Ds won't talk to his teacher

(41 Posts)
icepole Tue 15-Jan-13 22:41:20

He is five and very, very shy. He doesn't talk to adults in general but obviously to talking to his teacher is causing issues. He is getting on well with hiss work although they are struggling to assess things like his reading. The educational psychologist was contacted and her advice has been to just leave him be.

Today he was kept in at break time as he needed to tell the teacher words to write down in order to finish his work. I feel upset for him and have no idea what to do to support him.

learnandsay Tue 15-Jan-13 22:43:52

Can you help out in the classroom as a volunteer?

icepole Tue 15-Jan-13 22:47:54

I work sadly, weirdly he said that himself today.

Homebird8 Tue 15-Jan-13 22:57:19

Would he talk to a puppet on your (or his teacher's) arm? Sometimes children can be persuaded to talk if they can suspend their disbelief that it is a person they are talking to.

Our DSs use the pixies who live in their heads to explain things. If something is a bit difficult we ask what their pixies think about it and usually get a pretty straight answer if we wait long enough whilst they put the words together.

Either of these might be worth a try.

merrymonsters Tue 15-Jan-13 23:05:47

When my nephew started school, he didn't speak to anyone (adults or children) at school for six months. They got psychiatrists involved. It turned out that he had very bad glue ear and needed grommets. He was still naturally shy, but once he could hear properly he started interacting with the other children and he's doing fine now.

My sister had no idea that he couldn't hear well, because he was OK at home.

Have you had your son's hearing checked recently?

sazale Tue 15-Jan-13 23:19:27

It could be that he's too anxious to talk, that he's unable to rather than won't. This is known as selective mutism. If this is the case then keeping him in so he can talk will put far too much pressure on him and make it even harder to talk.

There's info here

My son finds talking outside the home in front of others very difficult. He is also 5. This website has some good info and resources

I hope this helps x

simpson Tue 15-Jan-13 23:25:37

What year is he in??

It might be worth having a chat with him explaining that he is doing very well at school etc but his teacher needs to see how well he is doing so she needs to hear him read.

Tbh if a chat like that does not help, I would go in and chat to the teacher and say you are aware of the problem but you don't want any pressure on him...

I would second getting a hearing test as DS had glue ear in reception ( and needed grommets)....

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 02:23:54

I will get his hearing checked, not thought of that. He tells me he is scared. He is like this with all adults, he talks to children ok.

I have been in to talk to his teacher and we had him on a sticker chart for a bit but the educational psychologist said to back off completely. He does it to me sometimes, not often. It's like he gets in this strange place where he just can't talk even if he wants to.

parachutesarefab Wed 16-Jan-13 02:39:35

When he needs to talk to the teacher, could he have a friend who he tells it to who can pass the message on / teacher can eavesdrop?

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 03:09:15

Reading through that info on selective mutism it sounds like that.

I think he uses other children to pass messages on at times but the teacher doesn't like it much.

I can't sleep now, am worried about my boy.

izzyishappilybusy Wed 16-Jan-13 03:16:45

Mine was like this when he started school he didn't like teacher or TAs but it just passed with time.

MyFace Wed 16-Jan-13 03:53:38

Hi Icepole!

I was exactly like your DS around that age too! Don't worry it will pass if you don't draw attention to it in a negative way. I can still remember all the fuss and the tests I had to go through for hearing (they thought it might've been an ear problem) but it was all actually down to shyness and anxiety.

I was pressured a lot though which made me eventually speak because I hated all the attention it was drawing to me, I just wanted to be left alone! I think it was when I was in infants around when I was 7 or 8 when that happened so you might have a long wait sad

It was a relief when I did actually speak although I was still shy until I reached secondary school, and then er....let's just say I did an awful lot of talking blush

DS had a few issues too due to extreme shyness but he soon got over it didn't take him that long, so don't worry and reassure your ds that he can speak when he's ready and do more to make him more comfortable in his surroundings maybe? Things like don't try to make him speak out in class. The teacher might be able to communicate with him at first, one to one away from other children and adults, simple/small things like asking him to count money with her or asking him to say the answer of a sum (one word answers are enough at first).

Reading shouldn't be a priority right now, as it can be daunting (maybe you can listen to him read at home for now and give feedback to the teacher everyday?) Hope your DS gets over his shyness, good luck!

HTH smile

sanam2010 Wed 16-Jan-13 09:37:45

Yes it does sound like selective mutism - I am surprised the school isn't doing a bit more to help him. I agree not to make an issue out if it is right but they should have some special person to do one on one sessions with him perhaps.

My nephew had selective mutism when he started school (didn't speak to teachers or other children) and they had a lovely special needs coordinator who sat down with him for half an hour each day giving him special attention and confidence. He is now 9 and the top student in his class by the way. He is still shy but speaks to teachers and children and has friends at school. It usually goes away over time but it does help the child to be very caring and supportive. Good luck!

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 11:17:36

Thanks, I am surprised the educational psychologist did not suggest it. I am going to make a dr's appointment. A proper diagnosis will help me deal with the school.

sazale Wed 16-Jan-13 13:03:26

If you're on Facebook, Icepole. This is the official group of SMIRA and they have some good info in the documents on there.

My son won't speak to me in the school grounds but will now speak to his friends. He will sometimes answer questions if he is asked and he knows he will get the answer correct, which is an improvement.

I'm working with school to try to reduce the pressure on him (eg I take him into school 20 mins after the other kids so that the parents have all left and he avoids the chaos of morning challenge, we use the main entrance rather than class entrance and a LSA meets us and he takes a toy with him which he gets to keep with him).

We!re still waiting on assessments.

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 14:48:44

Thanks, I have asked to join. He won't talk to me in front of his teacher. I find it distressing to see him like that.

sazale Wed 16-Jan-13 15:36:49

It is hard to see. My son is a clown, always making us laugh and never stops talking but only at home!

He has recently spoke to me a few times in the classroom but very quietly and only at the end of the day when the kids have gone and the teachers busy. Part of his anxiety in school seems to be the expectations that he feels they have of him.

He also doesn't speak to his Aunties if we bump in to them whilst out and about.

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 16:05:54

He will talk to aunts etc after a warm up period, not to start with. He is mostly fine at home, a clown like your boy! Sometimes he is scared to tell me certain things and can get quite distressed. He is a creative boy, does lots of craft, spends hours making things quietly on his own. I did wonder if school was the right environment for him.

mooliebear Wed 16-Jan-13 16:31:40

This is just like my youngest DD, it started at preschool with her, she only talked through her friend and only pointed or used head movements to questions, anxious and clingy, the staff at the preschool were unsupportive, she was referred to Camms, which after lots of assessments, we were told she was a selective mute.
DD was starting school in the sept 2012, so I made an appointment with the school to discuss her, it was the best thing I did, they have been amazing, so so supportive but they don't make a fuss of my DD, they have a teacher at the school, who comes in 3 times a week, who just sits on the carpet with the class but always next to her, without making it a big deal, just so she has a regular face, then she will encourage her with questions, she won't talk but its to get her confidence up, then they have a session once a week each morning, where she can take something from home and they can talk about it or the rest of group can.
She is doing great regarding her reading and writing because again they don't make a fuss, they are letting her go at her pace, as she is only 4!
Since starting in sept, you can see the difference in her, all because of the schools support, they don't agree with reward charts, or going on about the non talking as it puts pressure on them, which they don't need.
We decided to not continue with camms counseling, as the school has be so great.
I also brought some books on selective mutism which are great as reading them, changed how I do things too.
I think you should go in and chat with his teacher, she should not be keeping him in on breaks, as this will draw attention to him, which is the exact opposite of what he needs.
The best bit for us, is that she spoke to her teacher for the first time this week, only 3 words but when the teacher told me, she was over the moon but just acted all normal with her and asked her to sit down, where as really she said her insides were doing cartwheels!
Sorry if it sounds rushed, in the middle of sorting tea.
Hope you get sorted soon

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Wed 16-Jan-13 17:01:19

If the EdPsych has said to leave him be, I would be very angry at him being kept in over break! He is being punished. If the teacher doesn't like this the sound very harsh IMO.

I would be tempted to meet with the head and discuss. This is not naughtiness is it? So he shouldn't be punished.

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Wed 16-Jan-13 17:02:42

What is your general view of the teacher btw?

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 20:22:41

She seems nice but I think she is a bit frustrated. I meet with her once already but that was before I knew about anything like this. That was when she suggested the sticker chart but he's off that now, it wasn't working anyway. I think a proper diagnosis will help, then I can go back in with some info. I don't trust schools though, I don't trust them to deal with things well.

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Wed 16-Jan-13 20:31:48

I would ask to meet the head if it were me. I also don't trust schools sometimes. You need an agreed plan of how he will be treated even without any diagnosis. When the EdPsych said leave him be - do you think he meant at this stage yes here's a problem but handled correctly he'll just grow out of it? Because punishing the child is not handling it correctly.

Personally, I would be going in now, with a complaint of idiotically harsh treatment.

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Wed 16-Jan-13 20:35:13

She shouldn't be frustrated. She should be understanding. Teachers have to deal with the whole spectrum. For some reason this has got me quite perturbed.

My son who is also 5 didn't talk to his reception teacher at all until the last 1/2 term. She was great and just accepted it, I'd recommend your sons teachers backs off and let's him be. How experienced is she?

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 22:48:55

I don't know. I will make a dr's appointment tomorrow. Would you say it is better to go with him do the dr can see or without him so he doesn't think it is an issue?

poshme Wed 16-Jan-13 23:11:48

Hi OP,
just wanted to give a teacher's perspactive for you. A few years ago I taught a boy (yr 4) with selectuve mutism. TBH I thought it was him being annoying. I'd seen him chatting to his friends, and to his mum on the way to school.
He wouldnt speak to me at all - I had to ask him yes/no questions all the time and he'd nod or not. I didnt see it as a special need - just a "precious" child/parents pandering to him. (it didnt help that I had no confidence at all in our special needs co-ordinator, so didnt really believe anything she said..)I had no experience of selective mutism at all.
We muddled though until I went on maternity leave. I now know how wrong I was.
About a year or so later (not teaching due to being SAHM) I saw a documentary about SM. It totally transfromed my view. It is a special need. It needs the right support and help. It is not a child being difficult.
However, most teachers will not have any experience of it at all. In most teachers' experiences a child who will not speak is one who is being insolent and disobedient. (I'd never heard of it in any publications etc)

I dont know if selective mutism is the issue with your DS. I just wanted to try and give an idea of how the teacher may feel about it. IMO definitely worth getting further expert help - and if possible getting that expert help to try and explaim to the teacher.

(PS - the boy I taught gradually started talking 1:1 with teachers, and then in class just answering yes to the register to the teacher close-up. As far as I know he is still quieter generally than the rest of the kids, but is now happy to put his hand up and speak aloud)

poshme Wed 16-Jan-13 23:16:21

I hope I havent offended anyone. I've just read that all back. It sounds like I didnt care - I did, but didnt understand. I think many parents think that teachers know all about all special needs, when actually the training can be very limited.
As a more experienced teacher (and esp now as a parent) I am far better at dealing with stuff thats a bit out of the ordinary.

icepole Wed 16-Jan-13 23:36:49

Not offended at all, was very honest! Actually I am a teacher myself, secondary, so I totally know what you mean about the lack if training to deal with particular needs/issues. It's another reason I am so anxious, I have seen pupils not being given what they need by the system so many times. Children falling through the gaps, being let down. If I had the nerve I would home school. Teaching has put me off schools totally, not the teachers who are mostly slogging their guts out but everything else. The system and what it does to pupils and staff.

BigcatLittlecat Wed 16-Jan-13 23:54:37

Hi there!
We had a child in our reception who would not talk at all! Lots of head nodding and pointing! We had the advice to leave it and not make a fuss. Now 2 years later they talk and take part in everything.
I think what helped as hey were talking at home was the class teacher would pop up to the house after school and have a cup if tea and the child could see the link between school and home. They started talking very quietly to friends and then yes/no until taking a full part in class. Its not a quick process but it mustn't become such a big thing that the child does not see a way out. School should in my opinion be very supportive.

birdsnotbees Thu 17-Jan-13 00:03:10

I have no experience of this but wanted to say I'd be livid if the teacher had done that to my son. Your DS wasn't being naughty and keeping him in at break is entirely at odds with the psych advice to leave him be/not draw attention to it. Like poshme says, you need to get a diagnoses so that the teacher understands the difference between a special need and a kid playing up.

happynewmind Thu 17-Jan-13 00:04:02

Just to add my dd was selective mute. The very worst thing you can do as a teacher is put pressure on or punish him for not talking, it will make it a whole lot worse if it is this.

StillSmilingAfterAllTheseYears Thu 17-Jan-13 11:45:16

You don't need a dx to get an agreement with school about what is appropriate. I think you need some pushy parent pills wink. I would just go in and ask the head to explain why this punishment was applied, how it is likely to make things worse etc. Then get agreement what will happen in future.

Sometimes kicking off is ok you know smile.

And no, don't take him to dr. He doesn't need the worry.

I think the idea any person, let alone a teacher, still views things kids do that only cause themselves problems as 'insolent' is bloody shocking. Its like when my dad was hit for having a stammer ffs. I didn't know the term 'selective mute' til about 6 months ago but its pretty obvious if they could just answer they would. Grrr. Poor kids.

AlwaysHoldingOnToStarbug Sat 19-Jan-13 01:15:06

I guess DS4 was a selective mute. He would not talk in the classroom at all, though strangely was fine in the playground. He was put into a nurture group to help him - he chatted away happily in it but still wouldn't speak in class. Even if I was in his classroom he wouldn't talk to me.

Although he was never diagnosed officially (I'm not sure the school actually knew what to do with him!) his teachers were all very understanding, though it didn't help that his class unfortunately went through 6 teachers in two years so he'd end up getting used to one and then they'd leave and he'd have another new teacher.

He was never punished for not talking, and he was never made to feel bad. It went on through year 1 & year 2. He finally started mouthing words to one of his teachers, then he would go up to her to answer the register quietly. Year 3 saw a breakthrough, he began very quietly answering the register while sitting with the other children and gradually worked up to him saying it loud enough for the whole class to hear. he'd also read one to one and actually really liked reading with a year 6 child.

Year 3 ended with him saying a couple of lines in assembly in front of the whole school, leaving me in tears and his teacher bursting with pride! (And other staff members thinking it was his twin who had no problems talking!)

He's now in year 4 and on his first parents evening his teacher said he hadn't realised there'd ever been a problem! Although quiet he's happy to talk in front of the class and will answer questions.

I've asked him why he didn't talk but he's never been able to answer.

I've been very pleased with the way the school handled it, it was a new thing for all of us and I think they were very gentle with him and it has paid off.

I think you need to talk to the teacher and the Head if necessary, probably the Senco too. If the Ed Psych has said to leave him be then that is what they should be doing. These things take time and punishing him will probably only make things worse in the long run - he's not going to want to talk to a teacher who punishes him and doesn't understand.

catnipkitty Sat 19-Jan-13 09:12:14

DD1 who is now nearly 9 was like this at preschool and in reception year. She wouldn't talk to her (lovely) teacher in reception at all, in fact it took her 2 terms to even make eye contact with her, at which point the teacher came bounding over to me at pick up time and told me that DD1 had finally interacted with her and how pleased she was grin. I did look in to selective mutism at the time and followed advice about this. She improved slowly in YR, took a step backwards at the beginning of Yr1 and Yr2 and is still very shy and not keen to talk to adults at all but she is gradually improving...
It is horrible to think that your child is so distressed, good luck
C xx

ClareMarriott Sat 19-Jan-13 10:27:35


I used to only speak when entirely necessary when I was small so I can appreciate how your son feels. In her book You Can Heal Your Life, Louise L Hay says the throat " represents our ability to speak up for ourselves, to ask for what we want and to say I am" She goes on to say that the throat also represents the creative flow in the body so it might be that if your son enjoys creative things, whatever they may be, then you really encourage them and see what happens.

icepole Sat 19-Jan-13 13:57:29

That is interesting, he is very creative which we encourage. He gets to do lots of craft at home and says he wants to be an artist when he grows up. He will spend hours on his own projects at home, I was worried that school might stifle that part of him a bit - he says he is bored a lot although he liked this week as they were doing shapes.

insanityscratching Sat 19-Jan-13 15:35:52

Have you asked to see a speech therapist? My son he's 17 has/had selective mutism (he is speaking at present) A SALT should be advising the school of strategies to use so that your ds is treated appropriately and sensitively.

icepole Sat 19-Jan-13 20:55:27

No but I will ask about this. They seem to be leaving him too it basically.

lljkk Sun 20-Jan-13 13:36:47

I think selective mutism is increasingly recognised, I know 2 children age 11 with it. Good luck.

icepole Fri 01-Feb-13 10:43:37

Just to update that we have seen a dr who thinks it is selective mutism so at least we have a starting place for getting help although I think it is all going to take time.

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