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.