Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do's and Don'ts For Parents

  • Listen and encourage
  • Parents should form a united team and work together to help the child
  • Parents should privately discuss the SM behaviours and create a plan they can both agree to.
  • Educate others: this is not stubbornness or willfull behaviour on behalf of the child, as is commonly believed.
  • Reward communicative behaviour (nodding, note writing, waving, etc..)
  • Build upon the child's existing strengths (signing, reading, etc..)
  • Know who and where the child communicates so you can build plans to expand the child's communications skills.
  • Help the child build friendships one at a time
  • When ready, introduce the use of audio and video taping


  • Ask did you talk today?
  • Criticize your child for not talking
  • Pressure by demanding speech or trying to trick him or her into speech
  • Forget to give as much attention to other children in the home
  • Foster dependance. Instead find ways to help him or her communicate with others nonverbally
  • Discuss the child and his or her problems in front of the child or with other children in the family
  • Praise in public; this attention makes the child more self conscious
  • Try to bribe the child to speak

By Dr. Lynn Lunceford, Clinical Psychologist

Comments: Some of these things are helpfull. But others are a little harder to implement. What I find most challenging is not talking about it too much with your child. This is hard to do when your focus sometimes is on the issue and trying to find a solution and make progress. Secondly, not asking if my child spoke when I pick him up from school. This is very hard not to do, I know I don't do it every day, but it still is challenging to think about it!

First appointment

The first appointment was quite lengthy. Looking at everything from crawling, walking and that. To how he presents when he can't talk what happens and what his body language is. It is hard to think of how it works, when you are used to the behaviour. So I am going to take a little more notice now.

So she said fairly quickly that it sounds like he does has selective mutism. One thing I do notice she sometimes refers to it by its old name elective mutism. Her experience sounds like she has the right kind of experience even if she hasn't dealt with it before. Dealing with quite a few children who don't talk.

So the strategy is going to be social storying, which I am surprised I haven't heard of before. Basically little books describing social situations. What I am hoping if he knows what to say, it will help alleviate the anxiety. It's going to be an interesting journey that is for sure.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What's in a name, we finally found out what it was.

By accident we stumbled upon some information on Selective Mutism. It described a child who is happy to talk at home, but is unable to speak in other situations. This definitely needed some further enquiry. This is the link we first found: Selective Mutism: when there's more it than being shy!

So the journey begun, we got a referral to the paediatrician. We found out there was at least a four month wait for her. Next I started calling everyone I could think of, PMH (speech pathology and psychology), education department, autism network (it sometimes presents together), speech pathologists etc.. I rang 8 of the 10 psychologist and slowly but surely they said no one by one. Then the last one, finally said yes. What a breakthrough. Now the hard work really begins!

School now that was a tough one

It become apparent we had to do something once my son had started school. He really struggled, he was not able to talk at all in the classroom, he sometimes laughed outside. But was really worrying is that he was struggling to do tasks. He would often freeze up and not be able to do a simple task like drawing, or an activity. It was common for him to sit for 15 minutes with the pencil/crayon in his hand and be unable to do anything.

The teachers were supportive. The Nurse didn't quite understand what was happening. I explained that he struggled to talk to anyone, we did all the assessment and he come up normal. The suggestions were made were for speech therapy, which was already happening and a referral to a paediatrician. This was where the process become frustrating.

We just couldn't put our finger on it

For some time now we have always known that my son had struggled to talk. It bothered us a little because he couldn't even talk to some of his relatives Aunts and Uncles. However we couldn't put our finger on it. It seemed like when he was spoken to he would freeze up, go completely motionless in his face and then stay silent.

We did all we knew what to do, he had regular hearing tests as a young child, from 12 months on. When he was two and a half he had an operation putting in grommets and taking out his adenoids and tonsils. We had hoped it would get better because we were suspicious that his talking might have something to do with his hearing.

After a few months he did sound clearer and was finding it easier to talk but his shyness didn't go away. I think he may have got progressively worse. He got referred for an assessment on his speech, but when it come time for the appointment. He couldn't talk, he couldn't even point to the pictures. The speech pathologist would leave the room and he would talk again, and the only way she could assess him was by watching me play with him.

He was now 3.5 years old and it was time to start school. We knew it would be interesting. But we knew it would be good for him too.