I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but have only gotten the chance to now. We have had a very, very productive month and a half.
I have spent more than a bit of time being a bit worried that my middle child, K, will have difficulties showing the school her abilities due to her selective mutism. She is a bright child that would shut down when anxious, and it directly affects her ability to test. I had her assessed in September of 2007 when she was almost 4 with the preschool early intervention group (about 6 months before her formal diagnosis). At the end of the 1/2 hour session, the results were troubling. They were unable to assess her. AT ALL. She wouldn’t respond to prompts. Not verbally, not non-verbally. Nada.
One of my main concerns was that she would not even be able to be assessed for the abilities I know she has (and the neuropsych’s tests showed) and they would think she was incapable and put her into lower groups if her mutism caused her to test beneath her abilities. Particularly with regards to reading assessments as those are oral ones. I had a big concern she wouldn’t be able to be assessed and not be able to get into higher reading groups which she’d be eligible for.
I also really worried about the outcome of the kindergarten screening test, because she’d have to be tested again (nothing at all like the in-depth assessments she’s done in the past, but none-the-less, it could be enough to be anxiety inducing enough to cause her to become mute). I didn’t want her SM to prevent her ability from shining through.
Those fears, which would have come true this time last year, did not materialize this time.
In February of this year, we had my daughters IEP case conference for her transition to kindergarten. I went in not sure what to expect, and I went in with my husband and my mother for support. It turned out to be a very wonderful meeting. Her special needs teacher voluntarily tested her using the Bracken developmental/school readiness test to find out what level her abilities were at, not because she had to (she was under no obligation to even with the IEP), but because the teacher was extremely curious about her abilities. The reason, I think, was that as she was coming out of her mutism, her intelligence was becoming apparent.
K scored at the 98% percentile for the school readiness composite. Basically, she was at 132 for the SRC portion (very advanced) and a 131 for the total test. Her concept age was 7.11 (7 years 11 months) for the SRC and 7.8 (7 years 8 months) for the total test. She was 5 years, 4 months old at the time. This was pretty encouraging, and it meant to me that no matter what else happened, we had another set of test results indicating my daughter’s ability was significantly higher than her age and that, when not anxious/mute, she performs very well.
About a week after the IEP case conference, my daughter had to take the kindergarten screening test. I could have about cried when I saw her do everything she was expected to do and was even smiling about it. She was really happy to show them what she knew and the teachers who screened her were very very impressed with her. I mentioned to the teachers what a hard worker she was and at least one of them said that this wasn’t hard work for her, she was doing everything with ease.
The very same day she had her kindergarten screening test, my daughter had Dad’s night in her community preschool. She actually performed on stage with all the other children that night, complete with singing and the hand motions. And she did it all with a smile! This is a huge, huge thing for her! She is not the child she was 12 months ago. Heck, not even the same child she was 6 months ago. All this progress happened in the past six months.
I can’t say enough about how much change for the better has happened for my daughter. In fact, when I say she struggles with selective mutism, it sits funny with me, because she’s not struggling to communicate like she did not even a year ago. She is absolutely thriving and happy and much more confident in herself. It’s a beautiful thing to see and I’m so grateful we caught this early enough and she had such positive experiences over the last year. If you want to read the strategies we used, you can see this post for details.