I have recently had a comment by one of my readers who asked me about “whether treatment given to your child has helped her or not?”
Did it work?
Well, she was officially diagnosed with selective mutism at 4.5. She’s just turned recently 9 years old. On Tuesday, her 3rd grade class had to give two minute speeches on their chosen historical figure for Historical Halloween.
My daughter chose to give her speech on Anne Sullivan, who was best known as a teacher and a companion to Helen Keller, the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, thanks to the committed work of Anne Sullivan.
I would love to share a video, but I’m not sure how. Instead, pictures will have to do.
We are so proud of how far she has come.
And a close up of her speaking into the microphone.
And the audience was filled with her 23 classmates and their parents and some of grandparents. There is dad and grandma watching intently.
So, did our treatment strategies for her selective mutism work?
Yes, I do think so.
She is not medicated (and never was), has no more need of an Individualized Education Plan and Speech Therapy (she had it for about a year and a quarter), tested into the gifted program, and she excitedly wants others to know what she has to say.
Will what we’ve done work for other parents?
I don’t know. But I sure do hope so. Early detection and intervention is best, which is why I write so much about it on my blog, to help inform and support other parents.
Another parent that commented on my blog shared with me something about “the transitional stage of SM”.
When I looked up what that was, I found this helpful link containing the following information by one of the leading experts on selective mutism, Elisa Shipon-Blum.
Q: For the nonverbal child, is lowering anxiety enough to stimulate speech?
A: For the majority, the answer is NO, especially as a child ages. For the child who is able to respond via nodding, gesturing, pointing, writing, etc. he/she may actually appear comfortable, relaxed and engaged, yet mutism persists.
Q: HOW then do you get a child to speak if lowering anxiety is not enough?
A: By helping the child unlearn their conditioned mute behavior and using TRANSITIONAL strategies to BRIDGE from nonverbal to verbal
It is this stage of communication that is the MISSING LINK in MOST treatment plans.
Treatment that focuses solely on lowering anxiety without regard to structured ways for parents and CHILD to UNLEARN conditioned behaviors. For the mute child, if focus is on in-office therapy without implementation of transitional strategies outside the office, treatment resistance will occur.
According to the handout, there are thousands of strategies that fall under three kinds of transitional strategies:
1. verbal intermediary (like whispering to another person or a puppet to speak for them).
2. ritual sound approach (and example of which is something like tapping twice for yes, and once for no).
3. augmentation devices (tape recorders, blowers, voice changers, etc).
My daughter used verbal intermediaries – she could whisper to me, sometimes could whisper to a friend in class, and then whispered to her one of her preschool teachers, just before she had a breakthrough. At the time, I had no knowledge of the term verbal intermediaries. This is just what happened.
What will work for your child?
I don’t know, but I do know there are people out there who believe you WILL be able to help your child find out which intereventions will work. Keep trying until you find something that works for your child.
And ultimately, parents and individuals sharing their stories and what they’ve had success with is a part of that process, so please, if you care to share your success stories that might help others, please leave a comment.