Hi there. My five year old DD is very shy and hardly speaks at all in class and in social situations with people she does not know. However, we see another side to her that is loud, spirited, fun, (and ocassionally very argumentative!) Although she is generally liked and has made friends with a few children it breaks our hearts that others can't really get to know her character and we worry that she will not thrive at school if she does not find her voice.
School has had her assessed by a psychologist and we await advice from SENCo.
Has anyone else had experience of helping their child overcome extreme shyness? I would be really grateful for any advice.
My DD is 8 and in year 4. She is young for her year. She was just the same as your DD....her school spoke of assessing her at a similar age but it never happened.
As I say, she is 8 now and still quiet but MUCH more confident. She's like your DD...bright and funny at home whilst at school she is quiet with a small group of friends.
SHe is very happy though and doing well academically.
I worried SO much and still do sometimes...more out of habit than anything.
My dd would speak to other children but not adults and in fact, it took a whole year after she began for her to really settle in.
I organised as many playdates as I could stand...it really helped...I have never made her feel as though being quiet was bad...but told her to reply when people say HI...or ask a direct question...it's hard when they are still small as you don't want to bully them into talking...it can have the opposite effect.
I avoid calling her shy...when she was small and someone spoke to her and she didn't answer I would often repeat their question.."What's your name?" in a kind voice...sometimes she'd respond...but not other times and then I'd say "Ah she's not in a talking mood today...never mind!" in a light fashion.
I also tried to show her a lot how it's done...so I would chat to people in shops, chat to shopkeepers...old ladies at bus stops...anyone and everyone...so she could directly experience smalltalk!
She is so much better but as I say, still shy.
Your DD...is she ok with other things in school? It seems a bit much to assess her already.
There is a stage inbetween normal speech and selective mutism which is called a 'reluctant speaker'. It may be that's the stage your daughter is at if she can sometimes speak in class etc. However it can definitely progress to selective mutism if not dealt with properly, which is what happened to us. My daughter is now 11 and has made some progress but still struggles a lot. I think MrsMushroom's suggestions are all excellent. You need to walk the fine line between pushing them out of their comfort zone a little bit, but not so far that there's no way they can achieve what you're asking. You need to take baby steps to greater communication. Playdates will be a brilliant idea, bringing others into the place where she feels more confident and more likely to be able to speak to them. For the ultimate in how to help, you should get the "Selective Mutism Resource Manual" by Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens. It's expensive but not when you realise just how much support, help and advice is in there.
Thanks Mrs Mushroom and Bless. Great advice. The Resource Manual looks great but for now I have settled for 'Can I tell you about Selective Mutism?' by Alison Wintgens and Robyn Gallow.
It is certainly a fine line trying to get DD out of her comfort zone. I have tried suggesting that if she says things louder she will only have to say them once and not repeat herself. During a walk in the park my Dad heard me say this to DD and promptly went and stood a few metres from her and started shouting silly things to her, asking her to shout them back. At first DD was as embarrassed as I was but then started joining in and shouting back (quietly but audibly!) I suppose having fun like this is a good way of breaking down the fear of being heard in public places. A few days later her teacher reported that DD had spontaneously spoken in class for the first time since the beginning of year 1 so perhaps this approach has more going for it than I originally thought!