DD's muteness in social situations

(45 Posts)
picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 09:41:48

I'm looking for some ideas on how to help DD. I hate the word 'shy', but that seems the easiest way to explain her behaviour. She went to playschool from 3-5 years and has since been HE. At playschool they had the same problem & she took the whole of the first year to warm up enough to participate in group work, although she never talked at circle time, she showed and the teacher talked for her.
She is 7 now and I'm getting pretty concerned at her 'shyness'. At home she is bubbly, happy and fun. In HE groups with me there and others she knows well where there aren't too many people she is also fine. However she has now been going to Brownies for a term and hasn't spoken, and she didn't talk at Rainbows for the year previous. She also goes to an HE group without me and rarely speaks. A couple of things have happened that are making me worried. For example rather than speak to one of the grown ups at the HE group to ask to go to the toilet, she wet herself and then went around wet for the rest of the day. She is now 7 and a half & has full control over her bladder.
She also went on a playdate recently and something happened which I don't want to go into, but she wasn't able to tell the person to stop.
I am now concerned about her going places without me but she is fiercely independent and continues to want to go to these things on her own.
So, how do I help her find her voice? How do I help her be more assertive?

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 10:46:33

The problem appears to be that you has no one else working on it. Have you any family to help? Have you talked to the Brownie leader and asked her for strategies and for her to make situations where she would feel more at ease? Can you get one of the adults in the HE group help?
The fact that she wants to to do things on her own is very positive and she just needs strategies to deal with it. Often the person closest isn't the best person to give strategies.
I didn't want you to go unanswered, perhaps now I have bumped it up someone will come along with the same problem and some answers. There may well be a book. My only advice would be to do some role play at home as in 'what to do if you need the toilet' and to get her doing simple things like paying for shopping.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 10:48:35

The positives are that she is 'happy, bubbly and fun' and she wants to be independent. It is just a question of building up her confidence-hopefully this is where you can get suggestions.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 10:54:32

I have to say that I was very like that at her age and I was about 26yrs before I could happily stand up and talk to a roomful of people, not that it was sudden it is just a long, slow progress. The worst thing possible was people drawing attention to it, either by drawing me out or sheltering me by avoiding situations. The best was just treating it as perfectly normal and drawing me out without me suspecting that was what they were doing, if that makes sense! Good luck, hope you get some help on here.

picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 11:07:11

Thank you satinsandals, that is good advice. Ok I will talk to the Brownie leader again, although I have spoken to the HE group leader and they did say they would work on it. The trouble is she is now getting a reputation at both these things for being 'the one who doesn't speak' and I think it then becomes self-perpetuating. She comes back telling me she is the 'shy' one, so she is very aware of it.
Role playing sounds like a great idea & also getting her to be more assertive when I am around, like paying for shopping. I hadn't thought of that so thanks. Sometimes you just get too close to a problem and can't see the answers!
I was a shy child too, but I don't want her to waste her youth being crippled by shyness. She is such a lovely, kind, funny, crazy girl. I want others to see her like that too!

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 11:46:25

I was a Brownie leader in the dim and distant past-I would have been only too pleased to help.
I think the outdoors is a good place for talking, it is easier if on the move and not face to face. You could try taking a few on a scavenger hunt, or doing a treasure hunt with clues-something where your DD gets carried away with the activity and forgets she is interacting.
Perhaps something she has done, craft activity?, where she has to teach someone else.
I would guess the advantage of HE is having all ages, could she help younger ones? Could an older one help her with an activity-sometimes a child 2/3 years older is easier to relate to than an adult.

tethersend Sun 10-Nov-13 11:53:29

Can you ask the GP about a Speech Therapy referral?

Some areas let you self refer I think.

DD has this, but is only 4- the school are monitoring it. If she is the same at seven, and it is impacting negatively on her life as it clearly is with your DD then I will do the same.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 12:08:40

It depends whether speech therapy deals with shyness. I was similar but my speech was excellent, I was extremely chatty and opinionated at home! Worth asking.

tethersend Sun 10-Nov-13 12:37:49

SLT will deal with selective mutism, which is what this seems to be.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 13:01:01

A good idea then, I think you could do with some professional input.

AtiaoftheJulii Sun 10-Nov-13 13:55:07

Yes, sounds like selective mutism, and you might want to get more expert help. Good luck x

picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 14:15:05

oh god, how depressingsad sorry that's so negative........DS is also having speech therapy but for other reasons. I didn't even think of speech therapy for DD, her language has always been very good. My Dh will probably be really fed up if I mention this to him, he prefers to bury his head in the sand on this kind of stuff. I don't know, I just thought it was something I could sort out myself?

picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 14:17:01

So this kind of thing is called 'selective mutism'? I thought it was just shyness? Is it the same thing?

tethersend Sun 10-Nov-13 14:35:01

It's impossible for anyone to say over the Internet if it definitely is selective mutism, so sorry if I've worried you. As I say, DD has this and I know how difficult it can be.

It could just be shyness, but I'd be inclined to seek professional support to see. Many children grow out of selective mutism, so it is not necessarily something 'wrong' IYSWIM.

Some information and support here

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 14:59:45

I wouldn't dispair picnic, people are very quick to label these days. Obviously I don't know you so I hesitate on giving advice, it is difficult to strangers over the Internet but I would call her a shy child. I have been on another thread about shyness, unfortunately I can't find it ,but 'selective mutism' was thrown in a lot as if the country is full of them, whereas I would say there were very few and loads and loads of shy children.
It is worth asking your GP, but I would on no account take her with you and I would never ever mention her shyness as a problem in front of her. I said earlier that drawing attention to it was the worst thing for me. I am thankful that my mother took a very laid back approach and when teachers asked if I spoke at home said that I never stopped! ( which was true)
Had she made me see professionals I would have really dug my heels in. I hated teachers writing in my report , 'Satin would get more out of her lessons if she took a more active part' and used to think '.........and they think it is that easy they just mention it and I do it!'

Never look to the negatives. Your positives are fantastic! She is 'bubbly, happy and fun'.
She talked to the teacher enough for the teacher to talk for her, she joined in.She may have taken a year to warm up but she joined in group work.And above all she is fiercely independent and wants to do theses things on her own.

That last one is wonderful. She has the basics. She just needs the building blocks. There is no way I would have joined in circle time at 12 yrs old. I never ever once in my school life asked to go to the toilet, I went at break. I was not a selective mute.

Your problem is that you are very close to her, very worried and she doesn't cope without you. You need some help. Whether it is professional help I don't know, it always worth investigating.
I would start with small things. Firstly, if she is the sympathetic sort, tell the Brownie leader. There all sorts of things she could do to help.
Have a group around, play board games where you have to say something like 'I want to buy Mayfair' as part of the game.
Do my things in the open air idea.
Get a other adult to teach her something like knitting where they have to speak to each other. Go out of the room part of the time but pop back.
Have you got any 3 yr old she could curl up with and read a picture book.
Anything with an activity where she can take part in a non threatening way where speech is just a by product.

Lots of adults are shy. If someone starts a thread on here, which they do, saying 'am I odd I have no friends' it fills up in no time with people saying they are the same, have no small talk etc. Many will not go to a toddler group because no one speaks to them and they can't start conversations with strangers in what appears to be cliques. These people are not all selective mutes or on autistic spectrum, they are merely shy. If adults can't do it it is a lot to ask of a 7 yr old!

I was very sad to come back to the thread and find you so depressed. Stick with the positives and work with them. Be pleased with any slight improvement like saying in a shop 'excuse me, can you tell me where the pens are?' You may be surprised at how each small thing adds up.

If I started a thread asking how many posters were shy it would be full in no time! It is common among adults, never mind children.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 15:02:00

Sorry, I know she is 7 yrs- I was just making the point that I wouldn't have done it when much older.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 15:05:26

Puppets are good. I would never play in the Wendy house at school, I was much too shy but I remember once we used it as a stage and with a glove puppet, and me out of sight I spoke!

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 15:09:27

As a summary, constantly use every opportunity to get her to engage, without making it obvious, and some in such small ways they are hardly noticed by her. e.g with a group hand round biscuits where she just has to say nothing or 'would you like a biscuit?'.
If a group are busy doing something send her to tell someone something like 'can you put the oven on?'.
Start small.

maggi Sun 10-Nov-13 17:02:18

I was a chatty toddler then was made shy by a bully at age 5. It took me until I was 16 to speak to people that I didn't know. It was getting a job and having to speak which did it for me. At 45 I will now hold a workshop for 40 people and just get on with it. But I still get out of every party I can because I just can't make small talk and enjoy it.

Is there any bullying involved from any source?

picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 17:44:09

Satin thank you so muchsmile I feel better reading your post, there are so many ideas & like you say lots of positives I can work on. I will print it off so I can go through it properly and have a think about how I can incorporate some of the ideas. I'm sorry if I sounded fed up earlier......it's just the labels thing. DS is in the middle of a SALT assessment and some of it has been useful, but some of it has been quite hurtful & DS is now conscious of his speech, when before he didn't realise there was a problem. Sorry, but hopefully that explains me being a bit oversensitive!
maggi, hmmm well I wouldn't say DD has ever been chatty, although she was a full on toddler! I think she has my shy gene probably. She has mentioned some girls teasing her at Brownies but that's because she doesn't talk. DD is tough though. She might be shy but she is brave and tough and she wont let a few nasty comments stop her going. Actually I am in awe of her, she is braver than I was at her agesmile

picnicinthewoods Sun 10-Nov-13 17:46:14

Thank you tethersend, I will take a look at your link toosmile

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 18:54:12

I am in awe if her too- well done her! I bet she comes into her own later. One of my sons had speech therapy. I knew he had problems with some sounds but when I asked nursery what they thought they said 'but he never says anything', same in reception. Eventually they agreed it was a problem. He is now 24yrs, speaks to anyone and is the most outgoing of my children but he certainly wasn't at 7 yrs!
I think you want to avoid labels, children live up, or down, to them. If you label her shy she will think she has a problem and it will be even more difficult to overcome. It sounds to me as if she has inner reserves and is quite strong underneath.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 19:07:43

I can't recommend this book Amazon because I haven't read it but although it only has 3 reviews they are very positive and so it might help.
This one has masses of good reviews here I sometimes think that we don't value quiet people enough.

SatinSandals Sun 10-Nov-13 19:20:19

If it was selective mutism this book has great reviews and would probably apply to the shy child anyway.
If you go on Amazon and search for 'how to help your shy child' or 'how to help your child with selective mutism' more turn up.
I think any of them would at least give some strategies and be encouraging, rather than negative.

ouryve Sun 10-Nov-13 19:28:02

I think you want to avoid labels, children live up, or down, to them.

Sorry. This is rubbish. Labelling a child as diabetic doesn't cause them to have problems with regulating their blood sugar, after all. "Selective mutism" is simply a name for the type of behaviour the OP's DD is exhibiting - and is a lot more helpful and less dismissive than "shy". Recognising it as such isn't going to make her speak even less and the treatment is pretty much how you describe, anyhow.

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