Well, yes, I know it’s only been a few weeks since the girls started school, but I had to update how thing are going, particularly for my almost five year old with selective mutism.
It turns out that she is speaking at her early intervention class on Mondays and Fridays. It took her 45 minutes after entering into class before she said a word, but it sure beats not speaking at all like she did at her preschool last year (all 8 months of it she whispered once to her teacher, and only to one friend in the classroom).
Tomorrow starts her preschool class at the school she went to last year. I wanted her to go to her regular preschool 3 days a week and the remaining two days at the early childhood special needs school. I have been in close contact with her teacher, who tells me that it took 45 minutes the first three days, and on the fourth day, she went in from the first moment talking. I’m not sure why things are going well there. I have a few theories:
1) There’s only 5 kids in the class. Her other class had 8, but also then it opened up to 16 for singing activities and playtime. Perhaps she’s just more overwhelmed with that amount.
2) They do a lot more sensory play – shaving cream, sand, and play doh. They have 20 minutes of recess a day where they play on the preschool sized play equipment. It’s a language based classroom, but even I think it’s more fun than the other one and fills her need for sensory therapy.
3) There is more time for one on one interaction with the teacher. Today, only 3 kids were in school. It would be easy to not be so overwhelmed with that kind of ratio (in fact, there was a teacher and at least one teacher’s aide there).
4) The teacher just seems to have a gentle voice and seems genuinely kind. It’s hard to be nervous around a soft voice.
5) Even though we didn’t start any actual therapy for her over the summer, we did get her into ballet over the summer and went to the playground a lot where she got lots of large muscle movement in and she some practice at making friends after she warmed up with physical activity that seemed to loosen her up. We also started her up again with ballet this past Saturday, so I think that is helping.
In fact, it’s going so well, I had to chuckle today about something. The early childhood teacher said to me “I think your child can read”. And I laughed and said, “I know. But the problem I worried about was that no one at school would know it if she was too afraid too talk”. It turns out that after the teacher read a story to the class, my daughter read the same story to her teacher’s aide. I really was not expecting she would ever come to the place she’d do that in class, particularly not this soon in the game. But, I do remember that the neuropsychologist said she thought that my daughter’s mutism was caused by being overwhelmed at the sensory input. And that she thought, since she had a higher cognitive ability for her age, that once we helped her with the sensory issues, the anxiety would fade and her cognitive ability would quickly take over and she’d learn quickly how to cope. I didn’t think it would be quite this quickly though.
But then again, I am not sure this will translate into the regular classroom. I do know that we have the first day of her old preschool tomorrow. She was able to meet the teacher last week for a few minutes, and see her classroom, and didn’t really speak to her (I expected as much) but I also saw her visibly withdraw even further when her old teacher and the other classroom teacher started speaking to her afterwards. I really saw her tense up dramatically, and I worry what that might mean.
But, tomorrow she will have her orientation day and this year they are trying something different. They are having parents stay with their child in the classrooms for an hour, while the kids get acclimated to the classroom. The school felt that there were kids that were stressed out by moms leaving them on the first day of class, so for the first time in 17 years, they are trying something different. I don’t know if it was because of my daughter’s experience, or if there were a lot of other kids having a lot of problems, but whatever the case, I’m grateful we can go together.
I had dropped off my youngest child for an sleepover tonight, so that while my oldest child is in elementary school, I can focus on my middle child’s class. I think it is going to be a good day tomorrow. And I will be back on tomorrow to post about that.
Wish us luck! 🙂
Oh, I also forgot to update on the first grader. She is also a shy one, but not quite like the five year old. She is doing well in first grade, though she told me today that she felt like she did first grade first and then now she’s in kindergarten. Apparently things are really easy for her and she thinks that kindergarten was a lot harder. That doesn’t surprise me, because she’s reading at a 4th grade level and they are learning words like pot, top, ox, lock, etc and this year they are back to basic math concepts (counting and which is more, what is left and right), while at the end of last year, she was doing single digit addition. I have told her that it should get harder (and I hope it does). The do work a lot on writing, though and in addition to being able to do the accelerated reader program, they should start doing story development too this year.
I hope things get better for her sake.