom.”

I had finally created words and images that she could relate to. We could use the story to pace her progress, to share ideas of what Lola might have done. We read the story at school and this helped tremendously with the other kids asking her why she was not talking.

The more tools she needed, the more I found out that I was the perfect person to create these tools. She was the catalyst that helped me recover my own voice and reminded me of what I was great at. I kept working with the teacher and the therapist and within 6 months of starting kindergarten, she was talking in school. The teacher called me and she was crying on the phone because she had finally heard my daughter’s voice for the first time.

It wasn’t easy. When she started, she couldn’t look at the teacher. She couldn’t raise her hand without feeling like everyone was watching her. We would have worry boxes filled with drawings of her having to raise her hand or give a paper to the librarian. She would have accidents on a daily or weekly basis because she couldn’t ask to the washroom. It wasn’t easy for anyone, but I am certain that there is nothing any parent wouldn’t do to witness that epic moment when you see your child spread their wings.

She started grade 2 last year and she is now the president of her class. She asks for main roles in plays now and even though I know the signs of anxiety in the way she twists her hair or how the floor is sometimes easier to look at, she has not stopped and will not stop. She now lives in a world where the dragons of her past have no hold on her present or future. As she continued to spread her wings, I continued to spread mine. What started as one book to help my child has grown into many more books to help many more children, including a boy version of Lola’s book and free downloadable tools to help with different aspects of anxiety. These books are now being used at the center for child development and mental health in Montreal and are making their way into the hands of parents and therapists.

The thing about selective mutism is that it is just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘talking’ part kind of takes care of itself once children learn how to deal with the anxiety part. It is a daily exercise in showing up and putting on our armor, in reminding ourselves that we are bigger than whatever we are faced with. It is a daily ritual of courage. A constant building of wings. The battle is won when we tap into each child’s indestructible desire to bloom.

I wish you courage on this journey and faith in your child and your own ability to grow and flourish,

Sincerely,

Elaheh Bos

www.plantlovegrow.com

Posted in selective mutism | Leave a comment

Busy kids

I hope to resume posting on this blog this year.

I wanted to apologize to my readers for falling off the map. It’s not that I haven’t been blogging, I have, just not here. I blog a lot over at The Sprightly Writer and at The Heartful Artist though I’m a little behind on that blog.

The smart girls are doing fairly well.

My oldest is still in the advanced program at school (advanced classes in english, reading, math and social studies and science) and is now in 6th grade. She’s keeping very busy this year. In addition to her studies, she’s been involved in a lot of extracurriculars – cross country (and managed to maintain a 3.95 gpa while running every day after school in the fall), choir and show choir, newspaper and drama club (not actually acting, but behind the scenes), knitting club and she’ll be in softball again this spring. She’s had some interesting field trips. She went to go see a live performance of Wicked in Chicago with her choir class and she’ll soon be going to the Challenger Learning Center to learn about space exploration. I’m excited about that for her.

My middlest daughter, the one who was selectively mute, is very busy in her high ability (aka ‘gifted’) program again this year. She was in choir and sung in the winter concert. And she just tried out for the spring opera of La Cerentola. She wants to be a stepsister like her big sister was a couple of years back and she thought she auditioned well, so well, see how that goes. I’m so proud of how far she’s come along. She played softball in the fall and will be starting up in softball again this spring.  She’ll be doing her second science fair project and we’ll probably post it over at my science blog, The Exploration Station.

Sometimes this daughter still struggles, but mostly with intense emotions and a little bit of attention deficit.   Kind of like me.  There’s a reason I wrote my blog post Hyperfocused Yet Scatterbrained.  I’m still like that to some degree.

My youngest didn’t make it into the high ability program this year (though she tested as above average), which I think might be all right. I haven’t quite been able to figure her out. She’s smart, and imaginative, but she doesn’t like to write a lot, and balks at homework.

She was diagnosed with asthma and allergies last year, and for a while she was on Singulair which made her want to scream at the top of her lungs, so we quickly discovered that medication was bad for her (and apparently the drug comes with warnings).  Now she’s on Flovent (a mild steroid) and Zyrtec with occasional use of albuterol.

I often wonder how her allergies and asthma and medications might have affected her test scores…but I don’t know.

What I found interesting is that the middle daughter’s high ability program teacher suggested I might want to appeal to try and get youngest daughter into the program next year, but I’m not so sure it would really be a good fit.   My daughter may be able (not sure), but she’s shown she’s not exactly willing to work.  Her wrist hurts a lot when she has to write so much.  She’s not a child you can push because she dissovles into a puddle of tears.  She’s not a child that loves paperwork.  She frequently thinks she’s stupid, but I just know that’s not true.  She’s just different than her sisters.  She loves hands-on learning best.  She prefers building blocks, hands-on science exploration to writing assignments.   I think she’s more of a visual-spatial learner than an auditory sequential learner, but I’m not sure either.

She had a difficult year last year due to some mild social problems.  It wasn’t quite bullying as I don’t think it was intentional.  I think one or more of the kids just had impulse control issues and my daughter just happened to be caught in the crosshairs by accident.   She also told me frequently she hated school, and begged me to homeschool her.  I almost did, but I also wanted to see how things would be this year, in a different classroom with a different mix of kids.  She’s been doing a lot better, not hating school, though she still would love it if I homeschooled her, I think.

I decided to get a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation for her as well.  I don’t think there’s anything overtly wrong with her, but I just am not sure what kind of learner she is and I’d like to find out.

The two younger girls ALSO had a major upheaval in school…in that they had were building a new, bigger school right behind the old one, so just after winter break, they moved into the new school.  It’s beautiful and the girls seem to really love it.  At some point I should upload pictures of the old and new school because it was kind of neat.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  As I said, I think I’d like to start blogging again over here…and I’ll probably finish my series of posts I intended to on the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children, which included meeting a fellow blogger and mother of smart kids, Jen Merrill at Laughing at Chaos.

I can’t say why I hadn’t before.  I just…I’m not sure, but I was just kind of overwhelmed with all that we were doing last semester and substitute teaching and attending to my other blogs I wanted to develop and family drama because my sister decided to elope 5 months after her divorce from husband #1 was finalize…so…things had been very odd and busy and all.

I hope this will change.  I still have things I want to talk about on this blog with regards to raising these smart girls and how I intend to guide them on, still not quite certain the best route to take all the time.

Posted in about the smart girls, gifted children, Gifted education, highly sensitive child, highly sensitive mom, Intensity | 3 Comments

World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children

I’m still coming down from the high of the experience of the 2013 World Conference of Gifted and Talented Children that I attended two weeks ago.

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I also attended the SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator Training.  I hope to start a parent group here.  And, during the training, we were blessed with a visit from Dr. James T. Webb himself.

The five days I was there was filled with fabulous talks from all my heroes.  Dr. Webb,  Linda Silverman, Stephanie Tolan, and a few new (to me) voices.

I met people from all over the world, including China, Germany, New Zealand, France,  Sweden,  Hungary and of course, the US.  It was so interesting to hear the different perspectives on giftedness and creativity from different cultures.

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In the picture below, I spent a some of my time with the woman on the left, who is a specialist in gifted education from Germany, who shares my enjoyment of Hermann Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke.  And the woman on the right is a Mensa Youth specialist and she gave great talks on perfectionism, stereotype threat and imposter syndrome.

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I was planning on attending the conference in Kentucky just by myself, but at the last moment, I decided to bring the whole family along.

I wanted to share some photographs and eventually, I hope to talk about the wonderful new things I have learned about gifted children that will hopefully help me, help my family and help others raise their smart and sensitive kids.

So while I was in the conference, Mr. RSG took the smart girls for sightseeing.

Outside the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.

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At the Churchill Downs horse race track where they host the Kentucky Derby.

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We found this little temporary residence for Thomas Edison.  Interestingly enough, the sign tells us he spilled acid at work while he was experimenting at the telegraph office he worked for and got fired.  =)

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It was just a little place, but worth of a good look.

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Near our hotel was the Belle of Louisville steamboat.

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And this was Al J. Schneider, the builder of our hotel and the conference center, the Galt House.

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And in the garden in the back of the hotel.

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Which had a statue of George Clark who was the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War.

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It was a great trip and I hope to get myself organized soon enough to post some of the meat and potatoes of what I learned.

Posted in about the smart girls, An uncommon education, Fantastic field trips, gifted children, photography, Thomas Edison, World Conference of Gifted and Talented Children | 2 Comments

Ken Robinson: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

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Make me normal

raisingsmartgirls:

The making of a documentary about the pathologizing of normal human behavior, and particularly troublesome is the rise of pathologizing children. If you are able to make a tax deductible donation to see this documentary get made please visit the indiegogo website.

Originally posted on Beyond Meds:

make me normalFrom indiegogo

…MAKE ME NORMAL, explores the rise in diagnosis of mental disorders and the boom of psychiatric prescription drugs, all set against the release of the new controversial psychiatric guidelines of the DSM (nick-named the “Psychiatry Bible”).  With 1 in 3 Americans diagnosed with a mental disorder and 20% (and rising) on prescription drugs, the film asks, what happened to normal? Or, even, what is normal? (read more)

This is from an indiegogo fundraising campaign Mitch McCabe, the filmmaker is doing. If you’re interested in supporting it visit the indiegogo website. 

View original

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The cost of enriching a child’s education

I’m just curious.  How much money would you spend on enriching your child’s summer with educational summer time experiences?

A few years back, I was able to enroll my daughters into a free day camp for a week at an environmental center where they learned about the environment and recycling and made crafts.

There used to be a summer science camp program headed by two hard-working and dedicated teachers who had two weeks of half-day classes at $100 per child.   Each day they learned something new – rocks and minerals, fossils, the environment, bugs, forensics and they brought in experts from different fields to talk to the kids.   They actually had two different sessions so if you wanted two more weeks of camp, you could spend another $100, for a total of four weeks.  To me, this was a great experience for my daughters and while it cost me $600 to send all three of them, it was well worth it and there was a lot to learn and it kept them busy for part of their summer.

But they took that program away.  The teachers who ran the program didn’t have any say in the matter, they were simply told they couldn’t do it anymore, even though no money came out of the school districts pockets for the program – it was paid for by the attendee’s parents.

I’m looking into programs for this summer and finding them to be really expensive.  There is a Camp Invention program.  It’s an all-day daycamp, but it’s only one week long.  It’s $200 per child.

There’s another camp at an arboretum for $200 per child, one week only.  They have different modules and the kids can learn about bugs, animals, decaying plant matter, conservation, water ecosystems.

This is rather disappointing.

But, I’m not completely undaunted.

I’m planning on filling up their summer with at-home activities.

And I’m going to start collecting ideas and websites, like this one:

Think!

If I’m successful in this, I’ll start updating our science blog with our ideas -

The Exploration Station.

What do you do with your children over summer break to keep them learning?  Do you find summer programs reasonable in your area, or cost-prohibitive?

Do you have any inexpensive ideas or interesting websites to gather math or science ideas from?

Posted in afterschooling, education, Summer educational camps | 1 Comment

Living History – Civil War Days.

Yesterday, we attended a local historical re-enactment of the Civil War period.  We have gone the past three years and I asked the girls if they still wanted to go this year, and it was a unanimous yes!

I’m glad, because it’s hard to find programs to enrich their education that aren’t cost prohibitive.

Abraham Lincoln giving a speech with Mary Todd Lincoln in the background.
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My oldest daughter using a hand printing press to make a bookmark in the print shop.  It took two weeks to produce a paper – one week to collect stories and one week to print the news.

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In “honor of the Civil War Sesquicentennial”, we tried to listen to the wartime strategies of Generals Lee, Grant, Custer, Stuart and Sherman.
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Littlest daughter was glad she brought a book along.

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Union soldiers getting instructions on the upcoming battle.

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Confederate soldiers marching.

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And the battle begins.

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One man down.

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We also listened to stories in the schoolhouse.  This one was by an actress portraying Susie Baker King Taylor, the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her Civil War experiences.

I just found a wealth of information regarding her in this pdf for gifted students.  Click on the link if you are interested in learning more about her contributions.

http://telegraph.civilwar.org/education/curriculum/Gifted%20and%20Talented/CWPT%20Gifted%20Curriculum%20-%20Susie%20King%20Taylor.pdf

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The girls also peeped into a stereograph they had in the permanent museum that they had in one of the buildings.

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Posted in afterschooling, An uncommon education, education, feminism, gifted children, Gifted education, women's studies | Leave a comment