Monday, April 30, 2012

Help me to speak a documentary

Just recently someone kindly uploaded this documentary and I am keen to share it. There are four parts to the documentary. Some commentary on what the voice over artist says about their "rules. From my perspective though it may seem it is the child who makes the rules, my thought is the child is not in charge the anxiety controls the child so how can they make the rules. I believe it is not a conscious decision rather a response in a flight or fight or freeze situation made in a stressful situation which then sets a precedent for the future interactions. It is important to note that any child suffering with Selective Mutism is not in charge of their emotions nor can they control their anxiety. Just like an adult who struggles how can a child be stronger than a adult? Hardly a good expectation.

This part introduces the families and the children who suffer with Selective Mutism Madeline and Robert. Selective Mutism is explained and discussed, the parents discuss how it effects their life and their children. They follow the children over a year as they work to deal with the issue of Selective Mutism. 

The documentary takes us through two vastly different approaches to treating Selective Mutism. For Robert because he has had no success in the past and has hit a dead end the parents have decided it is time to go down the route of trying medication. For Madeleine the choice of treatment is more along the techniques described in Maggie Johnson's book the Selective Mutism Resource Manual.

Robert pursues the treatment plan of trying Prozac as the treatment option. We follow him as he meets with the psychiatrist. Madeline gets a visit from Maggie Johnson who demonstrates the sliding in technique to Madeline's mother and at home. They then resume the program at the school.

We follow their successes with the different plans. Each has it's own merit and it's own purpose. Both can be used and each child should have a plan designed for him and her. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

To do or not to do

Having a child who doesn't speak you spend all of your time in therapy, time spent with family, friends and anyone else, wondering what is going to happen. When your child grows up you never think about a simple thing such as talking. It seems that is our existence some days when I am at home and no-one else is around I can nearly forget I see a normal young boy who is loud, hyperactive bossy, funny (he is so funny), intelligent and thoughtful little man. What is hard is not everyone gets to see this side of him. Selective Mutism is like our son is locked up inside of himself, he is not free to express himself.

The focus is on talking, it always seems to be, some days I wish people would not focus on it. I seem to think that if someone is fearful about something, let's not talk about it EVERY time you see them, or talk to me about it. Anyway so... when your child is ready how do you go about getting them to talk is the magical question or is it. 

Let's talk about what won't work:

  • Not observing the child's body language. Pretty simple you would imagine but the amount of times I have seen people continue with the program  because that is what he is there for and completely ignoring what he is already telling them.
  • Coming in with the goal to make him speak. This is and should not be the goal that you have in each session. Children can read body language, hidden agenda's too. The reason why they aren't speaking is because of fear so what do you do? Make your place and time with you the most comfortable fun time. Not without expectations, but the right expectations. You do not want the child to feel the "pressure" to speak if they feel that you have lost the battle.
  • Starting too hard too fast, take note of the Communication Load examples given by Maggie Johnson in her book and you will begin to understand. Start with simple things first good examples include: counting, reading, rote type speech.

Start with these simple steps:
  • Have fun
  • Know the signs of anxiousness with the child you are working with, get to know their body language this will give you a clue when they are in a good place to start communicating. Look at facial expressions, any noises they make, eye contact. 
  • Play is helpful so play that encourages speech. Such as snap.. or guess who, or fish. 
  • Let them warm up
  • Tread the fine line of pushing them a little, letting the child hang for a bit and then moving on if it doesn't work. It is ok to have a little pressure just don't leave them in it for hours or half an hour.
  • Don't criticize them remember why you are there, I remember an experience with a therapy assistant who spent the whole time telling him what to do, how to sit, not to fidget and on and on it went. It just ruined any resemblance of a rapport. 
  • The way you begin the process is important too, what is helpful is to talk in a commentary type way let them warm up before you invite them to participate. Then simple open ended statements and leave space for them to respond if they want to, say something silly which always prompts a smile or drives them crazy too. Turn taking is useful as I have noticed that Josiah always responds better in a structured environment so when he knows what is expected of him he talks a lot more, I think it reduces the anxiety a little too. 
Next post will be more about the stages of communication what I find helpful to set small goals and what helps me understand progress with Selective Mutism. This is what works for me, and I have noticed there is more than one method/system out there. Will be posting soon. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The wonders of nutrition and supplements

Shortly after we moved house, which strangely coincided with the laptop ceasing to function. For some strange reason I always write better while using the laptop. Anyway enough discussing the laptop not working. Now onto the topic at hand. After some reading and researching which I am sure for me borders on obsessive at times. I stumbled upon an article discussing the benefits of diet and nutrition in treating Selective Mutism and the possible benefits. It started with this article from the perspective of a parent, Nancy Kaplan writes in her article Can Vitamins and Supplements Help Decrease Anxiety in Children with Selective Mutism how she had researched into the benefits of different vitamins and the possible effects. Another article by Dr Elisa Shipon-Blum "Is there an affect between Diet and SM?" also discusses the possible benefits of diet on helping children overcome Selective Mutism. While there has not been any formal studies to date on this topic it certainly had sparked my interest. Other conditions had reported some benefits such as ADHD, Autism and other conditions. 

The theory behind as explained on Autism Healing Thresholds "scientists proposed that autism, dyslexia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyspraxia are a related group of neuro developmental disorders that are caused by problems in the metabolism of EFAs. The idea is that for unknown reasons, the brains and bodies of individuals with autism and related disorders have problems converting the EFAs from foods into the forms that are necessary for biochemical reactions. In addition, omega 3 fatty acids seems to be lower in individuals with autism than in others."

From my knowledge of Anxiety and the stress on the body I had noticed the effects on his health, his reactions to different mosquitoes that type of thing. So I had given him a double dose of a kids multi vitamin to boost his body and help replenish the damage that may be happening because of his anxiety. So of we went to the shops to do some investigations as to what was actually available on the market. First up we bought a simple fish oil from Natures Way, that was designed for kids. This worked well and I had no problems with mixing it with milk and making it something he could handle we also gave him his normal multi-vitamin. A week later they had some of the vitamins on special and I checked out what was available and I discovered another product "Kids Smart Complete" which had higher ingredients of vitamins and minerals. 

The possible effects could include social skills and language improvement besides the normal effects Most of what I read indicated that it would take at least 2-3 months for the fish oil to take effect. So I was ready to be in it for the long haul. After 2 months my son's teacher's assistant approached me excited that he had whispered to her, that afternoon his teacher also approached me and said that he had also spoken to her. Following this he also had improvements in his therapy with his speech therapists. What was most noticeable was when we were at the next family event.  He was first able to read to his Aunty, then count to his Uncle. Then later on the next night he was able to say a Japanese word in front of the whole family at the dinner table in front of the whole family. 

So who knows? Could this be the point of change? I think regardless finding something that can help has got to be a good thing. What can we lose!