Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Australian Government's New Mental Health Care Plan (Particular relevance for Australians)

For those of you who have not received psychology through the Medicare funds. This is how it works after seeing the doctor they draw up a mental health care plan for your child (or yourself) and then you are able to choose a psychologist to put on your plan. From here you can access firstly 6 appointments then 12 and 18 if you need it. This is the source of all our therapy for psychology without this we would be literally STUFFED!

The issue is the following to fund their supposed Mental Health Care Plan they are removing funding for this and the doctors appointments to work out these plans. The plan is the following to take the appointments down to 6 as standard and then 10 after a review this means they are cutting 8 appointments. I am wondering if this does effect the other services such as referrals to Medicare funded Occupational Therapy.

So in response to this I am contacting every possible Member of Parliament I can think of trying to get in contact with my local member. You can do the same. Also please check out this petition and sign this for me, it would make a world of a difference for me. Without this therapy we can't afford help for my son and then we would be on our own. Please help this Mum out:)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Different Faces, Same Child

This video was taken while trying to get him to say a little about his news item for that day, it was taken on the iphone I still forget to turn it on it's side I apoligise for this!

Josiah has been learning how to count

Josiah caught practicing how to count, this is real cute

The difficulty of diagnosis and lack of awareness

The issue of Selective Mutism is that it is best treated when it is discovered early so that unhealthy social patterns of behaviour are not encouraged to continue. However sadly the issue is that so often diagnosis is illusive, even a challenge. The opportunities for diagnosis are many yet there is little if no awareness of the issue. Unlike many other disabilities that are easily diagnosed, the children who are suffering from Selective Mutism can be seen as obstinate, controlling and the worst parents are told that they will grow out of it. These statements could not be further from the truth. Yet Selective Mutism is a recognized mental illness in the DSM IV.

What are the barriers to diagnosis of Selective Mutism:
  • Parents may be unaware of the issue because the children often speak quite freely in the presence of the parents.
  • Professionals (and I use this term loosely) can often be distracted with other issues such as intellectual disability, autism, and many more other possible disabilities.
  • The actual lack of speech
  • The people who have the opportunity to raise concern such as Child Health Nurses, School Nurses, Speech Therapists and even family do not even know about SM. These people present a great opportunity for early intervention.

Awareness is raised in many ways the following steps are important:
  • Educate yourself about Selective Mutism and how it effects your child (this is the most vital)
  • Educate the therapists and those that work with your child, Speech Therapists, Doctor's Psychologists.
  • Work with those who educate your child, inform them of the intrinsics of teaching a child with Selective Mutism. As well as the joys of teaching a child of SM, I was given some great advice to try and show the teachers the qualities and strengths of your child not just their SM.
  • Share with other parents what Selective Mutism
  • Be aware of other children who also could be struggling with Selective Mutism
  • Prepare yourself with information that could be helpful for those who may request it, such as small documents or more thorough documents to assist those who may be in a position to help others that you are not in the position to help.
  • Use other mediums such as the internet (blogs, facebook, twitter) to discuss the issues of Selective Mutism
  • Whenever the opportunity rises contact Members of Parliament, people of influence to raise the need of services and awareness of Selective Mutism.
The biggest concern that I carry is that I was a parent who was able to advocate for my son, so that his hearing was tested that he accessed speech therapy and did everything that I could to find out what my son had, nobody could actually tell us what the problem was. How many parents are out there, that are in the same position but have not have the privilidge to know what their child may have. Anything that we do will make a difference, despite the difficulties that may come across never give up!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The ugly side of anxiety

What most people don't talk about is the toll that Selective Mutism takes on the child. Imagine what school is like, spending six hours for five days a week in complete silence. Worrying about what others are thinking, saying. Some days he can't complete exercises because he struggles to understand the topic and can't express himself. Often he can't do the exercises because a verbal response is required to complete the task. When he is playing with kids I imagine that he can't ask for a turn or ask to join in. The silence would feel like a prison that he would wonder if he can ever break out.

Fast forward to the afternoon when we pick him, he is tired his senses are exhausted and he has been on constant alert. So when he asks for something to eat and we can't give it to him straight away, he loses it. Sometimes he will have thrown a major tantrum before he gets home. Or if we ask him to pick up his toys (how unexpected?!) pick any combination of situations and they can represent a problem. Even in the mornings we can often spend an hour waiting for him to get dressed. He often will sit there frozen, or hiding because he is so anxious.

What happens next I go back the parenting board and get as many strategies as possible so when the tricky days come I might have an idea that works. For example one thing we found that was happening was that we were using our words to sabotage our efforts. While he is supposed to get dressed we bug, yes we nag him and in the middle of something my husband was saying, I said just stop. And then we tried something new. The timer we use to help him get dressed, we will use it to also do something new SHUT UP!! And not say anything at all until the timer goes off, and surprise surprise it actually made a difference. Who would have thought?

Some days we understand what is happening and why he behaves the way he does. But it doesn't change the fact that we have to fight with him, deal with his anger, the yelling and screaming and the tantrums. On the other days we can be tempted to think, I didn't raise my son to act this way, to disrespect me nor did I expect to raise a child with an anxiety disorder. At the end of it all I still have a little man who trusts me to understand even when he can't understand himself. Who even after all the fights will curl up on my lap for half an hour just for a cuddle. Who begs me to put him to bed and read him a story. And we still have to endure the endless chatter of a whole day's worth of talking in a few short hours.
On a separate note for those who are in a similar situation it is important to look after your self pay attention to the signs when you aren't coping. This week I rang a helpline from Carers WA it made a difference. Remember we are not just parents we are carers too, it is important to acknowledge this role.

Also what we are going to try and do is to look at what is happening every day even the Psychologist tries to tell us that it is just behavioural, that it is normal. But we know that his behaviour is over the top. So let's see what the diary is going to tell us, this can also help us to prevent behaviour as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Update on the Soccer

Today was game #3 and the kids are playing great we had a full team except for one player and for the first time Josiah was even able to play on the field instead of being frozen. He still struggled when under pressure it was kinda funny watching the other coach trying to get him to kick from the boundary line, and Josiah wasn't really up for it.

So this Mum is happy he is running, and kicking and playing which is an improvement from the first two weeks. This is only the beginning for the season there is still another I don't know how many games to go. Hoping this will be a confidence builder for him too.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Research into Selective Mutism

As Selective Mutism is quite a rare condition, there is not a lot of research about it, nor what contributes, and what behaviour and other issues may be also present. This article albeit quite long as expected compares children with Selective Mutism that have a social anxiety disorder, speech or language disorders or delays, oppositional behaviours and the relationship to the severity of Selective Mutism. As well as an investigation into the classification and the possibility of providing more information on the types of Selective Mutism. If you have the time and you are interested in understanding the psychology of Selective Mutism, have a read of this article it might be an interesting reading.

Sport and Selective Mutism

So this term we start a new journey, Soccer. Secretly I think I always wanted my boys to play soccer it seems to be the most favoured sport for me, but hey I wouldn't dream of influencing them in any way hehe. What is difficult to know is how does sport and a fear or speaking and being on show have an effect on SM will it make it worse or better, what is going to happen.

Fortunately my husband was asked to be the Coach which makes it a little easier as we don't have to explain anything to the Coach as such. The first week was a bit difficult it was quite humorous we had kids who had never been on a soccer field suddenly confronted with kids who were bigger more experienced and logically SCARY! Naturally a lot of the children really struggled, and I realised that anxiety can hit in many forms and maybe I had been thinking that I was in a isolated situation but it turns out that anxiety can affect more children than I realised.

Josiah really struggled he basically froze and did not move he was quite stuck it was hard to watch. But I decided that as long as he was on the field it was ok, he was having a go and that was all that counted. I had a little strategy I got Josiah to stand in front of the goals and he stopped three goals without moving a muscle so that was all good. So I realised my son doesn't have to be a star but he just needs to try and do his best and every time he tries he will get stronger. Also looking at the way Josiah enjoys practicing and play during practice it is worth it for that joy he has on his face. Also it means that he is interacting with other kids developing his social skills and maybe one day he will talk to one of them, we all live in hope hey.

After the first game this week they had a practice and they all said that they were really scared last Saturday. Some practice and drills and the team were totally different this week, they scored goals and played really well I was told (I had to miss the game I was away). Fear doesn't disappear when we choose to act on what we are scared off, instead it still exists and possibly effects us all, but it will decrease as we get stronger with faith and confidence. So after being totally petrified at the prospect of traumatising my son, it wasn't so bad and I think soccer might be great for him to get more confidence and overcome fear.

If anyone has any information on psychology, sport, children and even better SM and sport I would greatly appreciate it I am yet to find some articles about it.