Refusing to do a talk in front of the class - any tips?

(33 Posts)

13 and a half year old No1 son is very quiet and shy. We've been trying to work with him on his confidence and social anxiety and he is getting better, very slowly. After some bullying issues when he was younger we were told that he may be borderline Aspergers. He has never been tested as he seemed to be coping much better by that point and it didn't seem worth it for a probable borderline diagnosis.

Anyway - we recently found out (as part of the confidence and anxiety workbook) that when he had to do a presentation last year in class at school, he stood in front of the class and didn't speak at all (he says for 10 minutes, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't have been that long). Recently at parents night his teacher was saying that the next thing they would be doing was a presentation to the class. I told her what we had found out about him not speaking the year before and she said she wasn't aware of that.

Anyway, without wanting to put him too much on the spot, he has now told me that this is coming up. I asked if he was anxious about it and he said "No" . I said that was good and he then told me that he wasn't anxious as basically he was going to do the same again and just not speak!

Obviously while he may see that as an ok thing to do, his teacher told us he will not pass any English qualification without being able to do the presentation bit.

He won't practice anything in front of us and obviously we can google and give him tools and techniques to help him give a presentation but I still believe he will not do it.

Anyone help?

Is it to do with the number of people in the audience? Many people find that there is a maximum number of people they feel comfortable speaking in front of, and if that number is exceeded then they have an anxiety reaction (rapid pulse, or just freezing, for example). For some people this number is a dozen, for others it's a hundred.

If this is the case, then find out what his maximum number is (it might even be one or two) and work up from there. Present to a friend, then present to one authority figure, then present to a very small group, etc.

He might not be refusing he could actually be unable to speak. Try googling selective mutism and see if you think that could fit. My ds who has autism also had selective mutism (he's had a lot of speech therapy at his specialist school) he was able to record his presentations that were then played to the class, maybe your ds could be helped to do that too.

Thanks both. We have got to the point where he is happy to speak to his friends but not to initiate a conversation. He very rarely initiates a conversation even at home. I've asked if he would like to practice it for me or in front of a mirror but he says "No". I don't think he likes looking at himself at all. I like the idea of him recording it, I will ask him (and his teacher) if that would be an option. He can initiate speaking to people over the phone (i think he feels more comfortable if they can't see him). To be honest, neither me or his dad were comfortable doing that sort of thing either so it's not a surprise that he wouldn't enjoy it. Strangely No2 son is in the debating club and is in the class play (we think he was switched at birth!).

I will google selective mutism, thank you, but my feeling is that he is just very very shy - whatever that actually means!

He was reasonably chatty this evening so I got him on to the subject of the talk. He says that he didn't feel particularly anxious (though i had to explain what that would feel like so I'm not sure if he really knew what I was getting at) he said he just was unable to speak. I explained that he will have to do it and that as an adult he will have a choice about getting into situations where he has to give public speeches, but unfortunately as a child/student, he doesn't really.

I've asked if he wants to speak to the teacher about it or if he is happy for me to and he says he is happy for me to. I've asked him if he would be interested in recording his speak to be played in the class if the teacher agrees, he said that would feel weird but was prepared to give it a try. I asked what he thinks will happen if he speaks, he said that he knows nothing bad will happen. he isn't scared that the class or teacher will laugh or anything, he just can't speak. I asked if it was to a smaller group could he do it, he said he didn't know but then said that it would also depend who was in the group.

I've looked up selective mutism and actually that might be something. In class, he will answer a question if he is asked but will never ever volunteer an answer. He has always been the same. He was assessed by speech and language therapy when he was younger (for a different reason - he was staring out the window a lot and not engaging in the class) they concluded that he had a high level of language skill and was mostly bored. he would finish his work, drift off while waiting on everyone else and then find it difficult to focus back again when required.

So, the upshot is that I will try to get hold of his teacher tomorrow and make her aware of the situation and see where we go from here.

yourlittlesecret Fri 28-Feb-14 15:32:46

Actually I think the speaking and listening test has been dropped from the English GCSE.

Goblinchild Fri 28-Feb-14 15:34:57

Mine coped by creating elaborate powerpoints and reading them to the class.
Just like a thousand business and educational presentations, information without interaction.
Looking at the PP means you can avoid eye contact.

Thank you for replying.

yourlittlesecret - we are in Scotland - it is definitely in the new national exams according to his teacher so no get-out clause I'm afraid.

Goblin - it is a powerpoint but that's he had the last time - he says he physically can't speak so it doesn't give us a lot to work with!

I contacted the school and the teacher was unavailable. I asked for an email address for the teacher and they wouldn't give me one - I can understand why. Anyway they asked me to email the school and ask for her to contact me or give me her email address if she chooses which I have done.

I was back in the house for 30 seconds before he asked me if I had managed to speak to his teacher. sad

yourlittlesecret Fri 28-Feb-14 16:21:27

OP try posting in secondary education, there are teachers on there who may help.

Fooso Fri 28-Feb-14 16:26:59

At work I have to present regularly. The best tip I can give, to break the ice is to start off by asking for a show of hands for something - so he could say something about the presentation or start by making a joke "Hands up how many of you thought I wouldn't do this again?" it is a great way to start a presentation and makes the audience more a part of it...

Fooso - thanks, great idea but he seriously cannot utter a word. He just stod in silence until the teacher said for him to go and sit down sad

Thanks yourlittlesecret I'll try that.

Fooso Fri 28-Feb-14 16:49:15

how about starting off with a funny little you tube video embedded in the powerpoint... everyone laughs and it might relax him... a clip from inbetweeners or something vaguely to do with school or public speaking..

K2AFoundation Fri 28-Feb-14 16:54:03

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Thanks fooso - the talk is about a person they admire and he has chosen a comedy actor so there is plenty of material and clips he could use if need be smile

K2A - Thanks, but I find that website very confusing and have no idea what specifically you are directing me to. confused

hogweed0363 Sat 01-Mar-14 17:55:30

My DD has had the same poblem, she had a panic attack whe she had to do a French oral in front of the class and now refuses to speak in front of the class. She is year 9 so am worried about GCSE to. I have tried to help her but she just gets upset or anoyed with me, so now she doesn't tell me if she has to talk infront of the class. Not sure what to do either.

LastingLight Sat 01-Mar-14 19:41:44

Would he be willing to attempt it with just the teacher and himself in the classroom? Before or after school?

hogweed It's so hard to know what to do sad

Lastinglight Thanks. That's another suggestion I can make if I get hold of the teacher in time. He tells me the presentations start on Monday.

Thought we'd try and get him to practice and just had him in tears trying to read a paragraph from a book to me and OH. sad

There is a fair chance it might be tomorrow.

LastingLight Sun 02-Mar-14 19:48:32

Your poor ds. Has he always been like this? Is there a counsellor at the school that you can speak to?

Cocolepew Sun 02-Mar-14 19:57:24

My eldest DD has Aspergers and speech problems, her teacher allowed her to start off with her back to the class and she turned around if she felt able to. She can now do it no problem (5th year) but still prefers to go first, she says if she sat thinking about it she would freeze up. I know that she gets much higher marks, when she does a power point or video.

DD1 is in first year and has a lot of confidence but hates speaking out in class. She worries too much about what people think of her. She is taken out of class to read out loud to a helper twice a week. Its to get her used to speaking out and hearing herself speak out loud to an audience.

Cocolepew Sun 02-Mar-14 19:59:27

My DD takes Boots High Strength St Johns Wort for her anxiety. Ive noticed a marked improvement in her since starting it.

Thanks lastinglight. When he was very young he was very outgoing and became shyer as he got older - he was bullied in school for a few years and we sent him to a different High school for a fresh start. He has been coming out his shell slowly but I am concerned that this might get us back to square one.

I know it would do a lot for his self confidence if he could only manage to talk for a couple of minutes even if it is not to a brilliant standard. Anything better than standing and saying nothing.

If the school is not able to offer any help or support, i think I will take him to the GP.

Got hold of head of year Pupil support this morning and he has said he will contact the teacher and also refer him to the Learning support person to see if they can work with his confidence and social anxiety.

He said that he was the teacher in English last year and that No1 son did his presentation to him privately and did it fine. He is going to suggest to the teacher that he does the same this year and that will be him until next year as far as presentations go so they will hopefully have him in a better place by next year.

Fingers crossed.

TalkToFrank Mon 03-Mar-14 12:23:08

Gosh OP, I really feel for your son, this was exactly my situation a number of years ago. I just wanted to add that if by the time GCSEs come along he still is unable to talk then it may be possible to get medical exemption for the speaking and listening part of the examination. I was given it (for selective mutism) as was my sibling (for a stammer).

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