Thursday, August 5, 2010

Communication Load

One thing, that has always been a struggle with my son. Is that from a young age he always struggled to say ta, please or any manners at all. In our society it is almost rude if a young child does not use manners. While I am all for using our manners one things I have discovered is the difficulty for some of us to use simple words like please, thankyou.

In watching each time this happens, I can see the pressure it puts on the child, to speak, and then when people wait (not for the wrong reasons) it increases a sense of anxiousness and possibly a sense of failure. Personally I have struggled with this whole concept and have come to the conclusion, I expect my son to ask with a good attitude, if he smiles and is polite with his nonverbal behaviour that is ok. But I draw the line when he ask's in a rude manner.

So my conclusion, is that some of the manners we teach can isolate those suffering from selective mutism. If they are not spoken to (simply because they don't speak) and the only interaction is related to a feeling of pressure, it is not hard to imagine how the child might feel? Then we wonder why they don't feel comfortable with others? This then perpetuates the cycle of silence.

What I have read is about communication load, there is low, medium and high levels of communication. Examples are:

Low: rote speech counting, days of the week, letters of the alphabet. Factual speech yes or no.

Medium: factual speech naming simple pictures, answering easy questions, with 'forced alternatives' (Is the grass green or purple). Reading aloud. Personal information sharing, name, age, date of birth, address.

High: Answering easy questions without a picture reference. Telling jokes, sharing opinions, fears, frustrations, wishes. "pg 249-250, Selective Mutism Resource Manual".


  1. I can really relate to that explanation of communication load Kerry. It is difficult when there is the expectation of certain social norms such as manners being used verbally. I too have struggled with this with Reyne - and I think it is because of the same principle - it is so difficult to get the right words out in the first place that the added pressure of using manners is just too much.

  2. It is something that I never thought of before but struggled with Josiah for so long, I didn't think he should have to say something. But their always is the pressure that people might think he is rude.