Update on the formerly selectively mute daughter

She’s 12 now, my bright, spirited, formerly selectively mute child.  She was formally diagnosed in May of 2008 and I wrote about her journey here.  And this was what I said about her official diagnosis in one of those posts:

We got the written report back from the neuropsychologist on Friday, and on it the words “SELECTIVE MUTISM” is on it under the diagnosis “neurodevelopmental delay with limbic mood dysregulation”.

This is how it is worded – that interrelates the SPD, the attention issues, and selective mutism:

Marked inattention characterized by overexcitation-overinhibition of sensory stimuli is evidenced resulting in heightened sensory sensitivity. This resulted in (among other things related to attention and auditory memory):

* heightened separation anxiety/generalized anxiety, which impeded social fluency. At other times, fluency of interaction was very age appropriate and fluent.

The diagnostic report also included the point that she had these challenges in the “presence of intellectual talent”, which bore fruit as she qualified to enter our district’s G&T program in 3rd grade.

She’s blossomed in this program, and now, as a 6th grader, has been doing very well in her classes.

I wanted to highlight some good news:

  • Not only is she in choir (anyone who wanted to could take choir), but she AUDITIONED for and made show choir as well.
  • She auditioned for the school play this year and MADE IT!  She has 18 lines of dialogue (!!!!!) as a ‘sassy school secretary’ in a mystery.
  • She attended the Challenger Learning Center with her science class to perform a simulated mission.  She was on the COMMUNICATIONS team, and had to use a headset and received emails and had to VERBALLY communicate the information to her team.  In addition, she was directly QUOTED in the local paper which had an article of her classes participation in this program last week on the FRONT PAGE commemorating the 30 year anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.

I can’t stress enough how much I believe early intervention is critical for our SM kids.  I’m glad I could do my part to pass along information to other parents of SM kids, as well as offer emotional support to the parents who are so fearful for their kids’ emotional, social and intellectual development.

There is so much more information out there than there was 8 years ago.  Lots more support and understanding of this condition.

I hope to hear more success stories like ours.

If you have an SM success story to share, I’d love to hear it.  If you feel like sharing your child’s story, please do so in the comments and I’ll publish your it here on the blog, to help give hope to other families like yours.

I wish you all the best in 2016.  Thank you for the dialogue and I hope you’ll continue to seek and find answers.

Casey

Posted in anxiety, gifted children, highly sensitive child, selective mutism, spd, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For teenagers and adults with Selective Mutism

For the longest time, there weren’t any resources available for selectively mute teenagers and adults.  Fortunately most of my readership finds my blog when their children are very young – from about 3 to about 9 or so.   This is a good sign, that these children are getting diagnosed early and (hopefully) receiving interventions.

In my research a few years back, I could find very little information for teenagers and adults, and I’m happy to report that has changed.

I stumbled across iSpeak, a UK-based website with the tagline “SPEAKING UP FOR TEENAGERS AND ADULTS WITH SELECTIVE MUTISM AND THEIR PARENTS”

I encourage you to check them out. They seem to have a well-organized site.

I’m happy to report that there is a book of personal stories, from children, teenagers, adults, and parents.  It’s one of the books I was hoping to publish, but didn’t. I have a few personal stories from parents, young adults and adults here that you can read, though you can find more in that book.

If anyone is interested in having their voice heard here on my blog about your experiences living with selective mutism or parenting a child with selective mutism, I encourage you to write out your experience in the comments or email me at raisingsmartgirls AT yahoo DOT com and I’ll share your story, too.  I imagined many people, like me, couldn’t afford a whole lot of materials so while the book would have been wonderful to read when I was in the thick of things with my SM kiddo, it didn’t exist then.  I created my own little support system by blogging about it here.  It feels good that I have been able to help a few.  I hope parents continue to spread the word about SM.

I would absolutely love to get a copy of this book that they promote Selective Mutism In Our Own Words and review it, but I’m currently out of work now, and I don’t have the money.  I hope I can some day.

Posted in selective mutism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interesting selective mutism documentary.

As a parent of an SM child knows, this isn’t a condition that a child has control over.  It’s not a condition any parent would want for their child, and there’s a huge concern that without intervention, the SM anxiety-driven behaviors become ingrained.

I can say that my daughter was so fortunate to not need medications, and the “sliding in” techniques (and jumping on a trampoline among other things) seemed to work, but I know not all kids are that lucky.

It’s very interesting to hear the perspective of the parents, the teachers and their peers. Unlike the small girl in this video, my daughter couldn’t even smile to other kids or adults.  She would hold herself rigid and keep her lips shut tight and never smile.  This is consistent with what Maggie Johnson says of SM kids in this video.  When SM kids are at home, they are relaxed and can speak, but when they go out in the world where there are so many unknown, scary things, she explains “their bodies get tight and the muscles of their throat gets tight, and their voices won’t come out.”

I admit…I’m tearing up watching these beautiful kids, and remembering how it was for my SM daughter.

 

Posted in highly sensitive child, selective mutism, social anxiety | Leave a comment

Notes on preschools and IEP accommodation for SM kids.

A short update:  My now 12 year old formerly SM child has 18 lines (18!) of dialogue in the school play she tried out for this year in middle school.  She’s beyond thrilled!  And so is this mama!   As many of you know, have experienced in your own journeys with your SM kids, you don’t know if you’ll EVER see your child relax into who they are enough to shine bright.   It’s a scary, saddening thought.

Show of hands:  How many of you shed tears, felt sick to your stomach for your child, stayed up long hours researching selective mutism?  I bet all of you otherwise you would never be here reading this blog.  :)

 
****
One thing I wanted to address is the preschool issue.  I personally feel the kind of preschool can make or break an SM kid’s introduction to school.
 *
The thing to keep in mind is that selective mutism is an issue of anxiety, of a lot of times due to sensory issues, not of sign of low intelligence.  In fact, many SM kids are very bright, some exceptionally so.  Often, it’s an issue of being too highly “switched on” to stimuli from the environment that the SM kids get so overwhelmed that the only way to cope is by shutting down.
 
My daughter had attended two years of preschool.  And boy, was that ever an interesting experiment.  She progressed fast in the special needs preschool, but languished in the regular community preschool.
She attended the regular community preschool for 2 days a week the first year of preschool.  I decided to request an in-class visit and video and take notes of what was going on in the classroom and how she was reacting to it so I could show my husband and her pediatric neuropsychologist we were going to use.  The school was very open and accommodating of my request, thankfully.
I noticed that my SM child was in a room full of typical preschool that didn’t have good self-control (you know, because they are like 3 and 4 year olds doing what 3 and 4 year olds do).  She was in a class of ten, but in a large room separated by only partitions.  You could still hear what was going on in the other classes.  Sometimes they’d open up the partition and all 30 kids would be together in the large space.
I noticed that that just added to the over-stimulation.  I think the noise bothered her a lot.  My daughter couldn’t really figure out why other preschoolers wouldn’t sit in their seats quietly and pay attention.   Sometimes they just got right in her face too…she didn’t like that.  One boy was just inches from her face and kept saying her name (and she kept turning her head away, unable to tell him to back away).  He finally gave up trying to talk to her, thankfully.  It was a language based classroom of course, and offered pretty standard one-size-fits-all curriculum.
 
Her second year of preschool, she was in the regular class 3 mornings a week as well as a special needs preschool 2 mornings a week the first semester that was inside the building her elementary school was, something I felt was immensely helpful.  The second semester she had an additional 2 afternoons a week at the special needs classroom, which had more 4 year olds in attendance, too.  A little bit more maturity and most of them were on their second year there so they knew the routines.
I was fortunate that I could advocate for her and with the pediatric neuropsych’s diagnosis of SM in hand, and a Preschool Language testing that indicated a 17 point difference in her receptive versus expressive language, and with other testing, like the McCarthy Scales of Children’s abilities, we knew she had intellectual talent along with her selective mutism, we were able to enroll her in the special needs preschool class and get speech therapy services.  

My concern for her was three-fold:  That she be able to 1) convey herself verbally, particularly to be able to demonstrate her ability to read/comprehend at the appropriate level for her and participate in classroom activities, 2) express her thoughts and feelings and 3) deal with others when they cross her personal boundaries (the former year, she had some classmates get into her face, touch and bother her and she had no way to say stop it, or even tell the teacher – she only told me after she came home and fell apart first).

For my part, I spent a lot of time after school with my daughter (and her sisters), letting them play at the park attached to school, attending all special activities at the school, and showing her that school was a safe and fun place to learn.  We also did a lot of sensory based activities at home, because her pediatric neuropsychologist believed her anxiety would be reduced if we were to address the sensory issues she had, and I just did not have the money to spend on formal SPD therapy.

The idea was to help her feel safe and happy and ReLaXeD at the school.

In the special needs preschool, the focus for my child was both kindergarten readiness AND preparation to get her used to the school, the teachers, and the staff.  This classroom had special needs kids of all kinds as well as 4 regular students who acted as ‘peer mentors’.  They were a language-based preschool and ALSO had LOTS of sensory activities, including a trampoline which is a godsend.  It helps to activate the speech centers of the brain (you can read about this in The Out of Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction by Carol Stock Kranowitz).  A hop-ball works too (the inflatable ball with a handle).   Something about bouncing makes kids laugh, relax and helps them feel chatty.  I don’t exactly know why it helps.  It just does.

My daughter had mild sensory integration issues (mostly related to hearing and vestibular perception) and so both at home and in preschool, she was exposed to sensory-based activities.  I got her outside in the park A LOT.  Climbing, swinging on the tire swing, balancing on things were so helpful.
 

Intellectually, I don’t think she was challenged enough in the regular preschool either, but her special needs preschool teacher saw her abilities and found some more challenging things she could do. Completely on her own, she gave my daughter the Bracken School Readiness test, a test “that is currently used in admittance to the New York City Gifted and Talented Program, as well as other G&T programs and private schools around the country.” [http://testingforkindergarten.com/tag/bracken-school-readiness-assessment].

She scored exceptionally high on that test.

Her preschool goals for her IEP for preschool were as follows:

– to label a variety of nouns and verbs

– to express want and needs/requests to others
– demonstrate protest or denial (no I don’t want to)
– to call her teacher and peers in class by name
– to make comments/name items to show others
– to use words to express her feelings (mad, sad, scared, happy)
– to participate in spoken conversation for 2 to 3 turns that is reported and initiated by the adult
– to reciprocate in spoken conversation with adults and peers on a variety of topics.

 

[As a side note: because she didn’t have the same accommodations in the community preschool, and NO trampoline, she didn’t progress there much at all.  At least until I was able to remind the special needs teacher she was going to spend some time with my daughter in the regular classroom and talk to that teacher about what was working for her in the special needs classroom.  In my estimation…accommodations matter a GREAT deal].

During the second semester at preschool, the speech teacher went to the American Speech and Language Association’s seminar on selective mutism and realized right away one thing that they could start doing that would help.  The speech teacher would take my daughter on errands around the school (the office, the nurse, etc) where she would then 1) get to know the school building and the adults on staff (and they would get to know her too) and 2) interact with the staff.  The speech teacher would assist her at first, then she’d encourage my daughter to speak.

Her kindergarten goals

– Begins conversation
– Continues conversation
– Ends conversations
– Interacts with a variety of peers
– Participates willingly in new situations
– Shares information and ideas to describe, explain, predict
– Contributes to conversation by listening and responding
– Uses spoken language for a variety of purposes and to express ideas, feelings and needs.

She had this IEP from preschool through most of her kindergarten year.
In February of her kindergarten year, they did a final assessment of her and she met her goals.  The final comment about it was this:Her “classroom teacher reports that she now communicates with her peers and adults.  She participates willingly in new situations and shares information and ideas in the classroom setting.  Her expressive skills have  improved to the point that they no longer cause any educational handicap.”

And she then no longer needed her IEP.  And I was beyond the moon with joy.
 
Posted in anxiety, gifted children, gifted support, highly sensitive child, IEP for SM kids, selective mutism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coming out of a long hiatus

I wanted to apologize to my readers for my long absence.  Especially for those reaching out about selective mutism.

2015 was a year of many, many difficult and rather alarming changes for the smart girls and I.

I’d re-entered the work force a few years back as a substitute teacher in the local school district.  I found that to be an excellent fit for both my personality and my passion for educating others and sharing my love of science.  I also found the pay to be insufficient to support my family.  People have asked me why I didn’t go into teaching full time.   I am a nonconformist.  I know I would have a lot of difficulty tailoring my teaching to make better test-takers than better thinkers.

So I looked for a new job in the biosciences, and stumbled across a microbiology laboratory within a half an hour from my home.  It turned out that it was my lucky break that offered an on-ramp back into the biotech field.   I loved it and hated it.  Interesting work, but long, long hours on my feet.  We were not allowed to sit on chairs while we worked, I worked every other weekend 10-12 hours at that (the weekdays were anywhere from 7-9 hours) and standing all day was brutal.  I’d come home with swollen ankles. And I had to work every other weekend, which was hard on family life.

And as it turned out, my husband and I ended up separating as well.  Long, slightly painful story.  He moved out in August, just a few days after the smart girls went back to school.

Juggling my crazy work schedule with being a single mom really complicated matters. Working every other weekend was difficult too.  I would come home exhausted, fall into bed for a short rest before I made dinner, and often cried.

We had a high turnover rate, so when people kept leaving, that just put additional stress on my laboratory and my department.  I was learning so much in a short period of time, but it came at a great expense.   There were personality clashes with one of my trainers, and he was getting ragey at our lab manager, who was a woman.  When I overheard him say something about “going on a killing spree”, in addition to hearing about how OTHER people went a little nuts on the job, I decided this job wasn’t worth losing my sanity or my life over.  I blew the whistle on my trainer, he got fired (not only for saying that, but for the history of conflict he had with others).  Not only fired, but removed from our lab by police escort.  I felt a little badly about that, but only a little.  I was more afraid of him, who mentioned something about PTSD he suffered from being in the military, some things other people said about him, and taking out his anger with management on the rest of us.

When it came time for the holidays and I wasn’t getting the time off I needed to be with the kids while they were on break, and having them tell me I needed to put in my EXTRA weekend that month just broke me down.

I decided to quit, 8 months after I begun.   Not the most ideal way, with no job to go to, but I don’t regret it anyway.

I’m on the job hunt again.

And in my search, I had a short email conversation with the laboratory director of a cytogenetics laboratory at a local university medical center, that unfortunately had to shutter their windows due to low sample volume.

I was hoping to apply to her lab, but now I can’t, which is fine.  However, this conversation made me revisit a few of my old project ideas, including this blog, selective mutism, female attrition in the STEM field, and a few others.

And, I’ve neglected this blog.  I apologize for that.  VERY much.

I didn’t remove this blog, but I also didn’t look at it for the longest time.

I had the interest, but the time and the energy and the emotional strength I needed was being eaten up by the dissolution of my marriage and working 40-55 hours a week and taking care of a home all by myself.

I’m going to be going through the comments no matter how old they are and at least will be trying to respond to the comments left.  I also will try to figure out a way to put some of the materials people are requesting somewhere they can be accessed without having to wait for me to get back to you to send them off to you.

I will also intend to write a few more blog posts about a few things that are germinating in me.

I hope I’ll be better able to maintain the dialogue that was started here.  I am working my way back to the older comments…and I know it will take a while.

All the best,

Casey

Posted in biotechnology, combining science and motherhood, selective mutism, STEM | Leave a comment

Having problems with blog comments

I know some of you have made comments requesting materials about selective mutism.  Unfortunately, WordPress has changed how they have handled comments and I can’t figure out how to get your email addresses.  Please stand by while I figure this out.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gainfully employed again…as a microbiology diagnostic lab technician.

It’s been a long while since I wrote about the goings-on in my life.  Just wanted to share the good news.  I was interviewed and hired into a laboratory in early April.

I’m sorry I’ve been away from the blog so long…I’m hoping to start up again and I thought I’d start with this post.  And soon address some of the comments that were left while I was away.

I’m cutting and pasting from a facebook entry I shared with my friends:

 photo 0414151249-00_resized.jpg

I officially accepted the position of Diagnostic Technician I at the microbiology laboratory (formal letter and all). I’m mostly excited, but a little bit scared. This is the first real laboratory position I’ve had in 11 years. It’s the first company to take a chance on me.

Despite having 12 years of experience in microbiology, forensic DNA analysis and medical genetics, I was told more than a few times that my skills were too outdated by a few headhunters and that I would have an extremely hard time finding employment again (which had been true).

I felt that all that I had worked for, both in college and my career had been lost, simply because 11 years ago, I decided to become a stay-at-home mother.  As I’d written elsewhere, there’s plenty of off-ramps in the STEM field, but so few on-ramps. I had been becoming quite discouraged through this process. It was a hard hit to my self-esteem. I worked so hard in school and at my career, and it seemed to mean nothing at all.

 photo 0413151341-00_resized.jpg

Though it was very hard at times, I refused to give up hope. Some people made me feel the odds were too stacked against me and that maybe I should set my expectations low and go work retail (which the idea of made my skin crawl – I don’t want to support the beast of consumerism). I didn’t understand why they didn’t have faith in me, and they didn’t realize how their lack of support made me question my own worth at times.

I did take a part-time position as a substitute teacher, which I really enjoyed, even if the pay wasn’t that great and there were no benefits.

I went back to my old university and gave my resume to the department head of the biology department for review and to talk about my skill set. It was the first time that anyone had said to me, “Wow, you have quite an impressive work history and broad knowledge base. You should find it easy to get back into the swing of things.”

The hours will be 7-3:30 M-R, every other weekend 5 am to…whenever. I’m a skosh worried about how I’m going to get up and to work by 5 am, as I am generally a night owl.

I feel for the most part I can handle this job. At least I think I can. At least I hope I can.

***

Turns out I’m not doing so bad.  This is one of the plates I struck with Eschericia coli.

 photo 0420151131-00_resized.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments