Yesterday morning, in the middle of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich assembly line, I got a phone call from my middle daughter, K’s, first grade teacher.
I was a bit nervous, especially since the day before yesterday, I mentioned to the principal when I was dropping off popcorn money that she had gotten pushed into her cubby by a classmate and her ankle got an abrasion from it. I thought for sure that teacher was going to think I was a trouble-maker of some kind. I’m not, but that was the second time my daughter got hurt from a classmate – the other time being when another child hit her in the back with a library book because K wasn’t listening to her.
But instead of getting a talk about the incident, the teacher asked me if I thought K would enjoy being a student council member. She told me that since the kids were too young to write essays, it was simply up to the teacher to decide the best candidate for the class. There were two students she was considering, but she called us first.
It seems so strange to me, that only 3.5 years after being diagnosed with selective mutism, where once upon a time she would never have the ability to speak to her teacher and classmates, that she should be selected to represent her class in student council.
I know that in elementary school, this probably isn’t a such a huge thing. But to me, it is. It just brings tears to my eyes. My daughter was once so severely anxious that I worried she’d be picked on by classmates (and for good reason, in preschool they’d get into her face and talk to her as if she couldn’t hear) and pigeon-holed by the teachers as a hassle to deal with. I remember being sick to my stomach, worried that my daughter would never have a ‘normal’ childhood, never would have friends, worried that she would be an outcast, worried that her teachers might never see her wonderful gifts of intelligence, creativity and imagination. I worried that I would have to resort to antidepressants for my child, who at the time of diagnosis was only 4.5. I spent a great deal of time being anxious about that. Those were hard times indeed.
I know I get commentors with selectively mute children of their own from time to time asking me how she’s doing now. I guess I can now safely say she’s doing great. It’s even hard to believe she ever had a problem, except all I have to do is read my blog and remember. I remember thinking I might have to homeschool that child. Not that I would have minded, but knowing how she appreciates having friends now, I’m glad she got the opportunity to make some dear ones through school.
It makes wonder how other SM children are faring. I wonder how the parents are faring. I hope they have seen similar growth in their own children. In most cases that I’ve read, the selectively mute child has wonderful abilities in spite of their anxiety, and, in many cases, their heightened sensitivities are indicative of a very active sensory system that can serve them well, they are highly imaginative, empathetic to others and the child is quite intelligent.
I keep thinking I want to write a book about selective mutism. Not simply about my daughter, but collectively about other children, other families who’ve struggled with it – and I say families because it can add stress on all the family members, who’ve been worried sick for their child, who want to help other families know what it’s like and what helped their child succeed. When I started out, there was simply NO first hand accounts of it, of what it was like to parent a child with SM, except on a message board at selective mutism group.org. Or maybe someone else will write that book. If so, I wouldn’t mind sharing our story for it.
On that message board, there were lots of struggle, but little progress in some of the schools. Teachers had to be educated, and some still didn’t recognize a problem. That’s more than half the battle I think. The teachers can make or break a selectively mute child’s progress. It really worried me to not see many success stories back then. I hope things are better now for those families.
Does anyone have any updates on your selectively mute child? What’s working? What’s not?
Would you mind sharing your stories…maybe if I can’t publish an actual book, maybe I could ask for guest posts. Maybe I could highlight a family each month (or more frequently if their is more interest). If you’d be interested, leave a comment. I’ll contact you and we can talk about it.
If you care to share your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.