Just when I had my anxious child figured out…

She changes.

We’ve had about 2 weeks of meltdowns – a sharp regression to her old behavior: multiple meltdowns, difficulty making decisions, chronic unhappiness. After about 3 months of manageable behavior, what do you suppose has caused this, you may ask?

The anticipation of school has caused this upheaval. I feel like we’ve taken a major step backwards, and it has been really difficult to navigate. Despite the fact I know it’s the anxiety causing this behavior. Knowing the causes doesn’t make it easier to bear the brunt of negative behavior 16 hours a day for weeks at a time. Patience for me has not been my strong suit, but all the progress I had made seems to have left me.

Couple the meltdowns with trying to get back into the school routine of carting my oldest back and forth to first grade, helping her adjust to all day school, not sleeping well due to having two new kittens in the household that seem to get their second wind around 10 pm and night, and having an emotional 3.5 year old who cries at the drop of a hat lately.

It’s no wonder that I’m having difficulty coping. But, I got a bit of a reprieve today because she had a stomach ache today, so she wasn’t able to really get upset about much because she was trying not to toss her cookies.

It seems that if we can get a good start to the morning, the rest of the day tends to follow suit. The afternoon is usually somewhat easier because I tend to have more energy (and therefore more patience) as the day wears on.

And as far as school goes…

Because of her selective mutism, I have her enrolled in a 2 day a week special needs, language based preschool class to help her with her condition, located within the elementary school she will be in next year for kindergarten and where her sister attends first grade.

She had her first day of class on Monday. The Friday before, we stopped by to visit the teacher, the aides, and the room. It was a friendly place – with lots of toys and time for play (both indoors and out). There were lots of sensory things there too – sand and water table, a trampoline, some tactile activities.

Just before we left, my daughter found a book on Ballet – a nicely illustrated book by DK Publishing. Because it was a book meant for older children, but that my daughter was taking Ballet, the teacher let her keep the book. It used to be the teacher’s daughter’s and she was going to donate it to the elementary school library, but when K picked it up to show me, she let her take it home.

When she had her first day of class, we had a major, major breakthrough. After 45 minutes of silence, the teacher asked K if she went anywhere on vacation and told K she could just whisper if she felt like it. My daughter actually whispered to the teacher that she went to Deer Forest (Coloma Michigan), and that she went to a hotel and went swimming with her friend afterward. We did take our vacation with the family of the one friend she would whisper to in preschool last year.

Then, she whispered she had to go to the bathroom. When she was finishing up, she wasn’t able to shut the water off. When the teacher’s aide came to check on dd, she told her without whispering that she didn’t know how to shut the water off.

Later, she proceeded to bond with another girl, A, who was a peer mentor in the class and very articulate for a 3 year old. K and A sat in the little fire truck reading nook and proceeded to have a conversation.

So, this is totally blowing me and the teacher away. We both expected it to take months for any progress. While it confuses me since she’s been diagnosed with selective mutism, I have to wonder what has happened. Generally school is the area that produces the anxiety that causes the speech to shut down. For some reason, she doesn’t feel anxious in this school.

Perhaps it was because there was only 5 children in the class that day. Perhaps the progress she’s made over the summer has helped – making sure to have plenty of playdates with her friend from school last year, taking ballet classes which was a very calming activity for her and made her focus on movement, weekly park dates where the physical activity on the park helped her to open up and make friends. I really don’t know.

In about a week and a half, she will start at her old preschool (where she never spoke a word in last year). I wanted to keep her there because the field trips are fun, and they do work on kindergarten readiness, and she did like being there (even though it made her anxious). We will see if she will speak in that setting too. I don’t know yet. It will definitely be interesting to find out.

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