Progress made with my selectively mute child

If you personally know a child with selective mutism (where they are unable to speak in certain social environments like school), you might also be aware that they often NEVER know when to stop talking at home.

When my husband asked my 5 year old last night, “can you even stop talking for more than 2 minutes?” (which is totally counterproductive to tell someone who has selective mutism) she actually tried very, very hard to stop. She lasted about 30 seconds before she exhaled and said, “I just can’t do it dad”.

To which he laughed uproariously and which, to the sensitive soul that is my child, embarrassed her supremely and hurt her tender feelings that he would laugh at her difficulties. She then shrieked and ran from the room crying.

While I watched the exchange, it really occurred to me how hurt my daughter was. I put myself in her position and I could sense why she was hurt by the laughter. She tried, to the best of her ability, to contain her chatter, and she admittedly couldn’t do it, but then got laughed at for it.

My husband didn’t mean to, he knows better. He just forgets that she can’t laugh at herself. But then again, I remember long ago in my childhood, I couldn’t either. I was easily hurt by others’ opinions of me.

But, my middle child is smart and creative and sensitive and imaginative and a chatterbox at home. It is who she is.

She is making great strides in school now. She is fully speaking at both of her schools – the special needs preschool and her community preschool.

It took hardly any time at all to adjust to the special needs preschool. I’m not sure how that happened, but something just clicked for her. During the first 4 school sessions, she was speaking after 45 minutes of class time, then on the 5th school session, she started speaking when she left the car as the teacher aide took her out of the car and she never has reverted to non-speaking. Her community preschool took longer though. After 2 months, she was still speaking in whispers to the teacher and once or twice to a friend she made.

That changed however, when I pointed out to the special needs teacher during the parent-teacher conference that I felt the reason she’s not progressing at the community preschool is that no one had even made the attempt to help them out, as it was stated in her IEP as part of her speech therapy. Someone from the S/N preschool was supposed to at the very least consult and give them ideas. Not even 1 phone call was made to establish communication.

After I was made to feel really crappy during the conference by the teacher, I wrote a long letter to the teacher explaining that she had 2 weeks to address what I felt was unprofessional treatment and also neglect on their part of the IEP. I told her I was taking diligent records of any and all future conversations. You can read the back story here.

The SLP taking care of my daughter’s speech progress was very apologetic when she realized she missed the “community consultation” portion of the IEP.

The very next day, the special needs teacher made an unexpected visit at the community preschool, and stayed the entire 2 hours of class time to assist my daughter. I firmly believe, because she made the visit, my daughter was not only able to make friends with her classmate, for the first time in 2 months, that it was the key to opening the door for my daughter to speak in that setting. Her anxiety seemed to dissolve and from what I understand, now almost 2 months later, she has not regressed.

Also, the SLP’s supervisor called me up and told me that she attended a conference on selective mutism. I was thrilled to hear that she had some new understanding and strategies to help my daughter out.
My daughter also now goes two more afternoons to the special needs preschool, in order to prepare her for transition into kindergarten. She is being challenged even more to extend herself. The class is larger and they have more of a kindergarten preparation curriculum. They send her on errands around the school, and bring in new faces to meet. They want her to be familiar with the people she will be in contact with when she has to move around the school. In March, she will be have to be screened for kindergarten, and she needs to be familiar with the testers before she will be comfortable enough to give the required performance.

Also in March, we will be meeting with the IEP team to evaluate her progress and get her ready for transition into kindergarten. For once, I am more confident that things aren’t as dismal as I once thought it might be.

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This entry was posted in highly sensitive child, selective mutism, spd and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Progress made with my selectively mute child

  1. anne says:

    Hi there-
    I was very interested in your daughter’s progress. I also have a preschooler with SM (3.5 yrs old, been in preschool for over a year, and not a word yet). I’m curious where you live because I haven’t come across a special needs preschool anywhere. How did you get connected with this school?

    I’ve also been browsing your blog and alot of your posts have struck a chord with me. I don’t think I could go so far as to consider myself gifted, but as a former (before kids) teacher of world issues and politics, I often feel my intellectual zeal has dried up. I definitely miss the day to day stimulation of debating issues with friends and colleagues. I miss having friends with whom I could have a beer and just talk about the world. I’ve tried to go back into the classroom only to find that even in just 3 years, things have changed. The old energy for me isn’t there and I dont’ feel it back from the kids. So try something new??? ARGH! The only thing I feel well versed in is my kids….and really, no one else cares. But I guess that brings me to the reason I’m home. That no one else cares about my kids like I do, and I feel I need to be around and tuned into their lives. Especially for my SM daughter who I still don’t really trust anyone else to “read her cues”. argh.

    Thanks for making me think a bit today.

    H

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I had my daughter enrolled in the 3-5 preschool special education class associated with the local school district. Have you inquired if your state has programs related to the school system? I know a lot of states have early intervention (0-3), but I’m not sure which states may have programs for preschool aged kids. In Indiana, they do, at least where I’m at. I actually found out about it through the preschool. I begged them to give me the name of someone who could help me with dd’s temper tantrums – she originally didn’t participate in the original screening. I didn’t know at the time dd had selective mutism and that’s why she didn’t participate in the screening until I got her tested by a neuropsych. I went back to the Then I pressed for an IEP to help sort this out through the special needs program. Also, the special needs preschool wasn’t completely familiar with SM, but they did learn an awful lot when the head speech therapist went to a seminar in Chicago about SM. They actually had some great ideas and are working hard to get dd prepared for transition into kindergarten.

    I would check with your local public school district and see if they have similar services.

    Have you tried a mini-trampoline or a bounce-ball thing they can sit and bounce on and has handles?

    One of the things that helps loosen up the speech centers in the brain is jumping/bouncing. I think that has to do with sensory input.

    I’ve also read that sucking on a sucker/chewing gum is also helpful. Anectdotally, it seemed to help my dd when she was being evaluated at the neuropsych’s office. The combination of the sugar, the oral stimulation, and the bouncing and getting giggly helped open her up at the neuropsych’s office. It might help your dd.

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